The OnePlus 3T is proving a popular choice with punters, but how can OnePlus improve on it with 2017's OnePlus 5?
OnePlus isn't actually a company in its own right, either – did you know that?
OnePlus is actually a brand created and operated by BBK Electronics, a Chinese corporation that also owns OPPO and VIVO.
BBK is now the second largest smartphone maker on the planet, with all of its phone brands combined, though most of these sales are derived from its native market, China.
"The top three Chinese smartphone manufacturers are driving sales with their competitively priced, high quality smartphones equipped with innovative features," said Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner.
"Furthermore, aggressive marketing and sales promotion have further helped these brands to take share from other brands in markets such as India, Indonesia and Thailand."
Still, for many in the US and UK, OnePlus is the most visible brand operated by BBK. And now the latest and greatest phone from OnePlus is here.
After months of waiting, the OnePlus 5 is here and, boy, was it worth the wait! OnePlus has joined the fray with its most compelling release to date, adding in key improvements to core areas of the phone.
In a world of almost-$1000 phones, shoppers looking for value for money are kind of in a tough spot – or, they are if they want Samsung or Apple.
The new Galaxy Note 8 costs £849 in the UK and Apple's iPhone 8 is expected to retail for over £1000. The iPhone 7s will be cheaper, but no one will want that phone – not when they see the iPhone 8. Apple knows this as well, which is why it's getting aggressive with the upper pricing of its new flagship phone.
Prices are getting very high for handsets from the top two brands and, while this isn't exactly great for tech fans, it does open up some interesting opportunities for other phone makers looking to make in-roads into the hearts and minds of consumers the globe over.
OnePlus is the king of value for money, that's a given. Personally speaking, I'd much rather get a OnePlus 5 and pocket the savings and put it towards something useful like a 4K TV or a holiday, for instance.
One potential curve ball that could occur at some point before the close of 2017 is the OnePlus 5T. Now, this isn't a given – the 3T could (and probably was) a one off. Nevertheless, in the business of making phones, revenues are the name of the game and new phones mean new revenue streams.
The reason this could happen is Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 835 and it is this new chipset that could be used inside a slightly remodelled OnePlus 5 at some point during the hugely competitive Q4 period. As I said, this is not fact, just merely speculation on my part.
Plus, there are some issues with this model – if it is adopted wholesale across the OnePlus business. Personally speaking, I thought they launched the 3t a bit too soon after the 3 but they got away with it that time, however, I am not sure they will a second time – no one likes having the rug pulled from under them.
And if they did, theoretically adopt this model going forwards, a lot of people would hold off buying the main number phones and wait a few months for the T models, and this, of course, would lead to sales of the main number updates dropping off, which obviously is no good for business.
The increase in price for the new iPhone, which is coming later this year, and Samsung's new phones will make phones like the OnePlus 5 more attractive. But OnePlus isn't alone now; other brands are waking up to the fact that you can make a lot of new friends when you price your flagship offerings at competitive price points.
BUT – the OnePlus 5 is cheaper than ALL of them. And, as you will see below, there really is no good reason why this should be – the specs and hardware and design of the handset is superb, which, to me, makes the OnePlus 5 one of the best value for money phones around right now.
The OnePlus 3T is was a brilliant release, putting OnePlus well within striking distance of Apple and Samsung, but the OnePlus 5 is essentially the flagship killer we've all been waiting for.
The handset features specs that make Apple's iPhone 7 look remedial. Performance should be exceptional, as will imaging, thanks to the inclusion of a new, high-performance 16MP dual-sensor setup.
Available with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage, the OnePlus 5 is kitted out for pure performance. And best of all OnePlus has kept the price of the handset nice and low – it'll retail for £429 when it gets a release on June 27.
August 22 sees a new edition of the OnePlus 5 becoming official - the Slate Grey model now comes in an 8GB RAM with 128GB storage flavour; previously you could only get this memory combo on the Midnight Black version.
