Chinese manufacturer OnePlus is still trying to crack the smartphone market in the US with the debut of its latest flagship device, the OnePlus 6. The target market is anyone who wants a phone similar to the Samsung S9 or S9 Plus, but wants to pay a few hundred bucks less.
The minimalist phone features a dual camera with portrait mode, a fast processor, and tons of memory and storage packaged in a sleek, all-glass design.
On May 22, 2018, the OnePlus 6 was released in the US, Europe, and India.
A brief history of OnePlus smartphones
OnePlus delivered its first smartphone in 2014, which was called, simply, the OnePlus and sold for a shockingly low $299. In 2016, TechRepublic reviewed the OnePlus 3, which had a $399 price tag. The phone was impressive, but it failed to take off in the US; this was mostly due to OnePlus not being a familiar brand in that market, but also because the vast majority of phone purchases are done through wireless carriers, and the OnePlus doesn't have agreements in place with any US wireless carriers. This is still the case with the OnePlus 6.
The OnePlus 6 is the successor to the OnePlus 5T, which was released in November 2017 and discontinued in North America after only four months. Basically, the OnePlus 6 is a less-pricey knockoff of the Samsung S9 Plus, and it has some of the cool gestures used with the iPhone X.
SEE: Photos: The OnePlus 6 smartphone (TechRepublic)
The 64 GB version is priced at $529, and the top-of-the-line 256 GB version is $629. The OnePlus 6 has the same fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor as the Galaxy S9, and it has twice the RAM, at 8 GB. Technically, the OnePlus 6 also has more storage than the US version of the Galaxy S9, which only comes with 64 GB, but there's a caveat: The Samsung phone has a microSD slot to expand storage to 400 GB. (The European version of the Galaxy S9 comes with 128 GB and 256 GB options.) In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 ranges from $719 to $839, and the Galaxy S9 Plus ranges from $839 to $959.
- OnePlus 6: Images, specs and impressions from the launch (ZDNet)
- RIP ZTE: Which Chinese smartphone company is next? (ZDNet)
- How OnePlus might quickly champion the smartphone market (TechRepublic)
- Huawei and Xiaomi smartphone shares surge in Europe amid market decline (ZDNet)
What are the key features of the OnePlus 6?
The all-glass design of the OnePlus 6 is a first for the company—previous models featured an aluminum body. Gorilla Glass 5 is used on the front and back of the OnePlus 6, giving the phone slight curves for a sleek look; the company says this facilitates better transmission of radio waves to improve download speed by up to 1 gigabit.
The phone has a 6.28 inch Full Optic AMOLED 19:9 display, which is the largest screen that OnePlus has offered. The notch—which is necessary for electronics and has become a controversial feature of some mobile devices—is at the top of the display, The iPhone X keeps its notch on full display, but an OnePlus 6 user can choose to keep the notch visible or hide it by using a notification status bar.
The larger screen means that the navigation bar can be replaced with gesture control to free up more viewing space for a cleaner look. The gestures are for home, back, and recents.
SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)
New technology makes it the fastest handset OnePlus has produced, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, which improves performance over the 5T by 30%, while being 10% more power efficient. Coupled with the Adreno 630, which is 30% faster than the previous generation, the OnePlus 6 is great for streaming HD video and playing graphically intense games.
There's up to 8 GB of LPDDR4X RAM available, depending on the model, so that the phone can switch between multiple apps without any lag. The OnePlus 6's dual-lane storage, based on UFS 2.1, ensures faster app loading as well as read/write speeds.
The dual camera system features a 16MP main camera and a 20MP secondary camera. With an f/1.7 aperture, the 16MP main camera has a 19% larger sensor than the previous model, and it provides Optical Image Stabilization for use in a range of lighting conditions.
After launch, OnePlus will make portrait mode available on both the front and rear cameras. Using AI, the front camera is able to apply a depth of field effect to selfies. Newly added bokeh effects, including circles, hearts, and stars, are available for customized portraits. For video, the phone captures 4K video in up to 60 frames per second. Electronic Image Stabilization compensates for shaky movements while recording. There's also a super slow motion mode, which can capture HD video at up to 480 frames per second. The phone has an in-device video editor, so the user can trim and filter videos and add effects.
The OnePlus 6 uses the Android operating system OxygenOS. New features are vetted by OnePlus users through the OxygenOS Beta Program, and any feature that might improve the UX could be eventually added by OnePlus.
There's a gaming mode that allows people to play games without being bothered by notifications, which also reduces latency. Gaming mode will lower the amount of data assigned to apps running in the background and will give more data to the actual game being played.
The OnePlus 6 has a fast charge option, with a half-hour charge giving enough power for a full day's use. There's a dash charge option for fast charging while streaming videos or playing graphic-intensive games. Voltage is only 5 volts even for the fast charge option.
