“What phone is that?” “OnePlus 3.” “Wait…so 4?”
So many people have asked me about the sexy and ultra-sleek phone I carry around with me everyday. Everytime I tell them the name, they have to do a double-take. Then, I explain to them that the company’s called OnePlus, and this is their 3rd flagship, the OnePlus 3.
But what I should say is flagship-beater. It possesses all the great qualities of flagships, yet it comes in at only around 60% of the price of other top-notch Android and iOS phones. That’s right, 60%. Galaxy S7? $670. iPhone 7? $650. OnePlus 3? $399.
Of course, there is a OnePlus 3T now, which is just a OnePlus 3 with a more powerful processor and a slightly darker aluminum chassis. You can buy the new one for a $50 premium, but I suggest you wait for the OnePlus 4 (whatever they’re going to name it).
The OnePlus 3 comes loaded at $399. A Snapdragon 820 processor (common in many Android flagships) is accompanied by a whopping 6GB of RAM (compared to the standard of 3 or 4 GB), along with an amazing base storage option of 64GB (others come in at 32GB). On the outside, it’s a full aluminum chassis decked with a 16MP rear camera that shoots photos in 4K. It also flaunts an 8MP 1080p front-facing camera. The screen is a 5.5-inch (phablet-sized) 1080p OLED display, which means stunning colors and superb bright-light viewing. Android Marshmallow (you can upgrade to Nougat now) coupled with a 3000 mAh battery means that at the end of a 10-hour day, the phone still has around 60% of its battery capacity. All of this in a phone that 7.4mm (0.3 in.) thin. How did OnePlus do this?!
Obviously, OnePlus have had to make some compromises. Although the camera is 16MP, it shoots some very shaky photos and videos (I have yet to find a way to turn down the resolution of the camera). Low-light performance is also considerably worse than other flagships. The speaker is also absolutely terrible, playing static along with normal sound during video playback. Of course, the built-in speakers are rarely used, so I’ll let OnePlus slide here.
However, what I cannot let slide is on the software side of things. Even though OnePlus is a relatively small company and may not have the resources to consistently update and debug their Android skin (OxygenOS), some of the difficulties I have had with the software is inexcusable. For one, the stock launcher is extremely power-hungry. This can cause the phone to heat up quite a bit when in your pocket. I’ve switched to the Arrow Launcher (thanks, Microsoft), which quickly and easily solves this problem. Additionally, the settings menu is confusing and difficult to navigate. Whenever I need to search for a specific setting, the query always turns up with no results. For instance, asking for “turn off LED notification light” will not yield an option, leaving me with no choice but to Google it and ruffle through online forums. Furthermore, there have been times when the system has failed to notify me of certain app notifications, despite me double-checking to see if I left them on. I have come very close to missing two important emails so far – not cool. Lastly, the camera file system is just strange. Why are my photos split into two different pages? What’s the difference? Is there no option for “select all”? If you take a lot of pictures or video, then this phone isn’t for you.
Arrow Launcher, Wunderground, Arrow Launcher Menu Bar, OxygenOS Settings
I also suggest against updating to Android 7, as it has caused additional problems with the phone not automatically switching to use cellular data when I’m away from WiFi networks. If you want a reliable device, I suggest you stay back with Android Marshmallow for now.
Conclusion. It is a very good phone for the price. It performs, looks, and sizes up to be just like any other Android flagship. However, in the day-to-day experience side of things, OnePlus still has a long way to go. Usable is the adjective for this phone. We’ll have to wait for the 4 (or the 5) to see if that word becomes beautiful.