Mobility

OnePlus 3 smartphone: The smart person's guide

This $399 phone is ideal for those who want a contract-free option. It's a solid performer with specs on par with high-end smartphones on the market.

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The low-priced OnePlus 3 smartphone.

Image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

Everyone likes to score a deal, and the low-cost OnePlus 3 smartphone is a win. The relatively unknown Chinese manufacturer OnePlus has been trying since 2014 to create a device that can compete with higher-priced smartphones.

The OnePlus 3 is the third-generation version of this smartphone, and it launched earlier this summer for the stunningly low price of $399. Sure, it's $99 more than the original, which debuted at $300, but it does so much more than expected based on the earlier models. It provides super-fast charging, a 5.5-inch display, 64GB of storage, a 16 MP camera, a fingerprint sensor, and a Snapdragon 820 processor, all in a sleek, aluminum body.

To sum it up, this is the phone that could push OnePlus into the big leagues. Competition is fierce among smartphone manufacturers, but this phone is very good, and comes with a price tag that will attract attention.

SEE: Check out all of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

What it is: The OnePlus 3 is a low-cost smartphone priced at $399 without a contract.

Why it matters: Unlocked high-end smartphones come at a premium price. This phone is $100 to $200 less than similar phones from major manufacturers and it can compete in the big leagues with its performance and features.

Who it is for: This smartphone is for Android users who want a low-cost device without a contract.

Why you should get one: No need to tie yourself into a contract or subject yourself to a high purchase price just because you want a smartphone filled with useful features.

Why you shouldn't get one: If brand names matter to you, you might worry that everyone will wonder why you went bargain basement on your smartphone choice. Plus, there's only one storage size available.

How to get one: You can order it from the OnePlus store online.

What it looks like: See TechRepublic's photo gallery of the OnePlus 3.

The style quotient: The OnePlus 3 ranks in at a 7 on the style quotient, when you take into account the plain looks that are offset by the attractive price tag.

Additional resources:

What it is

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The OnePlus 3 is the third generation flagship phone for the Chinese manufacturer. It has first-rate construction and feels solid in your hand. It runs Oxygen OS, which is a custom version of Android, and it works well for those who like to use their phone as is, and those who like to tweak it a bit. There is only one choice for storage, at 64GB, and it comes with a super-fast dash charger that can deliver a full charge in a little more than an hour. As an added boon, the smartphone doesn't heat up as fast as other phones, so that it stays cooler while charging.

The original OnePlus debuted in 2014, to mixed reviews. A second generation version was improved, but it took the OnePlus 3 to deliver all of the features that users expect in a smartphone. The main selling point of the OnePlus 3 is the extremely low price tag. It's only $399 with no contract and contains all the hardware it needs to compete with top-of-the-line devices.

Additional resources:

Why it matters

Smartphones are a big investment for anyone, whether you opt to pay monthly, or purchase the device up front. The OnePlus 3 is $100 to $200 less than a comparable high-end phone on the market, for substantial savings.

The phone's features are similar to other high-end phones, so the lower price is the key reason to buy this phone.

Additional resources:

Who it is for

Android users will appreciate all of the standard functionality of a smartphone but at a lower cost than from Apple, Motorola or Samsung. It's great for students, or anyone who wants to save money and still have a highly useable phone with plenty of features. It can also work for those in business, since it provides all the same features as a higher-priced phone, making it ideal for companies that buy in bulk for employees.

Additional resources:

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 teardown: New design hampers repairs (TechRepublic)
  • Research: Apple rated highest for security on mobile devices (TechRepublic)
  • Why you should get one

    The original phone came with an invitation-only method for customers to purchase the phone. Fortunately, that publicity-building gimmick is over, and now anyone can buy the phone.

    As for the appearance, the smartphone has an austere look, with an anodized aluminum unibody. It looks similar to the premium-priced HTC 10. It's thin, at 7.35 mm, and the optional slim cases don't add significant thickness to the device. It's a huge improvement over the original OnePlus with its all-plastic body and strange sandstone finish.

    The camera is solid, with a 16 MP Sony PDAF sensor on the rear camera and an 8 MP front-facing camera. You can take a photo just by smiling at the front-facing camera.

    Another plus is that it features NFC technology, to access Android Pay.

    Additional resources:

    Why you shouldn't get one

    The battery life is inconsistent, and the dash charger, as OnePlus calls the fast charging capability, can vary in the time it takes to deliver a full charge.

    Another negative is that there's no memory card slot, you're stuck with the 64GB storage as your only option.

    Also, there's not as many cover options as with more well-known brands. You can opt for super-thin covers in different wood finishes, a sandstone finish, or with a carbon-fiber look. The cases aren't rugged, but they will protect the frame from scratches.

    Additional resources:

  • The ridiculous profit made from replacing cracked smartphone screens (TechRepublic)
  • 10 easy ways to ruin your smartphone (TechRepublic)
  • How to get one

    There's no need to wait for a personal invite, as with the original OnePlus. Anyone can now go to the OnePlus online store to purchase the phone.

    Operating System: OxygenOS based on Android 6.0.1

    Display: 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen

    CPU: Quad-core Snapdragon 820

    RAM: 6GB

    Storage: 64GB

    Weight: 5.57 ounces

    Camera: 16 MP rear camera, 8 MP front-facing camera with smile capture

    Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm

    Battery: 3,000 mAh (non-removable)

    NFC: NFC enabled

    Colors: Graphite or Soft Gold

    Additional resources:

  • A new crop of Android smartphones is on the rise (TechRepublic)
  • Android rocks out with a new Marshall smartphone for music lovers (TechRepublic)
  • What it looks like

    oneplus-20.jpg
    Image: Teena Maddox/TechRepublic

    SEE: TechRepublic's OnePlus 3 smartphone gallery

    Additional resources:

  • 5 emerging Android vendors you need to know (TechRepublic)
  • New high-end, low-cost Android phones: Consumers are the ones who ultimately win (TechRepublic)
  • Three takeaways for TechRepublic readers:

    1. The OnePlus 3 is the third-generation version of this low-cost smartphone that offers many of the same features as high-end smartphones for a fraction of the price.
    2. The OnePlus 3 sells for $399 for an unlocked version with no contracts.
    3. This is the version of the OnePlus that could finally make its Chinese manufacturer a true competitor in the mobile industry.

    Also see

    About Teena Maddox

    Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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