OnePlus has been trying to craft a full-blown, “flagship killer” of a smartphone since day one, but how successful it’s been is up for debate. From my perch, the company’s first phone proved that a relatively unknown startup could build a high-caliber handset and a die-hard fanbase around it. Its second-generation device pushed it even further into the big leagues. And now there’s the $399 (£309) OnePlus 3, which launches today.
Make no mistake: The competition is even fiercer than ever, but OnePlus is trying to meet the challenge. Best of all, that pain-in-the-ass invite systemis finally gone.
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Suffice to say, this year’s launch is a big deal for OnePlus, and it’s only fitting that the OnePlus 3 mostly represents this young company at its best. Indeed, right now you’d be hard-pressed to find any other phone this good for this price.
OnePlus is back with its third-generation flagship phone, and it has more than enough horsepower to duke it out with devices twice its price. The phone’s construction feels first-rate too, and OxygenOS — the custom version of Android it runs — could easily please stock aficionados and dedicated tweakers.
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It’s not perfect, though: You only have one choice for storage (64GB) and the included super-fast charger sometimes isn’t super-fast after all. Still, considering what the company is asking and how great everything else is, the OnePlus 3 represents the best balance of price and performance you can find.
There’s no denying that last year’s OnePlus 2 was a well-constructed device, but it now looks like the days of sandstone polycarbonate are over. This year’s version is milled from a single block of “space-grade” aluminum, and the 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display up front is swathed in a very slightly curved pane of Gorilla Glass 4.
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It’s beautiful. More than that, its trim waistline — 7.35 mm — makes the OnePlus 3 feel sleeker and more elegant than you might expect from a phone with this big a screen. Think of it as a larger, much better OnePlus X and you’re on the right track. Oh, and in case you were worried, you can still purchase a sandstone case or an authentic bamboo case for old time’s sake; or you can go for the fancy black apricot version, rosewood version (both using real wood veneers) or Kevlar version.
The move might have been an obvious one — OnePlus wanted a cohesive design across its devices — but who cares? The result is a handsome, impeccably well-built smartphone. A few of my colleagues even mistook it for an HTC device, which I took as a compliment, considering how insanely devoted that Taiwanese company is to build quality. (Obviously, that statement is open to interpretation.) Anyway, yes, OnePlus has really upped its game this year. By the way, our review unit was attractive graphite gray, but a “soft gold” option will follow not long after launch. Seriously, does every company need to make a gold phone?