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Smartphone companies don’t seem to care about cultivating a true “lineup” of phones. If you aren’t spending at least $650, most companies will offer you anonymous, second-rate devices that seem like they’ve had no thought put into them. With the death of the Nexus line and with Lenovo’s continued bungling of Motorola, the “good but not $650” market is slimmer than ever. Enter the OnePlus 5, which continues the company’s tradition of offering an all-business, high-end smartphone for a great price.
|SPECS AT A GLANCE: OnePlus 5|
|SCREEN||1920×1080 5.5″ (401ppi) AMOLED|
|OS||Android 7.1.1 (Oxygen OS)|
|CPU||Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (Four 2.35GHz Kyro 280 Performance cores and four 1.90GHz Kyro 280 Efficiency cores)|
|RAM||6GB or 8GB|
|STORAGE||64GB or 128GB|
|NETWORKING||802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC|
|BANDS||GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
WCDMA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8
FDD-LTE: Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/ 20/25/26/28/29/30/66TDD-LTE: Bands 38/39/40/41TD-SCDMA: Bands 34/39
CDMA EVDO: BC0
|PORTS||USB 2.0 Type-C, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|CAMERA||Rear: 16MP main camera, 20MP telephoto camera,
|SIZE||154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25mm ( x x in)|
|WEIGHT||153 g (5.4 oz)|
|STARTING PRICE||$479 / £449|
|OTHER PERKS||“Dash” charging, three-position physical notification mode switch, fingerprint sensor, notification LED, Dual SIM slots|
Today OnePlus is both announcing the OnePlus 5 and lifting the review embargo on the device, which we’ve had for about two weeks now. $479 (£449) gets you an aluminum-clad pocket computer with a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. You still get OnePlus’ physical 3-way alert switch, a USB-C port, capacitive buttons with a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and a headphone jack. The phone has two cameras on the back: one 16MP main camera and one 20MP telephoto camera, arranged in the most iPhone-y way possible. Besides the $479 version, there’s a more expensive $539 (£499) version, which ups the RAM from 6GB to a whopping 8GB, adds another 64GB of storage for a total of 128GB, and changes the color from “Slate Gray” to “Midnight Black.” This more expensive version is the one we tested.
The $479 starting price of the OnePlus 5 is a bit more than the $439 price of the OnePlus 3T, which was itself a bit more than the $399 price of the OnePlus 3. Compare this to other Snapdragon 835 devices, like the $750 Galaxy S8 and the $650 HTC U11, and that $479 price still looks pretty good.
And yes, this is the OnePlus five, which comes after the OnePlus 2, 3, and 3T. OnePlus is skipping the number four, which is associated with bad luck in OnePlus’ native China.
If there’s one thing you miss out on with this lower price, it’s definitely in the design department. 2017 is the year of the slim-bezel smartphone. We’ve seen Xiaomi, Samsung, LG, and Essential cram big screens into small phone bodies thanks to less dead space on the front of the phone; rumor has it Apple will do the same later this year. The OnePlus 5 has a slightly older design, though, with tall top and bottom bezels, capacitive hardware buttons, and a front fingerprint reader.
The OnePlus 5 also looks a lot like an iPhone 7 Plus. The back has an identical camera, microphone, and flash layout, with similar antenna lines running along the back and the rounded-over sides. The front has identical bezels to an iPhone and mimics the earpiece, front camera, and home button placement. The main differences between the phones are that the OnePlus 5 doesn’t have an Apple logo on the back and that the fingerprint reader is an oval. Lots of Android phones borrow parts of Apple’s design, but this one crosses over into “embarrassing knockoff” territory, especially when smartphone design has improved so much in 2017.
The capacitive navigation buttons return and are again unlabeled (and practically invisible). Touch spots on the left and right of the home button serve by default as “back” and “recent” buttons, but you can swap the order for a “Samsung style” layout if you choose. The “back” and “recent” buttons are ever-so-slightly demarcated with a single tiny backlit dot, but they only seem to light up after you touch them, which is odd. You can also activate on-screen buttons, which will pop up an easy-to-use, AOSP-style navigation bar on the screen. (This is definitely my preference.)
