OnePlus One, the Android phone everyone in the mobile world is talking about has been my primary device for some time. It’s been called many things, and it’s probably the killer flagship phone everyone is looking for at a ridiculously cheap price. This is my review after trying it for over 8 weeks.
So the first thing that comes into mind when you hear that the OnePlus One has similar specifications on paper in comparison with other flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 but for half the price, there must have been a few comprises right? It was pretty hard to narrow down on the compromises, but the build quality of the phone isn’t one.
It does not have top-notch build like the HTC One M8 nor is it going to turn the heads like the golden iPhone, yet the build quality is perfect in its own way. I had written about how the Chinese smartphone makers are making great premium smartphones and OnePlus One is one of the finest phones made from a chinese smartphone manufacturer.
Holding the phone was supposed to be a nightmare for its size but it was more than comfortable. The idea of having a plus size phone kind of grows around you. The device’s textured back is a neat addition, while laying the phone upwards – the camera bezel touches the surface. It’s quite annoying and putting on a case is the only solution which most of us tend to.
I found a minor flaw, the tiny size of the volume rocker and power button on the sides has probability that you would initially keep missing them, as time goes by I got used to it. If not for the tap screen to turn on feature which should be a mandatory on all plus sized phones, it would have been a difficult to reach to the power and volume buttons. It has down facing speakers like on the Nexus 5 and iPhone which delivered above average sound.
The front of the phone is a single piece of glass and has no branding which looks pretty neat. The first thing you’d notice is that it’s a pretty huge display for a “phone” at 5.5-inch, but there has been no compromise on its sharpness. OnePlus One’s 1080p display is gorgeous and the details are extremely crisp. Touch screen sensitivity was initially poor but the software update which followed fixed it.
The 13MP Sony Exmor IMX 214 rear camera sounds more cool on paper than in use, while outdoors it performed well. Under low light conditions, it struggled a bit. One drawback is the lack of Optical Image Stabilization(OIS). Unless you have steady hands, you are going to have a tough time. The phone tries to shoot at a lower shutter speed during low-light to compensate but ends up with a shaky picture. This is when you fall back to switching on the flash for clicking pictures.
Cyanogen has added a few software enhancements with the camera app which makes the entire experience much easier, the phone is also capable of 4K video recording. A recorded video file in 4K will amount to a lot so It’s always advised to get the phone with extra internal memory. For the selfie addicts, the phone has a 5MP front camera, which delivers above average images.
OnePlus One delivers quite exceptionally. The performance has been one of the fastest Android phones I’ve used, the 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor is top-notch. It’s coupled with Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM. With specs like this, the phone is meant to perform really well.
Multi tasking was butter smooth. While playing high-end games like Asphalt 8, the graphic performance was fantastic. There was no lag or any significant heating up, but the battery did drain a bit faster than expected. This is probably because it runs a very high clock speed all the time to deliver.
It comes with a non removable 3100mAh LiPo battery to keep it running all day. On days of moderate use, the battery lasted the entire day with some juice still left. On playing graphic intensive games the battery did drop quite a bit. The sizeable battery works really well for a 5.5 inch phone.
So everything is the same compared to a flagship phone, so what makes OnePlus One different ? It’s the software. This is something new in the smartphone market where the majority phones are running on Android. OnePlus One runs on the CyanogenMod and the phone itself sports a Cyanogen Inc. logo.
CyanogenMod has been long known in the ROM-community, probably the most popular. OnePlus One has a lot of software improvements made specifically for the phone. It’s been about the customizability with CM(CyanogenMod) and there are a bunch of different themes that can be applied on the UI through the Theme Manager provided. This allows you to customize the UI and change it anything, even make it look like Vanilla Android. The lock screen is standard with swiping from right which brings up the camera. While playing music, it brings up on-screen controls with a blurred music artwork and look great.
I really liked the fact the there was an option to switch between the software buttons and hardware capacitive buttons and customize when the software buttons should come up. This is a great choice left to the users because not everyone wants software buttons, even in our team – a few like hardware buttons over the software buttons.
At the end of the day, I found some CyanogenMod errors which is more than expected but the OnePlus One team releases software updates often trying to patch up the errors which overall makes everything good.
A few more words..
While we undoubtedly recommend this phone, there is one huge catch to it. We at Techzei believe just selling a great phone with amazing specification doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. The quality of after sales support matters to everyone. The after sales support of OnePlus has been pretty bad. From the yellow banding display issue to fixing cracked displays, The OnePlus team has pretty much faced all flak.
There is no way to get the phone fixed immediately, you need to ship it back to the warehouse in China or buy the replacement part from Aliexpress and get it fixed by your local technician, all in all you need to be warned that *if* you end cracking your screen/if there is any other physical damage you’re going to have a nightmare of a time. As per Oneplus forum users, getting it fixed takes a good 2-3 weeks and many have simply given up on the process to claim warranty.