$529 gets you a flagship Android beast
I always get giddy like a kid whenever OnePlus tells me they’ve got a new phone to show me.
This explosion of uncontainable excitement now happens twice a year. And this time the new phone that has me looking like the emoji with two hearts for eyes 😍: the OnePlus 6.
It always feels like it’s too soon for a new OnePlus phone, but that’s also the company’s smart strategy for bringing devices to market: Expect the unexpected and deliver the best product as soon as it’s good to go.
Since the original OnePlus One, the Chinese startup’s phones have followed a linear design evolution over the years. Placed next to each other, you can see the shared DNA each one possesses.
The OnePlus 6 builds on the company’s “single horizon line” design philosophy, but thanks to the new glass back, notched screen, and re-arranged and improved dual cameras, the design feels like the freshest iteration in years.
Value like no other
There are plenty of positive things to say about the OnePlus 6, which I’ll get to in a sec, so I’ll cut to the chase on pricing because, honestly, it’s arguably one of the best reasons to buy a OnePlus phone in the first place.
If you’ve been following OnePlus over the years, you’d know that each new phone has come with a small price jump. This time around, the OnePlus 6 starts at $30 more than the now discontinued OnePlus 5T. Pricing is as follows:
$529 for 64GB of storage + 6GB of RAM
$579 for 128GB of storage + 8GB of RAM
$629 for 256GB of storage + 8GB of RAM
As always, the pricing is all the more attractive when you consider all the features the phone offers.
All glammed and souped up
Unoriginal or not, it was perhaps inevitable OnePlus would shift to the now ubiquitous “glass sandwich” design.
Gone is the unibody aluminum design (the frame is still the same material) and replacing it is a Gorilla Glass 5 glass back. It looks and feels fantastic giving the phone an unquestionably high-end feel.
OnePlus’ global head of marketing Kyle Kiang says they didn’t just slap on a glass back, colorize it, and call it a day. Each glass goes through a 40-step polishing process to achieve a ceramic-like finish.
At launch, the OnePlus 6 will come in two colors: Mirror Black and Midnight Black. A Silk White with rose gold aluminum frame will be available later. Mirror Black is a complete fingerprint magnet (like on any glossy glass phone), but it’s the Midnight Black and Silk White that are most interesting visually; the back glass resembles matte frosted glass and creates an S-shaped shimmer line when viewed at a certain angle. Under the right light, the black looks navy-ish; it’s a sleek effect for sure.
The rest of the OnePlus 6 is pretty predictable and that’s fine by me. The phone is about the same size as the 5T, but it has a larger 6.28-inch screen (19.9:9 aspect ratio) as a result of the slimmer bezels and notch. Like all Android phones with a notch, there’s still a “chin” below the screen.
The display is still a 1080p AMOLED display (2,280 x 1,080 resolution to be exact), but only the biggest pixel peepers will complain about the resolution. My two cents: The screen is still very bright and sharp enough that sticking to a 1080p panel isn’t an issue — especially if that means longer battery life.
Besides having good looks, the OnePlus 6 is — not surprisingly — powerful. It’s packing all the greatest for a 2018 flagship:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip
64, 128, or 256GB (first time for a OnePlus phone) of storage
6GB or 8GB of RAM
3,300 mAh battery with Dash Charging
Dual SIM card slots (both supporting LTE)
Android 8.1.0 with Oxygen 5.1.2 skin (basically near-stock Android)
The dual cameras are also improved. Notably, the image sensor is 19 percent larger than the one in the 5T, so it should shoot better low-light photos with less image noise.
16-megapixel main camera with f/1.7 aperture with OIS (optical image stabilization)
20-megapixel second camera with f/1.7 aperture
Main back camera records slow-motion video at up to 480 fps at up to a minute in length
OIS stabilizes 4K video at up to 60 fps
16-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture
The dual cameras still shoot portrait-style shots with a blurred out background and the front camera will get the same feature in a future software update.
Some things I’m happy to see haven’t been removed:
The phone is also the first OnePlus phone with “gigabit” LTE download speeds, though whether or not your wireless carrier can provide it is a whole other question.
However, there are some features, now common (if not expected) on flagship smartphones, that OnePlus 6 is missing:
New software tricks
One of my favorite things about OnePlus is how it approaches software. Like previous phones, the OnePlus 6 runs the company’s own take on Android called OxygenOS based on Android 8.1 Oreo. It’s virtually stock Android with a bunch of extra OnePlus-only customizations and zero bloatware.
For the OnePlus 6, the company has renamed the old “Gaming Do Not Disturb Mode” to simply “Gaming Mode.” As its name implies, the mode supercharges performance for gaming by reducing the amount of data accessed by other apps running to ensure latency is at an absolute minimum. Kiang says they’ve manually tested the mode to boost performance for the top 50 games in the Google Play Store.
The most dramatic new addition to OxygenOS is the gesture navigation. By default, the phone ships with Android’s traditional Back, Home, and Recent Apps button layout. But you can turn on gesture navigation, which removes these virtual buttons for swipes.
Swipe up quickly from the bottom bezel to return to the home screen. Swipe up and hold to bring up the Recent Apps. And swipe up from the lower left or right corner to go back to previous screen.
Along with the OnePlus 6, the companyis also selling a new pair of wireless neckbuds called the Bullets Wireless. The $70 Bluetooth earbuds aren’t quite Apple AirPods competitors, but they’re really cheap and offer up to 8 hours of music playback. They can also be juiced up in 10 minutes to get up to 5 hours of playback.
The Bullets Wireless come with an in-line remote and is sweat- and water-resistant. One handy feature is the magnetic clasp. Clip the buds together and your music automatically pauses (this only works for the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6). The Bullets won’t launch till June, though
An hour of play time is hardly enough to put the OnePlus 6 through its paces. We’ll have a complete review soon, so stay tuned for that. But so far it looks like the company has checked off all the right boxes for the OnePlus 6. The price is still a fraction of the cost of other premium flagship phones, and the specs compete and even exceed some of the best. If an era of $1,000 smartphones, the OnePlus 6 promises to be the hero we deserve.
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