Hands-on review: Try OPPO N3 and R5 smartphones for something different

A curved, protruding bottom edge makes the Oppo N3 phablet easier to grip. Photo: Hannah Francis Oppo’s Color OS with custom theme. Photo: Hannah Francis
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The Oppo R5’s hand-polished aluminium chassis, right, is slightly rougher than that of the iPhone 6. Photo: Hannah Francis

The ultra-slim Oppo R5, top, next to the iPhone 6. Photo: Hannah Francis

Oppo has released two new smartphones. Photo: Supplied

Chinese electronics manufacturer OPPO has traditionally dealt in top-notch BlueRay players, though more recently it has been dabbling in smartphones.

It began testing the waters in Australia last year with the Find 7, Find 7a, N1 Mini and Neo, with very little in terms of marketing and hence very little fanfare.

Initially OPPO phones were only available at its Australian website, but now you can get your hands on one and try before you buy at Allphones stores.

Now come two new devices, the N3 and R5 – charmingly different to the more popular Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy or Note, yet considerably more affordable.

Color OS

Both new handsets are fitted out with OPPO’s own Color OS. Based on the Android Kit Kat 4.4 operating system, the user experience is more or less like Android but with a bunch of playful extras.

At its heart, Color OS is all about customisation.

A wide range of theme options lets you change not just the wallpaper but the appearance of icons, too.

A suite of screen-on, screen-off, and even hands-free “air gestures” can be assigned to different functions and apps – for instance, drawing a circle on the lockscreen to launch the camera app.

Some of these gestures are a little pointless – air gestures, for instance, can be used to browse your photo album or desktop hands-free, but a finger swipe is quicker and you’ll still need to touch the screen for other functions.

In addition to the standard Google apps, the OPPO phones also come pre-installed with an OPPO-branded browser. It’s visually appealing, with a range of easy-to-navigate options including full-screen mode, “untrackable browsing” and “night mode”, which inverts to soft grey text on a black background.

The inbuilt, retro-style music player lets you spin tunes by dragging a needle onto a record. It’s cute, but the player itself has limited functionality. There are no EQ functions to tweak the sound for different musical styles, and on the lockscreen you’re restricted to stopping, starting and skipping backwards or forwards, track by track. You could also make these commands with finger gestures, but that adds little value.

Also included are Kingsoft Office, an open source app suite compatible with Microsoft Office, and messaging app WeChat.

OPPO N3

An upgraded version of the N1, which also sports a rotating camera, the dual-SIM N3 is the premium – and pricier – of OPPO’s new handsets.

I have small hands so I’ve never been a big fan of phablets, but the bottom edge of the 5.5-inch N3 has an ingeniously curved extension that balances neatly along your pinkie as you reach across the screen with your thumb.

I have trouble with this action on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6 Plus – both only marginally wider – but no such problems here.

The device’s curved, smooth plastic back also slides easily in the palm of your hand, which you’ll probably need in order to reach the on/off switch, which is awkwardly located on the top left edge.

At 16 megapixels and with f/2.2 aperture, OPPO has improved the camera specs on this model, and claims it’s the best there is for taking quality selfies. There are some great “beautify” filters but they lose a lot of definition.

Despite the iPhone 6 (rear-facing) camera only being 8 megapixels, I still find it takes better shots than the N3. .

Still, the N3’s rotating camera is great for taking panoramas, while photography nerds can switch to “expert mode” and toy with exposure, shutter speed and more.

Camera rotation can be controlled via the touch-screen, or using the included “OTOUCH” bluetooth remote. The OTOUCH also controls the music player, and has a handy Find My Phone feature – two clicks and the N3 starts crowing from where it fell down the back of the couch.

Specs

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Bali Nine ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan to be executed this month

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: Anta KesumaSukumaran, Chan plead for moratorium on death sentence
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Bali Nine ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan will be executed this month, Indonesia’s foreign affairs spokesman has confirmed.

“Yesterday afternoon we received notification from the Bali prosecutor’s office that the execution of the two Australian males will be held in February,” Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media. “We forwarded this to the Australian embassy.”

An overwrought Brintha Sukumaran, the sister of Myuran, was outside Bali’s Kerobokan prison on Friday begging the Indonesian government not to kill her brother.

“We love him so much. Please don’t kill him, please,” Brintha pleaded, her hands clasped together in  a gesture of prayer. “He is scared, I can see it in his eyes. Please don’t do this. He is doing everything he can do for others.”

His mother Raji also pleaded for mercy saying Sukumaran and Chan were “good children”.

“We don’t know how long,” she said.

The two men were told on Friday by Australian embassy officials that they would die this month.

News of the time of the execution comes as Robert Myers, the barrister who asked the Australian Federal Police to intervene and prevent one of the Bali Nine committing a crime overseas, says there is no excuse for their “deliberate lies” and “unlawful actions”.

