It’s rare that I review a smartphone – they’re all so much alike and very little seems to excite me these days when it comes to smartphones. If you’re an iPhone fan, no amount of reviewing will change your mind. If you’re an Android fan, no amount of reviewing will change your mind either. So that’s not the purpose of this review.
But if you’re a high end Android phone fan (ie, Samsung, Google Pixel) and considering a new phone and possibly a brand switch, this might be worth a quick read for you.
I’ve always been a budget Android phone fan personally. I’ve had MotoG phones since they were introduced, then switched to an Honor 8 a year or so ago, and a quick delve into the Nokia camp again when the Nokia 6 was released. The Nokia was horrible by the way – budget definitely sums that one up – sorry Nokia fans, they were great in the Naughties and lost their way…
My partner bought a OnePlus 3 a couple of years ago. I was a little bit jealous back then because it outshone the MotoG by a long way, and still outshone the Honor 8 to some degree. Mostly around the camera and the performance.
OnePlus were sort of a weird conundrum back then. Neither a budget Android phone, nor a high end – they sat somewhere in the middle with a decent spec at a reasonable price. And a Chinese manufacturer that put off a lot of people.
Then the OnePlus 6 was released (noting that I never tried the 5 or 5T, so the change may have come before I noticed – I am a bit slow). Of course, it’s still a Chinese manufacturer – but lets face it, most of the parts in anyone’s phone are manufactured in China so that’s not really a big deal. But lack of support could be. OnePlus have now ruled that issue out too with their agreement with O2 (in the UK at least) providing a mainstream Telco to provide support and sales through.
So, I bought one. They’re about 480 UKP at O2 outright – but are available on plans as well. I bought mine outright as that’s what I tend to do with all my phones.
I’m very, very impressed with it. To be fair I’ve never owned a Samsung or Pixel so I don’t know how they compare but they blow away the Nokia, The MotoG and the Honor 8 that I previously used.
The Good Bits
- The camera – with 8x zoom (though I can’t find specs that state whether this is optical or digital or a combination of both) incredible close up shots can be taken from a distance. At 8x zoom the image is a little distorted, although still significantly clearer that similar shots on my Honor previously (which didn’t zoom in nearly as far). 4x zoom gets great shots and doesn’t seem nearly as distorted. The OnePlus 6 camera is a massive improvement over the OnePlus 3, both for low light shots and zoom. Featuring Optical Image Stabilisation as well, means that your coffee induced tremor doesn’t have such a blurring effect on the final result. The camera is quick to open, quick to take pictures and offers super-slow-mo video and the imaging software offers a number of quirky effects which I’m not really into. The colours appear quite true to life (versus the Honor which seems to overcompensate) and the clarity is better than I’d expected. It’s not a flagship killer camera – but for the price it’s excellent.
- Facial Recognition Unlocking – I’ve never been a big fan of this, primarily because the only time I’ve tried it (which admittedly was on an old iPhone 4S I think), it was slow and very unreliable. Not so on the OnePlus 6 – the facial unlocking is extremely quick, indeed half the time I don’t even realise the phone is locked. I’ve found myself pointing the camera away from my face and attempting to unlock it just to make sure that it doesn’t unlock if it can’t see my face! I’ve also tested that it won’t unlock if my eyes are shut (if for example someone tries to unlock it while I’m asleep) and it didn’t unlock. If you don’t want facial recognition unlocking, the OnePlus 6 has a fingerprint scanner which appears to be very accurate and fast as well.
- Speed – This phone is extremely fast, it feels very nippy to switch between apps and apps start up very quickly too. This could be a combination of the new CPU (which is Octa Core) and the 6Gig of RAM (yes, 6Gig of RAM in a mobile phone – I have PCs with less RAM than that).
- Bluetooth Range – the Bluetooth range appears to be significantly better than my Honor 8, as I’ve used my Bluetooth speaker from upstairs whilst the phone is downstairs and had all manner of crackles and pops. Reconnecting to a switched off device seems quick too, but this could be an illusion.
- Display Quality – the OLED display is sharp, clear and for someone of advancing age such as myself is very easy to read. The adaptive brightness is a pain the backside and I tend to switch it off because it leaves the screen VERY dark most of the time. But with manual brightness set, the screen is very readable in outdoor daylight and looks natural. The phone also has an option to switch to ‘night mode’ automatically based on sunrise and sunset times. Reducing that blue light exposure prior to bed time should give you a better nights sleep (allegedly).
- The Notch – love it or hate it? I quite like it now I’ve got used to it, and the 19:9 screen size is very wide when watching YouTube or movies or looking at your photos. Incidentally, the panoramic processing of photos is fabulous on this too. You can effectively ‘hide’ the notch with a system setting anyway – though this just creates a black bar and adjusts the screen size to match. I can’t see why you would to be fair.
- Call quality is good, and the hands free option is louder than the Honor and Nokia were, which is nice. The speakers are pretty crap for playing music through though, so you’ll want a Bluetooth Speaker (or Chromecast/Chromecast Audio).
- Proper dual SIM – I say proper dual SIM because my Honor 8 had dual SIM but could only use 4G connection on one of the SIMs at a time. The OnePlus allows both to use 4G, so you can switch between data connections (and calls) easily and reliably. The Honor 8 dual SIM is effectively useless now as the second SIM could only be used in 2G mode and almost all networks have switched off 2G these days.
The Bad Bits
- No wireless charging. I’d really like to have seen wireless charging on this phone, it’s been available on the flagships for ages now, and is extremely convenient. Having said that, the connector is USB-C connection so you don’t have to figure out which way up the plug has to go in. The DASH charging works fairly quickly but does require a special OnePlus DASH charger and cable (which are a bit steep). I leave the DASH charger downstairs for a quick boost during the day if I need it, and a normal charger for overnight charging when it doesn’t matter if it takes hours.
- The single speaker is woeful for music. Good for handsfree calling, but very poor for music. And it’s not stereo, so don’t expect your YouTube videos or Deezer to sound good playing through the phone itself. Get yourself a decent Bluetooth Speaker, or use the 3.5mm headphone jack (yep, it’s still got that – unlike some of the more expensive phones that have opted out!)
- No expandable storage. This is minor for me personally, my Honor 8 had 32Gigs of storage and I didn’t run that out (though I did get close in the end as I tend to run my Deezer library locally) – but the smallest OnePlus 6 has 64Gig of storage anyway, and that’s more than enough for me. And for about 50 quid extra (I think) you can get the 128Gig version. I have PCs with less storage than that!
- No battery percentage icon – I like to see how much battery I have left and the OnePlus will show you the battery bar, but determining exactly how much you have left by interpreting that small icon is a bit hit and miss. However they do offer the battery level as a circle (with the circle gradually diminishing as battery is used) which is a good alternative with space at a premium.
There’s so much more to this phone than I can write about in one article. Do I recommend it? Absolutely. Above all else, it’s blazingly fast and OnePlus state that it’ll still be just as quick in a years time as it is today… I’ll let you know if that’s true in a years time.
You can get hold of a OnePlus 6 in the UK either outright (but with a 15UKP PAYG SIM) and unlocked, or on contract at O2. And according to the O2 guru I spoke to, you have 14 days to decide if you like it and can return it (so long as it’s undamaged and in it’s original packaging) if you decide it’s not right for you. I won’t be exercising that offer thanks O2 – it’s a great phone – and I can confirm it’s network unlocked as my primary SIM is with Vodafone.
[O2 images used with permission]