Hands on: OnePlus 2

Gateway phone: Just one try of the OnePlus 2 will make you an addict

The OnePlus 2 fits perfectly in the hand, feels solidly built, has the smoothest OS, and is an astonishing value for the money.

You’d be mistaken for thinking OnePlus sells smartphones. It doesn’t. It clearly sells some form of digital drug. I approached SwiftKey’s offices in London to get a hands-on with the new OnePlus 2, and was greeted by a line of 100 people ready for the grand opening of the pop-up showroom, some of whom had been there since the early hours of the morning, and still had several hours to wait. Chatting to a OnePlus spokesperson outside the building, we were approached by the person who held the third position in the line.

“Am I OK?” he asked, cryptically. We looked at him blankly. “Someone else in the line said they were OK, and I’m third. Does that mean I’m good?” He finally clarified what he expected. OnePlus is giving away invitations to buy the new phone at these pop-up locations, and he wanted to make sure he would secure one. “Don’t worry, you’ll be happy,” was the equally clandestine reply from the OnePlus representative.

This was essentially a conversation between a junkie and his dealer, and the only thing missing was a suggestive tap of the nose and lots of sniffing. The question is: Would the high be worth the wait?

New OxygenOS and fingerprint sensor are standouts

Handling the OnePlus 2 reminded me of playing with the Nexus 5 for the first time. It fits perfectly in the hand, feels solidly built, has the smoothest OS, and is an astonishing value for the money. First impressions matter, and the OnePlus 2 shakes your hand with authority. The metal chassis is cool to the touch, and the textured rear panel grippy and reassuring. It’s no larger than the G4, but matches it for in-hand comfort, despite not sharing the subtle curve of LG’s flagship.

OnePlus 2
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

On the right of the body is the volume rocker and sleep/wake key; while on the left is a three-stage slider switch. It’s for adjusting notifications — a sort of advanced mute switch. It ties in with Google’s priority notifications system, and will either disable all of them, or let through the most important. It has a pleasing, dampened, high quality action.

Related: Read our hands-on of the OnePlus 2’s toughest competition: The Moto X Style

A major new feature on the OnePlus 2 is the fingerprint sensor, which is set inside the home button beneath the screen. The button can’t be pressed, but is flanked by two touch sensitive Android keys. Setting up the fingerprint sensor is similar to doing so on the iPhone — it requires multiple taps to learn your print, and a passcode must be set in case it all goes wrong. The result is a super fast fingerprint sensor that unlocks the OnePlus 2 almost instantly, right from a sleeping screen. It’s faster than Apple’s Touch ID.

The super fast fingerprint sensor unlocks the OnePlus 2 almost instantly.

The phone runs OxygenOS, which is OnePlus’s own operating system. It’s based on Android and is similar in fluidity and style to stock Lollipop. In the short time I used it, the speed and smoothness impressed, and there was little bloat. OnePlus has added a few cool tweaks, such as the ability to move around the quick setting toggles in the notification tray, gestures to open apps from the sleep screen, and a slide-in panel for widgets that would usually clutter up a home screen. It also displays the most commonly used apps, and updates the list at least once a day.

Hardware requires further testing

Controversially, OnePlus selected the Snapdragon 810 processor, which has suffered from negative press due to overheating — see our impressions of the Sony Xperia Z3+ for evidence of the issue. Will it blight the 2 in the same way? It’s difficult to know for sure in such a short time, but using the camera app, playing a game, and watching YouTube videos didn’t cause a problem. We’ll know more when we review the phone.

The same goes for camera performance. OnePlus uses its own camera app, which functions a lot like the standard Android app, and has features including HDR, slow-motion video, a beauty mode, and 4K recording. There’s a laser autofocus module, which worked in a satisfactory manner indoors. With no opportunity to use the camera outside, we can’t comment on its ability just yet.

OnePlus 2

OnePlus chose to stick with a 1080p resolution display, and while it was suitably colorful, sharp, and bright — it couldn’t match the LG G4 which I used alongside it. Selecting a 1440p screen would have inevitably pushed the price up, but I can’t help feeling disappointed that the OnePlus 2 doesn’t have the best screen resolution there is.

Another more minor annoyance is the decision not to label the Android navigation keys, or rather not specifically label them, because they both indicated by a simple line. Longtime Android owners will probably be fine, but newcomers or those coming from an iPhone may get frustrated.

Back to the positives, the OnePlus 2 gave me a glimpse of a wonderful future, where the pain of trying to plug a Micro USB cable in the right way round, first time, will be gone. The Type-C USB works both ways round, and plugging it in feels exactly like using a Lightning connector on the iPhone — fast, precise, and fuss free. Use it once, and you’ll wish all your gadgets had it.

First impressions are positive

OnePlus isn’t Apple, and it’s not Samsung. While the million-and-a-half OnePlus One phones sold is impressive for a small manufacturer, it’s a paltry amount compared to the big players. It’s reasonable to expect a phone produced by a small player to feel a bit cheap, or not very well put together. Not so. The OnePlus 2 is disconcertingly mature. Few will believe it costs less than $400.

We’re mindful of the fact the OnePlus One had some flaws that were only revealed when we reviewed the phone in full, and will obviously reserve final judgment until we’ve spent some time with the device. However, things are looking exceptionally positive, and the inevitable hoops through which prospective buyers will have to jump in order to secure one may well be worth the effort.

When I left, the line was up to 180 people, and more were joining. That’s a lot of people waiting for their fix, and based on my short time spent with the OnePlus 2, it’s one they’re going to enjoy.

Highs

  • Super fast fingerprint sensor
  • OxygenOS is close to stock Android
  • Excellent build quality

Lows

  • Not a 1440p screen
  • Android keys aren’t labeled
  • Question mark over long-term use
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