The new, improved Android device might not be quite the bargain the OnePlus 3 was, but it’s still right up there with the best
The OnePlus 3T is a minor update to a very good smartphone which improves on some key areas, but it isn’t quite the bargain the original was.
The Chinese smartphone firm only released the OnePlus 3 in June, but already it has been replaced. The 3T is practically identical to its predecessor, a slight colour difference on the outside the only sign that things have changed.
According to OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, the company had some improvements available that would fit more or less in the same package – a larger battery, faster processor and improved cameras – so rather than wait a year, it simply replaced the OnePlus 3 with the 3T.
But at the same time it has also increased the price of the smartphone, from its original £309 on launch, through its post Brexit referendum currency adjustment of £329 to a starting price of £399. Is the new 3T worth £70 more than the old 3?
Refined and smooth
The smooth aluminium body with a curved back and beveled sides feels every bit as good six months on with the 3T. It is a very nice smartphone to hold, touch and appreciate: there’s no doubt the 3T has the look and feel of a smartphone costing much more than £400.
The 5.5in 1080p AMOLED screen is great. Now you can customise the colour tone to your liking, although out of the box most people will be very happy with the more subtle colour mode OnePlus uses compared to other AMOLED-using phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7.
With a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch, the 3T isn’t quite as crisp as top-end Android competitors, which have quad HD resolutions at the same screen size, and therefore side-by-side with a 534ppi Google Pixel XL it looks slightly less pin sharp. Most will be happy with it, although it will be noticeably poorer for virtual reality applications.
The narrow bezels and curved back make it manageable one-handed even with the 5.5in screen. It isn’t quite as narrow as the current king of the large screen in a tiny bodied phone, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, but it is 1mm narrower than the Pixel XL.
OnePlus’ excellent notification slider completes some well made buttons on the left and right side of the phone.
- Screen: 5.5in full HD AMOLED (401ppi)
- Processor: quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
- RAM: 6GB of RAM
- Storage: 64 or 128GB
- Operating system: Android 6.0.1 OxygenOS 3.5
- Camera: 16MP rear camera with OIS, 16MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, Dual-Sim, Wi-Fi, NFC, USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2 and GPS
- Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm
- Weight: 158g
Longer battery life
The OnePlus 3T has the same amount of memory and storage as its predecessor, but has a slightly more powerful processor: the Snapdragon 821 from Qualcomm, which is used in other high-end Android smartphones including the Pixel XL.
It feels snappy, but not quite the fastest smartphone on the market: the Huawei Mate 9. It doesn’t feel any faster than the OnePlus 3, but the battery did last longer between charges. It has a slightly larger battery, and software refinements over the last six months have made the experience smoother.
Used as my primary device with five hours of listening to music through Bluetooth earbuds, three hours spent browsing or using apps, occasional gaming and taking photos, with hundreds of push notifications throughout the day, the OnePlus 3T lasted around 36 hours between charges.
The big improvement over the 3 has been in standby performance: where the 3 dropped 12-16% overnight, the 3T dropped only 4%, which is very good compared to most of the competition.
Charging the battery is fast, too. With OnePlus’ proprietary Dash Charge power adapter and cable it took just over 70 minutes to reach 100% from zero charge, which is right up there with the fastest charging smartphones. It can also be charged using pretty much any USB charger, but at a standard rate.
The OnePlus 3T also has dual-Sim support, which means two mobile phone contracts and two numbers can be used at the same time in the same phone. It’s a common and useful feature in Asia, but rare in the UK, and makes travelling or juggling a work and personal phone much easier within one device.
The fingerprint scanner on the front, which doubles as a home button, is excellent. It’s fast, accurate and works great.
OnePlus customises Android to create OxygenOS. Unlike some other manufacturers the changes are subtle, more refinements rather than drastic alterations.
If you’re a fan of the standard Android experience, you will appreciate OxygenOS. It has more customisation options, from the ability to swap the navigation buttons over, put them on screen or use the capacitive buttons beside the fingerprint scanner, to extended gesture support and tweaks for the dual-Sim capabilities.
But the 3T ships with OxygenOS 3.5, which is based on last year’s Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, not the newest Android 7 Nougat. OnePlus expects to have an update to Nougat available before the end of the year. So far, it has not had the best track record for speedy software updates, but has got better over the last few months.
The 16-megapixel rear camera has some subtle improvements to detail and noise suppression over the OnePlus 3. Overall it’s a capable camera, shooting detailed shots in good lighting and solid if not remarkable shots in lowlight. It’s not quite as good as the best from Samsung or Google, but it’s hard to take a rubbish shot with the 3T.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera is one of the highest resolution front-facing cameras available, and although more megapixels does not always equal better results, the 3T produced some of the most detailed and natural-looking selfies I’ve ever shot, even in tough lighting conditions such as office fluorescent strip lights.
The OnePlus 3T is available in either gun metal grey or soft gold with 64GB of storage for £399 or just in gun metal with 128GB of storage for £439. It’s also available exclusively with a mobile phone contract with O2 in the UK.
The OnePlus 3T is an excellent smartphone. The fit and finish is right up there with the best, the metal design is refined and even with a 5.5in screen, it’s a manageable smartphone to use on a daily basis.
It isn’t quite the bargain the OnePlus 3 was, and I don’t think it’s worth £70 more than the previous model. But with currency fluctuations the way they are and the pound down against the US dollar it’s not all about profit. It is still excellent value for £400 when Apple and Google’s equivalent smartphones, that boast less storage, cost £719.
With the backing of O2, OnePlus also now has more legitimacy as a manufacturer in the UK. And while there’s certainly room for improvement, the company is committed to delivering faster software updates.
You get more than what you pay for with the OnePlus 3T compared to rivals.
Pros: all-metal, great fingerprint sensor, good screen, fast charging, good cameras, excellent notification slider, dual-Sim with dual standby, cheaper than rivals
Cons: not quite as cheap as it once was, no removable battery, no expandable storage, slow charging from non-Dash charge power adapters, screen low res for VR, not yet running Nougat
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