I didn’t really want a new phone but my HTC One M9 was starting to really irritate me. Specifically the battery and power usage. It got to the point where I was having to charge it at least 3 times a day or I would run out of power. I was able to watch the battery tick down two percentage points just by having the phone on and looking at the home screen. Not doing anything or running any apps, just having the screen on. Between 6:30am and 11am my battery was down to 30%. Not acceptable. This has been going on for about a month now.
I knew the OnePlus 3 was due out in mid June, so instead of getting a new battery for the HTC One M9 I decided that once I was able to purchase a OnePlus 3 I did. As of this writing, I’ve had the phone for about three days. I’ve read the other reviews online and seen OnePlus’ reactions to them, so I thought I would give a review from my perspective.
I also decided to write this review because I’ve been very disappointed with most of the reviews from the so-called “authoritative” sites. They all seem to be focused on the enthusiasts only, and in my opinion have a very unrealistic view of what makes a good phone or tablet. In other words, the reviews don’t seem very objective, rather subjective. This isn’t for all of them, mind you, just a greater than average number of them. The also have a tendency of being somewhat elitist these days. Unless it’s a top of the line model, they seem rather disinterested and overly critical.
I’ll also mention that I’m an early adopter. I started with an HTC Windows phone then bought the first Android phone from T-Mobile — a slider with a marble for selection. Then of course the original Samsung Galaxy S, Nexus 4, LG G3, HTC One M9 and now the OnePlus 3. This doesn’t count the other phones that my wife and other family members have had. So its fair to say that I’ve tried out a lot of different phones. This list doesn’t even touch all of the tablets I’ve had, too. I tend to do my homework before I purchase one and base my decision on the company, the specs and past experiences. You’ll notice that there aren’t a whole lot of brand repeats in my list. There are reasons for that.
To date, no manufacturer has made what I would consider to be the perfect phone. My wife’s Nexus 5X is close, though.
So there is my history with phones. Here are my impressions of using the OnePlus 3 for the last few days.
It is a nice looking phone. It has clean lines and curves and just looks good. Construction quality seems great. It doesn’t feel flimsy like certain other phones (*cough* Samsung *cough*), and I don’t feel like its going to break when I set it down. The back resembles my HTC One M9 quite a bit in that it has an aluminum unibody design, with notches for the antennae. It also comes with a pre-installed screen protector (plastic) which is a thoughtful addition and something I’ve never seen before.
I also ordered a basic case for it, I believe the Karbon. It’s a very slim fitting case that adds no real bulk to the device. That’s good because it feels very heavy in the hand. It actually seems somewhat bottom heavy, but not like some of the older phones. The weight of the phone is not a negative to me at all. In fact, the lighter thinner phones seem quite fragile in my somewhat large hands.
The OnePlus 3 is also a bit longer than most. This makes it seem “stretched out” sitting next to other phones. I don’t see that as a good or a bad thing, its just a thing. It doesn’t have much in the way of a side bezel, but the top speaker and bottom finger print reader and capacitive buttons make it a bit longer than phones without them.
To all of the reviewers that have said something like “yeah, its nice but its average” or “there is nothing new here”, I have just one question for them: What exactly is it that you were expecting? Phones are now a commodity item. A large percentage of the population now has a smart phone. There is only so much you can do with design and still have it be a phone. The aluminum body and the silver/gray color that they chose is very pleasing on the eye. No, it’s not revolutionary, and it shouldn’t be. As long as it doesn’t have sharp points on it that will stab you when you pick it up or put it to your face, there really isn’t a lot you can do with it. Curved corners or no? Curved back or no? Curved screen or no? Pick a combination and you’ve got almost every smart phone out there. I’m ranting now, but I’m still confused because I saw this in almost every review that I read and was having a bit of cognitive dissonance every time.
tl;dr version: It’s a nice looking, well-built phone.
The price of the OnePlus 3 is reasonable. Its $399 with free shipping. That’s about half of what you would pay for the latest Samsung, Apple, LG, HTC or Sony phone, and in some cases less than half.
$700 to $900 is the average for the latest “flagship” phone. That’s actually pretty insane. Especially when the various manufacturers are pushing so hard to get you to buy a new one every single year. They do subtle things to accomplish it, too, like not upgrading the software for more than about 6 months after release. How often do people buy new laptops? New TVs? New computers? For most people, its not every year, but every 2-3 years at most, and in some cases (like TVs) its much much longer. Phones? Nope. A new one every year if you want to keep up appearances, or so the reviewers would have you believe.
