OnePlus delivers a phone with a lot of potential, but you're not getting as much value as previous generations.
OnePlus built its business model on selling phones at near-manufacturing cost. By operating exclusively online and relying on word-of-mouth marketing, the brand managed to cut down on the overhead that comes from maintaining an offline distribution network, passing on the savings to customers instead. That resulted in phones with top-notch specs that undercut "true" flagships by a significant margin, making OnePlus a favorite with the enthusiast segment.
The OnePlus One launched in India for ₹21,999 back in 2014, and the OnePlus 5 is now retailing for ₹32,999 for the 6GB version. To be fair, the price has been increasing with every generation: the OnePlus 2 debuted at ₹24,999, the OnePlus 3 started at ₹27,999, and the OnePlus 3T for ₹29,999.
As the company matured over the last three years, it has started targeting a wider set of consumers. OnePlus now counts Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador in India, and the company is also taking out ads and billboards around the country to aggressively promote its latest flagship. All of that factors into the overall cost of the phone.
However, OnePlus isn't the only company offering enticing specs in this segment. Huawei is aggressively targeting the Indian market and has launched the Honor 8 Pro in the country, and LG is offering a series of discounts on the LG G6 to make it more competitive. Read on to find out if the OnePlus 5 is still the best phone in this category.
About this review
I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the OnePlus 5 for two weeks in Hyderabad, India on Airtel's 4G network. I'm testing the variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage, and over the course of the review period, the phone picked up two updates, bringing several bug fixes and camera tweaks, and is currently running OxygenOS 4.5.3 on the May 1, 2017 security patch. The phone was provided to Android Central for review by OnePlus India.
16MP (IMX398), f/1.7, 1.12-micron pixels, EIS Dual LED flash, 4K 30 fps/720p 120 fps video
Rear Camera 2
20MP (IMX350), f/2.6, 1-micron pixels
16MP (IMX371), f/2.0, 1-micron pixels, EIS 1080p 30 fps video
LTE 3xCA, 256QAM, Cat 12 Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, dual band, 2x2 MIMO Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, NFC USB 2.0, USB OTG
One-touch fingerprint sensor
Dual Nano SIM
FDD-LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/66 TDD-LTE: Band 38/39/40/41 HSPA: Band 1/2/4/5/8 TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39 GSM 850/900/1800/1900 MHz CDMA: BC0
154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm 153 g
Slate Grey, Midnight Black
OnePlus 5 Hardware
The first thing you'll notice about the OnePlus 5 is its resemblance to the iPhone 7 Plus. There are only so many ways of putting antenna lines on a metallic phone, and at some point there are bound to be similarities. For what it's worth, the OnePlus 5 is modeled after the OPPO R11, its sister company.
OnePlus, OPPO, and Vivo are owned by BBK Electronics, and while OnePlus occupies a lot of the mindshare in Western markets (and increasingly India), it is dwarfed in size by OPPO and Vivo, the world's third and fourth-largest smartphone vendors respectively.
What that boils down to is that OnePlus doesn't have the kind of access to components that OPPO and Vivo do. So when the company was conceptualizing the OnePlus 5, it decided to adopt the same camera setup that OPPO used in the R11 — a 16MP primary shooter flanked by a secondary 20MP telephoto lens.
The placement of the dual cameras is bound to limit the design choices, which is why the OnePlus 5 looks identical to the OPPO R11 from the back — with the antenna lines placed at the top and bottom of the phone. When it comes to the front, the device is a splitting image of the OnePlus 3T — put both devices next to one another, and you won't be able to tell the difference. The OnePlus 5 has rounded edges, but the difference is subtle when you compare it to the OnePlus 3T.
What is different is the in-hand feel — the OnePlus 5 is much nicer to hold and use, and that's down to the way the back curves seamlessly along the sides to meet the metal frame. The 2.5D curved glass at the front similarly flows outward to the edges. The anodized aluminum design certainly gives the phone a premium look, but at the same time it makes it slippery. You should pick up a case if you're looking to buy the device.
