1 represents the status quo + represents improvement -OnePlus
Created just last year, the small company called OnePlus set out to create the perfect smartphone under the motto “Never Settle”, which caught the attention of thousands of Android fans wanting that top-tier smartphone without any of the drawbacks. OnePlus revealed bits and bits of information on their One phone leading up to the launch, and each announcement had people drooling.
By the time of the announcement, almost all the high-end specs were already announced for the One, but OnePlus was prepared to hit the ball even further. The “Flagship Killer” would only cost $299 for 16GB and $349 for a whopping 64GB.
But months have passed now since it’s debut in April and the phone is still almost at pre-order status. With lots of phones coming out in the meantime, is the OnePlus One still “The Flagship Killer”?
Before launch, OnePlus claimed their smartphone would be one of the best looking phones on the market, and that’s a brave declaration coming from a brand new company in an industry where the HTC One is serenading critics with it’s gorgeous all-aluminum design.
Well I’m here to tell you that the OnePlus One is a beautiful device. In fact, it’s one of the best looking devices on the market.
When I first unboxed it and peeled off the protective screen cover, I laid the phone on the table and just stared at it for a solid couple of minutes. The phone is not flashy whatsoever, and resembles the minimal look of a Nexus phone; no ugly logo on the front, just all screen. Just on the outer border of the screen is a silver lining that gives the phone a very premium look and definitely not something that costs half the price of competing flagship phones.
The sandstone back cover on mine is indeed a very unique feel and provides a solid sense of grip when holding it. I wouldn’t say it is comparable to sand paper, because it is not rough at all on the skin, but almost like a cloth feeling. Imagine holding the matte plastic Nexus 5, but with a slightly rougher feel to it.
The phone feels just as premium, if not more, than any other flagship out there, and is surprisingly light too. At just 162 grams, the phone is a bit lighter than the similar sized Galaxy Note 3.
I don’t plan on dropping or bashing this device to test its durability, but I feel very safe knowing that the screen is protected by the powerful Gorilla Glass 3.
The 5.5 inch LCD display on the One is a beautiful thing. Colors look beautiful, but not over saturated, and viewing angles are great but a little dimmed when looking from the sides. One of the first apps I installed was Zedge to scroll through beautiful wallpapers and shed a tear over how great New Zealand mountain ranges look on this full HD phone. Web browsing and text looks extremely crisp and just about every app is updated for 1080p displays. I’m really glad OnePlus stuck with a 1080p display instead of a 1440p display, because I truly don’t think we are ready for 2K on a smartphone just yet. With a 401 ppi on the OnePlus One, you’re going to have to look really close for any pixels, but you’ll probably hurt your eyes in the process.
The side bezels are thin, but not as thin as the LG G3. But I like how the OnePlus One wasn’t as wide as the G3. It sort of takes after HTC’s approach of being more narrow than other phones.
The OnePlus One, however, is still a phablet.
The Nexus 4 was my daily driver before this, and with the One’s screen being almost a full inch bigger, it took time to adjust to the size of this beast. Unless you already own a Galaxy Note or a One Maxx, you are probably cautious as to if you should upgrade to this size. After almost two weeks of using the device, I feel comfortable with it and often times forget that I’m using a phablet. It’s only when I see other phones now that I realize the size difference. For example, I saw a friend with a Galaxy S4 and I honestly had think if it was the regular S4 or the S4 mini, because all phones seem small now! At times I do miss having a smaller phone for one-handed use, however. If you are a person who loves having their phone accessible with one hand, than you might want to look somewhere else.
OnePlus One comes equipped with Snapdragon 801 processor and Adreno 330 GPU. Navigating through the phone is on par with the speed of the Nexus 5 and no lag has been found so far. I’ve been trying different launchers, including Google Now Launcher, Nova Launcher, Action Launcher and Buzz Launcher. All of them were extremely smooth and a joy to use. You’ll never need to worry about how many apps you have running either because of the monster 3GB RAM found inside.
You can’t get much better in the gaming category either unless you have a device with a Tegra K1 chip. Playing through Riptide 2, Modern Combat 4, Injustice, Asphalt 8 and more was a real pleasure and only on some games like Dead Trigger 2 and Godzilla did I notice some FPS slowdown. But playing Injustice in full HD on this thing felt very close to console quality graphics. There’s a lot of power in the OnePlus One, and it’s still one of the fastest phones of the year.
