[WARNING – I apologise in advance for the excessive geekiness concerning the subject-of and terminology-in this post. I am unashamedly a big nerd)
Say hello to the brand new phone from the budget flagship hopeful created by the team at Chinese startup OnePlus, the chronologically named OnePlus 3. This relatively unknown phone company has been making ripples in the tech industry for a few years now. A rebelious progeny of Oppo Electronics, they brought to the table an aggressively priced business model aiming to undercut the hegemony of giant brands that dominate global smartphone sales. They had Samsung and Apple in their sights, who sell high quality smartphones with the latest bells and whistles, but for even higher profit margins. You’ll be forking out £600+ off contract or be tied for two years paying no less than £35 a month for one of their high end handsets. The philosophy from Oneplus was simple. Provide the same high end flagship experience with minimal compramises for half the price of a Samsung S* or iPhone 5/6* device. Sounds like we’re on to a winner?
The project kicked off in 2014 with their first generation project, the OnePlus One. It came to market costing £230 via an awkward invite system, where you would need – yes an invite – distributed by the company via a waiting list before you could purchase the device.
This was extremely frustrating for consumers who just wanted to get their hands on this revolutionary (cheap) smartphone which had all the specs to rival the flagships of its day. The device was greeted with a warm reception from the press with its impressive build quality, a solid screen and processor that powered the highly customisable forked version of Android called Cyanogen mod. However, as much of a bang for its buck the One was, it had enough flaws to keep the dream of the perfect smartphone just that, for another year. The camera was not the best – especially in low light – it was too big for small hands straying into phablet territory, and that bloody invite system!!
The OnePlus 2 (above) came back with an improved hardwear design backed by a unique sandstone textured exterior flancked by metal bezels, a fingerprint scanner, and was one of the first phones to market sporting the future mobile charging standard of USB-C. Again the #Hype for this device that had started from the very day the first gen OnePlus was released, was again greeted with largely positive reviews…intially. This time it was the software that let the OnePlus 2 down. The company had cut their deal with Cyanogen and booted their own modified Android software called Oxygen OS onto the 2, which in the long run was hampered by UI bugs which didn’t do many favours to the photos it took. Oh and the invite system was back -_-
Fast forward a year to June 14th 2016 and the unveiling of the OnePlus 3 (below). Third time’s a charm right? The launch of the 3 in typical OnePlus fashion was super #Hyped and extravagent (or a bit of a pain depending on how you look at it). To participate you had to download an app from the Google PlayStore which let you explore the new features of the device in a virtual reality environment. I did just that, although without Google Cardboard or a Samsung VR headset the immersiveness didn’t have the intended spectacular effect. It’s more likely a move taken by the company to claim bragging rights of being ‘the first’ to do a VR smartphone launch. But that’s me being a grumpy sod. It was still pretty cool no lie.
I took the bus into town at the butt crack of dawn this morning, braving a heavy Cornish downpour brolly in hand to the PostOffice. I had to wait all weekend to collect the phone since we missed the delivery on Friday…Goddamit. However it is finally in my hands and I’ve spent all morning arduously transferring apps, photos and contacts across from my borrowed Samsung S6. I’m going to have a stab at writing a full review of the phone like a proper tech journalist once I’have had more time out and about with the phone using it on the daily. For now though I thought I’d introduce you to my new purchase (tick) and give some of my first impressions of the handset.
The 3 wears a stylish alluminium construction which is comfortable to hold, but doesn’t fill me with the greatest confidence concerning handling it’s slippery curves if I’m standing on the cobbled streets down in town. It’s really thin which means it doesn’t feel like I’ve got a leg-plate of armour on when walking with it in my pocket, despite it phablet size. On the other hand, the sveltness combined with the sharp corners, makes me wish they had bulked the phone up a wee bit with a curved back like on the 2nd gen OnePlus or the HTC One M*series for a more comfortable fit in my large palms. Overall though the hardware is fantastic feeling more premium than the pricetag suggests, and is sure to spark some interest when you whip it out in the company of your iPhone weilding pals. Beggers can’t be choosers pickers! (That’s a The Café reference if any of you have seen that show. If you haven’t then why not?!).
So what will your peepers be peeping at when typing tweets and Snapping Snapchats? There’s a 5.5 inch 1080p resolution AMOLED display, so we are firmly in modern phablet territory. Coming from a 2K display on the Samsung S6 there is a noticeable difference in sharpness to my eye. Nonetheless the vibrant colours and punchy constrast of the Optic AMOLED technology means this screen is still top notch. Content looks like it has been stickered right onto the surface of the display with minimal air gap between the glass. I’ll also mention the notification LED to the top left next to the front camera. You can choose from eight different colours it can illuminate and customise colours for specific app notifications. I like how small and subtle it is. I can leave it pushing notifications beside me on my desk without it being an overwhelmingly bright flashing beackon constantly demanding my attention. The fingerprint scanner is really quick and can unlock the device without having to wake the screen or picking the phone up, because of it’s sensible location on the bottom chin of the phone.
A contributing factor to my purchase of the 3 was the OS it runs. Oxygen OS returns from the OnePlus 2 this time running on Android 6.0.1 Marshmellow (the latest version available out of beta). The UI (User Interface [software]) is pretty much stock Android without any skins or unnecessarily complicated features that LG and Samsung throw on their devices. There is a ‘shelf’ to the left of the homescreen where you can add widgets and quickly take memos, which I can see being really useful for someone like me where information goes in one ear and straight out the other! There’s loads of options to customise the look and feel of the menus with an array of accent colour choices, dark or light themes, changing the size of icons or app tray grid sizes. You can even choose between using the capacitive hardwear buttons or opt for using on screen menu buttons, I find the former more convient as it provides more room for content on the display.
And that’s pretty much all I have to say at present having spent half a day with the OnePlus 3. I’m really happy with my purchase so far and unless anything goes very badly awry (or I drop it before the case arrives in the post…) then I’ll be carrying this cool slab of glass and metal for at least the next couple of years. I’ll take some snaps with the camera and report back with a full review in a couple of weeks or so after I’ve used it as companion to my normal daily routine.
I’d love to hear what you think of the OnePlus 3. Have you bought one or considered buying one in the past? If you’ve never heard of OnePlus, what do you think of the 3? Lemme know in the comments what your thoughts are 🙂
Catch you soon.