OnePlus 3T is the new heir to the Google Nexus throne
Startup phone maker OnePlus has a new flagship Android smartphone. Well, tweaked phone might be more accurate.
OnePlus 3 owners might be upset at the rapid refresh I’d be upset too if my phone was suddenly outdated in less than six months but OnePlus waits for no one, not even its most loyal customers. Pushing forward as quickly as possible is built into the company’s “Never Settle” ethos.
So what’s new and what’s different and does the new justify the higher pricing ($440 for 64GB and $480 for 128GB)?
The OnePlus 3T is to the OnePlus 3 as the iPhone 6S was to the iPhone 6. That is, design-wise, the OnePlus 3T is identical to the OnePlus 3, save for the new darker gunmetal color (it’s also available in “soft gold”).
Which isn’t a deal breaker at all since the OnePlus 3’s design drew inspirations from all of the best premium phones and was already superb. Nothing’s changed on the OnePlus 3; it still feels amazing.
The 5.5-inch AMOLED screen is still “only” full HD resolution and very bright even out doors, and the home button/fingerprint sensor below the screen is still super fast.
You don’t get water-resistance, but at least the headphone jack is still there and the port is USB-C.
Modest speed boost
With the OnePlus 3T, OnePlus focused on on inner beauty. There’s a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 6GB RAM, the aforementioned 128GB storage (still no expandable storage, though), and 3,400 mAh battery that lasts 13 percent longer.
As per Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 821 provides a performance boost of up to 10 percent a very modest improvement.
The gains were mostly negligible.
And true enough, in my tests, the gains were mostly negligible, if not inconsistent. Some apps like Twitter and Feedly actually opened slower on the OnePlus 3T compared to the OnePlus 3, and other times, like launching Instagram and loading up websites, loaded up faster on the OnePlus 3T.
And for some reason, even though they were on the same Wi-Fi network, the OnePlus 3T always took longer to download the 750MB file for Need For Speed No Limits.
But like most modest performance updates, you wouldn’t notice the difference unless you had the two phones running side-by-side.
Functionally, Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow customized with OnePlus’s “OxygenOS” add-ons still runs like a champ with buttery smooth performance and no real slowdown.
The 13 percent longer battery life is also welcome and got me through nearly two days if I was judicial with my usage. Heavy users should have no problem getting through a full day. Plus, the Dash charging is still the quickest fast charging technology around, juicing up the OnePlus 3T from 0% to about 60% in 30 minutes.
Stock Android gets dressed up
Don’t be alarmed…yet.
While the OnePlus 3T is still based off of stock Android, the customized OxygenOS software is starting to show signs of deviating from Google’s clean experience.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice some of the icons are different (i.e. Messages, Calculator, Settings and Clock). Open some of the apps and you’ll see some small and subtle differences, but nothing as overbearing as the skins on other Android phones (I’m looking at you Samsung, LG).
As always, all of OyxgenOS’s extras (Shelf, gestures, dark theme, touch-sensitive/onscreen buttons, etc.) are customizable.
Two handy new features include the App Locker, which lets you lock up apps and require either a PIN code or a fingerprint to unlock them and a three-finger swipe down gesture for taking screenshots. Both are super handy and the screenshot gesture sure beats pressing the power and volume down button.
There’s another feature that lets you flip the phone upside down to mute an incoming call, but it’s not nearly as useful.
Other niceties in OxygenOS include a dark theme, proximity wake feature (wave your hand in front of the phone display to turn it on) and the double-tap power button shortcut that launches the camera. These are all great, but they’re not exclusive to the OnePlus 3T; the OnePlus 3 already has them.
Shipping with Android 7.0 Nougat would have been great, but I’m told it’s coming by the end of the year, so that should be just around the corner.
Improved cameras are must with smartphone refreshes. While I would have liked to see the rear 16-megapixel camera get a boost better low light, faster autofocusing, etc. OnePlus left it unchanged with the lone exception of better electronic image stabilization while recording video. There’s still optical image stabilization (OIS) like on the OnePlus 3, too.
The front camera, arguably the most important camera for so many people nowadays, got a big boost: double the resolution from 8 megapixels to 16.
Selfies definitely look sharper:
And low-light performance from the selfie camera is a little sharper, too:
But if you look closely, there’s still a lot of image noise. For outdoor and indoor selfies, the OnePlus 3T’s higher resolution front camera does the trick, but it’s no iPhone FaceTime camera or Galaxy S7/S7 Edge front camera.
Photos taken with the back camera are basically the same as on the OnePlus 3. You’ll get lots of details. The colors are a smidge saturated if you’ve got HDR turned on (it’s on by default and all of the pics below were taken with HDR on), but not as aggressive like on the other phones such as the Google Pixels.
Filling the Nexus void
You can skip the OnePlus 3T if you already own the OnePlus 3. But if you don’t own a OnePlus 3, the OnePlus 3T is yet another excellent and more affordable device that puts the squeeze on more expensive premium phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel.
Sure, it’s $40 more than the OnePlus 3 and while the updates are modest, they’re still improvements. There are other excellent phones like the Huawei Honor 8 and ZTE Axon 7 that occupy the $400-$500 space, but neither are as polished as the OnePlus 3T.
And with Google abandoning its Nexus phones in favor of its premium-priced Pixels, there really is no other phone that gives you so much bang for your buck.
Long live the heir to the Nexus throne: the OnePlus 3T.
Excellent premium build-quality Fast, smooth performance Great cameras Useful new software features
No water resistance No microSD card slot for storage expansion
The Bottom Line
The OnePlus 3T balances premium features with performance at an incredible price.