You’ve seen it leaked again and again, but now we have the full and official details about the OnePlus 2, the second-generation smartphone built by the OnePlus company around the mantra “Never Settle”.
Some of you have discovered this brand with the original OnePlus 1 smartphone, which made the headlines for its high-end features and very competitive prices. The OnePlus 2 continues this push towards offering users with extreme value, except that it pushes the whole concept to the next level.
We had some quality time with the OnePlus 2, and here’s what we think about it. Ready?
Let’s get this out of the way, and to give to some frame of reference, here are the specifications highlights of the OnePlus 2:
- 5.5” IPS LCD display (178 degrees view-angle)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM
- 16Gb to 64GB of storage (no microSD slot)
- OxygenOS, based on Android 5.1
- 13 Megapixel camera with 1.3 micron pixels
- Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
- Laser-focus (0.33 ms focus time, says OnePlus)
- Dual nano-SIM, 4G LTE
- USB Type-C port
- Fingerprint reader
- 3300 mAh li-poly battery
- 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.85 mm, 175g
Obviously, many elements in the list above are new, so the most important (to me) are the Snapdragon 810 processor, the image stabilization, the general build quality, and the USB Type-C port. On the software side, OnePlus is now using its own “OxygenOS”, which is a custom version of Android 5.1 – more on that later.
OnePlus is particularly proud of the build quality that it is able to put together with this device. With the emergence of phones such as the Galaxy S6 or the LG G Flex 2 the pressure to produce excellent designs on the Android platform has increased dramatically, and it’s not easy for a small company that produces relatively small volumes to compete.
Yet, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of quality of the OnePlus 2 design. Upon holding it, you can literally feel that the quality is much higher than its predecessor. For a phone that costs about half the price of traditional big-brands high-end phones, this is a feat that should not be underestimated.
And OnePlus is made a lot of progress with the back cover designs as well. Previously, it was very hard for them to produce those custom covers. When talking with OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, he mentioned that the old covers had an antenna which made them expensive and more difficult to build.
The OnePlus 2 design has the antenna completely integrated in the phone, which makes the covers easier and cheaper to build. This time around, the company intends to fulfill its vision for a beautiful -and available- line of back covers. And they are beautiful. Pretty everyone will like one variant of the wood cover, but there’s truly something for everyone, including a Carbon-like design.
There are other details that are worth looking at. Of course, the usage of USB Type-C is very nice, but it’s a natural evolution. The metal frame one the sides is very nice, and comparable in quality with much more expensive phones. The little 3-stage button to control the audio alerts is a little touch that shows OnePlus cares about the user experience: who wants to unlock the phone and do a couple of swipes and a tap, just to turn the sound OFF for a meeting (FYI – Android has 3 different sound status: full, vibrate, none)?
Thinness is the point where the OnePlus 2 is clearly challenged about. Many people won’t mind, but those who love super-thin phones will notice that this handset is quite substantial.
The 1080p display won’t wow you on the paper – there are clearly much sharper screens than this one. However, it’s hard to complain about this for a $320 (unlocked phone) with very good specs. The OnePlus team has picked an IPS display with great color rendering, which is arguably more important than the raw sharpness. With its positioning, this is an excellent trade-off that users should be very happy with.
The screen was very readable, and the experience was very good during photo shoots or video playback. You can definitely be picky and put your eye 2-inches away and point out to stuff. You can definitely say that other phones show sharper nature photos… but would you pay 2X the price just for that? Maybe not.
Like its predecessor, the OnePlus 2 has a 13 Megapixel camera. This is pretty good, arguably good enough for a smartphone use. But Megapixel is really not the most important metric for photo quality. This phone has a larger pixel size, and a larger sensor. According to the phone maker, this translates to a 30% increase in incoming light, which is “the” fundamental building block for photo quality.
Next to that, you’ve got the processing power of the Snapdragon 810 and its ISPs (Image Signal Processors) that allow all kinds of post-sensor treatments that highly impact photo quality. Finally, OnePlus now has a dedicated team of engineers who will tweak the image processing to what the company believes is the best set of parameters.
Digital photography and tuning is sometimes more art than science, and companies such as Apple may not have the “best” photo quality at all times, but they have been able to provide a very consistent photo experience, which is why their users highly regard the overall camera experience. This is this level of consistency that OnePlus aims to deliver to its own users.
