Oppo N3's motorized swivel camera takes selfies to the next level

If you thought Oppo was done with making eccentric selfie phones, you're wrong; the Chinese company is back with a new model dubbed the N3 to replace the N1 from last September. The iconic swivel camera at the top is here to stay, but this time we have a 16-megapixel f/2.2 module with Schneider optics, and it's motorised! It's actually much cooler than it sounds: You can quickly flip the camera with a flick gesture on the screen or on the fingerprint sensor on the back -- more on that later. In addition to that, the N3 comes with a new O-Click Bluetooth remote that not only acts as a remote trigger, but it also lets you adjust the camera's angle using the extra buttons.

One other benefit that the motorized swivel camera offers is that the new camera app in Oppo's Color OS 2.0 (based on Android 4.4) lets you install an Auto Panorama plug-in which, as you can guess, automatically takes a panorama shot while you hold the phone still. Other plug-ins include "HD Picture" (to create super detailed 64-megapixel images), "Slow Shutter," "Beautify," "Professional," "Super Macro" and more.

There's another new feature placed on the back: The old mini trackpad was apparently not that popular (we weren't impressed, either), so it's now replaced by a fingerprint reader -- not the annoying swiping type, but the tapping type like Apple's Touch ID button and the one on the Huawei Mate 7. Once you've registered your fingers, you can unlock your N3 by just clicking on the fingerprint reader -- naturally with either of your index fingers given the location of the reader.

Spec-wise, the N3 has all the typical numbers you get on a modern flagship smartphone: We're looking at a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core SoC, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a nice 5.5-inch full HD LCD (the N1 had a 5.9-inch one), NFC and a 3,000 mAh fixed battery. Speaking of which, the N3 does VOOC rapid charging with a smaller charger, meaning you can go from zero to 75 percent in just half an hour. It's also worth pointing out that the N3 is a dual-SIM LTE phone; it takes a Micro SIM and a Nano SIM. But if you want to add a microSD memory card, you'll have to give up your Nano SIM slot.

As with the recent Oppo devices, you still get a solid build quality on the N3. Compared to its successor, the N3 has a similar feel thanks to the aluminum alloy frame and smooth plastic coating, but it's certainly lighter -- 192g instead of 213g -- and easier to hold due to the smaller screen. Like the Find 7 series, the N3 has a nice glowing "Skyline" light at the bottom for indicating notifications and charging status, except it's placed underneath a metallic arc which is part of the phone's aluminium frame. It looks good, but the trade-off is that it may trap some dust.

In summary, Oppo's made a nice improvement on its N series. It may not be the best-looking smartphone, but the motorized swivel camera and the convenient fingerprint reader should be unique enough to win some people over. If you're one of them, the N3 will be available for $649 off contract this December, though there's no word on whether it'll be offered by carriers with a subsidized price.