An honest OnePlus One review

Never settle” or “Flagship Killer” these were the slogans of the chinese startup OnePlus when launching the “One” as their first product in mid 2014. Now, one year later it’s time for a retrospective review of “the One”.

Hardware

General/Design

When unpacking my OnePlus One last October I was surprised how lightweight it is, considering it in relation with its size. It doesn’t feel to heavy, neither to light, it feels valuable. The phone weighs 162g and with a size of 153x76mm(ca. 6x3inches) you can image it’s not a tiny thing you are about to hold in your hands. For me, coming from an iPhone 4, this essentially was the only real doubt I had when clicking the order button. Now, after roughly half of a year I can say that with a thickness of 8.9mm the phone is thin enough to unnoticably sit in my pocket the whole day.

The design of the phone is somewhat innovative taking into account the sandstone material of the 64GB version. Furthermore the back is not flat but slightly rounded. The display takes most of the space of the bezel size with just about 4mm of border on the left and right. A metal edge sorrounds the whole phone and the display “sits” just about one millimeter above it.

Specifications

The OnePlus One features a 2,5GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 801 CPU together with 3GB RAM and an Ardeno 330 GPU being responsible for the grahics. Depending on your choice you’re also getting 16 or 64GB (not extendable) onboard memory, just like on the Nexus phones of Google. With a 13MP and 5MP back camera you are also prepared for your next holiday trip including some high resolution selfies. The One also supports mobile communication standards reaching from GSM Quadband, over UMTS and 4G LTE to WLAN b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC.

Display

Following the trend of increasing display sizes the makers One have decided to rely on a 5.5in IPS LCD screen boasting full HD resolution of 1920x1080px, which is pretty impressive for this price range. The screen is very sharp, the size is just about right to watch a movie or to browse your favourite website. The brightness and the colors are pretty good but a little bit to vivid, which is characteristical for IPS displays e.g. on different Apple products. I did not notice any yellowish or other colouring of the screen as a few others on the net complain, but what annoys me a little bit is the weak performance under direct sunlight influence. When the phone ups the brightness to nearly max, the screen is simply getting overblown and seems somehow washed out concentrating the brightness mainly on the middle of the screen. However you can still work with the handset with minor restrictions of visibility, it simply doesn’t look very appealing.

The touch is very responsive and so is the phone in common. According to OnePlus the touch is able to handle ten fingers, but when do you really get the chance to try thant out? What again is uncommon for this price range is the incorporation of Cornerings Gorilla Glass 3, which makes the display very robust against scratches and accidental droppings. I don’t have a display foil on the phone and use it on a daily base but until now it is scratch free just as at the first day.

Camera

Well what can I say about the camera. Having the possibility of a direct confrontation with other phones (Galaxy S5, Nokia Lumia 850, iPhone 5s) from time to time I can tell there isn’t much diffence to phones which cost just about two or three times as much.

Having a 13MP back camera with dual flash the phone allows you to shoot 4K movies at 30FPS or at full HD with 60FPS. I tested the phone in many different sitations and in my opinion the camera is really one of the pearls of this startup device. I have to admit I’m not a professional photographer but I’m able to take a snappy picture here and there and with the OnePlus One you are able to shoot that picture “right out of your pocket” in just a few seconds. The low lag and the focus of the camera are fast enough for just about every situation you will come across.

The front camera comes with 5MP and is more than enough to take a selfie here and there. It performs pretty good with difficult light circumstances which makes both the cameras a good duo for mostly every situation.

Battery

Theres not much to say about the battery. The OnePlus One uses a non-removable Li-Po 3100 mAh battery. Depending on your usage profile the phone can last from one to three days. Mine lasts about one to two days with about 4 hours a day surfing on Wifi and approx half of the day being on 3G (mostly passive). Well, comparing it to the battery life of other phone this size it’s pretty decent.

Software

The OnePlus One was originally shipped with CyanogenMod 11S (Android Kernel 4.4) when I got it in October ’14. This was essentially a slightly customized version of the very popular third party ROM CyanogenMod.

A few weeks ago OnePlus released its CyanogenMod 12S Version via OTA release which works very snappy and mostly without any problems. Just as its predecessor the OS boast an enourmous variety of settings which you can use to fine-tune your device just as you like. You can change just about everything from the look and feel (with its own theme manager) to various performance settings including different CPU governors. Even the default settings are very appealing and fast.

Price and Availability

Initially the OnePlus One was only available through an invite of someone who already owns one. This way the small startup was able to scale up the production of the phone slowly and still manages to keep just a very small amount of handsets on stock. That an the fact that they were never making real publicity except some YouTube videos made them possible to keep the prices way below other competitors.

Today you are able to buy your OnePlus One via the OnePlus website without invite. You can choose between a white version with 16GB for 249€ and a 64GB version in sandstone black that will set you back for 299€.

Support and Accessories

Well, when it comes to support you can clearly see other side of the companies small size which of course includes the support department. Browsing through different threads on their forum you will notice that their support is simply overloaded. Some people are complaining about different hardware defects/problems which the company is taking serious but you need to cool down and bring long breath until you will get a satisfiable solution. On the other hand you can observe similar situations in the forums of the big players.

When it comes to accessories the phone clearly claims its postion as outsider. Even though you can get some leather/rubber cover and display foils on every bigger reseller thats more or less it. Do not expect a vast number of different tailored accessories in different colors and variations for this phone since you simply won’t get them.

Summary

If you’re looking for an affordable hig-end Android device the OnePlus One is definitely worth a try. Assuming you can live with a 5.5 inch display in your pocket you get a good allround phone scoring with a top of the notch camera pair and an above-standard battery life and display. If you want to be able to personalize your mobile operating system to the bleeding edge you’ll love just the default ROM of the phone. When it comes to the price and style the field of competitors gets sparse around the One and you begin to realize more than ever that most of the brands are way to overpaid. If you are furthermore ok with a very overseeable range of model-specific accessoirs the OnePlus One should match your taste.

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