OPPO recently sent the Luminous Black variant of its Reno 2 for review and the gadget has proven more than worthy of an Android Headlines Editor's Choice award. Not only has OPPO developed a gadget that performs and looks like a flagship, yet again. The company has gone above and beyond to ensure this India-first smartphone is among the most 'premium' devices anywhere.
That doesn't mean it's perfect.
In fairness, ColorOS has been a sticking point for every OPPO or realme-branded smartphone I've had the pleasure of reviewing. There have been some significant improvements on that front in version 6.1. That version was used on the OPPO Reno 2 throughout my review.
One example of those improvements is OPPO's decision to improve Game Space. The app used to kill off most apps that aren't automatically added. It effectively changed files and rendered them unplayable until reinstalled but that's no longer an issue. The company has likewise implemented other small changes across the OS.
Now, minor issues in a smartphone should be expected and generally increase with drops in pricing. But issues and inconsistencies in the operating system are extensive. In fact, they have a substantial impact across system interactions in every regard. It's pervasive.
OPPO also added quite a lot of bulk from pre-installed software. So the entire experience feels weighed down despite performing wonderfully. Without any doubt, there is a lot to love about the OPPO Reno 2. Unfortunately, there is also quite a lot that shouldn't be overlooked.
Despite improvements to some aspects, ColorOS 6 continues falling short
Despite improvements, OPPO still has plenty of options when it comes to making ColorOS better. To begin with, the subset of system settings on the OPPO Reno 2 is still a maze of options. They neither seem to align with either Google's stock settings layout and aren't necessarily logically arranged either. Or at least they aren't in a way that's easy to adapt to.
The latest Samsung phones have a similar issue too but that company gets around that by including items from other menus in each submenu. For instance, settings dealing with the appearance of certain display elements are shown as suggestions in the Display menu even though they'd typically be found in a different place in Settings. OPPO Reno 2, as seen throughout my review, makes no such concessions.
As a result, the search tool in Settings becomes invaluable but subsequently, it requires more clicks on the screen to find anything.
Another issue I discovered in my review is the way OPPO handles Google services. Google Play — or a similar app — has been the premier app store for Android since very early on. I'll discuss duplicate apps in more detail later on but OPPO doesn't download from Google Play by default. It's just as far from stock Android as possible.
For example, clicking an in-app ad to download an app or game redirects users to a selection menu. OPPO preloads its own app market as a choice. That's placed next to an obscure three-dot "more" icon. By default, that only houses the Google Play Store. But the implication of that is that OPPO is actively promoting the use of its own, similarly-featured store and services instead of Google's.
While avoiding Google is desirable for some users, the majority are going to find it obnoxious that OPPO didn't just show both icons and instead chose to hide Google Play out of view. Similar situations cropped up in other areas and with other services. That's in addition to other quirks throughout the OS that aren't consistent with stock Android.
OPPO Reno 2 comes fully bloated
There's nothing unusual about smartphones shipping with aftermarket apps. OEMs thrive on partnerships that deliver good experiences to users and a new audience to app developers. A review of OPPO's Reno 2 shows that it goes just a bit overboard.
The usual extras such as Facebook and Google apps. Music and video players, file manager, gallery app, and device manager are included, as are helpful apps for device theming or weather tracking. There's a compass, sound recorder, and a calculator built-in.
Most apps can be uninstalled and not every extra is unneeded or feels useless. For example, OPPO Reno 2 features a Clone Phone feature to transfer data. It also comes with a music party app for playing media from multiple OPPO devices at once. And there's an app for instant paid access to foreign and domestic networks.
Unfortunately, that's just the start of the extra apps. Some of those are redundant to OPPO apps, not just Google apps.
One prime example of that is the pre-installed "Game Center" app. That's an extension of the secondary App Market installed here in addition to Google Play. The app delivers game suggestions. The "Hot Games" folder that OPPO pre-installs offers the same. "Hot Games" contains ready-to-install game icons basically pulled from the same list. There's an entirely separate folder that does the same for apps.
Then there's the pre-installation of an OPPO-specific Browser, alongside both Opera and Google's Chrome.
Things don't end there either. OPPO also pre-installs a karaoke app called WeSing, a "smart" video editor called Soloop, and the Lazada shopping app. OPP stacks all of those atop an already feature-filled settings system and OPPO's own Google Assistant-like "Smart Assistant" just makes this phone seem bloated. That's in spite of the fact that it doesn't perform like it is.
