Update Oppo Find 5 Hands on: Is Oppo attempting to steal Android?

Update Oppo Find 5 Hands on: Is Oppo attempting to steal Android?


Editors Note: Since Dave wrote this we have spoken to our contacts at Oppo who confirm that the Chinese version of the Oppo Find 5 will not sync with Google, however those of you buying the Chinese Oppo Find 5 will be happy to know that you will be able to flash it to the international ROM which has working Gapps!

Last month we published as story about how Alibaba was attempting to strip Google’s presence out of Android, to effectively steal the OS from Google in the form of their Aliyun OS. Our article then included quotes from Andy Rubin at Google regarding their views on “stealing” Android.

Apparently Alibaba wasn’t the only company with the idea, and Oppo’s Find 5 has a significantly modified version of Android that does it’s best to completely remove Google from the equation. In a word, I’m horrified. They’ve created there own “Near Me” Cloud services, and duplicated nearly every service that Google offers (either directly or through partnerships with Baidu and others).

oppo find 5 hands on

The result is a phone that doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store, doesn’t sync contacts with Gmail, and was not able to run the versions of Gmail or Play Store that I loaded onto the phone. The company clearly put an huge amount of man hours (and presumably delayed the product release) to ruin the core of what makes Android great.

I’m completely dumbfounded. They’ve taken what should have been an amazing hardware platform and crippled the software so that it can only operate inside a trapped ecosystem operated directly by Oppo themselves. And while I can understand why the company would want to emulate Apple, I don’t think that copying only the bad elements of Apple’s corporate behavior is the way to become the next big mobile sensation.

A quick call to the manager of Oppo’s Shenzhen store told me that the local staff was completely unaware that the device could not use standard Google services. The manager promised to look into the problem and to offer a refund if there wasn’t a way to sync Google contacts and make the standard Google Apps work. So at least the company’s customer service doesn’t seem to be broken. It’s yet to be seen if that’s a promise that can be collected on.

As it is, I’m completely disappointed. Knowing now that much of the delay in releasing this product was probably due to these custom software changes, and  that are neither needed or wanted in any way, just adds insult to injury for the enthusiasts that have been waiting for the devices.

The only hope now for the Find 5 seems to lay in the hands of the software engineers at xda-developer. They’ve already gotten their hands on a device, with luck will offer a port of CM10.1, Paranoid Android, Stunner, JellyBAM or any of the other ports of Android 4.2.x from the AOSP.

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This story is still developing…

UPDATE (2013/02/01): We’ve determined through experimentation that it is possible get contacts imported from Gmail, although it takes several hours for the process to get all the contacts. By adding a gmail account as an “enterprise” account the Find 5 will connect to Google via Microsoft Exchange protocol, and over time, the contacts will slowly show up in the address book. It’s unclear at this point that is a two way process, but just the fact that the contacts can be added to the phone alleviates a large part of the pain that Oppo inflicted with their wholesale software changes.

  • Testing of the 4.1 OS versions of Google’s Play Store and Gmail apps yielded the following results:
  • The APK files are easily recognized and installed
  • The installed apps can’t be launched.

So clearly there is more missing than just the apps themselves. What’s needed is the attention of some of the clever xda developers to build an installable APK with all the Google Apps and the other bits that are needed to make them work.

Also, Oppo sent us a link to their forums explaining that Google services are still included in their International ROM, but after scouring their user forums for the software and instructions for how to do this, we found that neither are available at this time. No comment can be made on whether Oppo’s International ROM actually fixes anything, because we’ve yet to see if it even exists.

To be fair, not all of Oppo’s software changes are for the worst. They’ve included a good camera app that takes advantage of the new features of the excellent Sony Exmor RS camera module that they’ve included. And we can’t find any fault with the screen or the rest of the physical design.

Several sources have explained that Oppo’s motivations where less about “trapping” customers in their cloud, and more about the fact that Google services are often blocked by the Great Firewall of China. But regardless of their motivations, Oppo would not be the first company to have noble intentions go awry. It’s notable that ZTE’s recent spinout, Nubia, has similar options to sync to a China based cloud service, but manages to do so without removing Google services or purposefully scrubbing all mention of Google from the device.

