The OnePlus One has been making headlines around the world as the “flagship” killer. Featuring specs that rival high end smartphones from Samsung, HTC, and Sony by at a relatively more affordable price. This makes it ideal for people looking for a great performance handset without breaking their bank accounts or signing up with a contract to get the carrier discounts. I think the days of people belittling products made in China are finally coming to an end, at least for the smartphone industry. Oppo first came out with their handsets and they’ve been proven to be competitive even outside of China. With their Find 5, N1 and now the Find 7, OnePlus hopes to continue that reputation with the ever exclusive OnePlus. It might not be that exclusive any more if I managed to get my hands on one of the units. LOL
This part has nothing to do with the phone itself, but rather the company I suppose. I have to admit that I was surprised at the shipping experience. The website says that it normally takes 1-5 business days to process the order then 1-5 business day for shipping time after its left the warehouse. I received an invite early morning on Thursday and by 10:00am I had my purchase order submitted and payment sent. Friday, it was showing as processing so that’s 1 business day gone. Monday morning, as I woke up for work, I saw the email that my package has been shipped. It was leaving LA and I was expecting it to take about a couple of days to makes it ways to Ontario and maybe longer depending on Customs.
Monday evening, I decided to check its status and surprisingly it already cleared customs and was at the DHL distribution facility in Barrie. The next morning it was with the delivery courier and by 6:30pm that evening, I was already setting it up.
I would also like to note that they do charge for shipping of roughly 30 dollars to ship to Toronto and since it’s an import be prepared to pay for Customs as well. I had to pay roughly $56 dollars after tax. But this is to be expected from buying products outside of Canada. Even after the exchange rate + shipping + customs it still ends up being cheaper than a comparable flagship smartphone from the more popular brands.
What’s included in the box:
Even the packaging for the phone feels premium, after you remove it from the DHL pouch that is. OnePlus uses the color scheme of White and Red on everything they included in the package. Even the cable was a flat red microUSB cable. Everything had their logo on it, down to the USB charger, which arrives in a separate box of its own. They even included a little red pouch for the sim removal tool which allows you to attach it to your key chain. I guess it comes in handy if you’re one of those people who switch phones often.
Hardware on the OnePlus One is basically what you might typically find in your high end smart phones already available to purchase from Samsung, HTC, and Sony. With the Quad-Core Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5Ghz and the Adreno 330 GPU it is more than capable of handling just about anything you throw at it. The 3GB of RAM really helps with performance, allow you to have more apps opened in the background without bogging down performance over time.
The phone supports LTE from just about anywhere around the world and should works with more carrier. I am using mine in Toronto on the Rogers network and so far had not had any issues with connecting to LTE.
Like most smartphones these days, they feature 2 cameras, the rear facing camera is a 13mp sony senor camera capable of recording 2160p at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps and 720p at 120fps. Slow motion camera is limited to 720. Front facing camera is 5mp capable of 1080p at 30fps. I will post some pictures taken with the OnePlus when I get the chance to.
OnePlus One features a removable back cover which allows you to swap it with their accessories they sell, such as the bamboo back cover they are releasing soon. Unfortunately, they decided to make the battery non-removable. But the 3100mAh battery is more than capable of keeping the phone powered for a day’s worth of usage. More and more companies are going with built-in batteries, it’s just a matter of time they all do. The only concern I have is what would happen if the battery is no longer able to hold a charge, do we send it back to the manufacture for them to replace it for a fee like Apple does with their iPhone?
Storage option from the OnePlus comes in 16GB/64GB option. No 32GB. But with the price point of $299 for the 16GB and $349 for the 64GB, the 32GB option doesn’t make sense. The 16GB only comes in silk white while the 64GB only comes in Sandstone Black.
The ROM that comes with OnePlus is what sets it apart from your popular smartphones. Samsung uses Touchwiz, HTC calls theirs Sense UI. It’s basically the Android ROM underneath and each company adds their own apps and modifies the interface either slightly or really heavily. Sometimes this can be a good thing, other times it could be a bad thing. Having more features is good unless it affects performance. OnePlus decided to team up with popular custom third party ROM called CyanogenMod to develop a special version of their CM build tailored to the OnePlus One specs. CyanogenMod is known in the Android community as the best third party rom to allow users to experience as close an experience to stock Android ROM that Nexus users get to enjoy. They also support updating phones that manufactures have decided to ditch support for in favour of their newer lines, thus giving new life to older android phones.
CyanogenMod 11s is the version that’s released with OnePlus One. It comes shipped with CM 11s based on Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat, but as soon as you connect your phone to wireless access point, the system update will immediately notify you of available updates, which include the latest CM11s based on 4.4.4 Kit-Kat. There was 3 updates available as soon as I got my device up and running, which kind of surprised me. CyanogenMod first worked with Oppo to release a special edition of the N1 with CM10 built in. But that quickly lost support and I was disappointed that they never bothered finishing the ROM for 4.4 Kit-Kat. Right now it’s still running 4.3 Jelly Bean. I hope they don’t do the same with the OnePlus One and will keep their word in constantly updating it. Especially with Android L being released soon.
