When the courier delivered the box, we were stunned at the simple stunning presentation of it all. A slim white box with red highlights that looked like very expensive swiss chocolate and not a phone. A lot of research has gone into packaging and presentation of modern gadgets to make an endearing first impression. OnePlus clearly has succeeded in this regard. Fold open the top cover of the box and you’re greeted by the huge black slab that is the 5.5inch OnePlus. Protruding out from under the phone is a soft handle to help you pull it out of the box. Underneath the phone you will find the super-fast charger, flat USB cable and sim tray removal tool all colored in the OnePlus spartan White and Red brand colors.
You can feel the premium effect they were going for already.
Design & Build
The OnePlus is a large device coming in at 152.9mm tall, 75.9mm wide and a skinny 8.9mm thin. It houses a 5.5 inch full HD IPS display making for a challenging fit in the hand or pocket of most users. But hey, big is big right? The whole front is occupied by the gorgeous 1080p screen that looks like someone placed a printed graphic on top. It’s surreal. Above the screen are the LED notification light, ear piece speaker and 5mp front facing camera for the selfie lovers. At the bottom is the noise canceling microphone and pretty much nothing else. The left side houses the volume buttons and almost hidden to the eye, the SIM card tray that is so beautifully flush with the body of the phone.
The right side has the sole power button placed about one third the way down from the top making for an easy reach. The top of the phone has the headphone jack and the bottom has the USB 2.0 port. The back of the phone is a gorgeous ash grey texture feeling similar to sand grain. OnePlus calls it Sandstone. It covers the battery and has the 13mp camera with dual LED flash at the top. Below that is the etched logo for the OnePlus. At the bottom is the Cyanogen logo. We shall get to the Cyanogen software later in the review.
Holding the OnePlus in your hands is an experience that’s difficult to describe. It’s a massive phone, that much I’ve already mentioned however it doesn’t feel massive. The thinness of the phone combined with the non-slip Sandstone finish make for a very pleasant grip. You will definitely need to use two hands to operate it most of the time though.
The phone feels very rich and solid. No creaks or plasticky feeling that we take issue with Samsung phones. The leek metal band around the phone plus the sandstone finish on the back make the OnePlus feel special and expensive in the hand.
Display and Hardware
As already mentioned the OnePlus comes with a 5.5inch 1080p Full HD LCD screen which is fast becoming old tech in the race for smartphone supremacy. The new galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 both come with the eye melting QuadHD displays that have four times the pixels of the screen on the OnePlus. That said, it’s a gorgeous screen indeed. It’s fantastic viewing experience that is strangely offsetting in the sense that it almost looks like a printed graphic placed on top of the glass. Amazing. Those generous 5.5 inches make for seeing everything a lot easier from Icons to text on web pages. Viewing pictures and videos is a pleasure with accurate colors that don’t pop as much as the over-saturated AMOLED screens that Samsung prefers to use. Fonts look sharp and reading web pages, e-books or documents on this screen is wonderful. Screen responsiveness to touch is excellent and viewing angles great in all lighting conditions. This is the kind of viewing experience everyone needs to have on their smartphone.
The OnePlus is meant to be a top end device so it does come with only the best components. A super-fast snapdragon 801 2.3GHz quad core processor with a very generous 3GB of RAM. Nothing is going to slow this phone down. Multitasking is a joyful experience with easy swapping between apps.
The Adreno 330 graphics chip makes everything fly ridiculously fast and smooth on the OnePlus gorgeous screen. Serious gamers and Candy Crush lovers will both love the gaming capabilities of this phone and that huge screen just makes everything more, well, more.
As the saying goes, size really does matter.
The concern for all smartphone users is quite simple. How long will the battery last? Modern smartphones have powerful guts and bright big screens that suck power like a problem. As such, getting one to last the whole day is fairly difficult. This thankfully is far from the case with the OnePlus. It has a huge 3000mAH battery and can easily go the whole day for all but the most intense power users. Here at Proggie ware a super power users. Our phones are basically our computers. Email, Photography, Messaging, Internet browsing, Movie watching, Gaming and of course, lots of phone calls. Our phones don’t get a break. So we are able to drain the impressive battery of the Galaxy Note 2 in 5 hours, we were pleased to see the OnePlus make it through an entire work day without needing a recharge. For the average user, that will mean you can run the phone from morning till through the night without a problem. And in case it does run out on you, the OnePlus has new Fast Charging tech which means it will charge from 0 battery to 50% in 30 minutes and then to full in 90 minutes. Why this technology isn’t on all phones I don’t know but it certainly makes life a whole lot better having it.
The OnePlus ships with Cyanogen Operating System, which to the uninitiated is a version of Android that features several modifications and tweaks that you wouldn’t get in standard Android experience. Most smartphone users in Uganda are accustomed to Samsung’s TouchWiz or HTC’s Sense Interface running on top of Android. What these are visual modifications made on top of the standard Android system. Most users haven’t experienced the plain vanilla Android as it’s shipped from Google on its Nexus devices. Cyanogen would therefore be a big change for the average user. It essentially looks like standard Android but like I mentioned has several tweaks and modifications that allow you to do more than most manufacturers would give. Some quick examples include gestures to activate apps; like the torch, the camera etc.