With Android’s current Chinese market share of over 90%, it’s clearly tempting for Chinese manufacturers to try to gain back control. But we hope that more companies will opt for Nubia’s “embrace and extent” method, rather than Oppo’s “raid and pillage” decision.


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  • AndroidFreak

    Haha, they probably don’t understand the power of android with gapps 😮

    Like Nokia ignoring android for windows, the same way will OPPO fail if they go to such extents of removing gapps

    • leonwangls

      a small company like oppo isn’t able to go it alone. even giant like samsung has abandon its bada os . if oppo impliment its plan to use its own os, it will lose at least 2 generation for sales to others.

  • Frederik

    they root it before they send it, so it can run google play

  • Frederik
  • Hello,

    May I join you in expressing equal horror – and personal disgust in such blatant piracy.

    For months I have been trying to pick apart the Chinese practice of selling Android devices … without OTA firmware updating.

    There seems to be a need to explain that they … ‘are cutting off their noses to spite their faces’

    Maybe someone else can explain that better than I have; so far !!

    I hope that revealing this Oppo attempt to steal Google’s property … will shake the Chinese Second Tier manufacturers into playing the game fairly ?

  • Armando

    Great post!!! And you are completely right Dave.

  • Allanitomwesh

    They did warn everyone at the oppo forums to not buy the chinese version due to a different ROM.

  • njren

    Thing is, you never followed up on your earlier story. Alibaba insists that Aliyun OS is built almost from scratch and uses a different virtual machine from that in Android. It only runs Android apps virtually and “uses some of the Android application framework and tools (open source) merely as a patch”.

    Big difference, then, between Aliyun and Oppo’s NearMe. The main difference being Alibaba has almost unlimited resources to put together its own OS versus tiny Oppo’s hamfisted crippling of Android.

  • A very interesting response, njren …

    Might this imply that Alibaba is attempting to produce a product that is ‘Google-free’ for the Chinese market ?

    And … at the same time …

    An ‘export’ product that is equally viable in, say, the UK, as the
    ‘true – Android’ product … but fully supported – ‘OTA-wise’ for firmware upgrades by Alibaba, world-wide ?

    The latter objective could ‘galvanise’ Alibaba’s export trade objectives in the world-wide marketplace.

    • njren

      Not “attempting”, Aliyun has been around since mid-2011. It only got Google’s panties in a knot last fall because Acer -a Google partner- was about to announce an Aliyun-powered phone.

  • Dudebro

    Great, an expensive phone that could become unsupported overnight

    I guess a stock android ROM is too much to ask, what about a Cyanogen version?

  • niko

    isn’t it almost all chinese android phone, doesn’t come with gapps, which can easily be installed by flashing it using the zip file from http://goo.im , you only have to root it, which can be found sooner or later

  • Karel

    You are completely missing the point in this post. While you are right that it is stupid to lock the platform to a limited package of services provided by the manufacturer, it is equally stupid to have an operating system locked to another bunch of services (whatever great you think they are). If I buy a phone with android nowadays, I can’t operate it without completely buying into Gapps. And If I don’t want to have google account and google services, I am screwed and I can’t even access google market nor most other functionalities. It is the same dead lock whatever appraisal you have for Google stuff.

    I want a system that doesn’t force me to anything and lets me chose what services I want and by whom.

  • shannon

    In my mind for the Chinese version it makes more sense to do this. as stated the Google apps don’t work in China and they are marketing this for customers who don’t use the Play store anyway, who don’t have Google accounts, who have most likely never gotten on Drive. All of these great apps almost all have Chinese counterparts with many more users. So for Oppo to make a phone that works in the country it is sold in with its potentially largest market makrs sense.

  • unyon

    this is happen to my oppo find way too. My dad coming back from china and gave me find way, while me in Indonesia having high expectation to its quality of front camera and intrigued to have my very first android. And bam! it can’t open google store, what kind of android is this wtf. but now i download apps in google store by my laptop and move it to my phone. such a work to do. And the point is i even can not see my voucher (usually just press *123# then press call) but it is not working on! Damn china phone!

    will not buying any phone from china, even BB or maybe even iphone that being sell in china.
    can not be used out of their country wtf.
    You’ve lost my interest, china.