You can watch the full launch event in the video below:
Update: OnePlus has now issued a software update to the OnePlus 5 which will improve Wi-Fi connectivity and voice calling. The update will show up on a user's phone as OxygenOS 4.5.5 and weighs in at a 60MB download. It contains a pretty standard slew of optimisations and bug fixes.
Voice call quality should be clearer than before, while video recording doesn't drain the battery as much. The update also makes adjustments to vibration alerts for incoming calls so it is not as intense.
As well as improving Wi-Fi connectivity speed and stability more generally, the update specifically fixes an earlier issue with the phone displaying Wi-Fi signals as consistently weak regardless. Another resolved issue is where certain apps would not function on IPv6 networks.
Another update has now followed, being issued on August 1. OxygenOS 4.5.7 adds electronic image stabilisation (EIS) support for 4K video capture. Other tweaks include further Wi-Fi connectivity improvements and better battery performance in standby mode. The update also includes the July 1 Android Security Patch and Google Mobile Services package, and adds a new font called OnePlus Slate.
As usual, the update includes some bugfixes, they are as follows:
Fixed occasional sound leaks in the speakers when using earphones
Fixed camera shutter sound bug in silent mode for Indian region
Fixed missing sound channels when recording videos
Internal storage & RAM: 64GB with 6GB RAM OR 128GB with 8GB RAM
Primary Camera: Dual-Sensor; 16MP with f/1.7 aperture, 1/2.8" sensor size and 1.12 µm pixel size, optical stabilization (OIS) + 20 MP with f/2.6 aperture and 1.0 µm pixel size, phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED flash, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
2160p video @30fps, 1080p video @30/60fps, 720p video @30/120fps
Secondary Camera: 16MP with f/2.0 aperture and 1.0 µm pixel size, electronic stabilisation (gyro), 1080p video, Auto HDR
3.5mm jack: Yes
Connectivity: WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB Type-C 2.0
GPS: Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 3,300 mAh battery
Colors: Midnight Black, Slate Gray
Other: Fingerprint scanner
OnePlus 5 Features, Overview & What's New?!
OK, so straight out the gate OnePlus has done a few nifty things here. In order to make the phone truly global, it has added support for 34 network bands meaning you can connect from pretty much anywhere in the world. It's also the thinnest OnePlus flagship to date (with OnePlus apparently not counting the OnePlus X) at 7.25mm around the waist.
We should also point out that the rumored 4,000mAh battery turned out to be false, but it's still substantial at the previously rumored 3,300mAh. OnePlus is also saying the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 onboard, as well as providing peak performance, helps the battery give 20% longer runtime than the OnePlus 3T; while Dash Charge will apparently give you a full day's charge in 30 minutes. The RAM and storage rumors did prove correct, however, and you can get a hefty 6GB or 8GB depending on whether you choose the 64GB or 128GB storage models respectively.
OnePlus promises that the substantial RAM boost should improve multitasking significantly. What's more, the storage is using UFS 2.1 with two-lane ROM, which the firm says is up to 26% faster at reading and writing data.
Oxygen OS has also been tweaked, with OnePlus making a particular fuss of the dynamic display features which allow the software to tweak things on the fly; a special Reading Mode is included which is supposed to make reading e-books a joy. The handset also has a 3.5mm headphone jack and DCI-P3 supported AMOLED display.
"We're pleased that OnePlus has selected the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power their upcoming premium flagship smartphone, delivering some of the most advanced and immersive user experiences possible," said Alex Katouzian, senior vice president and general manager, mobile, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "It also enables support for next-generation entertainment experiences and connected cloud services."
"We design each of our flagship smartphones with premium quality in mind, both on the inside and outside, and we are happy to continue our long history of working with Qualcomm Technologies by selecting the Snapdragon 835 for its ability to drive a truly premium smartphone experience in the OnePlus 5," said Kyle Kiang, global head of marketing, OnePlus. "Its optimized functionality and top-notch performance is a perfect fit for our mantra to never settle for second-best experiences in our products."
The prize feature, however, is the camera, which we'll cover in the next section...