The $399 price tag is really quite reasonable for what you get. Its quite a bit higher than the original OnePlus 1, but the OnePlus 3 is a much more capable device. Its still a bit high for some people, but i think it is right where it should be.
tl;dr version: Its reasonably priced compared to its direct competition.
I won’t go into too much detail on it here, there are much more in depth breakdowns of its specs than I could provide. I’ll cover the basics only.
- 6GB RAM
- 64GB Storage (not expandable)
- 5.5″ 1920×1080 AMOLED screen
- NFC/Bluetooth/Wireless AC
- Fingerprint reader
- High end processor
- “Dash” charge (rapid charging)
- USB type C
- 16MP camera with OIS (this was a big factor in me purchasing this phone)
- Android 6.0.1
A full list of specs can be found on the OnePlus site
Its got just about everything that its competition does. The only thing that I find really lacking is front facing speakers. My wife’s Nexus 5x has them, and so did my HTC One M9. It’s a really nice feature that every new phone should have.
Buttons are on both sides, power on one, volume and notification slider on the other. Its better than HTC’s, but not as nice as LG’s rear buttons that are on the G3 and G4. The Asus ZenPhone also has rear buttons, but they weren’t implemented quite as well as LG’s.
So far it has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with ease. The fingerprint reader is amazingly fast and convenient. The camera is also very fast. I haven’t taken a lot of pictures with it yet, so I can’t really say how good it is in various conditions, but first impressions are positive.
tl;dr version: It has excellent specs, while not “the best” they’re not far from it.
This one is one that most reviewers have been harping on. The battery is a 3000mAH battery, which at first glance seems a bit small. I have to admit that when I first saw the rumored specs before the official release, I saw a 3650mAH battery and was impressed. After release, it was revealed the the OnePlus 3 only had a 3000mAH battery and I was a bit concerned and disappointed. So far all of my concerns have been alleviated. I’m actually very impressed. As an example, I pulled my phone off the charger this morning when I woke up at about 6:45am. I’ve used the phone quite a bit today. I started out checking email using Inbox by Google, did a bit of Facebook browsing, looked at a few photos, sent some texts, had a 5 minute hangouts call, checked my blog stats, did some light web browsing and a bit more general usage. The screen has probably been on for about 90 minutes in total. As of 8:47pm, the battery is still at 69%. I haven’t plugged it in at all. I’ve never had a phone battery last that long. Ever.
I know that it is partially because the battery is fresh, and I haven’t installed a whole bunch of apps on it yet, but I have installed at least 40 apps so far. I also know that batteries degrade over time, but I’m damned impressed so far. I haven’t used the Dash Charge yet, but on paper it sounds great. Charge the phone 80% in 30 minutes. I can see how that would be useful if I actually drained the battery. I haven’t made too many phone calls yet either, so I can’t say how much that will drain the battery.
I’m hopeful that this continues, but not optimistic based on past experience.
tl;dr version: The battery life so far is excellent, a lot better than any other phone I’ve used.
The screen is something that most reviewers are getting super critical over. I’m not sure why. The OnePlus 3 has a 1920×1080 resolution on a 5.5 inch screen. That’s still over 200 PPI. The other reviewers are getting all worked up on being able to see some sub-pixel issues when looking at the screen. These reviewers are idiots. So what if you can see some slight problems, the screen is excellent. The color palette is a bit too warm for my tastes, but that seems to be a trait in all AMOLED screens. The whites are never quite bright enough and always seem to have a slight tint to them. The blacks are very black — also a trait shared with all AMOLED screens. Yes, the current trend is 2560×1440, but the thing to keep in mind is that driving that many extra pixels is just going to drain the battery that much faster. 1920×1080 seems to be the sweet-spot for phones, you get a sharp picture with smooth fonts and you don’t drain your battery as fast.
Unless you’re a reviewer or a serious enthusiast, I doubt many people would notice the difference between 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 on a screen that small. If the screen were 24 inches or larger then yes, you’ll notice the difference. I will admit that the higher resolution screen is sharper, text is clearer and certain graphics are sharper, but for the most part on a 5.5″ screen there isn’t really much of a reason for a pixel density beyond about 200ppi.
