The story of OPPO: how to become one of the most innovative brands

history of oppo

If before it was just a name for fans, today OPPO is an increasingly popular brand. Even my father, who for years and years has completely opposed having a smartphone, in the end he gave up and took an OPPO. And I must say that, in an often boring and repetitive mobile landscape, it is undoubtedly one of the most avant-garde companies there is. For this reason, and also because more and more people are starting to know this brand, I have decided to reconstruct its history and tell you about it.

The birth of OPPO, between BBK and Subor

To understand how OPPO was born, we need to go back to China 90 years, when a certain Duan Yongping made his fortune by bringing the first videogame consoles with the brand to homes across the nation Subor. A crazy story, but one that I won't be repeating here because I have already told you about it. Thanks to the expertise gained with Subor, Yongping decided to embark on a new path, and in 1995 in the city of Dongguan he founded the Bubugao brand, known for many as BBK. If Subor had dedicated itself to the videogame sector, BBK conquered the market with CD and DVD players, which at the time were very popular among the population.

subor clones
Some of the Subor consoles

But Duan knew full well that the future was all in the hands of the phones. If in 1998 they were sold 162 million, in 2000 ben 405 million, a + 60% that did not go unnoticed in his eyes. At that time it was a very different market than it is today, dominated by giants such as Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson, and China was still far away from being the hub of the technological world as it is today. Suffice it to say that in 2000 in China the owners of mobile phones were alone 140 million, 10% of the population, while today there are some nearly 1 billion. Despite this, internal competition was already being felt at the time: in addition to the then leading company Ningbo Bird, young Huawei and Coolpads began to appear on the panorama. Nonetheless, BBK decided to expand and, to do so, to reorganize. In 2001, while Duan Yongping decided to retire to private life, BBK was divided into three parts, and each would deal with a specific sector. BBK Education to educational products, BBK Communication to telephone products and BBK AudioVideo to multimedia products. And this is where we come to a focal point of this story.

BBK Electronics

OPPO and its entry into the smartphone market

The direction of BBK AudioVideo was entrusted to the young man Tony Chen, one of the founders and historical ally of Duan since the time of Subor. But to mark the transition from BBK, the name was changed in 2004 - guess what? In OPPO. However, the OPPO we know today is not the OPPO of the early 2000s, when the company focused solely on multimedia devices. If you are a hi-fi lover, you may know products like OPPO PM-1 and HA-2, much appreciated by audiophiles. It was 2005 when OPPO presented its first MP3 player; but if then they were sold tens of millions a year, that trend would have been cannibalized by the advent of smartphones. In 2007, the first iPhone made it clear to the whole world that they would dictate the law from then on, and OPPO was no different. In 2008 he launched his first A103, also known as the “Smile Phone”, whose bizarre design already showed the desire to stand out from the crowd. This was followed by other models, such as OPPO P51, or OPPO T9 which abandoned the keypad to give priority to the screen. But the first smartphone arrived in 2011, in the form of OPPO X903 also called Find Me.

oppo find me x903

Within a few years, OPPO succeeded in the enterprise of surpass Apple, becoming in the 2016 the # 1 company in China and entering the global top 4 for the amount of smartphones sold. But how did it manage to be such a success? First of all, while Apple relegated itself to the premium market, OPPO took advantage of it to build a catalog full of economic options. This allowed him to gain a lot of loyalty in emerging markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia, areas where Apple's prices couldn't compete. Another very important factor for its success was having focused heavily on the offline market, opening many shops around Asia, even in those peripheral areas where the internet and therefore e-commerce had not yet arrived. She was also very careful not to exclude the young target: also due to the strong presence of recent graduates in the company, she still created and still creates products and communication strategies capable of resonating with the tastes of the young people. And in this regard, although they are separate entities, BBK's legacy can be found in OPPO's communication strategy: if Subor and BBK have had such success, much of the credit goes to the choice to focus very strongly on marketing, relying on well-known faces of pop culture. First with Jackie Chan's commercials for consoles, then Jet Li's for DVD players. In the case of OPPO, the first great example is that of Leonardo DiCaprio, chosen as the face for the launch of OPPO Find Me, not only the OPPO smartphone but also the first model of the historic Find series.