The OnePlus is running Android 4.4.4 Kit Kat which will be replaced by the all new Android 5.0 Lollipop sometime in late February. The Cyanogen team are very diligent in sending out updates within 90 days of Google’s own changes. The beauty of this is unlike Samsung or HTC, you don’t have to wait for months as the manufacturer retools Google’s software into their own proprietary blend which tends to make the phones laggy or slow. With Cyanogen, you get a clean, light and super-fast OS which is exceedingly favorable to your phones battery life.
Telephony & Messaging
The OnePlus handles telephony very well. Surprisingly in spite of the phones large size, it proved to be very comfortable for making calls with. Call quality is clear and accurate with active noise cancellation improving the sound output. We experienced no problems on either side of the call. The loudspeaker was sufficiently loud for speaker phone but nothing too special. USSD is handled well for those of you who will be using Mobile Money. It has reportedly been an issue in the past with older smartphones.
The OnePlus handles messaging extensively thanks to the Cyanogen Android software. SMS, MMS, Chat and Email of various flavors are easily handled by the on board apps though you can easily install your preferred apps from the Google Playstore.
We highly recommend using the new Gmail app that now handles more than just Gmail accounts but Yahoo, Outlook and POP3 mail. Of course most users will be using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger for most of their messaging and these both work flawlessly. The massive screen works very well with Facebook Messenger’s floating heads feature which condenses all your conversations in little circular bubbles that float above your apps and can placed anywhere on the screen .
Any phone that comes with a 5.5 inch Full HD screen and 64gb memory is begging for serious media consumption. Viewing photos and videos on this screen is a joy and you won’t want to use your computer screen after this. The built in gallery works very well allowing for viewing photos by date or album. There are also editing tools to quickly crop and ‘instagram-ize’ your photos.
The powerful Adreno 330 Graphics chip makes playing games a delight. You get near Playstation quality graphics in some of the games that are available for download from the PlayStore.
There are a different apps to handle your music including Google Play Music that can sort your music files in albums and play-lists. As with most things on Android, there are many alternate apps you can download to manage your music.
The external speaker isn’t anywhere as impressive as the BoomSound speakers on the HTC One M8 and M7 phones. It’s merely sufficient. OnePlus sells some premium JBL Ear buds to go with the phone and I would advise an investment be made in a good pair if you intend to do a lot of music and videos.
The 64GB of space is far more than enough for most users. It’s not expandable via microSD which would have been a excellent bonus.
Transferring data between your phone and PC is a breeze as the phone uses a standard USB 2.0 connection and appears as a flash drive when plugged into your computer.
The OnePlus comes with a 13mp 2.0fs camera that takes very good shots in most lighting conditions. The dual LED flash helps illuminate darker scenes well. The pictures produced by the OnePlus camera are good with cool color reproduction but the image processing loses detail as you zoom in to the full crop of the image. This is disappointing for a 13mp shooter in 2014. You would expect a higher level of detail clarity in the cropped images. However, for most users who will be using these pictures for Facebook and Instagram so that shouldn’t be a problem. The camera is very fast, taking less than three seconds to activate from standby or lock screen and ready to shoot a picture. A nifty feature allows the camera to be started by simply drawing a circle on your phone screen when it’s off and abracadabra, the camera will launch. The camera offers various modes for taking pictures including panorama, photo sphere – which allows you to make 360 degree point of view pictures, High Dynamic Range or HDR photos and will also soon support RAW picture formats for photography pros. Focus is fast and you can snap several pictures in a short space of time. The front facing 5mp camera works as well as you would expect for selfie taking. Nothing to report there.
Videos can be recorded in 1080p resolution which is Full HD which is higher than standard DVD resolution and YES it can record in the mythical 4K resolution. The camera also has Optical Image Stabilization which means the lense has some fancy mechanicals that allow it to remain staeady when the rest of the camera moves. This always happens whenever your shaky hands move or when you’re on a moving boda boda trying to take a video.
The recorded videos look good on the phone and audio is well captured in most cases.
Internet & Connectivity.
The OnePlus comes with all the usual connectivity options. Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSDPA, HUSPA, 3G, Edge, NFC, Bluetooth, and USB. You will never be short of options on how to connect to other devices.
Our review unit had trouble with 4G which the OnePlus team promised will be addressed in a future download-able update. So we weren’t able to truly test 4G speeds on the phone. Otherwise HSDPA worked super-fast as expected. Network reception was good at all times. No dropped network and Wi-Fi connectivity was splendid. Transfer speeds over USB were nothing to complain about. Internet usage on the phone as you can imagine is excellent. Browsing pages is fast and fluid and the huge high resolution screen makes reading a joy. Downloading apps and watching YouTube videos is a pleasure.
GPS works great with strong accuracy making geolocation targeting for Maps and other apps quick and simple.
The OnePlus doesn’t disappoint at all in the connectivity department.
OnePlus One set out with an ambitious goal of creating a top end phone at a low end price. Somehow, they’ve succeeded even though I don’t know how the business math’s works out. Samsung and HTC should beware. Their devices cost almost double the OnePlus.
The OnePlus delivers on every front. Fantastic performance, incredible screen, premium build, solid camera, great software all at an unbelievable price. On top of this, OnePlus One has a very hands on customer care team that responds quickly to all queries. We enjoyed their support in helping resolve our 4G connection issues.
When you get a OnePlus, you are part of a very exclusive group of people. The invitation system they are using to sell these is a little annoying but it helps them keep up with demand levels they can handle.
If you can get through the invitation system, this phone is worth every bit more than its weight in gold. It’s a Proggie Must Have device.
The Chinese have proven themselves once again. Cheap doesn’t translate to fake anymore. Buy it now0!