How does OnePlus keep coming up with a desirable smartphone that people will still want to buy, every six months or less? There are companies out there that struggle to do it on an annual basis, after all. OnePlus has a release schedule that would terrify big-name brands bogged down by focus groups, middle managers, and multiple checklists. Its latest phone — the OnePlus 6 — arrives only a few months after the OnePlus 5T, which also came a few months after the OnePlus 5.
It’s a lot of pressure. Can OnePlus continue its winning streak with another swiftly-launched smartphone?
Editor’s note: We’ll be continuing to use the OnePlus 6 for the next few weeks to further test the camera and battery. We’ll update this review soon with more final thoughts.
Glassy and classy
The OnePlus 6 showcases how OnePlus is able to attract new buyers and upgraders even with such a rapid update schedule — it taps into the latest trends, integrates them quickly into a new phone, and gets it out the door before any fads pass. That means the OnePlus 6 has a glass body, which is the definition of premium this year, a notch at the top of the screen, and a vertically-mounted, dual-lens camera.
OnePlus has outdone itself with the all-glass body — the second time it has used glass since the OnePlus X. It looks and feels superb: It’s soft and smooth, with a cool touch. It’s very reflective too, mostly on the mirror black model you see here, and we’d say it’s closer to the water-like finish on the Porsche Design Mate 10 RS than phones like the Honor 10 and the Moto G6. Even the Galaxy S9 looks a bit muddy next to the OnePlus 6. To commemorate its 4th anniversary, the OnePlus 6 brings back the “Designed by OnePlus” branding on the back panel, which is the only other mark aside from the OnePlus logo. It’s minimal, like we have come to expect, and it looks great on the mirror black model.
OnePlus has outdone itself with the all-glass body.
The glass body hasn’t made the phone overly slippery, and it’s easy to hold with one hand. Using it is a harder task due to the size of the screen. It’s a stretch to get to the opposite corner with your thumb.
The notch (the cutout at the top of the screen housing the front camera and earpiece) is the subject of much (now rather boring) controversy. OnePlus told Digital Trends that its inclusion is the most effective way of getting a far larger screen on the phone than usual, while maintaining a similar size to previous OnePlus phones. If you hate it, a software setting hides it away.
The screen’s big alright, measuring 6.28-inches with a 2,280 x 1,080 pixel resolution, another first for the OnePlus family. There aren’t too many phones close to this screen size other than the Galaxy Note 8. Surprisingly, the phone is very compact, with minimal side bezels and chin. We like the shape of the screen corners too, which have a flowing curve before running down the sides.
The fingerprint sensor is on the back, and we’re pleased to see it has been given a stadium shape and a chamfered edge: A big improvement over the OnePlus 5T. Little things like this, along with the curved screen edges, make the OnePlus 6 look and feel fantastic.
If you hate the notch, you will be able to hide it away through a software update in the future.
Another ergonomic improvement is the iconic OnePlus Alert slider, which controls device notifications and silent mode. It has been shifted to the top right edge. While lefties won’t like the change, right-handed folks will find it more comfortable. It’s a bit stiff, and requires a firm grip on the phone to slide, even with the textured edge on the slider itself.
Along the bottom edge of the phone is a USB Type-C port for fast charging, using OnePlus’ Dash Charge system, along with a 3.5mm headphone socket for those still attached to wires. Sadly, there’s no support for wireless charging.
New camera effects, super slow-motion video
On the back is a dual-lens rear camera, this time centrally- and vertically-mounted inside a slight camera bump. The main f/1.7 aperture, 16-megapixel lens is joined by a second 20-megapixel camera, complete with a portrait mode. New bokeh effects have been added to the portrait mode, adding stars, hearts, and bubbles to the background. It’s controlled by OnePlus’ own camera app, which is simple and easy to use. OnePlus has added a slow-mo video mode, which has a maximum of 480fps at 720p, meaning it can’t slow the world down as effectively as the Galaxy S9, Huawei P20 Pro, or Sony Xperia XZ2. A 1080p resolution mode is available at 240fps. As you’d expect, this means it’s not quite so dramatic, and shooting at 240fps in 1080p doesn’t make much of a difference. Use the 480fps setting for a better feeling of slow-motion.
You can edit videos in the app, trimming the clip down, adding music, or a filter. It’s not as wide-ranging as the modes provided by the LG V30, but it’s more than many other phones provide. What’s more is it’s very simple to use. This is key for editing video or stills, and it’s great to see OnePlus implement an edit mode that not only works for video, but for stills too. Yes, you can use apps like Snapseed; but not having to leave the gallery app is a time-saver. The features are also comprehensive.
We’re still testing the camera for still performance. Taking photos on a sunny London day produced some great shots, with bright blue skies and detail in the shadows. We didn’t see much over-the-top HDR-style glow which has become more common on many devices today. However, a degree of grain is evident in some scenes, which is why we need to spend more time with it before passing judgement. The return of optical image stabilization, and the f/1.7 aperture bodes well for low-light photography, and some pictures we took at the phone’s launch — which was in a very dark event space — returned great black levels, and still coping well with the spotlight on OnePlus’s Carl Pei on stage.