The 13 megapixel camera on this phone is built by Sony, and is capable of recording video at 4K QHD resolution, as well as full HD 1080p. You can also record in slow motion at 1080p 60 frames per second or 720p 120 frames per second. I was very impressed with the quality of pictures I took, as it’s clear Cyanogen has put quite a bit of effort into tuning their camera app. HDR pictures look fantastic and I’m a very big fan of Clear Image Mode, a feature they recently added to greatly reduce noise found in darker pictures. Taking pictures at night presented no problems thanks to this camera mode.
The UI on the camera app is slick and presents a lot of options and features in a simple and fun to use way. Swiping through pictures modes was fun and effortless, and using the settings was as very easy.
The OnePlus One is the first phone powered by CyanogenMod 11S, a custom Android software that looks and feels like stock Android, but gives you more customizable options and freedom.
The first difference you’ll notice is the new Cyanogen lockscreen, which is very sleek and kind of has a Windows Phone 8 feel to it. Behind the lockscreen we have a very stable version of the popular CyanogenMod that allows you to change a lot more stuff behind the scenes. From customizing your soft keys, to tweaking your notification lights, there’s a lot to fiddle with. You can even turn off the software navigation buttons in favor of the hardware keys if you prefer more screen space.
Easily one of the most impressive features is the ability to toggle gestures when the screen is off. For example, you can draw a ‘V’ shape when the screen is off to turn on and off the flashlight, or draw a circle to go right to the camera app. Cyanogen has taken after LG and HTC to bring double-tap to wake on the One, which is really really nice when holding a phone this big. To turn it off, you can double tap the notification bar at the top of the screen.
The OnePlus One contains software all Android geeks should crave. It can be as vanilla Android as you want it to be, but then tweak every aspect of it should you desire. Using multiple Nexus phones in the past, I’ve always rooted in favor of more freedom and the ability to calibrate my screen for more color saturation. With the One, I have no desire to root whatsoever. CyanogenMod 11S is as fast and fluid as stock Android, however I have noticed more RAM usage, which is pointed out in the video.
The One I am reviewing is running the latest Android KitKat 4.4.4 and Cyanogenmod software, which brings a host of bug fixes and camera features. One of the biggest fixes they have brought is the removal of off-screen gestures accidentally being activated in your pocket. Before this update, my flashlight and music player was constantly being turned on in my pocket because of accidentally being swiped against the leg. But with every update, I’ve noticed a few new bugs. I’m glad Cyanogen is frequently updating this phone (as they should), but there’s much more room to improve on their end, compared to the high-quality build of the hardware side by OnePlus.
The 3100mAh battery powering this phone may sound like the god of all flagship batteries, but really there has been some mixed results. It’s the inconsistency that has me a bit worried about the battery life. It is a powerful battery, and it does get me through the whole day, from about 8:30am to about 11 or 12 pm, but some days I’ll need to really find a charger by 10 or 11 but then some days I’ll have a solid 15-20% by 11. Without a dedicated battery saving mode too, you’ll need to be cautious late in the evening.
I wouldn’t call myself a heavy user either. On average, I make 2-4 brief phone calls a day, some average texting on Hangouts, some Gmail, check my Facebook and Instagram several times a day and browse my favorite sites a couple times a day with the occasional Reddit surfing, and maybe a couple pictures when necessary.
Ever since a couple Cyanogen updates though, the Android OS has been using most of my battery with my screen being the third biggest battery hog. Typically the screen should be the biggest battery hog, especially with this glorious 5.5 inch 1080p one. Overall, battery life is definitely comparable with the Galaxy S5, One M8 and G3, if not a tad bit better. However, without a battery saving mode, the other phones will probably squeeze a bit more life out.
OnePlus is a company that got me excited for something new in the smartphone market, and just about all the hype and build-up for it was well worth it. Dreamable hardware, awesome software, and a killer price has been brought to us in a very sleek and unique phone. There is something for everybody in this phone, and it can be customized to your exact liking without needing to root it. If you are lucky enough to grab an invite, I recommend you take advantage of that and buy this monster of a phone. If you are a fan of big phones with more power and space than you can even use, the OnePlus One is for you. If 5.5 inches is too big for you and don’t want to been seen carrying around a phablet, then this phone is not for you. But if there’s any thought in your mind that this phone has already lost it’s cool, think again. Cyanogen will support this phone for a long, long time. If they’ve only stopped supporting the Galaxy Nexus after 3 years of life, they’re definitely going to support an official Cyanogenmod phone for a long time too. With the hardware OnePlus packed into it, the One is going to be relevant for a long time.
If you have a OnePlus, let us know what you think about it in the comments, or share it with friends who are skeptical about buying a flagship smartphone from a brand new company. Take my word for it though, it is quite a wonderful phone.