There’s no shortage of quality Android smartphones in the $400 ballpark although most tend to have a fault or two that keep them from being truly special. Will that be the case with the new OnePlus 3? Here’s what early reviews are saying.
Dan Seifert from The Verge was immediately impressed with the OnePlus 3’s overall build quality:
It’s an incredibly well-built device, with a unibody aluminum finish, tight tolerances, and good proportions. Unlike last year’s brick-like OnePlus 2 or OnePlus X that were rough around the edges, the 3 is comfortable to hold, thin without being too thin, and agile when going in and out of my pocket. These are the kinds of things that much older companies like Samsung and HTC took years to get right and are still figuring out, yet OnePlus has managed to pin down in just three generations.
Gizmodo’s Darren Orf had plenty of praise for the OnePlus 3 internal hardware:
USB Type-C? Check. Latest Snapdragon processor? Yessir. Fingerprint sensor, high megapixel camera, and fast charging? Yep, yep, and youbetcha.
But a major departure is the amount of RAM packed into the OnePlus 3—6 GB. Six! That’s as much as a laptop—a shitty one—but still! This really allows Oxygen OS to shine. Like Apple and iOS, OnePlus has optimized its in-house software to work especially well on the OnePlus 3, so it can take advantage of all that RAM in ways other Android competitors cannot.
Chris Velazco of Engadget did spot one trade-off OnePlus made to keep costs low although not everyone will view it as a shortcoming:
I was half-hoping this was the year OnePlus would trick its flagship out with a Quad HD display, but that just wasn't meant to be. After all, building a phone like this for just $399 means trade-offs were inevitable. That doesn't mean the screen hasn't been improved. Rather than use an IPS LCD like it did last year, the company went with a 5.5-inch, 1080p Optic AMOLED display (the better to see VR content with a Loop headset, my dear). The switch leaves us with the same pixel density (401 ppi) and thus the same sharpness, but also punchier, more vivid colors. Blacks are especially deep, and whites are pretty crisp by default, but you have the option to make the display warmer or cooler depending on your preference.
BGR’s Zach Epstein fell head over heels for OnePlus 3’s Android fork:
All that tech is in place to power OnePlus’s “OxygenOS,” which is easily among my favorite versions of Android.
OxygenOS looks and feels just like Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which is the Android build on which it is based. The phone ships with nearly all of Google’s stock apps, and many of OnePlus’s customizations are practically invisible to users. Most Oxygen-specific features cover things like settings and customizations — here’s a list of features OnePlus has added or changed in Android 6:
Home screen and screen-off gesture controls
Custom icon pack support
Accent color customization
Gallery and Music apps
Lynn La from CNET speaks of the OnePlus 3’s rear camera:
Photo quality on the device's 16-megapixel camera was solid, and I was impressed by how bright and clear images turned out. In well-lit situations, colors were true-to-life (especially the white hues), and objects were sharp and in focus. In dimmer settings or environments with tricky lighting, photos still turned out clear and evenly exposed.
The Guardian’s Samuel Gibbs discusses the OnePlus 3’s charging technology:
OnePlus has licensed sister Chinese smartphone manufacture Oppo’s fast charging technology, which operates differently than most other quick charging solutions by moving the fast charging chips to the power adapter, rather than the phone. The Dash Charge system moves the largest source of heat during charging from the cramped confines of the phone near the battery to something plugged into the wall, meaning the phone can charge faster without you having to worry about it overheating.
Charging from zero to 100% took 72 minutes, while zero to 75% took 36 minutes. That’s not a lot faster than the best of the rest when not in use. The difference is that the phone didn’t heat up at all, and could be used like normal without impacting the charging rate. Most devices get too hot and must slow down the charging speed, particularly when someone is using the device with the screen on.
Even with all of its upside, the OnePlus 3 isn’t perfect as Wired’s Brian Barrett concludes:
The OnePlus 3 won’t disappoint you. And if horsepower and customizability are you top priorities, you should get one, regardless of your budget. But if you care more about fit and finish, you probably can find something that better suits your needs. As fun as 6GB of RAM sounds, I’d rather not worry about how warm my phone gets. As pitch black as that display gets, I’d rather not get a constant reminder of the screen protector.
Ultimately, I told my friend to get a Nexus 5X. It’s not as fancy as the OnePlus 3, but it’s more consistent. And that is the most important feature of any smartphone, whatever your budget may be.
Sam Rutherford of Tom’s Guide saw things a bit differently:
Despite some minor issues with the camera and just-OK battery life, the OnePlus 3 is a phone that's hard not to love. You get top-tier performance, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a seductive all-aluminum body and a rich 5.5-inch AMOLED screen, all for just $399. That's $300 less than the S7 Edge or the HTC 10, and $100 less than the Nexus 6P.
So although the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge remains the best phone on the market, the OnePlus 3 will probably be the one I recommend more often to friends and family. Because if you don't need to spend top-shelf money to get a first-rate phone, why would you? With its latest phone, OnePlus has finally made the flagship killer that we've been dreaming of.