I’ll probably get a bunch of slack for the above statements, but I’ll ignore them. Anything beyond 1920×1080 on a phone-sized screen is overkill, and just drains the battery.
As for touch responsiveness, it is a tad too sensitive. I haven’t actually touched the screen and its picked up touches. I’m not sure if that’s the screen protector that was included or if it’s just too sensitive. It’s not the point of being annoying, but I did notice it.
Speaking of screen protectors… I love the fact that they included one on the screen, but its not very good. It smudges a lot. In hindsight I would have purchased the pre-installed glass screen protector, but I’m pretty particular about screen protectors. My preferred brand is Spigen, but they don’t have anything for the OnePlus 3 yet. If they come out with one, I’ll buy it in an instant.
tl;dr version: While the screen is only 1920×1080 it’s excellent. It could be brighter, but with an AMOLED screen its the trade-off you make.
This one is also very subjective. Is it fast? Yes, it certainly seems to be. It has a fast chip and a fast GPU. I haven’t noticed a single bit of lag. While very unscientific, I haven’t waited more than about half a second for an app to open and start. Again, this is where some of the other reviews I’ve seen have been overly critical of the device. It as at least as responsive as any other device I’ve used, perhaps more so.
Now having only had the phone for a few days, and not installing a ton of apps installed yet, I expect the phone to be responsive, so none of this is a surprise. Its a fast phone, no question.
This probably also has to do with the fact that the phone isn’t filled with tons of useless apps (*cough* Asus *cough*), or a big bloated launcher (*cough* Samsung *cough*). It’s mostly a stock Android experience with only minor things changed from OnePlus. I’m still using the stock launcher, but will probably switch back to using Nova Launcher soon.
tl;dr version: The phone is very responsive. I’ve noticed no lag at all starting apps or changing screens.
The camera is probably the most important aspect of the phone for me. I have two young boys and I love taking pictures of their antics. The camera has to be quick to launch and take pictures in focus. Of course, higher resolution is better — providing it has an adequate sensor. The OnePlus 3 has a Sony sensor and is 16MP. It also has optical image stabilization. I’ve only had the phone for a few days so I haven’t taken too many pictures yet, but so far they’ve been very good. The included camera app is fast. The auto-focus is very quick and pictures are taken and processed almost as fast as my Canon. Its in the top three cameras I’ve tried as far as speed goes.
Additionally, the ability to save RAW format photos is included, which a lot of phones don’t have. This makes post processing much more capable than a JPEG. Its not the best camera in a phone, but it is very capable and should please all but the pickiest of users. For taking pictures of your kids or taking selfies this camera will be fine, very good even. Of course if you’re that picky, you won’t be taking your pictures with a phone, you’ll use an actual camera. But, as it is said, the best camera is the one you have with you. The camera in the OnePlus 3 is a fine camera to always have with you.
tl;dr version: Not the best camera, but more than capable under most situations.
The OnePlus 3 is a very capable device. It holds its own against all the other “flagship” phones from the other more well known manufacturers. It is well built and very fast. It doesn’t have a micro-SD card slot, but has 64GB of storage, so unless you like to keep tons of videos with you on your phone, most people wouldn’t notice it.
My only real complaint is that it doesn’t have front facing speakers like the HTC One series or the Nexus 5X. I also prefer the rear power button and volume buttons like those found on the LG G3 and G4 — which is now missing from the G5. The buttons on the sides aren’t bad. its hard to accidentally press them when the case is on.
The fingerprint scanner is very fast and only rarely misses, maybe one out of ten.
Overall I’m very pleased with the OnePlus 3. I can’t really complain since no manufacturer has made what I would consider the perfect phone yet. In the race to be the best, it seems that many of the manufacturers are ignoring their prime customer base. Sadly with the current reviewers having drank the Kool-Aid are unintentionally biased. They seem to be looking for something to criticize since the phone costs half as much as the other manufacturers flagships. Perhaps they haven’t realized how much margin there actually is on mass market phones from the big manufacturers. Whatever the reason, the current crop of phone reviewers seem to be missing something, but I can’t put my finger on exactly what and I’m only speculating.
tl;dr version: The OnePlus 3 is a nice device and likely won’t disappoint. It may not say Samsung on it, but I’d put it against an S7 any time. It’s also half the price.