- Fast Phone
- Amazing Built Quality
- Decent Battery Life
- Relatively reasonable price
- USB-C allows reversible connectors
- More expensive than the OnePlus One
- No Quick Charge or Wireless Charge
- USB Type-C is still new
- USB limited to USB 2.0 speeds instead of 3.1
- Invite system!
It’s finally time to post my opinion of the widely sought out device of the year, the OnePlus Two! Announced in July and launched in August, this device has had somewhat of a bit of a rocky start. OnePlus Two is OnePlus’ successor to the successful OnePlus One device launched last year. Using the same invite system as its predecessor, OnePlus promised 50 times the initial stock level. But things did not go according to their plan and they have had to make delays. Such as the 2-3 week additional wait time for customers wanting to purchase the device in North America due to shipping issues and some initial defects discovered in the USB-C cable that shipped with the device. OnePlus has even started the roll out of invites pretty slow leaving majority of the people on launch day without an invite to buy the device. And for some who did manage to buy the device, discovered buying accessories proved to be difficult, as a lot of the popular accessories such as the Kevlar Swap Style cover was sold out almost immediately. The company has since apologized publicly via the CEO, Carl Pei’s, Twitter account and their site’s blog post and promised that they are planning a day where they will sell the phones publicly without an invite, The open sale will last 1 hour during that time. Date and exact time has not been announced yet but the invite system has started an aggressive roll out.
OnePlus has split up their invite system into 4 tiers. People who quality for Tier one are people who attended their pop up events and participated in their contest to win an invite. Tier two are for early adopters who purchased the original OnePlus One device within the first couple of months the device was launched AND are also an active participant on the forums. Tier 3 are for people who have simply purchased a OnePlus One in the past. Tier 4, the last tier, are people who do not belong in the first 3 tier but have signed up in their reservation system for a change to receive an invite to purchase the phone. Initial batch of invites given out were restricted to the receiver’s email which means only they can claim the invite. They have since started rolling out shareable invites for people who have purchased the OnePlus Two phone.
On to the review….
The OnePlus Two is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor clocked at 1.8GHz. OnePlus has claimed that it had resolved the overheating problem on the 810 process that similar devices had experience throttling issue due to heat related issue on the 810 processor. Powered by the Adreno 430 GPU, this phone should be able to handle the most GPU intensive mobile games available on the play store with ease. Paired with the phone is 4GBs of fast LPDDR4 memory and 64GB of eMMC v5.0 storage. OnePlus also has a lower spec version running the same CPU and GPU but contains only 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage. The GPU powers a 5.5” In-Cell IPS display at 1920×1080 resolution. Unfortunately, the lower end version currently isn’t being produced in favor of the larger capacity, more expensive variation.
Cameras include the 13MP Sony Sensor with an aperture of f2.0 capable of 4k video and slow-motion video at 720p at 120fps. The rear camera is optically stabilized with laser focus for quick focus. Front facing camera is a 5MP distortion fee camera. Powering the device is a non-removable 3300mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. Standard connectivity of Wifi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPU with GLONASS and the proper carrer connectivity dependant on the version received. They released 3 different versions containing radio chips for the different region.
Like the OnePlus One, the user has the option to use either the capacitive buttons on the phone as buttons, or disable them and use on screen navigations. The physical home button also acts as a fingerprint scanner to unlock devices. Unfortunately, the current implementation of the fingerprint scanner is not based on Android Marshmallow, therefore does not use the standard API that will be included with Marshmallow.
The OnePlus features a slider on the left side, similar to the iPhone’s silent mode toggle. Users can slide the button to either allow all notification, priority notifications only, or completely silent. Alarms will still bypass the completely silent and still go off when the phone is switched to silent mode. Useful for people who do not wish to be disturbed at night but don’t want to risk the alarm not going off the next day making them go into work late.
OnePlus Two is also a dual SIM phone featuring a tray that supports 2 NanoSIM cards. This is useful for people who travel a lot and can just keep the 2 SIMs in. Disabling one when not needed to avoid potential roaming fees when roaming in another country/province.
OnePlus decided to somewhat embrace the future by using the new USB-C port for charging and syncing. Unfortunately for OnePlus, they decided to keep the USB-C port strictly USB 2.0. USB-C was designed for USB 3.1 connectivity and power delivery but OnePlus opt not to include those features. The phone also does not include any form of Quick Charge or Wireless Charging capability leaving many question how this is considered a Flagship Killer. One more major feature that OnePlus omitted in the Two is NFC which is a big thing considering Google’s announcement of Android pay support in Marshmallow releasing within the next couple of months. For some, this may be a deal breaker. But for people like me, where Android Pay is not available in Canada nor do I use NFC regularly, this does not affect me as much.
