Disruptive Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has just unleashed its new star player, the OnePlus 2. We find out whether it lives up to its self-proclaimed title as the ‘2016 flagship killer.’
OnePlus doesn’t do small phones, last year’s One was a relative behemoth and as its successor packs a similar screen it boasts similar dimensions too. It’s a little shorter and narrower, a sliver thicker and feels notably more premium. The company has taken a leaf out of Sony’s book and added a finely milled aluminium frame with tactile buttons to match. Distinct speaker and microphone holes have been drilled into the phone’s base either side of a new reversible Type-C USB connector too. Whilst it’s interesting to see as one of the first instances of the connector we’ve come across, its scarcity means that right now it’s as inconvenient as Apple’s Lightning connector was when it first launched.
A physical switch on the left side of the frame lets you quickly toggle between different profiles; all notifications, priority notifications and what amounts to a ‘do not disturb’ mode, which feels great under-finger and ups the convenience factor by letting you silence the device in your bag or pocket eyes-free.
The Sandstone black OnePlus One featured a distinctive high-grip plastic back and the company has revised the finish for this year’s iteration. The Sandstone black 2.0 treatment features a finer grain so it’s nicer to touch without losing its non-slip properties.
OnePlus has also refined the design of the back plate so that it’s easier to swap out with one of the four other StyleSwap 2 material choices currently on the cards. We favored the woven carbon fibre option, but you’ll also be able to pick up a rosewood cover, a black apricot cover and a bamboo cover, the most popular option from last year’s OnePlus handset.
The included USB Type-C lead boasts a flat anti-tangle cable, OnePlus’s red/white livery and a patented reversible full-sized USB connector too, ensuring maximum convenience and minimal faff.
Same stunning screen
There’s little to say about the screen on the OnePlus 2 except that it’s good. Like its predecessor it features a 5.5-inch Full HD panel and whilst some may have wished for a Quad HD offering in 2015, it’s still a gorgeous display with a pixel density of 401 ppi.
The marginally smaller dimensions also ensure more of the phone’s frontage is occupied by display and although brightness drops off a touch at more extreme angles, you still get great overall legibility, clarity and accurate color reproduction.
A breath of fresh air
After the somewhat messy breakup between OnePlus and Cyanogen last year, we were curious as to the direction the interface design team would take the experience they were developing in-house.
Oxygen OS is OnePlus’ own skin, sitting atop Android 5.1 Lollipop and similarly to the likes of Motorola, it only makes minor, considered alterations to the stock Android experience.
Out the box the most obvious difference is the addition of ‘The Shelf’ which features frequently used apps and frequently accessed contacts on a pane brought in by swiping right from the home screen. Beyond that Oxygen OS is all about customization.
From accent color to the placement of notification quick settings, you can tweak and change almost every facet of the look and feel of the interface. You can swap out the white backgrounds of menus and system apps to black if you prefer, alter the color of accented details within the UI and even what color the LED should glow when you receive a notification.
Below the display is a new fingerprint sensor that feels extremely responsive, out-performing both the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 when being used to unlock the device. You can even use it whilst the screen is off to jump straight into the main home screen and OnePlus has also promised integration with the new Android M API when it becomes available. It doubles as a capacitive home button for added convenience too.
Tapping the unmarked soft keys either side of it calls into affect different actions depending on your setup. From the settings you can swap the placement of the back and task-switching buttons or forgo the physical keys altogether and bring them on-screen if you prefer.
Gestures for waking the phone, toggling the flashlight, quick launching the camera and music playback are welcome inclusions too.
With the OnePlus 2 the elephant in the room is undoubtedly the heavily bad-mouthed Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, but from our experience the phone consistently ran cool, with the exception of extended, intensive gaming and whilst the 2 felt warm, it didn’t give any real cause for concern when you test it alongside its most notable rivals.
Depending on the storage skew you opt for dictates the amount of RAM you’re given too. OnePlus didn’t go into specifics as to why there’s a distinction in the amount of RAM at launch, but for the price we’d be happy to fork out a little as bigger must surely mean better in this instance.
The 64GB skew we used never stuttered or stumbled, through multitasking or intensive actions like shooting 4K video. What’s more, Oxygen OS feels far more stable than the Cyanogen Mod experience found on its predecessor.
The power plant is a fixed 3300mAh cell, which despite its capacious size and the lower-than-average screen resolution doled out only two-days of use. Of course two-days is highly respectable longevity in this day and age, but based on our experiences with its predecessor, we thought OnePlus might have managed to offer even more usage from a similarly sized cell.
Connectivity and power is one of the most divisive elements of this phone. On the one hand, the phone’s integrated dual 4G nanoSIM support is rare and impressive, but co-founder Carl Pei’s lack of concern for leaving out NFC altogether feels misplaced. If indeed this is the 2016 flagship killer and the likes of Android and Samsung Pay hit their stride next year, a lack of any means of contactless payment feels like a significant oversight. That said, it may be the intention to release the second OnePlus handset of the year to coincide with the launch of those exact services.
That reversible USB is impressive to say the least, but the lack of wireless or fast-charging is a little disappointing, particularly as the phone’s huge battery takes a notable amount of time to charge.
Lasers and cradles
If the Lumia 930 and the LG G4 had a baby, the camera tech would resemble something you find in the OnePlus 2. The phone uses a 5-megapixel front sensor and a 13-megapixel rear sensor as with last year’s model, but the main snapper now employs OIS (optical image stabilization) and laser auto focus to take sharper pictures faster.
