The OnePlus One is a new smart phone from start-up company OnePlus. With high end specifications but a mid-range price it’s got a lot of people very excited. Under the banner of “No Compromise” their aim was to provide the best and, to an extent, it’s been met rather well.
Arriving in a very smart red and white box, with sliding compartments, it looks very swish. Inside, apart from the phone, is a rather unique slimline, red, USB cable along with a key-fob friendly SIM card ejector. There’s no manual, though, and the mains charger is separate. The charger is a very nice, compact, gloss white model but rather ruined by the fact that they haven’t created a UK version – instead you’re sent a 2-pin EU version along with a cheap looking adapter. This not only makes the end result very large and cumbersome but ruins the aesthetic that they were trying to achieve.
I have the 64GB, sandstone black model. However, before you even consider it you should make sure that it’s the right size for you – the screen is a mighty 5.5″, pushing it nearly into the “phablet” market. For me, it’s just right, as I’d been previously hankering over the Sony Xperia Z2. Assuming you’re happy with that, then you’ll receive a very desirable phone indeed. Thanks to tapered edges it feels very slim. Although it’s 30 grams heavier than my Nexus 5, it feels lighter.
Inside, you get the latest Snapdragon processor (the same one that’s in the Samsung Galaxy S5), 3GB of memory (which is pretty high and the best you’ll get until Android switches to 64 bit), and a mighty 3100 mAh battery. It’s too early to know what the battery life is like as I’m still in the “playing” stage of early ownership so am using it more than normal. But certainly, it looks very, very promising – after an early charge, I didn’t need to charge it for 2 days and then it had 22% capacity remaining.
It has NFC and AC band WiFi for connectivity and a Sony-made 13MP camera on the back with twin LED flash. On the front is a 5MP full HD camera for high quality selfies 😉 The camera is particularly good, and combined with the excellent provided camera app, it has a powerful set of features too. One thing that is missing is wireless charging.
However, there is one other thing missing. Kind of. The phone has LTE (4G to you and me) but doesn’t use band 20. This means that 4G from O2 or Vodafone won’t work. Three (which I use) makes use of band 3 as well as band 20, so will work on this phone but to a limited extent (as only one band is available). EE is the best option here as that uses band 3 and 7. I’ve tested it with my Three SIM and, yes, it work (although it shows as “LTE” rather than the more usual “4G” on the display).
The screen, at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 is the same as the Nexus 5 but with a greater size means the DPI is lower – still impressive though. Angles, colour and brightness are all very impressive.
Around the edge of the phone there’s little to see – a power button the right and a volume “rocker” on the left. Micro SIM is inserted on the right, headset socket is on the top and it’s micro USB and speakers at the bottom. If you’ve had a Nexus 5 it will all look pretty familiar. On the front, next to the front camera is a multi-colour status LED.
The speakers, from what I’ve read, aren’t stereo but pump out two mono signals – apparently done to keep volumes loud (and the fact that they’re so close together you’re not going to head stereo, are you?) and they certainly are. Headphone volume is also quite loud too but Bluetooth volume is as it was with my Nexus 5.
The phone itself looks impressive – the traditional black “slab” look but with a neat, recessed chrome trim. The back is nicely textured (plastic, though) but isn’t removable, so there’s no option to change the battery. There’s also no SD card slot either and it’s not waterproofed at all.
The best bit, though, has yet to be mentioned. This is an Android phone but it’s the Cyanogen (CM) version. This is an open source “modified” version of Android, where developers have added additional features and, in particular, added more options and settings than you can imagine. It’s built on Android 4.4.4, the latest version and OnePlus have already stated that the OnePlus should have Android “L” within months of its release.
Meantime, CM offers a level of flexibility that you don’t normally get – everything from adjusting your automatic brightness levels to changing the way the battery level if shown in the status bar. The OnePlus has 3 buttons at the bottom, under the screen, and these are backlit (although dimly). CM allows you to switch these off and revert to the on-screen versions. Although this reduces screen space, this is my preference as this means their use can be modified easily (e.g. when an on-screen keyboard appears, it gives you the option to easily hide it).
One thing I did do was to replace the Home screen – nothing wrong with it (in fact it’s excellent) but I like using Google Now. Longer term, Cyanogen are looking at integrating Google Now into their own software.
I’ve covered what features it lacks but before splashing out on technology, it’s always worth considering any known issues. The OnePlus has a couple…
- Some people have seen yellow banding issues on screen. This is apparently due to issues with the screen glueing process and will often go soon afterwards. However, it only affects a minority – my screen was fine.
- The microphone sensitivity was very low, making Google voice commands difficult to make at a distance. I’m happy to report that the latest system update fixes this and it works well now.
- Some headset controls won’t work. This is because there are two standards for how headset buttons work – many phones work with both but the OnePlus stubbornly sticks with just the one standard. Therefore, if you’re buying a headset and are bothered about the controls, it’s best to check first that they will be compatible.
- The screen rotation can stop working. A reboot fixes this and appears to have only started recently after a system update – however, I suspect this will be fixed soon.
Nothing major and one is already fixed.
For myself, the size was a problem. Not because of holding it but because I always put my phone in a cup holder when I’m in the car – the OnePlus is too wide. Instead, I’ve ordered a decent windscreen mount – I’ll review that separately once I’ve tried it.
Indeed, because of the general scarceness of this phone, accessories are a problem. There are plenty of cases available (again, I have one on order and I’ll review that in due course) but that’s about it – you’re stuck with more “universal” items. In particular, I’m unable to find any desktop charging cradles for the phone (which would have been nice). I’m sure these will come in due course, though.
But, purposefully kept until last, it’s the price that really matters. The 16GB, available in “Silk White” is £229, whereas the “Sandstone Black” 64GB version is £269 (with an additional, small cost for postage). That makes the OnePlus One a big of a bargain. However, getting hold of one is not easy with, currently, distribution taking place via an invitation only system.
A terrific piece of hardware. It’s not quite “no compromise” as some features (wireless charging, waterproofing, SD card slot, etc) are missing. Additionally there are some quirks with the software but, unlike most of the phone manufacturers, I can be confident they’ll be fixed soon. Cynaogen is certainly an excellent variation on Android, and I look forward to their planned integration of Google Now.
Of course, getting hold of a OnePlus One is the hardest part – but if you can, I’m sure you won’t regret it.