OnePlus partnered up with Cyanogen to release a special version of CyanogenMod for the OnePlus One. Unfortunately for many, OnePlus’ and Cyanogen’s partnership went sour which forced OnePlus to design and develop their own implementation of Android for their OnePlus devices. They hired key developers of another popular AOSP ROM developer, Paranoid Android, and developed what is now known as OxygenOS. Their first version was developed and released for the OnePlus One, which many complained that it lacked in features compared to CyanogenMod 11s and Cyanogen OS 12. Version 2 was developed for the OnePlus Two incorporating features unique to the OnePlus Two, such as the Fingerprint reader. Though like the first version, they are still missing a lot of features people have grown to love on the Cyanogen based version of the ROM.
Oxygen OS 2 is based off of AOSP 5.1.1 Lollipop and with the latest 2.0.2, comes with the most updated security fixes which patches the Stagefright exploit in Android. There have been reports of OnePlus pushing out v2.1.0 to their OnePlus Two users which include a much better camera software than the one included by default, more on that in a bit.
One of the few features I found missing on Oxygen OS 2 are app specific LED light customization, though you are able to customize a few LED color settings for generic notifications and battery status, it does not include app specific LED notification options to individual control apps. Granular app permissions are also missing. Hopefully some, if not all of these features will be include in Oxygen OS’ version of Marshmallow, when it’s released for the OnePlus Two. They do include a “Dark Mode” allowing the usual notification window, settings page to be in a dark themed color to match the rest of the phone instead of the default white and blueish grey color in default Lollipop. Like in the OnePlus One, there are options to set whether you want to use on-screen buttons or capacitive buttons. Turning on the On-Screen buttons will disable the capacitive buttons so you won’t accident trigger it but will take up some screen real estate. Capacitive buttons will free up those space to display a little more on the screen. The buttons disappear when running a full screen app and can always be brought out by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
Back are the screen off gestures. Unfortunately, the only one I found remotely useful was the double tap to wake. This has been replaced by the fingerprint reader though as now I just have to press on the Fingerprint/home button for about a second and the screen turns on and unlocks for me. I have tried using the other gestures in the past but I ultimately end up turning them off as they’d often mysteriously active while it’s in my pocket. Having the flashlight turn on randomly with a V features in my pants causes the phone to heat up and quickly drain the battery. Same goes with the Camera which now I can just double tap the home button to launch quickly. I rarely listen to music on the road, the gesture for music is kind of wasted. I hardly take public transportation or travel anywhere where I can plug in headphones and start listening to music. I am normally driving and audio plays through Bluetooth to the car.
Since I am not really good in photography, I will not make an entire section out of it. The camera software currently shipped with the phone is pretty plain. Does not include much control besides the usual selective focus and brightness. Unlike camera features on phones such as the LG G4, it does not have a manual mode which allows the user more granular control over the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed for users who prefer to be able to control those. For the most part, using the auto setting on the camera does produce pretty good picture quality compared to other flagship android phones, OnePlus is said to release a better featured camera app in their 2.1.0 update which has supposedly started rolling out to users which features the manual mode.
OnePlus has up their game in terms of built quality and it is reflected on the OnePlus Two. The metal frame on the phone adds weight and makes the phone feel more of a premium device compared to the previous OnePlus One (Which already has a great build quality). They also brought back the style covers, but made it much easier to swap. In the OnePlus One, they originally planned to release a series of different changeable backs but due to manufacturing issues, they ended up dropping that entirely before production. Though you can purchase the bamboo cover, changing it proved more difficult than it should be. This year, with the inclusion of the metal frame, the style swap cover is just 1 simple plastic removable back piece which users can remove and swap out for different style. OnePlus included the standard Sandstone Black cover with the purchase of the phone with 5 additional optional back covers to be purchased at a cost of around $34 CAD. These covers are much easier to remove. I have recently purchased the Carbon Fibre looking Swap Style cover for it and currently using it. I have to admit although it does look and feel nice, it doesn’t feel like it’s $34+tax worth. Although this is subject to personal opinion.
I can’t really speak for performance on a phone as I don’t really play intensive games on it. The only graphically intensive games I play are Bejeweled and Boom Beach, so it’s nothing too crazy. So far I have not noticed any performance issues with the GPU. Unlike earlier smartphones which feature the Snapdragon 810, I did not notice any overheating issue which led to performance throttling. The phone does run slightly warm when playing games, but that is to be expected. I encountered similar issues doing that on the LG G4, the Galaxy Note 4, OnePlus One and the Nexus 7 when running Boom Beach for a while. This is to be expected but it never got to the point where I had to put the device down because it became unbearably hot.
