Can you get a phone that rivals the iPhone X in terms of design and features for about half the price? Come May 22, you will.
The new $529 OnePlus 6 tests the limits on the kind of value you can squeeze into a device that costs hundreds less than competitors with similar hardware.
We had a chance to spend some time with the OnePlus 6 — yes, it comes with a notch — and we’re generally impressed with its design, power, new gestures and camera improvements. Here are our early impressions of what looks to be yet another bargain for flagship hunters from OnePlus.
OnePlus 6 Specs
|OS||Android 8.1 Oreo with OxygenOS|
|Screen Size (Resolution)||6.28-inch AMOLED (2280 x 1080)|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|Rear Camera||Dual: 16 MP (f/1.7) with OIS; 20 MP (f/1.7)|
|Front Camera||16 MP (f/2.0)|
|Battery Size||3,300 mAh|
|Size||6.13 x 2.97 x 0.30 inches|
More than just a notch
Let’s get the notch out of the way early. OnePlus actually confirmed the notch’s existence back in March with an official photo, and in person, the OnePlus 6’s isn’t as offensive as it might look. The controversy subsides with each new product cycle as what was once a weird design quirk becomes commonplace. Still, if you find it to be an eyesore, you can easily disguise it from the Settings app, just like on the LG G7 ThinQ.
The notch distracts from the bigger changes to OnePlus’ device, and a major one pertains to the materials. Gone is the unibody aluminum construction that marked previous products from OnePlus. Instead, the OnePlus 6 employs Gorilla Glass 5 all around that’s been treated with a painstaking manufacturing process, giving it a sheen and feel more similar to metal or ceramic.
The OnePlus 6 comes in three colorways at launch: Midnight Black, Mirror Black and Silk White. But you’d never guess they were all made of glass, and that speaks to the prowess of OnePlus’ design team. The Midnight Black model resembles anodized aluminum, while the Silk White version has a soft luster to it — an ombré effect that fools your brain into thinking the material is plastic. But really nice plastic — the kind you’d prefer to cold, boring metal.
A new gesture interface
The OnePlus 6 doesn’t just feel different to hold; you navigate it differently, too. Gesture-based controls are evidently how all of us will interact with our smartphones in the near future, and OnePlus has yielded to prevailing wisdom and developed its own navigation system as an alternative to the traditional three-button bar.
However, OnePlus’ approach behaves differently from what Google has planned for Android P. To return home, you don’t press a button but swipe up from the center instead. A swipe-and-hold gesture reveals your recent apps list, while a swipe up from either the left or right side sends you backward. The beauty of this solution is that because there are no buttons along the bottom edge, apps can take up the entire display, just like on the iPhone X.
It’ll be interesting to see what OnePlus does with its gestures in light of Android P’s release, especially considering the OnePlus 6 has already been confirmed as one of the few devices eligible for the Android P public beta. When we asked if users would be able to choose between stock gestures or OnePlus’ in the future, a spokesperson declined to comment, noting that OnePlus’ Android P release was still in development.
Packed with power
Underneath all the glass, the OnePlus 6 is packed to the brim with flagship features. That includes a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 845 processor, a pair of 16- and 20-megapixel rear cameras, and a 19:9, 6.28-inch AMOLED display with a 2280 x 1080 resolution.
The base $529 model comes with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, comparable to the $819 Samsung Galaxy S9+. However, there will also be 8GB and 128GB models of all three colors for $579, as well as an 8GB and 256GB Midnight Black variant for $629.
Improved dual cameras
As for those cameras, while they may appear identical to the OnePlus 5T’s from a megapixel standpoint, OnePlus has actually improved them in crucial ways this go-around. The main 16-MP lens now has optical image stabilization as well as an image sensor that is 19 percent larger than the outgoing model’s, which should improve low-light performance. These additions build on the momentum of the OnePlus 5T’s imaging tech, which used pixel binning similar to the recently released LG G7 ThinQ to produce brighter images in extremely dark circumstances.
Both rear shooters on the OnePlus 6 have wide f/1.7 apertures, and thanks to the power of the new Snapdragon chipset, the phone can record minute-long slow-motion clips at 480 frames per second. That’s twice the frame rate of the Google’s Pixel 2 handsets and the iPhone X, but half as much as the 960 fps that the Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2 delivers.
Around the front, OnePlus’ 16-MP selfie cam is still capable of 2D Face Unlock, though it’s still not secure enough to be used for authenticating payments. However, the front camera has gained a bokeh-effect Portrait Mode that works without the need for a secondary lens.
The OnePlus 6 launches with the latest version of the phone maker’s OxygenOS skin atop Android 8.1 Oreo. OnePlus has added a few potentially useful features for gamers, including a new Gaming Mode that prioritizes modem bandwidth for multiplayer games over background apps, as well as a Gaming Battery Saver setting that lightens the resource load for titles that make use of the Unity game engine.
But truthfully, most of what OxygenOS does to make the OnePlus 6 feel so nimble happens in the background, without the user even noticing. OnePlus even drilled down to the way Android renders apps to eke out performance gains. While Google’s operating system normally draws all UI layers regardless of whether they’re visible to the user, OxygenOS omits what isn’t necessary whenever it can. This nets as much as a 10-percent reduction in app-loading times, according to OnePlus.
Of course, the OnePlus 6 is so powerful to begin with that the company’s engineers really didn’t need to find an extra 10 percent. But it’s that kind of commitment to performance that has endeared the company to the Android faithful, as well as power users on a budget.
Anyone intrigued by the OnePlus 6 won’t have to wait long to get their hands on one. The OnePlus 6 will be available unlocked from the company’s site beginning May 22.
Back in January, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said the company was interested in entertaining deals with carriers. For now, though, OnePlus continues to rely on direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales for its products.
OnePlus phones typically don’t spend a lot of time on sale. In the past, OnePlus has estimated how many phones it can sell in the U.S., assembled precisely that amount, and didn’t ramp up production even if demand has outstripped supply. Both the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 5T sold out around five months after launch. OnePlus hasn’t indicated whether it’s changing this approach, although it has committed to producing more units of the OnePlus 6 compared to previous models based on rising demand.
Once again, it seems OnePlus has settled upon an elegant marriage of high-end hardware with attractive design to produce another bargain for power users. The company has become a fan favorite for its pursuit of performance, light touch on Android and distaste for gimmicks (well, depending on where you stand on the notch). The OnePlus 6 resembles a continuation of those values. You can look forward to our full review in the coming days.