Major Chinese phone vendor Oppo released ColorOS 13 in China, an operating system for phones made by Oppo and its sister brands OnePlus and Realme, at the 2022 Oppo Developer Conference (ODC) on Tuesday, following the announcement of the overseas version on August 18.

ColorOS 13 is based on Android 13, an open-source project led by Google. It inherits the original Android security pitches and bottom optimization but also introduces special features and localization through partnering with local firms. One particularly notable feature – Pantanal – allows for better collaboration between devices by offering a closer connection and reallocating resources.

Here are the key updates worth checking out.

Newly designed UI

A major update – with version numbers increasing in integers comparable to iOS 15 to 16 – generally means a fresh look in the new system’s user interface (UI). In the past year, Apple and Google haven’t introduced any major UI redesigns for Android 13 and iOS 16, so Oppo’s visual update makes it stand out among its rivals.

ColorOS 13, Oppo, hardware, smartphone
New-designed system UI of ColorOS 13. Credit: Oppo

ColorOS 13 introduces a new UI design style called “Aquamorphic Design.” The update is inspired by the concept of water, aiming to create “a fluid, vibrant, and inclusive UI” from animation to component design. The colors and patterns are also based on the changing light between sunrise and sunset by the sea.

The new system has a card-style composition for increased accessibility, which looks cleaner and more friendly to use. Also contributing to the fresh feel, Oppo has launched a new font with a wider face that is easier to read. The new OS also introduces adaptive layouts optimized for devices in different size and statuses such as foldable phones and tablets.

New tech to optimize system fluency

Android’s background app running strategies left it a historical issue of how to allocate resources, including CPU time and RAM. Oppo is trying to further optimize system fluency by scheduling computing and RAM resources, prioritizing important tasks, and limiting greedy apps from running in the background via its algorithms to achieve a better balance between performance and power consumption.

It does this through its “Dynamic Computing Engine,” a system-level piece of technology formed from four computing engines that can increase battery life by 4.7% and performance by 10%, according to Oppo’s announcements at the event. The OS also aims to maintain more apps running in the background so that users can switch between them without a reboot or long wait.

Better connection among devices

As part of the new ColorOS, Oppo also revealed Pantanal, a cross-platform system which explores how to break the boundary between devices for better collaboration. The system can keep users in the loop of schedules on other devices via information from multiple devices such as enhanced Google Glance and Siri Advice. For example, it can remind users of a booked flight or the status of a coming taxi on multiple devices. Oppo has partnered with notable Chinese firms such as Li Auto, Tencent, Alipay, and Xiaohongshu for easier cross-device collaboration with Pantanal.

What really distinguishes Pantanal, however, is that the platform can not only handle data and information, but can also allocate computation and algorithm resources from multiple devices, including vehicles, phones, and tablets, to handle tasks like video creation.

It also extends connectivity to vehicles, offering more immersive in-car experiences such as using multiple car cameras to start video phone calls or running phone apps through the central vehicle console. Oppo has announced a partnership with Chinese automaker SAIC Motor as part of its moves into vehicle connectivity.

Privacy and other notable features

For privacy and safety, ColorOS 13 comes with a feature that can erase sensitive information on a screenshot from chat apps like ‎WhatsApp and Messenger. It also has a function to prevent unsafe apps from running, like Google Play Protection, using algorithms assisted by real humans.

ColorOS also includes an animation emoji feature called Omoji, similar to Apple’s Memoji, with a style that echoes the new UI. Users can create their own avatars, which can then be used to present or livestream in certain apps.

The update also features a new Meeting Assistant function for online meetings. The assistant can prioritize wireless data packages to provide a more stable connection, and enables users to capture text from the screen to make notes. It can also convert forms from the screen to common files like Excel sheets or PPT slides.

ColorOS 13 is now accessible via a beta program and will officially roll out to over 40 models this year, including OnePlus phones in China.

The new OS is one of the major phone operating systems in China, competing with Xiaomi’s MiUI and Huawei’s Harmony OS. The system sees major updates every year that typically follow Google’s original Android version for its Pixel phones. According to Oppo, the system has reached 500 million monthly active users globally.

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a] or Twitter @zhounanyu.