Benchmarks to follow.
The games I do play on my phone are Boom Beach, and Bejeweled. Neither of the two games I’ve played has caused any heating issues to the point where it had to either throttle down or force close to prevent overheating.
I do not consider myself a hardcore user nor am I constantly on my phone. Battery life on smartphones has never really been an issue for me and the OnePlus Two is no exception. For my usage, it can easily last me about 2 days before I need to charge, though I still prefer to recharge it at night before I sleep but if I forget to charge it one night, I can still rely on the phone to last me an entire day. OnePlus Two does contain a 3300mAh battery and a lower resolution display compare to most, which helps with the increased battery life. However, for whatever reason, OnePlus decided to forego support of Wireless Charging and Quick Charge 2.0 on their device which most flagship devices are supporting out of the box (fruit company withstanding). Though these are not deal breakers for me, these are simply a nice to have features. (I am coming from a previous owner of the Nokia Lumia 920, Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 4, and LG G4 which either features built in QI charging capability or optional accessories which enable QI Charging. The Note 4 and LG G4 also supports quick charge.
This phone is by no means cheap. The OnePlus One was priced at $349.00 when it came out last year. That was a true flagship killer as it was half the price of a good flagship from device manufacture such as Samsung or Apple. This year however, the price has gone up by about $130CAD. The current issues with the Canadian Currency does not help things either. OnePlus One came out when the Canadian Dollar was close to par with the US dollar, now it’s more like 75 cents to the dollar. The OnePlus Two does have 2 versions. A 16GB/3GB RAM model that starts at $409 and the higher end version 64GB/4GB RAM for $479.00. OnePlus however, is currently not making any of the lower spec. And for $70 more, the better spec version is a much better option.
This time around however, OnePlus was able to work out logistic issues face by Canadian customers when the OnePlus One where the customs charge was highly unpredictable. Now, the price you pay at check out already includes the customs charge. If you were unfortunate enough to get charged again at the door by DHL, simple submit a ticket to OnePlus with a scanned copy of the invoice and they will happily reimburse you for those fees. Canadian users are however still limited to one shipping option. The express shipping, which starts at $30.00 and increases if you purchase accessories. Regular sales tax do apply, depending where you live, this fee is different.
My overall impression of the phone has generally been solid so far. As for OnePlus claiming their phone is a 2016 flagship phone however, is a bold statement which considering the fact that 2016 isn’t upon us and how fast technology movies. OnePlus’ claim is most likely just a marketing campaign to capture more attention. With Android going full force with Android Pay, which requires NFC, the OnePlus Two’s lack of NFC would prevent its user from taking advantage of such feature. Something that most if not all flagships of 2015 have started to ship with. The missing wireless charge is not a deal breaker though. Neither Google’s new Nexus 5X or 6P feature Wireless charging but the lack of quick charge on the OnePlus Two might mean longer wait time by the charger if you need to quickly charge up and leave. I’d probably suggest investing in a portable battery charger you can take with you, or leave one in the car in case of emergencies. The phone itself feels and performs just like any flagship should.
For the price they are charging for however might turn some people off as it’s not longer the affordable flagship their once had with the OnePlus One. They still cost less than other flagships you can purchase on the market. But the OnePlus One device has opened up a whole new market of powerful midrange phones that perform very well and cost considerably cheaper than the OnePlus Two. The phone itself is still a great deal though. If you can get your hands on an invite and you’re wanting to switch phones. I would seriously consider it. OnePlus has also rumored to launch a smaller device later this year.
Be careful which version you buy!!
I just thought I’d include this quick bit as well. Like the big Android company, OnePlus also manufactures their phone in different variation, depending on the region you live in. The tech spec of the phone is identical with the only exception being the radio frequency each variation supports. Currently there are 3 versions of the phone you can get; The China version, which is shipped with Hydrogen OS instead of Oxygen OS for the lack of Google Play Services due to laws placed in China restricting Google access. The Europe version, which contains all the frequencies for LTE in Europe. And the North American version with frequencies for North America. One particular note regards to the china version is that it only contains one IMEI number, which means that if you purchase the OnePlus Two in the China variation, you are not able to take advantage of the dual sim capability the phone has anywhere outside of China. OnePlus will ship you the phone appropriate to the location they are shipping to so you, the consumer should not have to worry much which version you will get. It’s mostly for people thinking of bypassing the invitation system and buying it from 3rd party websites, which are currently selling the China version as there is no shortage of products on that variation.