The bokeh mode, which doesn’t use a telephoto lens like many other phones resulting in a picture that isn’t cropped, works relatively well. But, bizarrely the preview image in the viewfinder looks very poor, making it look like the camera cannot effectively recognize the edges around a subject. Snap the photo and check in the gallery, and the photo itself comes out far better than the preview suggests. We did find it has trouble focusing in Portrait mode, but we’d expect software updates to improve the camera over time.
A Snapdragon 845 processor with a whopping 8GB of RAM keeps our test model running, and the OnePlus 6 has been lightning fast in our continued experience. It all feels very refined. OnePlus uses the tagline, “The speed you need,” for the 6, and we cannot imagine anyone thinking the phone may not have the guts to cope with a task. We ran some benchmark tests:
- AnTuTu: 269,191
- Geekbench 4: Single-core: 2,402; multi-core: 8,951
- 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 4,586
These scores are very impressive, easily surpassing the OnePlus 5T from last year, plus the Galaxy S9 Plus and LG G7 ThinQ from 2018, which have the same Snapdragon 845 processor. It also exceeds the Huawei P20 Pro, which has the Kirin 970 chip inside. It should be noted the OnePlus 6 may have specially-tuned software to perform well in these tests. This doesn’t detract from its monstrous results.
Software and security
Android 8.1 with version 5.1.2 of OnePlus’s OxygenOS over the top is smooth and fuss-free, with only a handful of pre-installed apps, and the slide-in Shelf — which contains recently used apps, contacts, and other information — making it look any different to standard Android found on a Pixel 2.
Any alterations and special features are all options. A new gesture control system replaces the familiar Android Home, Back, and Menu keys with an iPhone X-like swipe system. It’s not great, and we found swiping on either side of the screen to go back a step frustrating and unreliable. The traditional Android keys may not be pretty, but they work, and that’s what matters.
Face unlock isn’t a substitute for a fingerprint sensor in certain apps.
The fingerprint sensor is under the camera lenses on the back of the phone and is super fast. We’ve had the OnePlus 6 in a case — one of the new official OnePlus cases — and did find it harder to locate accurately due to the amount of recess, so it may be worth checking this for comfort before deciding on a case for the phone. OnePlus’s successful face unlock feature returns, and is reliable and ultra-fast. However, it’s not secure, and isn’t a substitute for a fingerprint sensor in certain apps.
Battery and charging
The OnePlus 6 has a 3,300mAh battery, which we’ve had at least a day’s use out of during our testing, but we haven’t used the phone long enough yet to establish whether this can be stretched to two days. What’s certain is that even if you do find yourself short of battery life, the Dash Charge fast charge system tops it up quickly. OnePlus promises a day’s worth of power after 30 minutes on charge.
Price, warranty, and availability
Has the OnePlus 6 been subject to a price rise that takes it out of the realms of affordability? The price has gone up, but not so drastically you’ll have to think twice. The 8GB/128GB model you see here, in mirror black, is $580, or 520 British pounds. The mirror black model with 6GB/64GB storage is $530 or 470 pounds. Finally, the 256GB version is $630 and also has 8GB of RAM.
In the U.S. OnePlus has a one-year warranty on its devices. In the U.K. this is extended to two-years. Phones with any manufacturing defects will be repaired or replaced free of charge, with shipping and handling costs included. If you damage the phone through mistreatment, or general wear-and-tear, it won’t be covered.Our Take
The fact OnePlus puts out such a polished product so often is exciting to see. This lightning speed doesn’t affect its quality, or commitment to delivering a satisfying, desirable smartphone.
Is there a better alternative?
An alternative? If you’re set on not spending more than $530 and want something comparable, then no. Price is where OnePlus wins. It’s almost impossible to find the same level of power, style, and ability for the same amount of money. We’re inundated with phones that cost at the minimum $700 ($950-plus isn’t uncommon either), yet the OnePlus 6 manages to squeeze in the key features for several hundred dollars less. It’s closest competitor remains the Honor View 10.
However, if price is no object, and you just want the best phone for you, then the OnePlus 6 faces tremendous competition, because the standard of smartphones released recently is so high. The Galaxy S9 Plus wins points for its design and camera, the Pixel 2XL for its software and camera, the Huawei P20 Pro for its best-in-class camera, and the new and relatively reasonably-priced LG G7 ThinQ are all strong alternatives you’ll enjoy owning.
How long will it last?
There is an excellent chance of the OnePlus 6 remaining powerful enough to last for considerably more than two years. OnePlus does support its phones with regular software updates too, plus it’s one of the phones on Google’s Android P beta list, so you can even try out the very latest version of Android when you buy it.
Inside the box is a basic case, so you can protect the beautiful finish and keep it safe in the event of a short drop, plus the body has basic splash proofing. It won’t survive a bath, but it can be used in the rain and won’t wince at the hint of a wet table.
Should you buy it?
Yes, of course you should buy the OnePlus 6, it’s a no-brainer. The price has risen again, but it’s still cheaper than any other high-end phone out there. It doesn’t sacrifice what matters — speed, build quality, design, and features you want to use. If that’s not a reason to hand over your cash, we don’t know what is.