The smartphone world has been in a status quo longer than one expected.
What are talking about? Well, let’s see – for a good part of two years we have been seeing the same sort of spec sheets being tossed around on new devices from every manufacturer out there.
Surprisingly despite each brand’s hyperbole, we haven’t really had a true example of advancement or transition to the next evolution.
So, who do you look at to break the dead lock? The giants, right? Apple or Samsung, of course.
Strange as it may seem, this leap has been attempted by two relatively newer players in the game – Asus and OnePlus; and now that I think about it, it only makes sense. They’re the hungriest.
The device that we are talking about here is one of their flagships – the OnePlus 3.
The OnePlus 3, along with Asus’ Zenfone 3 was in the news way before it was even set to launch and for a very simple reason – the specs that are on offer on the 3 seem to be next level, seem to depict that phase transition, seem to stand out and most importantly, seem to excite.
Now that the device is finally here let us dive straight into the good, the bad and the ugly about it and find out in the process if this device is just about the specs or is it truly a wonderful smartphone.
So, the OnePlus 3 is only the second of the OnePlus devices to ever have an OLED screen. The screen size is 5.5 inches and the resolution on offer is 1920×1080 with a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch. You also get Gorilla Glass 4 protection.
The first impression that this display has on you is that it certainly is an improvement over the OnePlus X’s screen which suffered from some brightness control issues. Apart from that, you will certainly notice that the quality of the screen is not as good that of the latest Samsung panels. The colours are slightly overcooked and also do not seem as natural. But do keep in mind that this is a comparison between two very differently priced smartphones and the difference that is visible is more than acceptable for that very same reason.
Other than this, the screen is very sharp and being an OLED panel, the blacks are properly deep. The viewing angles are good as well. The colours are represented very well and the display seems to be very lively and bright.
Though the brightness issues have been solved, outdoor visibility still leaves you with a desire for improvement. It is not pathetic to be fair, but it still could have been better.
Well, if you take the price into account, the display is of good value. The screen does have some negatives but overall it still is acceptable. But it does lack that completeness that we have come to expect in today’s world.
Also, the fact that this is a device that is looked upon by everyone as a transition to the next level anything that is not absolutely flawless will be noticed. Whether or not that is enough, depends on your preferences.
The story that the design of this device tells is one of evolution and of moving in the right direction – i.e. forward.
The design of OnePlus 3 is an improvement over the earlier two versions. While the OnePlus One had an all plastic body and the OnePlus 2 had a metal frame supporting the plastic body, the OnePlus 3 has an all-metal-and-glass body which looks really good.
To start off, all the things that made OnePlus devices instantly recognisable are still present here. The speaker grille and the classic off-screen home button for example. The back of the device is all metal and has two antenna lines running at the top and at the bottom of the panel. In the middle is nothing except a camera sensor with its flash and the company logo. So the back is pretty simple and classy.
At the front sits a 5.5 inch display at the bottom of which sits the off-screen capacitive touch home button that also houses the fingerprint scanner. The remaining navigation keys are on screen. The power button sits on the right side of the device and the placement of the same is convenient. Above this is the SIM card tray. On the left of the device is an iPhone-style switch button to toggle on or off, the silent mode and below this is the volume rocker.
The keys provide impressive feedback and seem rigid as well. The audio jack, the USB Type-C port and the speaker have been bundled up at the bottom of the device which leaves the top a little bare.
The OnePlus 3 is no doubt a pretty device. It’s beauty lies in it’s simplicity and also in the fact that it is a more mature version of the past two iterations in terms of design. But rather important to me is the fact that it seems to be so very well built that it really is difficult to say that the top end device in the market today offer better quality than a device that is much cheaper than them in terms of design.
Add to that the fact that this device sits pretty well in the hand as well. It has a 7.4 mm thick aluminium frame and it is light also. Since the bezels are as wide as they absolutely need to be at the top and bottom and they are very thin on the sides. All of this means that this is one of the few devices that feel smaller than their size, especially in the 5.5 inch bracket.
All in all, the design of this device is winsome. It is simple and classy and the build quality of the device is as good as any other device in the world. OnePlus has taken a big leap forward in terms of design and quality and that to a manufacturer as young as OnePlus is a huge compliment.
The OnePlus 3 comes with quad-core Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 820 processor. It also has an Adreno 530 graphics processor and 6 GB of RAM.
So, this is where it all gets exciting right? Or is it?
No, while I don’t want to be a party pooper here, but as good as the specs are, we should keep other aspects in mind as well before getting blown away by numbers.
So, let me tell you that the OnePlus 3 benchmarked very well, but there was nothing exceptional or out-of-this-world in the benchmarks. It was some 1,000 points above the OnePlus 2 which is a reasonable amount for any successor variant.
Why I mention this is simple. There is not a lot that is noticeably different or exceptional in terms of performance just because of the overhyped 6 GB of RAM. It is one of the most powerful devices out there and the emphasis should lie on other aspects of performance as well.
So, this device uses the very fast dual-channel RAM. Also, the Snapdragon 820 is a processor that is the latest and is being used in higher end devices. The 820 has four cores, two of which are designed to handle the heavier tasks or games and the other two that are the more efficient of the lot handle the day to day tasks.