Sukumaran’s and Chan’s Indonesian lawyer, Todung Mulya Lubis, said he was yet to receive any official notification of the execution date.

“We are preparing another legal action in the next couple of days,” Mr Mulya said. “In the circumstances there are not many avenues to appeal.”

Asked if the news came as a surprise, Mr Mulya said: “Well, the attorney-general said it would be in February. Anything could happen.”

The chilling announcement comes as nine fellow Kerobokan prisoners wrote to Indonesian President Joko Widodo pleading with him to spare Sukumaran and Chan. Two even offered to be executed in their places.

Rico Richardo said Chan had helped him when he almost died inside Bali’s Kerobokan prison on January 23.

“It was Andrew Chan who insisted I got taken back to hospital,” Richardo wrote. He said he did not have enough money to pay the hospital bill but Chan asked his lawyer to assist.

Richardo said when it came to Chan the president was “seeing with just one eye”. “Even though Andrew Chan is on death row … he never thinks of himself. This could be taken into consideration of your conscience, honorable Mr President,” Richardo wrote.

“If you still insist on executing Andrew Chan, I, Rico Richardo, an Indonesian citizen, am ready to take his place and be executed.”

Fellow prisoner Inyoman Andre has worked as a translator for Chan’s bible classes for the past three years. On Thursday Chan asked him if he would take over running the classes.

“He told me: ‘You must be ready to be used by God,” Andre told Fairfax Media.

“He is strong. If you study the bible you don’t fear death because we learn in the bible this life is temporary. After that we have eternal life in our heaven.”

Andre was a methamphetamine user when he was imprisoned four and a half years ago. A former Hindu, who converted to Christianity in jail, he said Chan had taught him to appreciate life. “Andrew is a good person who has done much for us in here.”

Will he take over the bible classes? “I will,” Andre says simply.

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House of Hancock: In defence of Gina Rinehart

Note: At the time this story was written, Gina Rinehart was a shareholder of Fairfax Media, the publisher of this website.
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As a relatively young, slightly left-leaning journalist with only a rudimentary understanding of the business world, I might not be your typical Gina Rinehart sympathiser.

Maybe sympathy is the wrong word, but it seems to me there’s a culture of “Gina-bashing” out there, when I’m not sure it’s entirely warranted.

Is it just my generation? Is it just my fellow West Australians? Is it a classic case of tall poppy syndrome?

Sure, she inherited a lot of money from her late father. Whatever your thoughts on how she has managed her fortune, she hasn’t squandered it, but rather built on it and earned her place among the world’s richest people.

For a whole host of reasons, there are fewer women at the top of the corporate chain, never mind those who are mothers as well. That’s something to admire, right? Or at least, not hate on her for?

Strip away the fortune and there’s a lot more. This is a woman who has lost her parents, a husband and has a difficult relationship with some of her children.

Other than that, we don’t know her. The only interaction the public seems to have with her, rightly or wrongly, is when she’s in court battling with family members, if there’s an incident at one of her company’s mine operations, or if she says something unpalatable to the average Australian.

Rarely, we hear something nice about scholarships in some faraway land, or some other philanthropic effort which doesn’t immediately spring to mind, but they must be out there – you tell me.

Opinion is divided among my little circle. The prevailing feeling, without ever having had anything to do with the woman, is that she’s ruthless, litigious and difficult to work with, to put it politely. Others I have spoken to describe Mrs Rinehart’s kindness, selflessness and passion for the country she calls home.

The truth is, we don’t know, but I suspect the real Gina lies somewhere in the middle. Everyone wants to love and be loved, and I can’t imagine Mrs Rinehart is any different.

Do I like some of her business and political decisions? No. Do I like the fact that money can buy influence? Absolutely not. But I haven’t walked in her shoes and can’t help but cringe when some think to judge Mrs Rinehart for her looks, rather than her actions.

By all means, no one is perfect, but the devil incarnate does not walk among us either.

Even the actress tasked with playing the mining magnate in House of Hancock doesn’t have a lot to work with in bringing her “character” to life.

“Here’s a woman who was basically her father’s business partner since she was 12. She hasn’t really had the childhood or the backpacking experience that most of us have to discover who we are,” actress Mandy McElhinney told Perth radio station 96fm.

“[Rinehart] lived an incredibly rarefied life, it’s hard to really understand. Most of us have normal lives where we discover our own destinies and have to scrape a bit of money together to get ahead.”

“I’d be really interested to hear what [Rinehart] thinks… but don’t worry, I’ve checked with my lawyers.”

And so, I’d urge viewers to watch House of Hancock with a grain of salt. As thoroughly researched as the production is, some creative licence would had to have been used when it comes to the intensely-private Mrs Rinehart.

While it would be disrespectful to gloss over her joys and her sorrows, there is something a little odd in knowing that a human being’s life (and dirty laundry) is being aired for the enjoyment of others.

No doubt, it’ll be a ratings bonanza, but I’m a firm believer that there’s no true delight in recounting someone else’s misery.