In practice results look promising across the board with a preference towards colour accuracy over the saturated results, the exception being the phone’s HDR mode, which boosts colors and sways towards the warmer end of the spectrum. Low-light performance is fairly solid too, with only low levels of visible noise and the camera has a particular talent for macros. High contrast environments push the cameras dynamic range to its limits and fine details look a little soft, but the OnePlus 2 packs a solid all-round performer.
Naturally that Snapdragon 810 also affords you 4K video recording, slow motion capture and pretty rapid auto-focus, whilst the front camera boasts clear Full HD video and an active beauty mode for selfies that doesn’t go overboard.
I’m sorry, how much?
The OnePlus 2 does exactly what it says on the tin; it delivers an excellent smartphone experience at an insanely competitive price point. Provided you can land yourself an invitation the 16GB model will set you back for Rs. 22,999 and the 64GB version, the one we’d recommend goes for Rs. 24,999.
Whilst there are some notable imperfections not found in more costly flagship rivals, the list of negatives is dwarfed by the positives based on our encounter with the phone. We’re intrigued about what’s to follow from the company later this year, but if you’re in the market for a new top-tier contender right now, this would be a very smart purchase indeed.
- Screen size: 5.5-inches
- Screen resolution: Full HD (1920 x 1080)
- Weight: 175 grams
- OS: Android 5.1
- Rear Camera: 13-megapixel w/ dual LED flash, laser autofocus and OIS
- Front camera: 5-megapixel
- Processor: 1.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810
- Memory: 3GB/4GB
- Storage: 16GB/64GB (non-expandable)
- 4G LTE: Yes
- Bonus features: Dual SIM, StyleSwap 2 covers, Oxygen OS
Having used the phone for over a week, I have found the OnePlus 2 to have its share of pros and cons. And here we intend to dissect that which one of the two sets outweighs the other.
The Happy Side of OnePlus 2:
1. Quite like the last year’s model, the new OnePlus 2 has the same 5.5-inch 1080p display that produces good colours and offers excellent viewing angles. Even after a month’s usage, the phone’s display has got no scratches. From browsing the Internet to watching videos, the phone offers a pleasant visual experience.
2. The Android-based Oxygen OS not only keeps the phone free from bloatware, but also offers a couple of interesting features including support for gestures and unlocking the phone without having to wake the screen. Some of the interesting features include gestures like “Draw an O to open camera”, “Draw a V to toggle the flashlight”, and the ability to swap the order of recent and back buttons.
But, sadly, the OS has some inherent flaws which even a recent upgrade has been unable to fix effectively. (We discuss this at length further below.)
3. The 13 megapixel rear camera at the back captures good shots in bright and room-light conditions. but disappoint in low-light environments. But with flash on, photos turn out to be pretty decent in low-light. While it generates clean photos with true to life colours, they lack details.
4. The speaker placed at the bottom produces fairly decent results.The speaker grill is designed in a way that could mislead many to believe that it has stereo speakers.
5. At Rs 24,999, the dual-SIM 4G phone comes with a sizeable 64 GB storage (user accessible 54 GB) on board. The phone, however, doesn’t have an option to expand memory. But that’s completely okay given the amount of inbuilt storage it comes with.
The Sad side of OnePlus 2:
1. While its curved back and sandpaper finish make the OnePlus 2 easy to grip, its bulky and elongated design make the phone a bit uncomfortable to hold for a longer period, defeating the whole purpose of ergonomic design. Consequently, the hands start to ache after a while. In comparison to the OnePlus One, the phone is a tad thicker as well as heavier.
2. OnePlus rolled out an upgraded version of OxygenOS 2.0.1 to fix bugs in the first version. The pinch to zoom on photos remains erratic even after the update. While it works reasonably fine on photos in portrait, it barely works in landscape mode – especially when photos are browsed through the camera app. The flawed “pinch to zoom” capability has led to accidental deletion of many photos from the camera app that supports deletion just by swiping the photos up. Also, the camera app misbehaves, sporadically.
The battery also drains faster and fails to survive for a whole day.
3. The front camera with a 5 megapixel sensor is not apt for selfies as it delivers grainy results. However, it is okay for video calls.
4. The metallic frame running along the edges gives the phone a premium touch, but it, at the same time, mars its smooth handling. The phone overheats, especially when using the camera app (particularly while shooting high-resolution videos at 1080p or 4K), and with metal all around, the phone gets hot to a degree that it becomes uncomfortable to hold. The heating issue isn’t limited to using the camera app. After prolonged use, there is a noticeable rise in the phone’s external temperature.
There have been complaints regarding overheating issues with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset (that also powers the OnePlus 2) on other phones in the past, and it continues with the second-generation OnePlus smartphone too. While the company claims that the OnePlus 2 from inside is layered with thermal gel and graphite, ensuring that the heat generated from the processors dissipate evenly, it doesn’t seem to be working as intended. Contrary to the company’s claims that the OnePlus 2 meets the industry standard for phone temperature – even with hours of use – the phone heats up in no time.
Should you buy it?
There may be some issues with the phone earlier due to the new OxygenOS, but I have used OnePlus One before as well and OnePlus has never let the trust between them and their customers break. I can assure you that OnePlus will roll out updates soon to fix those bugs. I just got this phone about a week back from Amazon, and trust me, OnePlus 2 is really worth the hype and I would like to thank Mr. Pete Lau and his team for coming up with such an amazing phone at such a reasonable price, you guys deserve a salute for your hard work behind bringing this up. I can proudly suggest my readers to buy the phone as soon as they get an invite.
Do share this post with every OnePlus fan you know and do let me know about any doubt you have regarding this phone in the comments section. You can also write about any problems that you are facing this phone and I would try my best to help you out. That is all for today, Subscribe my blog for more updates on this device in the future.