Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Oppo and MediaTek say building a smartphone isn’t anything like Ikea


“It’s hard for people to understand how these things are being created and how much work goes into building a smartphone. It’s not just picking components out of boxes. We’re not going to Ikea to build a living room.”


  • Reno, Dimensity, and DORA
  • Successful collaboration
  • A partnership years in the making
  • Building for the future

Arne Herkelmann, head of product management at Oppo Europe, smiled as he told me this, and I nodded in agreement. Making a smartphone is immensely complex, and good collaborations are imperative to its success.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Digital Trends was speaking to Herkelmann and Rob Moffat, MediaTek’s deputy director of sales and business development for Europe,  about the creation of the Oppo Reno 8 Pro, which ended up providing a fascinating glimpse into how two rapidly maturing, extremely motivated brands are working together to build winning devices.

Reno, Dimensity, and DORA

“Some people think you open a drawer and say, today we are building a smartphone, then grab everything together,” laughed Herkelmann when asked about the process of making a new phone. “It’s slightly more tricky than that.”

Oppo chose the MediaTek Dimensity 8100 Max, a higher-end mobile chipset, for the Reno 8 Pro, but this was not a case of just “choosing” it and being done. The 8100 Max is one of MediaTek’s newest customizable chips, which manufacturers work on with MediaTek to finely tailor the chipset to requirements through an initiative called the Dimensity Open Resource Architecture, or DORA for short.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

“We knew we wanted to use the MediaTek processor,” Herkelmann continued, “and we knew we wanted to use the [Oppo-designed] MariSilicon X neural processing unit (NPU) to improve video performance. This meant we didn’t need to push the MediaTek chip so hard on video and could leave it to focus on other areas.”

The focus for Oppo and the Reno 8 Pro was efficiency, and in my experience, it has really succeeded in this area,with the device surprising with its ability to get the most out of a relatively modest battery capacity. Moffat explained this is all part of the DORA initiative.

“The Dimensity 8100 Max is an important part of the conversation,” Moffat said. “We work closely on an engineering level [with companies using DORA chips], and some want to focus on A.I., some purely on camera. When Oppo came to us, it was clear the requirement was efficiency, and there are thousands of hours of research and development behind [the Reno 8 Pro’s chip] in terms of optimizing the chipset.”

Herkelmann responded. adding that “Oppo and MediaTek worked together to customize the standard product for the Reno 8 Pro for efficiency and performance, tweaking it in the way we want that works with ColorOS. It’s just a 4,500mAh battery, and if you just see the numbers, it is quite small, yet the efficiency and runtime is much bigger than we get from devices with 5,000mAh battery in the market right now. It’s an orchestrated effort from Oppo and MediaTek.”

Successful collaboration

Oppo and MediaTek are major players in smartphones, but there’s no doubt both are better known in China than they are in the rest of the world. MediaTek, which recently made a big push into the U.S., is working with Oppo in Europe, and the Reno 8 Pro was a crucial collaboration for both companies.

“We have done lots of devices with MediaTek in the European market already,” Herkelmann explained, “but we haven’t done something on this scale before. Entry-level phones have less specific items, fewer cameras, you don’t need to customize it much or have much of a dialogue with partners. The Reno 8 Pro was new. It’s the first at this level in the European market, and we customized it together, and it’s the first time to work on the software together [with MediaTek] to get the chipset to do exactly what we wanted. It’s also the first time we’ve brought the MariSilicon X to the Reno series, and only the third [MariSilicon X phone] in total. We were excited to do the collaboration, and it worked out perfectly.”

The Reno 8 Pro was obviously an important phone for Oppo, and Moffat went on to explain it was similarly important for MediaTek, just in a different way:

“We built a lot of resources in Europe to support Oppo and others, and to bring these premium devices out smoothly. This was the biggest test [of MediaTek’s new resources], yet because it was a high-profile product from a large smartphone customer, using one of our highest-end chips for the first time in the region. it was important we executed well, so we worked very closely with Oppo up to and beyond the launch.

“It required collaboration and dedication,” Moffat continued, “We’ve got our headquarters and research and development teams working directly with Oppo in China, but it takes more than that. It takes collaboration across regions to bring it to market.”

A partnership years in the making

MediaTek has been working hard to build a strong international reputation for some time, bringing out high-quality chipsets, innovating in 5G, and powering a range of globally sold devices — from Amazon’s Alexa products to the Peloton exercise bike. But Moffat revealed how working with Oppo on the Reno 8 Pro was a very effective calling card in Europe.

The Reno 8 Pro may be a major step forward for Oppo and MediaTek, but it has been a long time coming.

“This collaboration is MediaTek showing how things need to happen,” he said, before speaking about its recently opened offices in Düsseldorf, Germany, right next to Oppo. “The Oppo and MediaTek offices are crucial for us. It’s a commitment to support Oppo and others in Europe, as the execution needs to be 100% on point. We are strengthening the team in Europe because it’s the way forward. We have to be able to translate how our technology benefits the customer.”

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is where Oppo comes in. While it may not be well-known in the U.S., in Europe, a series of high-profile sports sponsorships — from tennis at Wimbledon to UEFA football, among others — have given it plenty of exposure. And feature-packed, beautifully designed phones like the Find X5 Pro have given it credibility. It knows how to market itself, something that by MediaTek’s own admission, it’s not very good at.

The Reno 8 Pro may be a major step forward for Oppo and MediaTek, but it has been a long time coming, as Herkelmann explained: “Most of the Oppo A Series is powered by MediaTek, and in China, for the Find X5 Series, we launched a version with the Dimensity 9100 chip inside.” MediaTek’s first European smartphone was also an Oppo device, the Reno 4Z released in 2020.

Building for the future

The Reno 8 Pro is one of the best Oppo phones I’ve used in a while, and hearing the story behind it explains its success. Moffat explained that while making a great phone was the target, it also wanted to showcase its ability to you, the buyer: “We have to translate how our technology translates into end consumer benefits. It’s easier for Oppo, and easier for the end consumer. We’ve done it this time, and it went very well.”

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Herkelmann was similarly enthusiastic about the result, and the future of the two brands: “We will continue down this path. For both companies, it has been a really good experience. Let’s see how this will continue.”

If the Reno 8 Pro is representative of what two motivated companies can do when they work particularly closely with each other, we are looking forward to seeing what comes next. The Reno 8 Pro is available in the U.K. and Europe now, and you can read what we thought of it in our Oppo Reno 8 Pro review.

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