Oppo Reno 10x Zoom was launched in 2019. (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)
How many Renos is too many Renos? The answer to that is complicated, just like the whole series itself. Breaking cover with the—still—one-of-its-kind Reno 10x Zoom in 2019, the Reno series from Oppo, has since settled for something far more conventional. It is not the lack of innovation, but the sheer number of Reno phones that Oppo has launched in a little less than two years, that is concerning.
The Reno may have started with the will and desire to set its own course—oh, how I loved the Reno 10x Zoom and its gorgeous ocean green colourway—but eventually it fell prey to a bigger problem that most smartphone brands are not immune to today. Commoditization.
The argument behind having a Reno 5 Pro already is simple and to an extent, even logical. The brand has access to newer technology, and it wants to pass on those benefits to end-users. In the case of the Reno 5 Pro, Oppo has also priced it—pretty—similar to the Reno 4 Pro. The Reno 5 Pro with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage has been launched in India for Rs 35,990—while the Reno 4 Pro cost Rs 34,990 at launch.
I will not go so much into the price specifics and how and why Oppo priced the two Reno phones the way it did, but what I can—and should—tell you is that the Reno 5 Pro India pricing is not good news for those who bought the Reno 4 Pro recently. For the record, the Reno 4 Pro was launched in India on July 31, 2020.
Paper specs alone are enough to state the obvious. The Reno 5 Pro is a better phone. It may have the same design, but it uses glass instead of plastic. The screen stays the same at 6.5-inch 1080p+ 90Hz AMOLED with 1100nits peak brightness, down to the optical in-display fingerprint scanner. The processor is faster, and in many ways, flagship-grade too. This is MediaTek Dimensity 1000+ even as the Reno 4 Pro came with a Snapdragon 720G. By extension, the Reno 5 Pro is also 5G-ready (the Reno 4 Pro was 4G-only).
There are also differences when it comes to main camera (64MP as opposed to 48MP) and battery capacity (4,350mAh as opposed to 4,000mAh) though the new phone also takes a few steps back. For instance, there is no headphone jack/micro-SD card slot for storage expansion. Oppo also does not mention if the Reno 5 Pro has any protection—Corning or otherwise—to secure its ‘3D borderless’ screen even as the Reno 4 Pro came with Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
It is obvious that there is a lot of mix and match happening here to achieve the Reno 5 Pro’s seemingly ‘aggressive’ pricing—relative to its predecessor—which is again okay, as far as improvements are being made in areas that matter. The Reno 5 Pro is a step in the right direction, but I am not too sure if it is a step in the right direction for the Reno series. This is because with every ‘new’ phone launch, the series strays farther and farther away from its—initial—purpose. Or maybe that purpose changed along the way, I am not too sure about that either.
Here is how Oppo described the Reno 10x Zoom back in the day:
“Boasts of industry-first creative innovations such as 10x Hybrid Zoom, world’s first periscope telephoto lens and Shark Fin Rising camera.”
The phone literally made periscope telephoto cameras a thing in smartphones long before Samsung got ‘ultra’ (and it did all this without any unsightly camera bumps too) but it was not just a one trick pony. The Reno 10x zoom was a flagship phone through and through, right from the choice of build materials to the underlying hardware. But despite all that, a 6GB/128GB variant of the phone cost just Rs 39,990. Again, I reiterate, this is not about Oppo pricing its phones in a certain way. This is about Oppo flying off on an all-new trajectory in the days that followed the Reno 10x Zoom.
The whole marketing pitch for the Reno series at one point of time was to “inspire consumers to further their vision,” and yet somehow, all things Reno kind of spiralled into something entirely different, even as fans wait for a ‘true’ Reno 10x Zoom successor with bated breath to this day. To be fair, Oppo did talk about ‘zoom’ capabilities in at least some of the phones that followed the Reno 10x Zoom, even if it was all a ‘digital’ facade, but it did try. Until it stopped trying.
The Reno in 2021 stands for iterative updates, that are exciting no doubt, but really, how is that any different from what the rest of the smartphone world is doing? If anything, others are doing it better, some of them are even pricing their rival phones more aggressively. It is all a rat race, especially the mid-range segment, where phones are replaced fast, they are replaced furiously. But let us just take a moment to remember the fallen, and hope—just hope—there was a way to bring them back. For innovation’s sake.