SHENZHEN, CHINA — Oppo is a relatively new player in the Philippine smartphone arena, having been in the country for just three years. But its popularity in the mid-range market is undeniable, with the Chinese company claiming to be the No.2 best-selling smartphone in the country, just behind Samsung.
It is no secret that Oppo’s aggressive marketing is a major reason behind its success: pop-up Oppo stalls have sprung up like mushrooms in malls, while advertisements featuring the faces of Sarah Geronimo and Alden Richards– just two of its numerous endorsers — are everywhere.
But make no mistake: Oppo prides itself on making high-quality smartphones. Earlier this month, the company invited InterAksyon and other Philippine media outlets to a tour of its factory in China to give us a glimpse of how their popular phones are made.
Here are the things that we saw and learned from the trip:
1. Oppo’s main hub is located in Shenzhen
Billed as China’s Silicon Valley, Shenzhen houses several Chinese tech companies. Once a mere fishing village, this bustling megacity enjoyed rapid growth since being established as the country’s first economic zone more than three decades ago. It now has a population of around 10 million — composed mostly of workers coming from the mainland — from 30,000 in the 1980s.
The well-planned city has everything an urban dweller can ask for: a modern subway system, a plethora of contemporary buildings and skyscrapers and a smorgasbord of food options.
Shenzhen is just one hour away from Hong Kong via bus. Unlike the more famous metropolis, you will need a visa to get here.
2. Its office is cool
Oppo’s main headquarters — an “ideal green office”, the company says — is relatively new, with plants dotted along its hallways. It also claims to have an easy-going working culture: employees can take a break by relaxing at the recreation areas or by working out in the nice gym which offers majestic views of the city.
3. Oppo pours its efforts into making smartphones
While it also produces Blu-ray players and other audio devices, Oppo is putting all of its energy and time on smartphones, with the aim of having the best cameras in the competitive smartphone market.
“Oppo is a company that’s user-oriented. Photography is the core need of our customers. It is also the area Oppo is focusing on,” said King Bai, Oppo’s head of hardware.
4. Phones undergo at least 150 stages of testing
According to Tim Zhang, Vice President of OPPO and Mobile Manufacturing Director, “products represent OPPO staff’s attitude. Quality is OPPO’s belief.”
True enough, Oppo prototype handsets undergo a rigorous process before being approved for mass production. The manufacturing stage has three divisions: the Satisfiability Modulo Theories (SMT) workshop where the phones’ motherboards are processed; the Quality Assurance test and the Assembly Line Workshop.
5. Phones are dropped a thousand times during testing
This is called the Micro Drop Test where each side and surface of the phone is dropped inside a machine for a total of 42,000 times from a height of seven centimeters.
6. Phone’s buttons are tapped a million times
Called the Button Click Test, this is where the Power and Volume keys are pressed with a one-kilogram force for 100,000 times. The fingerprint key in front, meanwhile, is tapped a million times.
If you manually click buttons 50 times a day, it will take around six years to finish all the 100,000 clicks.
7. Phones are exposed to many kinds of liquids, including sweat
Vinegar, soy sauce, coffee, cooking oil, you name it—units are being tested to see if they can withstand contact with basic liquids we use every day.
If that’s not enough, there’s also a test where handsets are being wrapped in a cloth drenched in artificial sweat.
8. Oppo owns the selfie game
Oppo revolutionized the selfie game by installing game-changing upgrades to its phones’ front cameras. One is the beautify feature which enhances the subject’s faces with clever filters; the other is the wide-angle shot which allows better “groufies”. There’s little doubt that these features helped Oppo hit the jackpot.
9. Oppo claims to understand customers better than rivals
Oppo boasts of doing research on the ground to know the changing demands of consumer by conducting face-to-face surveys.
10. Oppo is coy on when 5x zoom phones will be available
Last February in the Mobile World Congress in Spain, Oppo unveiled a prototype phone that has five times zoom capability, dwarfing the cameras of other handsets that only offer two times optical zoom.
But six months after the pronouncement, Oppo admitted that there are a lot of challenges producing such a phone. While the company didn’t commit to a timetable — mass production in one year is unlikely — Oppo said that it has employed at least 100 people for research and development on the technology.