"The thinnest phone in the world" is a fleeting title. Like ever-more-preposterous marathon times, or the absurd number of hot dogs a single human can eat in 10 minutes on July 4th, it's dangerous to claim to be the thinnest phone in the world because in the time it took to utter those words, someone made a phone thinner.
So I suppose I shouldn't call the Oppo R5 definitively the thinnest phone in the world, even if Oppo does. It's just the thinnest phone I've ever seen, the thinnest phone I can find. It's 4.85mm thick, this smartphone, and it makes every other phone look hilariously fat by comparison.
Oppo is a member of China's growing list of smartphone manufacturers, and it's certainly one of the most eccentric. Since it began making phones in 2008, Oppo has relentlessly experimented with form and function: a swiveling camera mechanism here, a ridiculously large or high-resolution screen there. It was among the first manufacturers to officially support CyanogenMod, too. Oppo hasn't had much luck exporting to the United States, but it's one of the most fun manufacturers to watch. It doesn't always make practical things, but it always makes interesting things.
That's the best way to describe the R5: not exactly practical, but always interesting. It seems almost impossible that a phone could be this thin — the iPhone 6 is fully 40 percent thicker, the Galaxy Note 4 nearly twice as large — and still be sturdy enough to drive in a nail or crack open a watermelon. But it is. It's made of sharply rounded metal, with two stripes of plastic on the rear to house antennas and radios. It looks like you took a steamroller to an iPhone 5S, stretching and flattening it all at once. Its thinness makes the R5 a little sharp and a little uncomfortable to hold, but comfort isn't the point. The point: holy lord is this phone thin.
There's plenty of power inside this tiny shell, too, from the 5.2-inch 1080p display to the eight-core Snapdragon 615 processor to the 13-megapixel camera. In practice, it feels like something just short of a flagship phone. Multitasking is a little slow, and apps can take a beat to open, but it mostly works just fine.
The R5 runs Android 4.4, with Oppo's ColorOS 2.0 layered on top. ColorOS is basically a bright, fun redesign of Android, with bright colors and big animations everywhere. It's also wildly, hilariously customizable through its theme store, which gives you downloadable ways to make your phone look like "Paper Cut," "Scissor Hands," or "Remember me." Or, the ol' faithful, "Plates." They're all insane and mostly amazing. Luckily there's a theme that is just, you know, Android. I picked that one.
There is at least one genuinely wonderful thing about ColorOS. When you swipe up from the home button, a box pops up that lets you use gestures to launch apps or change settings. It sounds odd to tell you to draw a V to open the flashlight, and it is, but I can draw a triangle to open Chrome and go straight to The Verge. It's the fastest way I've ever found to get to some things, especially with one hand, and I love it.
It's all very interesting, really. Now let's talk practical. The R5 is so thin it can't accommodate a headphone jack, so you're either using Bluetooth headphones or a USB adaptor. (Go Bluetooth, and just hope the battery doesn't die.) It's also so thin that it can't physically accommodate enough battery, so getting through a day in any situation is basically impossible. Oppo's one concession is to build a slight hump for the camera module, which ought to help the R5 take better pictures. It doesn't.
The R5 is, in all likelihood, coming to the US at some point. I wouldn't hold your breath; it's thin, spectacularly so, almost impossibly so, but it's not like every other smartphone option is that huge phone Gordon Gekko used on the beach.
Maybe you shouldn't buy it, but if you ever see the R5 — in a store, in your friend's hand – pick it up. Touch it. Compare it next to your phone. This thing is thin.