Feature Request is a new regular 9to5Google series where authors offer their opinion on how to improve popular hardware or software products.
It’s almost impossible not to have an opinion on OnePlus. They make fantastic hardware at competitive prices, and none of us can decide whether the marketing choices they make help or hinder them. A prime example being the invite-only system which either creates so much desire that customers have to take the plunge and buy as soon as they get an invite, or it leaves people so frustrated they never want to talk about OnePlus again. Whichever one it is is beside the point, the OnePlus X is quite possibly the best small, affordable phone on the market this year. But its size is precisely what keeps it from being in my pocket everyday…
Before I begin in earnest, I’m not making the case that the OnePlus X shouldn’t exist in its current 5.0-inches form. I think it absolutely should for one key reason: Too many manufacturers refuse to make smaller devices that feature high-end performance and specifications. Arguably, the only company making a great small phone these days is Sony. But even then, the Xperia Z5 Compact will still set you back a hefty $500. The $250 OnePlus X is the perfect tonic to this problem, and is now always the first name on my lips when asked for advice on buying the best affordable small smartphone. Nothing comes close. It’s just not for me, personally. It’s too small.
My problem with the OnePlus X is that it takes the shine off the OnePlus 2. Sure, the OP2 features a big 5.5-inch screen, fast Snapdragon 810 processor, solid metal build and a brilliant camera, but it’s nowhere near as elegant as its smaller sibling. The chunky metal frame and sandstone black back are rough and heavy, and the display isn’t vibrant, even in comparison to other LCD displays. Placing the two phones side-by-side, it’s almost as if they don’t belong in the same family. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if the OnePlus 2 was replaced by a bigger version of the OnePlus X.
PREMIUM, ELEGANT DESIGN
The OnePlus X features a solid metal chassis sandwiched between two panels of glass. Materials alone aren’t enough to make this phone wonderful though. It’s the little added flourishes of class. The very subtle curve around the edges of the glass, the grooves all around the metal frame and the textured notification profile switch all help add purposefulness to the aesthetics. With it being just 6.9mm thin, the phone feels really small in hand, and the aforementioned curves stop it from feeling like a cold glass rectangle block.
If there are any issues with the materials and design, it’s that the glass is slippery, easy to scratch and it draws fingerprints pretty easily. Still, it’s one of those devices that’s really addictive. It feels so good in hand that you want to pick it up all the time, even when you’re not planning on using it for anything specific. The OnePlus 2 — on the other hand — I found so chunky and heavy, that I’d more often than not want to put it down.
In years gone by, I’d argue that LCD screens were better than AMOLED. Those were the days when we didn’t have 1080p resolution displays, and the PenTile pixel layout of the AMOLED panels made text and details fuzzy, and whites turned gray or yellow. It was painful to look at. Those days are long gone. Newer AMOLED retain the amazing deep blacks and vibrant colors, but now whites are much cleaner and details are sharp thanks to the much higher resolution panels.
The 5-inch screen on the OnePlus X is so full of life and contrast, it puts the rather pale OnePlus 2 LCD display to shame. While colors and contrast are far more pleasing to the eye on the OnePlux X, it’s helped further by having the same resolution as its big brother. It goes without saying that the same number of pixels over a smaller area means a sharper image. In this case, it’s a pixel density of 441ppi versus 401ppi. The display panel is so close to the surface that it’s almost as if the content floats on top, while the deep blacks seem to vanish in to the front of the phone creating the illusion that it’s all just one, shiny surface.
If this screen (perhaps with a higher QHD resolution) was stretched across 5.5-inches, maybe OnePlus could call the OP2 a ‘2016 flagship killer’ without drawing eye-rolls.
The AMOLED panel has other added benefits too, and that’s extended battery life. Because black pixels are just individually switched off pixels, it saves a lot of energy when the screen is being used, especially when so much of the general user interface is so dark. Having the less powerful Snapdragon 801 chip instead of the SD810 undoubtedly helped too.
Despite only being 2,520 mAh, the battery easily got me to the end of a work day. I wouldn’t say it was quite good enough to be classed as a two-day battery, but it certainly impressed me. I’d get at least 1.5 days use without needing to panic and search for my charger. In all honesty, I got similar-ish performance from the 3,300mAh battery in the OnePlus 2. But again, I’m imagining how much better it would be if the OP2 had a more efficient processor, and an AMOLED screen. Perhaps then it would reach the 2-day bar set by its predecessor.
THE PERFECT PHONE?
No, there’s no such thing as a perfect phone. We all know that. We all have different desires and preferences, so my opinion on the OP2 design may seem completely nuts to you, and that’s okay. This is a completely subjective thing.
I would argue that replacing the OnePlus 2 with a super-slim glass and metal smartphone in the design of the OnePlus X, with its vibrant AMOLED display, and impressive battery consumption, would make a more compelling ‘Flagship Killer’ than the OnePlus 2 in its current state. I’d be more likely to part with my $389 (for the 64GB model) if it was a little more classy and elegant. What’s more, it’d give the OnePlus phone family more cohesion. Like they actually belong together.
As it stands, the OnePlus X (in my eyes) is completely stealing the thunder of its bigger sibling. That’s why it made it on to my holiday gift guide as one of two Android phones you should ask for (or buy for your friends) this year.