With in-display fingerprint scanner and speedy performance, this is the smartphone that brings all-screen design up a notch
The OnePlus 6T proves that cutting-edge technology doesn’t have to cost the Earth, bringing an in-display fingerprint scanner and a tiny notch for just £500.
OnePlus has kept things simple for years, offering top specifications for budget prices. The price has slowly crept up to not-quite-so budget, but the level of refinement and technology has also improved.
The OnePlus 6T builds on the already excellent OnePlus 6, by further cutting away anything that isn’t screen. The gorgeous, crisp and colourful OLED display is a smidgen bigger at 6.41in, with a smaller chin at the bottom and a tiny teardrop-shaped notch at the top.
It’s an impressive design and proves that notches for the selfie camera don’t have to be that intrusive. It looks a little like a widow’s peak but is rapidly forgotten about, and you can even hide it in a black bar if you hate notches. The earpiece speaker is embedded in the rim at the very top of the phone above the camera and works fine when you’re on the phone.
Centrally located about 2cm up from the bottom of the screen is a hidden in-display fingerprint scanner that lights up in wild electric green colour when active. That leaves the frosted or polished glass back free of intrusions apart from the camera and LED flash.
The smooth, curved glass back feels nice in the hand and isn’t as slippery as some, but it will slide off furnishings if you’re not careful. The glass meets the metal sides with a little lip on both the front and the back of the device, which doesn’t feel quite as well finished as its predecessor.
At 74.8mm wide, 8.2mm thick and 185g in weight, the OnePlus 6T is ever so slightly narrower, thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but is narrower and 23g lighter than the iPhone XS Max and around the same dimensions all round as Google’s Pixel 3 XL.
The bottom of the phone has symmetrical speaker grilles, one of which is for show, and the USB-C port, making the 6T the first from OnePlus without a headphone socket.
Overall it’s a sleek design that’s so understated it’s almost a little plain in the frosted midnight black colour.
- Screen: 6.41in full HD AMOLED (402ppi)
- Processor: octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- RAM: 6 or 8GB of RAM
- Storage: 128 or 256GB
- Operating system: OxygenOS based on Android 9 Pie
- Camera: 16MP + 20MP rear dual camera, 16MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, dual sim, Wi-Fiac, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS
- Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
- Weight: 185g
Speed and longevity
The OnePlus 6T has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 or 8GB of RAM and at least 128GB of storage as the OnePlus 6 launched in May, and as such performs exactly the same in general usage.
The OnePlus 6T flies along, matching or exceeding rivals for raw speed of launching apps, switching between apps and launching the camera. Gaming performance is also top notch using OnePlus’s new gaming mode and smart boost systems speeding up game loading. Frame-rates were super smooth even over an hour or so playing Shadowgun Legends.
Battery life is solid but not exceptional. With relatively heavy use it would last 30 hours between charges, lasting from a 7am morning alarm on day one and stretching till gone 12-noon on day two.
That was while using it as my primary device, sending and receiving hundreds of emails, messages and push notifications, listening to five hours of music on Bluetooth headphones, watching an hour of Netflix, 30 minutes of gaming and shooting about 15 photos.
The OnePlus 6T charges pretty quickly via the fast charger that comes with it, reaching a full charge in around 90 minutes – but it doesn’t have wireless charging.
OxygenOS is OnePlus’s customised version of Android, this time based on the latest Android 9 Pie.
As with previous versions, OxygenOS 9 is a slightly refined version of the standard Android experience, made to be as responsive as possible while adding some much-needed customisations.
For instance, you have a choice of standard home, back and overview navigation buttons, Google’s new gesture button or OnePlus’s swipe gestures which are superior to Google’s efforts and remove the need for a navigation bar at the bottom of the phone. You can also edit which icons appear in the status bar, change the colour of the interface and other bits and pieces.
The ability to duplicate some apps, such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Uber is useful if you have multiple accounts tied to different phone numbers, and particularly useful for those who put two sims for two phone numbers in the phone.
In many ways, OxygenOS is closer to the lean and clean “stock” Android championed by enthusiasts than Google’s version of Android on its Pixel smartphones.
The big new thing for the OnePlus 6T is a fingerprint scanner embedded in the screen. It’s the second such device to ship with one after the Huawei Mate 20 Pro in October, but it is slightly faster and more accurate.
A spot that is slightly bigger than the one on the Mate 20 Pro lights up on the screen where you have to press your thumb to unlock the device or app and then pulses with a futuristic green glow as it scans your print.
You have to press your thumb or finger a little harder on the screen than you normally would on a rear-mounted sensor, and it is ever so slightly slower than the best of the old generation of sensors, but it works very well if you get it in the right spot.
Getting it in the right spot without looking at the phone takes a little getting used to, but within a couple of days I was able to pull off no-look unlocks round 90% of the time.
The OnePlus 6T has the same 16+20-megapixel dual-camera system on the back as the OnePlus 6, and performs similarly, producing some really nice, well detailed images in good light. Low light performance is good, but not quite up to par with the best from Samsung, Huawei, Apple or Google.
The new nightscape low light mode does a good job of eliminating hand-shake from long-exposure shots. The selfie camera is also pretty good, but can be a little washed out and soft on detail in poor lighting. Portrait mode works as advertised.
Overall, the camera on the OnePlus 6T is good, but not quite the very best. Most will be very pleased, particularly if upgrading from a two-year-old phone.
- When you use the fingerprint sensor the night mode for the display is disabled temporarily and then fades back in once you’ve unlocked the phone
- The phone comes with a screen protector already on it
- The single bottom-firing speaker is loud and has a relatively large amount of bass for the phone, but is easily blocked while playing a game
- OnePlus’s alert slider switches between silent, vibrate and ring and is still brilliant
The OnePlus 6T costs £499 in mirror black with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.
The variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage is available in mirror or midnight black for £529, while the variant with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage is available only in midnight black for £579.
For comparison, the 128GB Huawei Mate 20 Pro costs £900, the 64GB Google Pixel 3 XL costs £869, the 128GB Samsung Galaxy Note 9 costs £899, the 64GB iPhone XR costs £749 and the 64GB iPhone XS Max costs £1,099.
OnePlus phones have always been good for the money, offering top specifications in well-built devices, but not pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.
That’s changed for the OnePlus 6T. It is pushing what’s possible with the popular all-screen design using a tiny, attractive teardrop notch and a smaller chin, and it’s a better phone for it. But it is the introduction of a cutting-edge in-display fingerprint scanner, and making it work really well for as little as half the price of an iPhone XS, that is most impressive.
Sure, the camera isn’t quite as mind-blowing as the very best, there’s no wireless charging, it doesn’t have any of the fancy 3D face systems of some and it looks a little plain, but everything else is top notch. Even the software experience is excellent.
At £500, you have to spend an awful lot more money to get a better phone than the OnePlus 6T.
Pros: good battery life, great screen, excellent performance, dual-sim, good camera, Bluetooth 5, great software, tiny notch, in-screen fingerprint sensor, alert slider
Cons: glass back but no wireless charging, no IP water resistance rating, no expandable storage, no headphone socket
- Huawei Mate 20 Pro review: cutting-edge brilliance
- Google Pixel 3 review: raising the bar for the Android experience
- Google Pixel 3 XL review: big is still beautiful
- Honor Play review: great all-round smartphone for under £300
- Apple iPhone XS review: two steps forward, one step back
- iPhone XS Max review: Apple’s supersized smartphone
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010