The Home button has an integrated fingerprint reader, which seemed fast and accurate in my testing. OnePlus says this little home button cutout is actually ceramic, which would make it more durable than the plastic home buttons in some other phones. The home button doesn’t move or click down—it’s capacitive—but you can still wake the phone with a touch.
The 5.5-inch, 1080p AMOLED display won’t win any awards for density, but again, this is fine given the price. The display looks great—those 500DPI+ displays only really seem useful for VR goggles—and there’s no light bleed.
On the left side of the device you’ll get OnePlus’ “Alert Slider,” which is a three-position physical switch that can change volume modes. The three modes are “Silent,” “Do Not Disturb,” and “Ring.” “Silent” and “Ring” are self-explanatory, while the “Do Not Disturb” mode seems to be Android’s normal “Priority” alert mode, just with a new name. As in normal AOSP, you can configure what happens in this mode, allowing or blocking reminders, events, messages, and calls, including limits based on specific contacts.
The switch can’t be overridden in software, ensuring that—once you learn the switch positions—you can be sure of what mode your phone is in just by looking at it. (The switch is unlabeled, so you will have to memorize what position does what.) The switch feels great. It’s metal, with a solid slide action, clicks at each interval, and grippy diamond knurling.
The bottom of the phone looks exactly like an iPhone—though an iPhone 6 this time, with nearly identical speaker holes, screws flanking the charging port, and microphone and headphone jack placement. The good news is that you get a headphone jack, and the charging port is the usual USB-C port. One unique aspect of recent OnePlus phones is “dash charging,” which duplicates the heat-generating power management circuitry in the power brick. When using the included charger, the power management circuitry in the phone shuts off, letting the power brick take over. The power brick gets hot instead of the phone, which stops the phone processor from throttling—great when you use a charging device. It’s a nice feature, but it’s something you’ll need official OnePlus accessories to do. The phone can also charge with any regular USB-C charger, and OnePlus’ charger will also work with regular USB-C devices.
The Software—AOSP with extra features
OnePlus’ Android skin is called “Oxygen OS,” and the version that comes with the OnePlus 5 is based on Android 7.1.1. Oxygen OS does a good job of sticking close to AOSP while just adding additional tweaks, features, and options. All the important, unchangeable interfaces—like the recent apps, lock screen, notification panel, and settings—work the way you would expect in stock Android. OnePlus has custom versions of the built-in apps, like the contacts, gallery, clock, messages, and settings, but the design and icons all match Google’s Material Design, rather than clash with it.
OnePlus loves to bake customization options into its OS. You can have an onscreen navigation bar, including one with a backwards button order. You can set custom long-press and double-tap actions for the three hardware navigation buttons (but not the software ones). You can customize the status bar, adding battery percentage, clock seconds, and a text network speed readout. You can also hide any status icon and change to a circle-style battery icon. You can even pick different vibration intensities and patterns for certain events.
Besides the usual Night mode, which makes the screen less blue at night for a supposedly more comfortable reading experience, there’s also a new “reading mode,” which again futzes with the screen color for a supposedly “improved reading experience.” Reading mode turns the screen grayscale and then applies a night mode-style sepia tone to everything. You can set reading mode to automatically trigger on certain apps, where switching or launching the app will smoothly fade from normal colors to reading mode colors on the fly.
There’s also a “Gaming Do Not Disturb Mode” that can not only block pop-over notifications but can disable the hardware navigation buttons while in a game. This entire feature lives in the notification panel. You can start it from within a game by pulling down the notification panel and tapping on a quick settings button, and you can turn it off (and reactivate your navigation buttons) by tapping on the ongoing gaming notification that this spawns. Disabling the navigation buttons kind of happens automatically for on-screen buttons (they auto hide and are very hard to hit accidentally), but this is a great solution for the capacitive navigation buttons, which are very easy to accidentally trigger.
Like the hardware, the custom software is streamlined and simple. It mostly looks and works like AOSP, and that’s a great thing; more OEMs should build software like this.