Oppo to expand Find N2 Flip widget selection, goes all in on foldable phones
Oppo to expand Find N2 Flip widget selection, goes all in on foldable phones
Note: This feature was first published on 28 April 2023.
It's been a hot minute since Oppo brought the Find N2 Flip to Singapore (our review here), but the Chinese electronics giant is barely getting warmed up for a foldable future ahead of itself.
Here's a little background on the Chinese brand's foldable clamshell smartphone. According to Li Zigui, Senior Product Manager at Oppo, the phone first retailed in China in December 2022 to great success, which was shortly followed by a general launch in different parts of Asia Pacific, especially Southeast Asia.
The Find N2 Flip eventually debuted in Singapore in late March 2023, with its neighbours like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand all getting market access to the Find N2 Flip in the same period. So a lot has happened within a month since the phone went to official retail in the SEA region.
Unprecedented demand, even by Oppo's standards
The phone's Southeast Asian demand went through the roof and wasn't limited to just one market. In Singapore and Malaysia, sales expectations were respectively 109% and 192% higher than projected. In Thailand, it sold 532% more units than its predecessor on the first day alone. In its home market China, Oppo also dominated its home market's foldable smartphone share by clinching 30% in the first month of 2023, even topping Apple's iPhone market share by the end of its first quarter.
Undoubtedly, the phone must have done something right by its users to be well-received in several distinct markets with different needs and expectations. According to Li, he felt that the four unique selling points of the Find N2 Flip were responsible for its popularity: its larger-than-usual 4,200mAh battery, the reduced crease on the folding display, the Cover Screen's size and orientation, and the phone's promised longevity of 400,000 folds tested in its labs. We got three out of four guesses right back then.
But, success begets scrutiny, especially for the consumers that lost their foldable virginity to Oppo's Find N2 Flip. Oppo has since received user feedback about users wanting to do more with its Cover Screen (the rectangular display next to its main cameras). That feedback also fit our review findings, where we felt ColorOS 13 (Oppo's Android reskin) was pretty stable and the phone's secondary display was orientated well, albeit a little lacking until we were reaching for unofficial mods to liven it up.
To ride the Find N2 Flip's popularity while it's still relevant, Oppo flew a whole bunch of people from all over the Asia Pacific region to one of its offices in Shenzhen, China (specifically, the iconic "Spring Bamboo" skyscraper, China Resources Tower) to tell everyone that they didn't just stop at adding Spotify and Speech-To-Text reply as extra widgets to the Oppo Find N2 Flip. The following was what we understood from Oppo during our deep dive into ColorOS 13, and Oppo's plans for its current and future foldable phones.
ColorOS 13 isn't just a reskin; it wants to be "the skin" of choice
Understanding whether the Oppo Find N2 Flip's Cover Screen widgets are just an afterthought requires a basic understanding of Oppo's philosophy around its Android reskin, ColorOS. We're currently at ColorOS 13, a reskin of Android 13. But calling it a "reskin" is doing a massive disservice to the Oppo engineers who pour over the UX and UI design philosophy (which has evolved after so many years).
According to Zeng Xi, Director of Software Design at Oppo, ColorOS is guided by a few design tenets prioritising fluidity, functionality, and fine art. In a 30-minute sharing, we can summarise that Oppo's ColorOS is Bauhaus-inspired (where this discipline of art combines functional craft with a modernist style), and it is transitioning from the Information Revolution of today to a near-future Intelligent Age of user experience design theory.
If you're not a designer by profession or discipline, all that above means that ColorOS is built on taking what Android has to offer, but with a deliberate approach that designs based on components and features needed. It also tries to hide its technology behind the phone's design (the philosophical theory of Organicism, where the universe is treated as alive and organically ordered).
And with that, Oppo Find N2 Flip landed on what the company calls Aquamorphic Design for its software, a design that mimics the natural state of water, emphasising its blue palettes and fluid logic of icons and features.
Sampling yet-to-launch Cover Screen widgets and features of the Oppo Find N2 Flip
All that design talk informs how Oppo treats its Find N2 Flip. Conveniently, being guided by an organic design language also means treating the phone as an improving handset, and not a static device waiting for replacement after a short year. Modern Google Pixel users would probably find this treatment familiar because Google also does monthly Feature Drops for its Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series phones to constantly improve the devices' functionality.
The key difference here for Oppo being its priority in addressing user feedback for its Find N2 Flip's Cover Screen. Li from Oppo said it was well-received by users, but the same users all wished they could do much more with the display. Two confirmed examples are the recent addition of a Spotify widget (offering basic music controls) and Speech-To-Text replies for messaging apps.
At the Shenzhen demo, we were introduced to Lite UI Design (the official name of Oppo's Cover Screen user interface), and we tried out even more upcoming Cover Screen widgets for the Oppo Find N2 Flip. The increased demand for better Cover Screen functionality meant having an improved UI that simplifies and improves the navigation experience.
Most new widgets are under development with a view to launch by June 2023 or later, but they are certainly exciting. We uploaded a TikTok video featuring some key examples if you haven't seen. Oppo said that there should be a total of 15 new widgets for the Oppo Find N2 Flip.
@hwztech Spotify and text-to-speech widgets are availabel this month! #OPPOFoldingTechHQTour #OPPOFindN2Flip @OPPO Singapore ♬ GASLIGHT - INJI
Why are a dozen new widgets worth mentioning? If you recall, Samsung's additions to the Cover Screen were quite limited when they moved from Galaxy Z Flip3 to Z Flip4. Adding animated wallpaper support via video was just about the most interesting new feature. It also had about three or four new widgets with limited functionality (e.g. three contacts for quick dial), and they were all developed in-house by Samsung.
Oppo Find N2 Flip's upcoming widgets were a lot more bodied. For example, our trials included popular social media apps with almost full functionality, and those were considered unfinished widgets. For example, you can search, play, and organise YouTube videos and YouTube Shorts via the Cover Screen widget, although it was incomplete (and could not orientate the video layout yet). TikTok and Instagram worked nearly like the full app itself, although on a much smaller vertical display. You can still do all the basics of swiping, liking, and scrolling, although you might need to unfurl the phone to share videos with friends.
You repeat that level of functionality across half a dozen apps most users would already be familiar with: the miniaturised Contacts app could fully support your entire contact list and make phone calls too. Not just a list of three favourite contacts.
According to Oppo, WhatsApp widget support will come "very soon", with widgets for TikTok and YouTube still under development. Most of the widgets require third-party collaboration with these platforms to allow better compatibility and functionality. For instance, the existing Speech-To-Text reply via Cover Screen is a partnership with Google. That also means working closely with Google for more feature support isn't entirely off the table (something that many Chinese phone brands cannot easily boast if you realise).
The future of the Oppo Find N2 Flip
With about 15 new widgets on the horizon, Oppo wants to reassure its existing users that it didn't just jump onto the foldables bandwagon just because someone else saw moderate success with theirs. Its foldable plans have been a long time coming (since its 2018 leaked prototypes).
Although Oppo wasn't the first to launch one, and it wants to be the first to design a UI that makes foldable displays become second nature to smartphone users everywhere.