The OnePlus One isn’t on a lot of people’s radars yet, but it definitely should be. It’s a completely new phone from a brand new hardware startup, so a lot of people just don’t realize they should be considering it along side other Android phones from Samsung, HTC, or LG.
But the biggest story behind The One is its price, which starts at just $299, unlocked and unsubsidized. That means that you’re not tied to a two year contract with a $350+ early termination fee like you are when you buy the $199 phone from AT&T.
If you’re thinking that the One costs less because it’s an inferior device, you’d be wrong. There’s a lot to like, so let’s dig in.
The OnePlus One is a really big phone—there’s no getting around that. But the good news is that if you can stomach a phone this size, you’re getting one of the nicest feeling phones available. Its 5.5-inch 1080p display is beautiful and absolutely massive, with a 1920 × 1080 resolution. It’s perhaps only bested by the ultra-high resolution of the LG G3’s “Quad HD” display, but it doesn’t look too shabby in comparison.
The screen is big, especially compared to phones like the iPhone—but it still doesn’t look or feel ridiculous in the hand. And yet the large size will still ultimately be the One’s biggest hangup. While it definitely shouldn’t change anyone’s mind already considering the phone, some people just aren’t willing to carry something with a screen this large—and that’s understandable.
The OnePlus One comes with either 16GB of storage for $299, or 64GB for $349. Traditionally, every time the storage space is doubled, it’s an extra $100—or somewhere close to that. That’s not the case here, and it’s details like this that make the phone seem little too good to be true.
If you do get the 64GB version, like people probably will, it comes with a sandstone textured back plate. Instead of the 16GB version’s slick plastic backing, the black sandstone is nice and gripping, unlike anything you’ve felt on a phone before. I personally really like the sandstone back plate. It’s incredibly hard to describe, there’s moments when it feels fuzzy, but also moments when it feels rough. It’s a nice change of pace from phones made in either hard aluminums or cheap plastic.
Internally the phone is packed with an industry high 3 GB of RAM, as well as a top of the line Qualcomm quad-core processor. It’s a fast phone all around. Again, it’s a little unbelievable that this amount of first-rate technology made it such an incredibly low cost device.
If you’re looking for a place OnePlus skimped, it’s not the camera. The 13-megapixel back camera takes fantastic pictures and photos have nice color and are sharp thanks to a quick shutter speed.while the front 5-megapixel camera is a nice additional feature bump as well considering a lot of other phone’s front facing cameras top out at 2-megapixel.
To top off, the phone’s 3100 mAh battery really does last a long time. Even with extended use, lasting through a phone day shouldn’t be an issue—and that’s one more than can be said about a lot of other devices out on the market. Overall, it’s hard to complain about a $299 phone a well designed and high-spec’d as the OnePlus One. Unless the size bothers you, it’s hard to find many slip-ups here.
The hardware is extremely nice, but it’s not the only reason to pine after the One. The software goes along way towards making this phone desirable as well.
The OnePlus One runs the Android operating system, but unlike most other Android phones, it runs a completely custom version. The rom, or software, called Cyanogenmod allows users to tweak nearly any aspect of the phone be default—without installing additional software.
While the process of getting the Cyanogenmod software on a typical Android phone would take an advanced user, the fact that it comes default on the One means that using the phone isn’t any more complicated than stock Android. After all, unlike many other Android skins, the power of Cyanogenmod isn’t in flashy animations or gimmicky features—it’s in customization.
If you’re the type of person that likes to tweak settings, change colors, and generally fiddle, this is the phone for you. You can even change the boot screen you see when the phone is turning on if you’d like. What’s more, because there’s no extra software pre-installed from carriers like AT&T, the phone never gets tied down unnecessary processes or bloatware running in the background (the high-powered internals don’t hurt though). Compared to phones like the Galaxy S5 or LG G3, the OnePlus One feels refreshingly clean and minimal.
There’s something to be said for running a (basically) stock version of Android. Instead of OnePlus trying to differentiate the software experience by tweaking it, the company is letting users decide how they want to use their phone. It’s nice.
The phone also ships with the latest version of Android 4.4.4, and OnePlus has already said that the phone will get the next big update (Android L) within three months of it being made available. That’s a promise that not all other Android manufacturers have been able to make, so once again, that’s more points for the One.
If you’re looking for a new Android phone and don’t mind the idea of walking around with a phone with a 5.5-inch screen, the OnePlus One is a fantastic option. The low cost price makes the phone that much more desirable, but it’s greatness doesn’t hinge on it being cheap—it’s well designed, has the highest of internal specs, and some of the best smartphone software available.
The fatal flaw is that buying the phone isn’t as easy as going to Best Buy or an AT&T store. It’s been so popular that you need an invite to be able to order it—and likely won’t be able to test it out until you’ve purchased it for yourself. Hanging around the company’s online forums or tracking down someone who already bought the phone might get you an invite, otherwise you’ll just have to wait.
The difficult time OnePlus has been having of being able to meet demand is a good one—but it’s one the company is going to need to figure out if it wants to seriously make a dent in the Android market—especially in the US market. Only time will tell if OnePlus can be the little smartphone company that could—or if it’ll only exist to get lost in Samsung’s shadow like everyone else. All we know is that as of now, we’re cheering it on.