Like the OnePlus 3T, the fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 5 is quick to authenticate. The sensor is flanked by backlit capacitive buttons, and you can change the orientation of the home and overflow buttons based on your preferences. The power button is on the right and the volume rocker on the left, and both offer decent tactile feedback. The USC-C charging port is located at the bottom, and is flanked by the single speaker on the left and the 3.5mm jack on the right. There's no microSD slot, but you can fit two SIM cards in the phone.
Overall build quality is great, but the paint on the camera sensor at the back is starting to chip away after just ten days of use. The sensor juts slightly outward and comes into contact with surfaces when laid flat on a table, but that doesn't excuse the shoddy paint job.
The Alert Slider sits just above the volume rocker, and it gives you an easy way to mute notifications and put the phone on Do Not Disturb mode. While a hardware toggle certainly has its use cases, you lose out on the ability to set rules to automatically enable Do Not Disturb at night. So if you don't manually toggle the Alert Slider to DND mode before going to bed, you will receive notifications throughout the night. It's an annoying trait, and one that should've been fixed ages ago.
OnePlus hasn't made any advancements when it comes to the display on the OnePlus 5.
Talking about issues that should've been fixed, the display on the OnePlus 5 doesn't have the touch latency issues that plagued its predecessors. The panel itself is the same — a 5.5-inch Full HD Optic AMOLED display — but this time around, OnePlus added support for DCI-P3, which results in a wider color gamut than sRGB.
That said, the display on the OnePlus 5 isn't markedly better than that on the OnePlus 3T. That's because OnePlus retained the same Samsung-made panel from last year. You still get decent colors and viewing angles, but with the phone costing north of ₹30,000, you expect more in terms of upgrades over its predecessor. The difference is more noticeable when you consider that other phones in this segment, the Honor 8 Pro and the LG G6, both pack QHD panels.
The OnePlus 5 does offer a factory-installed screen protector, but it isn't great — you'll need to pick up an aftermarket screen guard. That screen guard is going to come in handy as the panel itself doesn't hold up well to tumbles. I managed to shatter the screen on both the OnePlus 3 and 3T, with the latter resulting from a tumble of just two feet.
For context, the Pixel XL tumbled out of my hand onto the pavement and skidded across the surface of the road earlier this year, and came away with a single scratch. In both instances, the phones landed on the top right corner, which took the brunt of the impact, but it was just the OnePlus 3T that shattered. Considering a broken screen costs ₹8,500 to fix, you're better off investing in a case and a screen guard. You'll need it.
OnePlus 5 Software
In two weeks with the phone, it hasn't slowed down at all. That's amazing.
OxygenOS 4.5 on the OnePlus 5 is a continuation of what we've seen last year — an unencumbered software experience layered with a few useful additions. The OnePlus 5 comes with Android 7.1.1 Nougat out of the box, and the launcher itself is reminiscent of the Pixel: you'll need to use a swipe up gesture to reveal the app drawer.
The Shelf once again takes up the leftmost home screen, giving you quick access to your frequent contacts and apps along with the ability to jot down a note. A new addition is Reading Mode, which automatically tunes the display's color calibration to make it more conducive for reading. You can manually turn on the mode, or allow it to automatically launch whenever you launch a specific app.
There are numerous other tweaks — you get several gestures to choose from, including double tap to wake, music controls, shortcuts to launch an app, and more. OnePlus nailed the implementation of OxygenOS, providing enough features to make the skin stand out while at the same time not cramming features just for the sake of differentiation.
The result is that the OnePlus 5 absolutely flies. The Snapdragon 835 handles everyday tasks without breaking a sweat, and the 6GB of RAM is more than adequate for multitasking. In over two weeks, I haven't seen the phone slow down once. The only other phone that offered a similar experience was the Pixel.
The 3300mAh battery is slightly lower than that of the OnePlus 3T, but the node switch to 10nm with the Snapdragon 835 effectively evens things out. The phone manages to last a day with medium usage, which includes a few hours of browsing coupled with calls, texts, and social media. The OnePlus 5 averaged three hours of screen-on time, with overall usage spread over 18 hours.