Password for OPPO: innovation

If OPPO is the one we know today, it is also thanks to Find series, one of the most blatant examples of the desire to amaze and innovate technologically. And if it comes to OPPO, let me tell you what it has created over the years. The first real innovation is from 2014, that OPPO Find 7 which teased many for being one of the first with a 2K screen, but also for the intriguing Skyline LED and above all the first battery capable of charging at 20W. That was how the standard was born VOOC: if today we are used to having incredible recharges it is also thanks to OPPO and its various records, from the 20W of Find 7 to the Super VOOC at 240W shown at MWC 2022. Record also in wireless format, as shown by the AirVOOC at 50W of Find X5 Pro as well as the technology MagVOOC at 40W with magnetic coupling. Up to more avant-garde technologies such as OPPO Zero-Power, the project for the development of devices capable of receiving energy from radio, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals, in a future in which you will no longer be dependent on batteries. A future that, according to OPPO, is not so far away, given that this technology should see the light within the next 3-5 years.

oppo super vooc

In addition to charging, OPPO is one of the biggest innovators in another essential sector for the history of smartphones: I'm talking about the camera. For example, in 2012 OPPO Ulike 2 was one if not the first in the world with beauty effects for selfies, a feature now ubiquitous on any phone. And how not to mention the series OPPO N, who ventured to use a rotating camera that would serve for both main shots and selfies. Or the aforementioned Find 7, whose 13 MP camera used OPPO Pure Image technology for a SuperZoom mode that allowed interpolation to 50 MP and being able to zoom very advanced for the time. A concept taken up in more depth at MWC 2017, when OPPO raised the bar with the first telephoto periscope lens never seen on a smartphone. Also in 2017 there is OPPO F3, one of the first in the world with a double selfie camera, or even the R9S series, when OPPO teamed up with a photography giant such as Sony to make the IMX398 sensors.

oppo find x lamborghini edition review

But the other great innovation came in 2018, on the occasion of OPPO's return to Europe with great fanfare. The event organized no less than the Louvre had as its protagonist OPPO Find X, one of the most revolutionary smartphones in recent history. Not only was he the first with 50W Super VOOC, but he amazed everyone with his body that opened and revealed a photographic compartment that even included a camera system. facial recognition 3D, one of the few to have it in the history of Android. Choice that was revived with OPPO Reno and its bizarre shark fin. Finally, in 2022 OPPO has further raised the stakes by creating HusbandSilicon X: instead of relying on Qualcomm or MediaTek chips, the image processor that manages the Find X5 series camera has made itself. A remarkable achievement, if you think that only big names like Samsung and Apple are capable of it. If you look to the near future, OPPO is also hard at work on its smartphone with camera below the screen, a feature that seems to be the next big thing of the next top of the range. By hiding the selfie camera under the panel, OPPO flagships will thus be able to show off a truly stealth look in the wake of Find X. Also worthy of mention is the retractable camera OPPO is working on, to bring the zoom in motion typical of professional cameras on smartphones.

The innovations of OPPO are not limited only to the camera, if you think for example that OPPO Reno 5G was the first 5G smartphone in Europe. Not to mention avant-garde experiments such as OPPO X Nendo, which with its articulated design shows itself as a bizarre shape-shifting object. Another more concrete experiment responds to the name of Oppo X, one of the first attempts to ride what could be the future of rollable screens. But when it comes to alternative form factors, OPPO Find N in my opinion it is a very important product for OPPO. Not so much for being a folding one, as for having decided to take a different path. Unlike other models, more in line with standard shapes and sizes, Find N has dared with a smaller than average size, making it more pocketable and more ergonomic.

And in a world where companies are criticized for preferring large numbers to really useful things, this is a choice that I really appreciate. As well as I appreciate smartphones like OPPO Reno 5 Pro + Artist Edition and its peculiar electrochromic cover. Just think: behind it is a membrane made of micro-molecular organic material in the form of a gel which, when electrically stimulated, is able to change color. Useful feature not only from an aesthetic point of view but also functional, because an electrochromic cover can be used as a notification LED. In this regard, there is also OPPO Reno 7 Pro, where the border around the camera has been cleverly used as a notification LED.

But I could also tell you about other innovations that aren't just about smartphones. For example the OPPO AirGlass, futuristic glasses that add augmented reality to everyday life, with a micro-projector that shows notifications and appointments on the lens, an instant translator to chat with everyone and a navigator to move around the city. Speaking of navigation and augmented reality, OPPO is also developing technologies such as CybeReal, which by combining the data acquired from the camera, Bluetooth and smartphone sensors allows you to accurately identify your position.

I conclude by going back in time again, more precisely to 2010, when OPPO created a smartphone designed for the youngest. That smartphone was called OPPO Real, and perhaps you have already figured out where I am going. If you haven't understood it, know that her slogan read "It's me, the real me". Does that tell you something? In 2018 OPPO realized that to face an increasingly fierce competition it would have to embrace theirs sub-brand strategy. If Xiaomi had Redmi e POCO and if Huawei had Honor, then OPPO would also have its parallel reality. So it was born Realme, which like that 2010 OPPO smartphone and like all the other sub-brands aimed at the youngest and at those customers who usually get information and buy online. A real surprise, considering that Realme was the fastest company in history a sell 100 millions of smartphones, a milestone shattered in just 3 years. And there is no doubt that if it succeeded it is also thanks to the parent company, with Realme which immediately enjoyed OPPO's production chain and expertise.

⭐️ Discover the new Weekly Flyer of GizChina with always different exclusive offers and coupons.