A Year with the Oppo N1 and Cyanogenmod

A year ago, I started using an Oppo N1 mobile phone. It’s been my daily phone since. I’ve tried to separate thoughts on the phone hardware itself from the operating system which it runs.

The Phone Itself

Size

The Oppo N1 is large. It’s tough to really grasp this until you use it daily. I don’t have small hands, and I struggled to use the phone with one hand. The size becomes obvious when trying to reach for an app located at the far reaches of my fingers. It’s nearly impossible to do without a lot of luck. However, due to its size, it’s a great phone for watching videos and reading emails or web pages.

Survivability

I’ve dropped the phone a few times. The only real damage is some scratches in the casing. It’s also survived bike rides in the rain and getting submerged when I dropped it into a puddle. The white casing has picked up a nice shade of blue from my jeans back pocket when they were new and wet (from the rain). The camera lens still flips around without issue. Even after a sandstorm in Egypt, or being dropped in the sand on the beach, everything on the phone works just as expected. Amazingly, the glass isn’t even scratched or cracked nor is any part of the casing coming apart. It’s a solid phone. I don’t use a phone protector for it either. It’s just that solid.

The phone as a phone

The phone works great as a phone, most of the time. The microphone is clear and picks up my voice, even when on speaker and halfway across a large room. Over the past few months, the phone has developed an issue where it claims “no signal”. I say claims “no signal”, because I can have full LTE/4G signal with other phones in the same room, but the Oppo just flat out refuses to find a signal from the cell tower. The phone requires a reboot to resolve this issue.

The loud speaker isn’t loud enough. The speaker works great when you’re in a quiet room, but even someplace mostly quiet, like a driving car, the speaker is too quiet. At full volume, the speaker also distorts, which can make it difficult to understand someone in a call. I generally revert to either using a Bluetooth headset or plugging in headphones to conduct calls in moderately noisy environments (such as a car, train ride, walking down a quiet street, etc).

Battery Life

The battery amazes me. Even a year later, it still runs down from 100% to 18% over two days of normal usage. With the right charger, it will power up from 18% to 100% in a few hours.

Forgetful Bluetooth

Every time I reboot the phone, it can never find any paired Bluetooth devices. I’m not sure if this is due to the phone or the operating system, but I’m putting it under the phone hardware/firmware for now. I end up having to re-pair with any device before the Bluetooth device works again. However, once paired all works great.

Camera Out of Focus

With increasing frequency, the camera refuses to focus at all. I have to reboot the phone to have the camera work again. I’m not sure if this is a Cyanogenmod issue or hardware, but I’m going to put it under hardware/firmware for now. Mostly, I figure this is a hardware issue because the phone has been dropped a few times.

Cyanogenmod

As I mentioned a year ago, I installed a stock Cyanogenmod on the phone in place of the native ColorOS. I’ve been running CM Snapshot releases, currently on the October release. Why October? Because that’s the last CM snapshot release for my phone. Otherwise, I would be forced to run Nightlies (daily builds). Given the constantly changing nature of CM, I need my phone to be reliable more than I need it to be up to date with the latest bugfixes and new features. This is not really a trade-off I want to make, but so be it.

Since I run stock CM, I don’t have access to any Google services, such as the Google Play store. I use F-droid to both install apps and to keep my apps up to date. This works great so long as you want free software. So far, so good. Sometimes there are apps I’d love to have, but cannot get because the standalone file isn’t available, it’s only available through the Google Play store. Oh well, I just live without.

Overall, cyanogenmod works great. I don’t recall it ever crashing nor any apps acting up in the past year. I just wish I could get updates more frequently without resorting to relying on nightly builds.

Summary

The phone works great overall. It’s been one of the more reliable and robust phones I’ve used. It’s limited to 3G/UTMS but it’s worked great everywhere. The few issues not withstanding, I’d still recommend the current generation N3 to all.

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