When you need to top up, Dash Charge comes to the rescue. The fast charging standard works over 5V/4A, and manages to charge the phone by 50% in just 30 minutes. You'll need to use the bundled wall charger and cable for Dash Charge to work.
OnePlus 5 Camera
The feature that OnePlus has highlighted the most with the OnePlus 5 is the camera. The phone's tagline is, "Dual Camera. Clearer Photos.", a slogan that's inscribed twice on the retail box. Unlike Huawei — which uses a monochrome sensor paired with an RGB sensor — OnePlus went with the Apple approach for its dual camera setup: the primary 16MP shooter has an f/1.7 lens and electronic image stabilization (EIS), and the secondary 20MP f/2.6 sensor is used as a telephoto lens. The phone doesn't quite manage to offer 2x optical zoom, however. The sensor goes up to 1.6x, and the other 0.4x is handled through software. The end result is 2x "lossless" zoom.
The OnePlus 5 has a DxOMark score of 87, putting it on par with the likes of the Huawei P10, Moto Z, and the Sony Xperia XZ; and just two points below the Pixel. While the camera is certainly capable of producing great photos, it isn't always a guarantee that you'll end up with one, unlike the Galaxy S8 or the Pixel.
With hardware becoming largely commoditized, camera prowess is one of the key differentiators in this segment. And in that context, the OnePlus 5 has a long way to go. The company rolled out a couple of updates with camera tweaks, but as it stands, the OnePlus 5 isn't quite there yet, especially when it comes to low-light imagery. Photos taken in daylight come out full of detail, but the primary camera struggles in artificial and low-light conditions, introducing a lot of noise.
OnePlus 5 Bottom line
The OnePlus 5 continues to build on the manufacturer's success. You get top-notch hardware and a software experience that's unmatched in this segment, and Dash Charge will alter the way you charge your phone. The dual camera is promising, but we'll need to wait and see if updates make a difference down the line. The phone would've been much more compelling had it offered a QHD panel.
The OnePlus 5 costs ₹32,999 in India for the version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage, and the model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage is available for ₹37,999. If you already have the OnePlus 3 or 3T, then it doesn't make much sense to pick up the OnePlus 5. But if you're looking to pick up a capable phone for under ₹35,000, it is an enticing option.
Should you buy it? Conditions apply
OnePlus had a free reign in this category last year, but that isn't the case anymore. The Moto Z2 Play is available for ₹27,990, featuring a svelte 5.99mm chassis and a similarly clean version of Android that's devoid of customizations. However, when it comes to everyday performance, the OnePlus 5 absolutely smokes it.
The LG G6 is a much better contender. The phone retailed for ₹51,999 in the country, but it's available on Amazon for as low as ₹39,000. With Samsung effectively sewing up the premium segment with the Galaxy S8, LG is making a stronger case for the G6 by making it available for under ₹40,000.
The OnePlus 5 is great, but the LG G6 offers much more for the same price.
And it's working. For just ₹6,000 more than the base variant of the OnePlus 5, you get a device with a higher-resolution screen with minimal bezels, a much better camera, Quad DAC, and water resistance. The G6 has passed 14 MIL-STD 810G tests, making it resistant to temperature extremes as well as salt, sand, dust, and water immersion. Unlike the OnePlus 5, you don't need to worry about the way you handle the LG G6 — the phone is built to take a lot of abuse.
Then there's the Honor 8 Pro. The phone will be available from July 13, offering a 5.7-inch Quad HD panel, Kirin 960 chipset, 6GB of RAM, 128GB storage, dual 12MP cameras, and a larger 4000mAh battery — all for just ₹29,999. The phone has its share of problems, mostly centered around the software — EMUI 5.1 is still heavily customized — but it is a viable alternative to the OnePlus 5.
If you value pure Android and consistently fast performance, then you'll be satisfied with what the OnePlus 5 has to offer. You're not getting the same value proposition as before, but the phone is still one of the best in this segment.