Just a disclaimer, too. No one asked me to write this article, so if you think I’m part of some wider pro-Gina conspiracy, please think again.

House of Hancock will screen on Channel Nine this Sunday, February 8.

At the time this story was written, Gina Rinehart was a shareholder of Fairfax Media, the publisher of this website.Follow WAtoday on Twitter

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Architecture award winners shun conventionphotos

Architecture award winners shun convention | photos Building of the Year 2015 Winner: : Commercial Architecture. Cultura Bookstore / Studiomk27 – Marcio Kogan + Diana Radomysler + Luciana Antunes + Marcio Tanaka + Mariana Ruzante. Photo: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG.
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Building of the Year 2015 Winner: Interior Architecture. Wieden+Kennedy NY / WORK Architecture Company. Photo: Bruce Damonte.

Building of the Year 2015 Winner: Educational Architecture. Farming Kindergarten / Vo Trong Nghia Architects. Photo: Gremsy.

Building of the Year Winner: Healthcare Architecture. Livsrum Cancer Counseling Center / EFFEKT. Photo: Quintin Lake.

Building of the Year Winner: Hospitality Architecture. Nine Bridges Country Club / Shigeru Ban Architects Photo: Hiroyuki Hirai.

Building of the Year Winner: Offices. The Building on the Water / Álvaro Siza Vieira + Carlos Castanheira. Photo: Fernando Guerra | FG + SG.

Building of the Year Winner: Public Architecture. Twin Stations / Spora Architects. Photo: Tamás Bujnovszky.

Building of the Year Winner: Housing. The Iceberg / CEBRA_architecture + JDS Architects + SeARCH + Louis Paillard Architects. Photo: Mikkel Frost.

Building of the Year Winner: Industrial Architecture. Carozzi Production and Research Food Center / GH+A Guillermo Hevia. Photo: Nico Saieh.

Building of the Year Winner: Houses. Sambade House / spaceworkers Photo: Fernando Guerra | FG+SG.

Building of the Year Winner: Cultural Architecture. Fogo Natural Park Venue / OTO. Photo: Fernando Guerra | FG + SG.

Building of the Year Winner: Sports Architecture. Arena do Morro / Jacques Herzog & Pierre de Meuron. Photo: Iwan Baan.

Building of the Year Winner: Religious Architecture. Sancaklar Mosque / EAA-Emre Arolat Architects. Photo: Thomas Mayer.

Building of the Year Winner: Refurbishment. The Number 6 / Building. Photo: Piero Ottaviano.

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Marathon medallist Jess Trengove learns from brother Jack’s resilience

Whenever Jess Trengove is having a bad day, she only has to look as far as her brother Jack for inspiration.
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The resilience of the luckless Melbourne Demons midfielder to battle through persistent foot injuries shows the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist what it takes to succeed at the elite level.

Trengove will scale back in distance from the marathon, after having stood on the podium in Glasgow last year, to contest the Australian cross-country championships in Canberra on Sunday.

It’s the first time the 27-year-old has contested the eight-kilometre event since taking out the title in Brisbane in 2010.

Since then, Trengove has been a revelation in the longer distances, finishing a respectable 39th in the marathon in the 2012 London Olympic Games before winning Commonwealth bronze in Glasgow last year.

Younger brother Jack – the second pick in the 2009 AFL draft – has been beset by crippling foot injuries which restricted him to just two games last year. He was on the verge of being traded to Richmond before scans detected he required further surgery to repair damage to the navicular bone. It is unclear if Trengove will play at all this year.

A physiotherapist by trade, Jess has a big interest in bone stress injuries. “I love chatting to him and see what he’s been doing,” Trengove said. “It’s taught me a lot as a physio and a lot as an athlete about staying positive and being patient, resilient.

“He’s got an incredible attitude towards it all and it’s really put it in perspective for me.”

Trengove managed a toe injury in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games and is looking forward to Jack being able to leave the moon boot behind and walking again.

“I’ll be really interested when they start looking at drills and gradually getting back into running,” she said. “My background in running is different to the type of running he’ll be doing as a footballer.

“The training we do is very different. The one thing I will be able to probably help is the early days of retraining his gait, because he hasn’t run for so long.”

Trengove said growing up there was a healthy rivalry between herself, Jack and sister Abbie, who represented South Australia at rowing.

“It sort of inspired me to have a crack at the running,” Trengove said. “Rather than competing against each other because we were in such different sports, it was more of a I’d see what they were doing in training and it would fire me up to pursue my goals.

“When Jack got drafted, it made me think I want to have a real go at running and see where that could take me.”

Trengove is aiming to qualify for the world cross country championships in China in March.

She said the course at Stromlo would make for a fast race. “There’s pretty even grass, so you can take it on pretty hard and I think the pace is generally on,” she said.

“I remember finding it very challenging the last time I raced there. It’s more of a race course with a few little inclines.”

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