Many months ago I took the plunge, I did what many phone enthusiasts do, I pre ordered a phone from a company with a history of buggy software, dodgy memory setup and questionable update policies. Yes I’m talking about Oppo and my Find 7a. So here I am nearly eight months on and I’ve still got it, how have I coped? Well things have taken in interesting turn in the last few weeks and I’ll tell you how.
I initially loved it, the Oppo Find 7a when I bought it was high spec, well built, it came with expectations of software updates and it was a bargain at about £350. The removable battery, Micro SD slot, fancy camera features and rather unique looking software made for a device that I was bound to grow to love.
The honeymoon period was short, being stuck on Android 4.3 was limiting which wearables I could use with it. The archaic split memory left me with about 3GB of storage to use for apps. Bugs were plentiful in the stock Color OS ROM and Oppo seemingly didn’t know what to do first, should they push on with a KitKat ROM or actually fix some of the bugs in the Jellybean ROM? Oppo did neither they just released a beta version of an updated version of Color OS, which was still Android 4.3 based, which also had a variety of new bugs that needed fixing. So at this point Oppo have two software version to update, the looming release of the slightly higher spec Find 7 and the constant concern about being months and months behind with a KitKat update.
By this point we were mid summer, I’d since picked up a Sony Xperia Z2, a OnePlus One and an LG G3 all of which trounced the Oppo, things were looking bad for it and I was looking to sell it on. Price wise I’d be lucky to get half of what I paid for it. Depressing stuff. I then made my mind up to see what the developer community had done to fix the problems that Oppo seemed to not acknowledge or not able to fix. I decided that I would hack it and if I broke it then so be it. I just wanted up to date software and one single memory partition. I wasn’t asking much really.
I’ve owned a fair few phones in my life and few have driven me to such lengths. Over the years the only phones that forced me to hack them were the HTC Hero, the HTC Desire, the HTC Desire Z, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Samsung Galaxy S2 and now this the Oppo Find 7a. Luckily I knew my around the Android SDK, I know the difference between ADB drivers and fastboot drivers and I know when something seems so hacky just to leave it alone. I also and most importantly know to read instructions before just attacking your phone. Digging around on XDA developers and the Oppo Forums I found something out, that a lot of people had bought the Find 7 or 7a and they weren’t happy with their purchase either. But luckily for us Oppo make their phones very easy to unlock and very easy to Root.
Whilst I was reading through lots of threads I came across something rather cool, a developer called Coldbird on the Oppo Forums had come up with a script to fix the memory issue. The outcome of his work was that you’d get a single memory partition that would be yours to do with as you please. It sounded good, but reversing this sounded fiddly and the other issue was that future software choices would be dependant on this work too. Basically to flash the unified memory structure required a compatible custom recovery and also a compatible custom ROM. Which at this time meant using a Cyanogenmod based ROM on the Oppo. I jumped in both feet first, downloaded all the relevant files, ran the fastboot procedure and sat and waited for the fun to start, I waited a bit longer, went and made a cup of tea, waited a bit longer, went and had a shower and tried not to panic. By now I’d waited a few hours for the “your phone will reboot itself” moment and it didn’t happen. The next instruction left me concerned as well it said “do not under any circumstances unplug your phone”. Great, I’d finally bricked my first ever phone. I unplugged it anyway, held the power button down for a while and it eventually rebooted. So I did what any sensible person would do and tried again. Several hours later I was looking at a dead phone again, it was about midnight and I really needed sleep. This would have to be sorted another day.
I spent the next few days reading up on the procedure and trying to work out what I’d done wrong, it looked like as I’d been jumping between different Color OS versions and that something had changed that didn’t quite work with the unified memory procedure, luckily lots of other people had dead phones and another developer called autOmat3d had created another script that would take the other procedure and added extra bits to bypass the problems people were having. Again I downloaded the relevant files and set about “fixing” my phone again. This time it worked, after a few hours I had unified memory and a new custom recovery, all I needed was a custom ROM and I was going to be sorted. After I sorted that I found myself in possession of what was basically a Nexus 5 with a better camera, removable battery and a Micro SD card. I was happy, for now…..
Whilst I’d been playing around hacking my Find 7a Oppo had been busy, they’d created a third software version and they’d pushed on the previous beta version to support unified storage. They had even consulted with ColdBird on the best way to go about it. So now we had three Color OS versions to try.
- Color OS 1.2.7 Which is an Android 4.3 split storage ROM.
- Color OS 2.0.3 which is an Android 4.3 unified storage ROM.
- Color OS 2.0.0 which is an Android 4.4 split storage ROM.
So yes they had released a KitKat ROM, which didn’t support their previous unified storage hack. Yes I was shocked, along with many others. I was itching to try out the new KitKat ROM, which was released in November 2014, almost a year after KitKat was made available for manufacturers. But to try it I’d have to reverse the storage unification process and flash an Oppo recovery. Once again I sat down at my computer and set about downloading the relevant files. A few hours later I was on KitKat based Color OS, which was barely any different and I just felt sick of the sight of my Oppo. I just put it in a drawer and went to bed.
Many weeks passed, I’d sold my Sony Xperia Z2, I’d bought a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact and my LG G3 was struggling to keep a signal and cracks were starting to appear in the frame, I was reluctant to use it. I was digging around in my drawer and found the Oppo, I’d not used it for ages and I was a little intrigued how development had come along. Especially as Android 5.0 had been released and XDA was brimming with ported ROMs for many of the popular devices. I however was more interested in the memory problem I’d recreated on my Oppo. So I once again unified the storage and read through which ROMs the developer said that supported it. One ROM called Nameless ROM supported unified storage, it was Android 4.4.4 based and was basically just stock Android. I was sick of Color OS and the funky icons and the mind bending ways in which Oppo had decided people wanted their device, so stock Android would suit me fine. It all installed as you’d hope and I went about my business with my Oppo Find 7a happy I’d come to terms with its issues and found fixes for the biggies.
However after a few days I started to get an itch, I’d been talking to a OnePlus One owner who had Android 5.0 installed and was loving it. I was jealous, I once again wanted the latest software, I once again headed to the forums to find something suitable. Lo and behold Nameless ROM had released an Android 5.0 test version of their ROM and best of all it supported unified storage.
A few weeks later and many ROM updates later, we are in the present day. I’ve not looked back, I’ve not fancied trying Color OS again and amazingly Oppo seemed to have stalled in their software development. Oppo have said they want to bring the software versions together, to create a unified storage Android 4.4.4 based ROM, which is where I guess the official end of the road will be for the Find 7 and 7a. With their software team moving onto the N3 and R5. No mentions of Android 5.0.1 have been mentioned, I guess this time next year the R5 and N3 might get an update. But for me and my Find 7a I have totally embraced the community and they have provided me a great device, it just goes to prove that with a little patience most devices can come out good in the end. Oh and a lot of complex fastboot commands and some very clever phone hacker people to help out as well.