This customisable Android phone has a great spec and an even better price
The 64GB OnePlus One went on sale at the end of May. With the ability to purchase the smartphone through invitation only, and review models incredibly scarce, whether or not to take the plunge and buy a OnePlus One phone could be a tricky decision.
We managed to get a bit of one-onone time with the OnePlus One phone and reveal our thoughts here.
The OnePlus One has captured the world’s attention by matching — and in some cases besting — the specification of 2014 flagship Android smartphones including the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z2, and at around half the price.
The OnePlus One runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, Adreno 330 graphics and 3GB of RAM. Other OnePlus One specs include a 5.5in full-HD (1920×1080, 401ppi) IPS display, 16- or 64GB of internal storage, plus support for 4G LTE, dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and GPS. There’s a 13Mp camera on the rear, plus a 5Mp snapper at the front. CyanogenMod 11S OS runs the show, while a 3,100mAh battery keeps it all going.
Design and build
The 5.5in-screen OnePlus One feels pretty wide in the hand, but it’s thin, light, beautiful and very similar in design to a flattened-out Nexus 5. Available in black or white, a chrome trim runs around the edge of the handset. A power button is found on the right edge, and a volume rocker on the left. It weighs in at 162g, and measures 152.9×75.9×8.9mm.
The OnePlus One’s onscreen navigational buttons are customisable within the Settings menu, and you can even define gestures such as a short tap on the Home button or a double-tap on the screen. “The minute I picked up the OnePlus One, I really liked what I saw: a thin, polycarbonate chassis; a vibrant, almost edge-to-edge high-resolution display; and a fluid, customisable interface. It’s a beautiful device, and surprisingly light to hold,” writes our colleague Florence Ion.
We’ve yet to get the OnePlus One into our lab for in-depth testing, although we spotted no issues with performance during our hands-on. Given the hardware it’s running, there really shouldn’t be any bottlenecks.
The closest smartphone we have for comparison is the Samsung Galaxy S5, which runs the same processor clocked at the same speed, and the same graphics. However, the S5 has less RAM, at ‘only’ 2GB, and it runs a standard version of Android KitKat, whereas the OnePlus One runs CyanogenMod 11S.
Not only could these differences allow for a variation in performance, the fact some manufacturers are thought to be running benchmark-boosting software can skew results.
However, as a guide, in our benchmarks the Samsung Galaxy S5 scored 926- and 2869 points in Geekbench 3’s single- and multi-core tests respectively, 824ms in SunSpider and 28fps in GFXBench’s T-Rex test.
Forget the fancy Duo Camera of the HTC One M8, and the 20.7Mp monster of the Sony Xperia Z2.
OnePlus One offers a simple 13Mp Sony Exmor IMX214 camera with a dual-LED flash and f/2.0 aperture that’s both easy to use and takes great shots. It’s capable of 4K-resolution video, and 720p slow-motion at 120fps.
The Camera app has been tweaked from the standard Android version, and here supports live face recognition, which works remarkably well, plus live filters.
The ability to see how well filters will work even before you’ve finished composing your shot is a real boon. Ion notes that, unlike the standard Android Camera app, Cyanogen’s Camera app “doesn’t require you to do that annoying ‘swipe-up-andup- and-away’ motion to adjust camera settings”.
If you like taking selfies or video chatting, the OnePlus One’s 5Mp front-facing camera is ideal.
The OnePlus One doesn’t run Android 4.4 KitKat as we know it. CyanogenMod 11S is a custom version of KitKat that supports a great deal of personalisation and has been tweaked to run optimally on the OnePlus One’s hardware.
“Cyanogen’s ethos is that you should be able to customise everything, and this proves out, emphatically, with the OnePlus One,” writes Ion. Themes are one part of this, and the OnePlus One has three available by default: Android’s Holo, Cyanogen OneMod and a custom icon pack. You can even mix and match the best bits of the various available themes.
Rather than having to browse Google Play to find and download a theme you like, you just flick a switch to apply it. Theme packs include boot animations, fonts, icons, wallpapers, lock screens and ringtones. CyanogenMod 11S is notable for more than just its ease of customisation, however.
There’s also a secure messaging feature and Privacy Guard, which helps you manage what access apps have to your data. The OnePlus One also features voice wake and search,learning the sound of your voice so you can search, track and explore even when it’s asleep.
How to buy the OnePlus One
When the 64GB Sandstone Black version goes on sale at the end of May, purchases will be by invitation only. By controlling the number of handsets available on day one OnePlus One aims to ensure all those with invites will actually be able to get their hands on the device, avoiding the sort of scenario in which thousands of people camp outside phone shops to be one of the first to get their hands on a brand-new smartphone, but ultimately go home empty-handed as stocks fail to meet demand. Invitations will also become easier to get hold of over time. When the OnePlus One does go on sale it will be available in 16GB Silk White and 64GB Sandstone Black varieties. The 16GB model costs $299/€269, while the 64GB OnePlus One is only slightly more expensive at $349/€299. That’s less than half the price of the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2 and HTC One M8, without any compromises in its spec.
Initially, invitations to buy the OnePlus One smartphone will be handed out through competitions, OnePlus’ forums and friends who have already purchased the phone. Each invite lasts 24 hours, after which time it is returned to the sender, who has a period of one- to two weeks in order to find someone who wants to take advantage.
The OnePlus One phone is almost too good to be true. Its specifications are just as good as those of the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2 and HTC One M8, yet it costs half the price. Our only concern is that the invitation-only purchasing process will confuse many would-be buyers, and the virtually unknown startup company will have a very tough job on its hands stealing market share from mega-brands Sony, Samsung and HTC. That it runs CyanogenMod will appeal to enthusiasts, but it could have the opposite effect on the general buying public.