Anyway, CM11s for OnePlus One is a special tailored version specifically for the OnePlus One hardware thus the experience you get is very smooth. I have not noticed any lagging or stuttering while using the phone, either browsing the web or browsing through my app drawer, there was no lag. I’m not much of a gamer on a mobile phone so I haven’t really tested a game on it.
Since this is a CyanogenMod based phone, it’s not complete without customization, which there are a ton of. Pretty much every aspect of the user experience can be customized to your liking. People can even choose between on screen buttons for that nexus like experience or they can use capacitive buttons on the phone if they wish. They can modify the on screen navigation controls to re-order the icons, remove icons or add more navigation buttons if they so wish. You can customize the status bar to hide icons such as the radio reception, battery icon or time.
The on screen gestures might come in handy for some people, allowing them to turn the phone on by simply double tapping the screen when it’s off, drawing a ‘v’ would bring up the flashlight, and drawing a ‘o’ would bring up the camera. I had to turn them off though, as I found it to be super sensitive and my camera kept turning on when it’s in my pants pocket. It’s taken a few pictures and a video or 2 which I had to delete obviously. But that really put a drain on battery. The notification led can be customized based on the app, and it’s all managed through a menu in the settings.
Since the phone’s official launch, it has been exclusive only to people who receive an invite to purchase. It kind of reminds me back when Google first launched the private beta version of Gmail, except that was free. OnePlus would host regular contest to allow more people chances to win an invite, though some of them were questionable. Like their first contest would require participants to smash their current albeit specific smartphone from their approved list and post a video doing it in order to qualify for a chance to buy the phone. But you would be able to purchase the Silk White 16GB version for $1 instead of the full price of $249. A lot of people complained that it was a waste of a phone just for a chance to win. So even if you smashed your phone, you weren’t guaranteed to win. Only the best 100 would win the chance. They later announced a second contest, instead of smashing the phone, you’d donate the phone for a chance to win an invite to purchase the phone for $1 dollar.
For people who were able to an invite from OnePlus to purchase the phone, they would later be awarded with shareable invites to give to their friends and family to purchase the phone. One invite would allow you to buy one phone. By this time, they focused their manufacturing power producing the 64GB Sandstone Black model, as it received a higher demand than the Silk White 16GB. They also sell their accessories such as a screen protector, flip case and replaceable back covers. They will be releasing a bamboo back cover within the next month or 2.
I’ve only had the phone for about 3 days now, so battery is probably still stabilizing to my usage. Since battery life varies greatly from how you use the device, it’s usually hard to gauge and expected battery life between 2 of the same device. So far I’ve been able to use the phone for a full day with plenty of power left. From 100% in the morning to night time I still see it hovering at around the 50-60% mark. So if I were to guestimate, it would last about one and a half to two days before I need to recharge. I am still waiting for phones to get back to the battery life of the classic phones. One week battery life!!
Update 11/1/2014: It’s been just over two months now, I thought I would make an update on how the battery life on this phone is. The battery life varies depending on your usage and how you use it. For me, I normally only use it to check email, text. The occasional browsing the internet, 9gag and streaming videos via Plex. I also tether when I need to. The battery so far has been able to last me more than a days worth of charge possibly up to 2 days on a single charge. On days I use the phone more frequently I would end up with about 50-60% battery life remaining by the time I sleep. On average however, I have seen it hover above 70% by the end of the day but that’s with less than 2 hour on screen time which is not a lot to begin with. This is better than the battery life I get on the Galaxy S5.
Exclusivity ending soon?
So according to a post on Reddit, OnePlus announced that they are planning to phase out the Invite only system sometime in October and replace it with a more traditional pre-ordering system. This might indicate that stock levels are starting to get slightly better, but not enough for a general availability release. Regardless of its exclusivity status, this phone is still a great phone that can hold its ground against the flagships of other devices.
Comparison with the Galaxy S5:
I also own the Samsung Galaxy S5 and use it for my Bell line, don’t ask why I have 2 lines. The OnePlus One is on my Rogers line. Using both at the same time, I notice that both phones perform very similar, but the OnePlus does seem a little snappier in navigation. Beyond that, the specs are very similar between the two. Though, the OnePlus being a 5.5” phone and the Galaxy S5 being a 5.1” the physical size of the OnePlus One is noticeably larger. I am guess it’s also about the same thinness. My Galaxy S5 has the wireless charge cover so it makes the phone thicker than with the stock back cover so I can’t really compare the two at this point.
If you already have one of the current flagship smartphones, you probably won’t benefit a whole lot from this phone. Unless you like to customization features on this phone. But you can simply load a custom rom on your current device and get the same results. The OnePlus One device in my opinion though, the best high end smartphone of 2014. At least out of all the Snapdragon 801 based smartphones. The price tag just makes it that much more enticing for a lot of people. Being able to buy a high end smartphone price as aggressively, it’s even cheaper than the Nexus 5 that Google sells.
If you’re looking for a new smartphone to upgrade from especially if you’re coming from *cough*iPhone*cough*, then it’s worth the purchase if you can get your hands on an invite or can wait a couple more months to get your chance on pre-ordering one. I wouldn’t recommend you go buying the invite to buy the phone, which is what I’m seeing quite a few people do now because they got tired of waiting for an invite.