Even the OPPO Reno 2 camera software is somewhat overwhelming
Because the OPPO Reno 2 is actually not a bad camera, the gallery of sample photos can be found in the good review linked at the top here. Unfortunately, this section exists because, like most negative attributes of this phone, there are problems with the layout of the software.
This phone just feels entirely too complicated to use at any depth beyond point-and-shoot.
The issue I found wasn't finding individual features. Like most modern smartphones, AI is managing things here. So, for the most part, I didn't need to adjust things. OPPO includes Video, Photo, and portrait modes, all neatly lined up in the bottom carousel. Night, "Pano," Expert, timelapse, slow motion, AR stickers, and even Google Lens can be found under a three-dash menu right next to that.
So OPPO arranged that portion of the UI well enough and it's even easy-to-use. It wasn't until I began exploring the icons at the top that things got complicated. After around a week of using the camera, I still couldn't quite remember what all of those were without clicking on them.
That's because different icons are used but that isn't the only issue. OPPO arranges its camera icons differently than other OEMs. Visible elements change quite dramatically depending on which camera mode is selected too. Most companies keep quite a lot of consistency there.
For example, the lens-selection icon is simply a set of close circles with an empty space between and a larger empty dot at the center. Or it's a closed-dot circle with another ring around it and a dashed ring between those. Or it's a square with a set of circles in it. The settings icon is a bolt-head or nut instead of a gear.
Unlike many competitors, there's no initial explanation of the interface or tools in the current software either. OPPO's differences make things more complicated and it ended up feeling just slightly overwhelming to use.
I wanted to love OPPO Reno 2's display and mostly did
Now, this smartphone's display panel in terms of clarity, responsiveness, pixel-density, or brightness, is brilliant. In fact, issues come down to precisely none of the technical aspects of the screen.
Throughout my review of the OPPO Reno 2, I never experienced any input lag. Pixelation occurred only in photos I took of the device. Both animations and media are crystal clear. Brightness was good enough to turn down to only a few steps above the lowest level indoors. Half is enough for most cases outside.
It's fair to say that, for the most part, the 6.5-inch AMOLED Gorilla Glass 6 display genuinely delivers. The 93.1-percent screen-to-body ratio doesn't hurt at all. It even has "DC Dimming" that allows a smoother transition between lows and brights. That's high praise for an aspect that landed on the negative side of the reviews. There are a couple of good reasons for that, both centered on design decisions.
The first caveat is in the rounded corners of the screen — where the body overlaps with it. The body cuts UI elements off, particularly where ads are full-screen. In more than one case, the "x" to close an ad was all-but completely covered up by the corner. That made it impossible to close the ads.
The aspect ratio causes issues too. Problems appear where things need to be resized to fit. Not every app or piece of media needs that but there's quite a lot cut off when they do. Apps that don't resize automatically, for instance, showed a box below the UI. That leaves as much as a fifth of the display unused. The cut-off is likely about the same ratio, in total, when apps are resized manually.
Both of those simply make matters worse than if a notch or punch-hole had been used.
Those don't apply in system apps but will be beyond annoying for some users. That's also one thing OPPO probably can't fix easily with software updates.
Despite the drawbacks, it's still more worthy than most
The chief source of dismay from the OPPO Reno 2, at least with the version installed here, is ColorOS. OPPO built a device here that's not only worthy of its above-mentioned award. It also built a device that not everybody will be able to use comfortably. That is unless the user in question is familiar with OPPO or realme smartphones from the past.
OPPO Reno 2 is gorgeous. It's a masterwork of glass, metal, and small design decisions. But flaws show through in terms of the aspect ratio used and the body on the screen-facing side.
OPPO included a world-class camera too. The software underneath that is quick. It's even more rapid with night mode shots than competitors. But the camera falls well short in that it is slowed by convoluted software. It's just not easy to learn to use all of its features properly. Choosing the right option for the right shot takes too long, in the heat of the moment, as a result.
Drawbacks mar the OPPO Reno 2. In every instance, the company could easily have avoided those with a less conservative, more dramatic update to the software. Realistically, those won't prevent most users from picking one up. In reality, they really shouldn't prevent it. Each is relatively minor. But they do steal from what otherwise might have been a perfect experience. So they're still worth being aware of.