OnePlus 5 Camera
As rumoured, the device packs a dual-sensor camera array with both a 16MP sensor and a 20MP telephoto lens. The former has an f/1.7 aperture for allowing in tons of light and meaning it does well in low-light conditions. IT also has optical image stabilisation. The latter allows the handset to perform bokeh and depth-of-field effects and has a dedicated portrait mode. It also has super optimised autofocus with speeds enhanced by up to 40%.
A slew of the new camera features are powered by Qualcomm's internal hardware. Here's the low-down from Qualcomm itself:
"The OnePlus 5 also takes advantage of the integrated Qualcomm® Spectra™ 180 ISP's dual 14-bit image signal processing working in conjunction with the integrated Qualcomm® Hexagon™ DSP that uses HVX technology to accelerate many of the smartphone's enhanced imaging experiences.
For instance, the OnePlus 5 features the first high-resolution dual-camera system consisting of a 16MP camera sensor with a wide-angle lens plus a second 20MP camera sensors that has a telephoto lens. The two camera sensors work together to create a focal separation between faces and backgrounds, while custom software algorithms produce pictures with professional-looking bokeh effects.
Additionally, "Smart Capture" combines optical zoom with image stabilization and multi-frame image enhancement technologies to deliver a smooth zoom experience between the OnePlus 5's two cameras for recording high quality videos from a wide range of distances, with greater clarity.
The OnePlus 5 also comes with a large f/1.7 aperture and other advanced camera sensor technologies that when combined with the new hybrid auto-focus framework in Snapdragon 835, is designed to support faster snapshots with superior auto-focus performance in extreme lowlight scenarios. Photography enthusiasts and anybody who frequently uses their smartphone for recording videos will love the OnePlus 5."
HOWEVER – the overall quality of the camera has been called into question. Here's a bit from The Verge's review:
"OnePlus contends that this is the best camera it's ever shipped on a phone. I'm willing to believe that, however I'm not willing to accept the OnePlus 5 as a competitive entry in a contest that has advanced considerably with the introduction of the Google Pixel and the upgrade of the Galaxy S8 camera. Photography is now the biggest differentiator among Android phones, especially given how many companies have figured out how to do good design, big batteries, and (mostly) bezel-less screens. For OnePlus to stand out without its disruptive pricing, it needed to deliver something truly unique with its new camera system. On the evidence of my experience with the OnePlus 5, it has failed."
Though there are plenty of SIM-free offers around, as you can see below:
The OnePlus 5 Midnight Black colour option is now available via OnePlus' webstore and, as with the Slate Grey edition, OnePlus has switched things up from its earlier method of taking your order and then sitting on it for a bit; instead, it says shipping will happen immediately. The Midnight Black editon is available with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $539, up from the $479 of the 6GB RAM/64GB storage option.
"The latest flagship smartphone from OnePlus will be available on the network's renowned O2 Refresh tariffs in-store and online," said an O2 press release.
"Available for pre-order from today, O2 customers can get their hands on the OnePlus 5 Midnight Black with 128 GB of storage or OnePlus 5 Slate Grey with 64 GB of storage on tariffs offering from 500 MB to 30 GB data.
"For those who place their order during the first week of availability, tariffs include the 64 GB version for £49 per month for an impressive 30 GB data allowance and £51 per month for the 128 GB version with the same huge data allowance. Both tariffs come with a small upfront payment of £9.99.
"From 27th June, the only other place to purchase the OnePlus 5 in the UK, is online, directly from OnePlus. Subsequently from 29th June, standard pricing will apply with the 64GB version priced from £34 per month for 500MB data and the 128GB version from £36 per month. Both tariffs include the upfront payment of £9.99."
"As the only high street retailer in the UK to sell the OnePlus 5, we're proud to be continuing our relationship with OnePlus and bringing our customers the OnePlus 5," said Magnus McDonald, Director of Product and Category Management at O2. "Demand for OnePlus devices has exceeded all our expectations and we're excited to see how successful our partnership with OnePlus can be as we continue to move forward."