It is needless to mention that anything that you can throw at this device, this device can handle with ease. Nothing that I did on this device seemed to trouble it as is the case with a lot of high end devices.
All of this is not a surprise as it is what is expected of a device of today. Yes it is a great feat for a manufacturer to provide such quality which is almost comparable to the best of the smartphones today in the price that it does.
But what it is a surprise for me and this is also something that I was very unconvinced about since I first heard the specs of the device is the way this device handles heat. Now the previous devices from OnePlus have all suffered at the hands of heat. While the issue was recognised to be of the Snapdragon 810’s doing, it still was a thing to look out for given the aggressive specs.
To my delight, this device handles the issue like a pro! There is no hint of heat even after long periods of heavy gaming, capturing photos or performing CPU intensive tasks. The phone heats up only while charging. This is something that has impressed me a lot and it seems as though the heating issues for both Snapdragon and OnePlus are past them.
The device also comes with a fingerprint scanner that is coupled with the home button. The fingerprint scanner is fast and very responsive. The shape of it is a little awkward but it has been this way for OnePlus.
The battery life of this device is something that falls a little behind. The device may just about last you the day on regular light usage but listen to music for an hour in the day or use your device on a trot for about one hour and you will have to charge it at least once during the day. You will have to carry the USB Type-C cable along with you because do not expect to find it in cabs or in general as commonly as the USB 3.0 cable. Yes, this device does charge up pretty quick but you still will have to do it and carry your charger to your workplace everyday.
The performance of this device is very impressive. The device is very fast and snappy and the software too seems to be adequately optimized. It is one of the most powerful phones in the market and with the aggressive specs it also is to an extent future proof.
The OnePlus 3 runs the Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Oxygen UI running on top of it. The software is something that has not changed a lot over different OnePlus devices.
The interface feels very authentic and original. It seems to more or less be Stock Android on the surface. This is a refreshing thing and it certainly does not require you to take too long to get familiar to the UI.
So, why is the UI there in the first place you ask? Well, here is the thing – OnePlus has been very clever about this. The UI has effects on root level as in deep down. You go inside settings and you get the customisations that are both new and useful. The “Dark” mode for example, turns the apps page and Settings menu black rather than white. Then there’s the choice of hardware or software soft keys. You can also add gestures to these keys in order to switch functionalities.
Another feature of this particular UI is the Shelf. What this does in essence is that it bunches your most used apps together. Five of them to be precise and you can customise this as well and add widgets too.
People have been a little disappointed given that the OS does not have a lot to offer that is new. But I personally do not see it that way. When you buy a device and expect to use it for a good amount of time it is essential that your OS is easy to use, simple and not in your face. And that is what this OS is exactly.
What it also is, is very clever. It gives you the simple Stock Android feel at the same time as giving you options for customisation and tweaks which frankly, offer you the best of two worlds.
Yes there is not an awful lot that is new. I for one do not mind it because the fact that it is so simple yet functional is new and frankly I would prefer that any given day.
The OnePlus 3 come with a 16 megapixel primary camera with an aperture size of f/2.0. It also has phase detection autofocus, OIS and LED flash. The features include-1/2.8″ sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, panorama and HDR.
The camera setup used in this device is a very familiar one as we have seen the same setup in a lot of devices before and quite frankly it is a little insignificant as it is not the hardware that is the most significant thing about this camera. What is then?
Well, the camera seems to be a huge improvement over the OnePlus 2 and it has covered all the issues of the same. The good thing is that this is not it.
Having covered the bases first OnePlus has then gone on to produce a camera that can perform very well and one where features like the OIS and HDR are so very effective.
The shutter lag from the OnePlus 2 camera is now gone and the general photo quality is simply impressive, having come a long way ahead of where the OnePlus 2 stands in this respect. The HDR is something that has improved collectively for all devices in the present year and the OnePlus 3 has definitely benefited from it. The pictures seem very life like and are full of colours. The saturation levels and the temperature is very impressive as well. Thanks to the HDR the photos look very natural.
Also the OnePlus 3 maintains this impressive camera performance in dim lighting conditions as well. The OIS helps its cause here and the night time shots do not seem to suffer from noise or distortion and look pretty good as well. The daytime shots however are as good as almost any other mobile phone camera can produce.
The camera app to me is also as important as any other improvement in the camera department. The app seems to be very sensible and it enhances your camera experience because of that. Also there are modes available and at the top right of the screen are some essentials such as HDR controls, the flash toggle and the HD toggle. The HD toggle It appears to use lighter processing, which can often mean you end up with more fine detail.
The front camera of the device is an 8 megapixel shooter with an aperture size of f/2.0 and sensor size of 1/3.2″. The front camera is fairly impressive as well and the pictures clicked from it are much more than socially usable.
All in all, the camera is a very bright spot for this device as in my opinion it is one of the areas where the OnePlus 3 has improved the most as a flagship device.
The OnePlus 3 comes with one of the loudest speakers to have been used in a smartphone. The speaker is placed at the bottom and beautifully at that.
The speaker grille (if you can call it that) is so classy to look at but the sound that comes out of it has little to do with class.
The speakers lack finesse and feel a little brutal. It may be a good thing for those who like their speakers to be loud, but given the fact that the sound is not particularly rich may bothersome of us.
Along with the speakers the big screen size and the blistering fast performance of the device makes this a good entertainment package.