This week sees a new smartphone maker enter South Africa as Oppo has officially launched in the country. Given much of the chaos that has resulted from COVID-19 and the lockdown, Oppo is taking a measured approach to its launch moving forward, choosing to bring a handful of phone models to our shores instead of flooding the market with hardware.

To gain a bit more insight into the company’s approach for South Africa in the coming months, we sat down with head of operations and go to market for Oppo SA, Liam Fourie.

Here’s what he had to say.

A few adjustments

Perhaps unsurprisingly, like many other companies during 2020, COVID-19 scuppered Oppo’s initial plans. In fact, the country’s lockdown came a few weeks after Oppo South Africa had wanted to launch at first, Fourie tells us. The move to alert level 1, however, presented an opportunity for the company to make its mark.

“Our setup team arrived in February, but because of lockdown, it delayed our plans,” says Fourie.

“We’re here now though, and we’re super excited about it. For us as Oppo, I can safely say we’re the most anticipated brand coming to this market, and now it’s about how we can differentiate ourselves from our competitors who are talking specs,” he adds.

On that front, Fourie points to the tagline that Oppo will be using to promote its devices via social media for the immediate future – #MakeSomethingBeautiful.

Bang for your buck

While we cannot talk to that tagline’s efficacy from a marketing perspective, it seems like the initial focus for Oppo will be on great value for money.

In fact it reminds a lot of HMD Global when it relaunched Nokia Mobile devices a few years ago locally, and the focus on well-specced and equally well priced devices in the entry-level to mid-range space, along with touting the pure Android OS the phones were running.

In the case of Oppo, there’s no pure Android, but Fourie does tell us that bloatware and duplication of apps have been kept to a minimum on Oppo devices, with ColorOS being the UI consumers will interact with.

“You won’t find an Oppo Calendar here,” he remarks.

This as Oppo has a strong relationship Google and Qualcomm, the operations head stresses, and it’s something that the company aims to strengthen and leverage in coming months and years.

As we move into October, we should see the first device be available to purchase from 7th October in the form of the Oppo A72. In fact, Oppo plans to bring three A Series models into the country between now and the year’s end, with the A53 and A15s joining the A72 in November.

All three devices are aimed at delivering great value for money, Fourie points out.

“It’s a great strategy to penetrate with the mid-range at first,” according to the operations head. He adds that, Oppo would have brought a flagship device into SA if COVID-19 had not happened, but plans have since changed on that front.

Slow and steady

As such, we should see a flagship Oppo device early next year, says Fourie. He also notes that it would be next year’s flagship phone too, which means South Africans could experience a high-end device fairly early into 2021.

How early is unclear, but we can do a bit of speculating, and if MWC 2021 is a go, it might prove a great opportunity to reveal a new flagship phone.

For now though, Oppo is making a deliberate effort to bring the right devices into South Africa, and as the brand grows, we could see other types of consumer electronics too, with Fourie noting that the Oppo Watch, smart TVs and 5G routers are all possibilities in the year.

As such, it looks like slow and steady is the way Oppo views this race as being run. Come September next year, it will be interesting to see where the brand finds itself in an extremely competitive smartphone sector.