Travel revelations from OnePlus's latest creation.
As a person who has to travel with lots of smartphones to do his job, choosing which one to use as your main device on a trip can be quite a conundrum. Nothing tests a phone to its limits like travel, where you're pushing the phone's storage, battery, camera and other features harder than ever.
This time around, as I start a four-week stint in Taiwan, my device of choice has been the OnePlus 5, and already it's been an interesting experience.
1. 128GB totally obliterates storage anxiety
Part of my pre-travel drill is to load up whatever device I'm going to be using with music, podcasts and maybe even the occasional TV show. Then, while I'm overseas, chances are I'm going to be taking way more photos than I otherwise would. These are both things that quickly eat into a phone's built-in storage.
Admittedly, the standard 6/64GB OnePlus 5 probably has more than enough storage for the vast majority of people, but for me, 128 pushes it past the point at which storage space is never going to be a concern.
Right now, a few days into a multi-week trip, my OnePlus 5 still has a whopping 85GB of storage left. Eighty-five gigabytes.
By contrast, my poor 32GB Pixel XL would need constant pruning — going through Google Play Music and rationalizing what I actually need to have downloaded locally, and culling my local backups of pics in Google Photos.
The OnePlus 5's near excessive amount of storage space also means I'm also not missing an SD card slot. And besides, UFS 2.1 is way faster than any microSD out there.
2. Telephoto shots are fun, but main camera needs some work
As I've said before, I've had mixed feelings on the OnePlus 5's camera setup. The lack of OIS in the main camera hits low-light performance hard, and even in daylight conditions the phone can smudge up shots with motion blur (and aggressive noise reduction and sharpening). I'm also not feeling the dedicated portrait mode, which has pretty poor edge detection.
That said, the main camera can capture striking shots with great dynamic range and — with the assistance of a steady hand — a decent amount of fine detail.
I'm having a lot of fun with the telephoto camera, too. It's also not that great in low light, so the phone will switch to a digital zoom crop from the main sensor in darker scenes. But in the right conditions, you can capture photos with more detail even than the iPhone 7 Plus's zoom camera.
A great example of this is that old classic, the airplane window shot. This kind of photo is challenging for the best of phone cameras, and some specific planes don't make things any easier. The OnePlus 5's zoom lens helps bring distant landmarks on the ground into focus, with striking results.
3. Dual SIM is essential in some countries
Many people overlook OnePlus phones' dual-SIM feature, but it can be a huge convenience factor when traveling. In Taiwan, for instance, no UK carriers have reasonable data roaming bundled, and local SIMs are cheap, with unlimited data.
A big reason why I've been using the OnePlus 5 as my main device on this trip is its dual SIM capability — I can stay contactable on my main number, while not paying £20 to use roaming data in 90MB chunks.
OnePlus hasn't upgraded its display since last year, and that's mostly fine. There's a clear difference in image quality compared to, say, a Galaxy S8, which you expect when you're paying $300 less for the phone.
But one area where I've really missed the S8's top-of-the-line AMOLED is outdoor visibility, in bright sunlight. In extremely bright conditions — like the kind you get here in Taiwan in the middle of the summer — the S8 can ramp up to around 1000 nits thanks to its sunlight visibility mode, which is part of the auto-brightness feature. There's no equivalent feature on the OnePlus 5, and so I've often been left squinting at a barely visible display on brighter days.
More than the whole jelly scrolling kerfuffle — which I absolutely don't care about — screen brightness is probably my biggest functional gripe compared to the more expensive flagships available. It's an example of a real compromise being made to hit that lower price point.
5. Every phone should have Dash Charge
OnePlus is one of the few manufacturers boasting extremely fast charging technology. (Among the others are don't-call-it-a-parent-company Oppo, and rival Huawei). Dash Charge isn't new, but it's still a huge standout feature for the company and its phones, juicing up at 4A/5V for quicker refills that generate less heat in the process.
That's especially useful if you need to revive a flagging OnePlus 5 after a day of photography, tethering and messaging — or if you need a quick refill during a layover at an airport. After an eight-hour flight consisting of on-and-off podcast-listening, and messaging over flaky in-flight Wi-Fi, my battery was at around 40 percent. And in the time it took to order and eat a quick meal at Dubai airport, it was back up to 90 percent — outpacing the Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 devices I've used in the past.
I'm amazed that more companies aren't pushing towards this new standard of even faster fast-charging, because it really does change the way you use your phone. So far during this trip, I haven't thought much about charging the OnePlus 5 overnight, because it's so quick to charge that it can almost always charge to full in the time it takes me to get ready in the morning.
Anyone else traveling with a OnePlus 5 this summer? Share your experiences down in the comments!