Photo quality & samples
Off the bat, the photo quality in good lighting is very good. I did not have an opportunity to shoot photos in low-light and under controlled conditions, but when you look at it on the screen and use the photos on social media, the OnePlus 2 is perceptibly equivalent to the best out there: the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6.
However, when I opened the photos on my PC and took a closer look, I could see that the Galaxy S6 still maintains an edge. Upon a closer inspection, the S6 has less processing going on and preserved details better. Still, for a casual use, the OnePlus 2 delivers great color control, and I’m looking forward to shooting more photos with it. Check out the full-size photos on Flickr.
Software / UI
Previously OnePlus used Cyanogen, which is a very popular Android derivative. This was great, but the company wanted more control over the timetable of the releases, and the user experience, so it has built its own Android branch called OxygenOS.
Overall, OxygenOS keeps a lot of the look and feel of the stock Android, but OnePlus has made some changes wherever it saw potential for friction or user displeasure. Things can be as simple as making some everyday tasks simpler, or making it easier for people to customize their phones, thanks to a pre-selection of well tuned color-palettes – just to cite the easy ones.
I asked OnePlus’ Bridget Hickey to show you the look and feel of OxygenOS, watch this video:
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor on board, we already know that the OnePlus 2 is going to fare quite well, especially since Qualcomm had ample time to tune their driver. While it may not win the “absolute” CPU performance in synthetic tests, the early benchmarks show that it is very capable of handling itself in very demanding benchmarks such as 3D gaming, which is the single most power-hungry thing people tend to do with their phones.
In fact, its score on a benchmark like GFXBench Manhattan shows clearly that it is among the fastest phones. It is actually faster than the iPhone 6 and 6+ which cost twice as much.
When you look at performance from the prism of “performance for the price”, the OnePlus shows its real nature: it just crushes every single competitor because its pricing is so aggressive. And it makes sense: all the sudden, you have the same performance as something like the LG G4 – one of our favorite phones – but at nearly half the price. If you like playing Android games, this is one of the better way to spend your money.
With a 3300 mAh battery, the OnePlus 2 ranks among the large-capacity phones, so it can compete very decently here. We haven’t had time to run any battery tests, but these should be posted in the coming days, so let’s wait and see. I expect it to be in-line with other phones of the same capacity.
It’s important to note that the battery is not removable, even if the back cover can be changed. I’m not sure why. This typically a choice that applies to super-thin phones, which is not the case here.
On another topic, if you look at “battery capacity” from a absolute standpoint, it is doing quite well in general. And from a “battery per dollar spent”, it is also among the best options out there. In fact, only the Huawei Mate 2 (big battery phone) and the Moto G (very affordable) can beat it because they are specialized phones in specific niches.
Also, there is no wireless charging option (like a special back cover). At this point, OnePlus doesn’t believe that wireless charging offers an optimal user experience (I’m not sure I agree). Unfortunately, fast-charging (via something like Qualcomm’s Quick-Charge 2.0) is not available either. We will have to measure how fast the phone is charging to be certain.
What’s not in the OnePlus 2
- NFC: wireless payments and Bluetooth device pairing are made easier with this feature. OnePlus explains why it’s not included.
- Wireless charging
- Quick Charge : it means you have to wait longer to have a full charge.
- MicroSD slot: fortunately, the price of the 64GB version still remains quite affordable
"THE ONEPLUS 2 CANNOT BE IGNORED"The OnePlus 2 is everything I expected it to be – and more. I was surprised by the level of build-quality that OnePlus has been able to squeeze in there, and can only imagine what will happen if their sales volume goes further up. The comparison data between OnePlus 2 vs. OnePlus 1 tells a lot about how much progress has been made.
The main proposition of this phone is three-fold:
1/ Users get well-build, nicely designed phone, without apparent branding.
2/ The OS has a “stock Android” look and feel, with customizations to make life easier
3/ An excellent value for the price and high-end features
It’s easy to think in terms of “specs” or in terms of “absolutes”, but while it’s true that the experience can be (somewhat) disconnected from the retail price, the build quality cannot. OnePlus has chosen a smart approach of delivering an extremely high-quality, for the price. If you care about value, the OnePlus 2 simply cannot be ignored.
This article is also available in French.