The facial recognition technology allows for a quick unlock in less than 0.2 seconds. This is an option users can choose to allow, or disallow, in settings. There's also a rear fingerprint sensor.
As for colors, the OnePlus 6 is available right now in mirror black, midnight black, and soon a limited edition will be available in silk white. The mirror black version looks like ceramic but has a thin layer of film under the glass to give it a sense of depth. The midnight black has a matte black finish that has a subtle S-shaped line underneath the glass layer when reflected in the light. The silk white has a polished, smooth texture with a subtle shimmer effect from pearl powder.
- OnePlus 6: Bigger screen, glossy look and an optional notch (CNET)
- Proof the OnePlus 6 takes good photos (CNET)
- 4 secrets: How to take professional photos with your smartphone (TechRepublic)
- Discover the Corning plant where Gorilla Glass was developed (TechRepublic)
Why should I buy the OnePlus 6?
You want a phone with all of the features of a high-end phone, but you want to save a couple hundred bucks. This phone is the real deal, with a large display, incredibly fast performance, reliable battery life, and excellent software.
The 8 GB of RAM means that you can have multiple apps open at once without any slowdown—it's the perfect phone for a multitasker.
And if you like to read on your phone, the OnePlus 6 uses gray-scale mapping that filters out blue light to provide a reading experience similar to an e-reader. The phone adjusts the sharpness and brightness of the display using information from the ambient sensor.
And a huge plus—the OnePlus 6 has a 3.5mm headphone jack. No matter how much Apple insists a smartphone doesn't need an audio jack, some people prefer it.
- Hardware purchasing task list (Tech Pro Research)
- Galaxy S9's new rival? OnePlus 6 will be as blazingly fast but with 256GB storage (ZDNet)
- How to run cloned versions of apps with OnePlus Parallel Apps (TechRepublic)
- How to add a second fingerprint for your OnePlus device (TechRepublic)
- How to use the OnePlus built-in app locker (TechRepublic)
- How to make sure your Android device is using the strongest network signal (TechRepublic)
Why should I not buy the OnePlus 6?
If you use Verizon or Sprint or another CDMA carrier, you're out of luck—the OnePlus 6 only works with GSM networks such as T-Mobile and AT&T.
Another downside is the lack of waterproofing or true water resistance. While OnePlus advertises the phone as water resistant, it does not have an IP rating, as does the iPhone 8 and X, the Galaxy S9, the Pixel 2 and other high-end phones. Take this to mean the phone could probably handle a small splash, but no dunking. Skip the OnePlus 6 if you are the type to accidentally jump in the pool with your phone still in your pocket, or to accidentally drop it in the sink or toilet.
If you're a wireless charging fan, this phone doesn't offer it.
Recent security issues involving OnePlus smartphones might give some users pause. As reported by TechRepublic, two separate backdoors into the devices were discovered in late 2017 that opened users to a security risk. It was also discovered that the company was quietly collecting customer data from devices, and that left users wary. OnePlus cut back on the data it was collecting after users complained.
- OnePlus: We'll fix flawed app that lets attackers root our phones (ZDNet)
- Special report: Cybersecurity in an IoT and mobile world (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Paranoia will destroy us: Why Chinese tech isn't spying on you (ZDNet)
- 10 easy ways to ruin your smartphone (TechRepublic)
- Android beats iOS and Windows as least-secure mobile OS, Nokia report finds (TechRepublic)
How can I get the OnePlus 6, and how much does it cost?
The OnePlus 6 went on sale May 22, 2018 on the OnePlus website in the US, Europe, and India. It is initially available only in midnight black and mirror black colors, but a special-edition silk white version will go on sale June 5, 2018.
- Mirror Black 6 GB/64 GB: US $529; UK £469
- Mirror Black 8 GB/128 GB: US $579; UK £519
- Midnight Black 8 GB/128 GB: US $579; UK £519
- Midnight Black 8 GB/256 GB: US $629; UK £569
- Silk White 8 GB/128 GB: US $579; UK £519
- Operating System: OxygenOS based on Android 8.1
- Display: 6.28 inches, 2280X1080, 19:9 aspect ratio
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
- GPU: Adreno 630
- RAM: 6 GB, 8 GB
- Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB
- Weight: 6.2 ounces
- Front Camera: 16MP
- Rear Camera: 16MP with Optical Image Stabilization, and 20MP
- Dimensions: 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75 mm
- Battery: 3,300 mAh
- Headphone jack: 3.5mm audio jack
- Connector: USB Type-C port
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, Glonass
- Colors: Midnight black, Mirror black, Silk white
- Sensors: Fingerprint, Hall, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light Sensor, Electronic Compass, Sensor Hub
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- The 10 best smartphones of 2018 (ZDNet)
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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 People, W and Women's Wear Daily.