OnePlus 3 review: Beware flagships! Thy days are numbered

  • Anirban Ghoshal, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jun 21, 2016 13:23 IST
The phone has a 360-degree fingerprint sensor in the front, an alert slider button on the side just like an iPhone and the usual volume rocker and power buttons. (Sonu Mehta/ Hindustan Times)

It was not long ago, charged by the smartphone race, that consumers started dreaming of owning a mobile phone that would not only be cheap but would also give giants like Samsung, Apple and LG a run for their money. And it its from these dreams rose flagship killers and who better than Chinese handset-maker OnePlus, who coined the very term, to lead the race with its latest smartphone OnePlus 3 priced at Rs 27,999.

However, the company has had failures with its previous two devices - OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X - after enjoying success off its first device named OnePlus One. The failures and the affordable price points also let Chinese companies like Xiaomi, Gionee and Vivo to take some pie of the market. But OnePlus is back with a vengeance with the new 3.

Finally, a phone which can give flagship smartphone models from rivals at much higher price bands a run for their money. The 3 impressed me in the first few days of usage but here is a more detailed review of the phone which has now been with me for over a week.

I sensed that the 3 was riding on a lot of expectations, not only from me as a reviewer but from a lot of consumers who badly wanted a good phone at a more affordable price. I nearly drowned amidst colleagues who wanted a peek at the new device. So I decided to give the device a hard time and how do you do that to an Android phone? Simple, dump and download as much data on to it and see if it slows down.

(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times)

To my surprise, the phone kept its head high and didn’t even slow down. The Oxygen OS which is based on Android Marshmallow didn’t start acting quirky at all. Score 1 for the for the phone. But then I realised that I hadn’t paid much attention to the design of the device except for thinking that it was a cool looking device. Turning it in my hands, I discovered that the OnePlus 3 is definitely a gorgeous looking phone to say the least. It sports an all-metal unibody design carved from a single slab of space-grade aluminium alloy with curved edges on the side which OnePlus spent three months to confirm as a design. The device thickness stands at 7.3mm which is quite impressive as it packs a lot of power inside along with a 6GB RAM unit. Safe to say score 2 (I think)!

(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times)

Being a reviewer, I couldn’t help turn my attention to the big claims that the company has been making and I picked dash charge - a term coined again by the company to differ from rivals who offen use Quick Charge or Fast Charge to make a selling proposition. “A day’s power in half an hour” - this line has some ring to it but how much of it is true? Not entirely as the dash charge will only last for a day on normal conditions usage and not during heavy usage which might include longer video, chat or GPS sessions. Dash charge essentially takes the phone’s 3,000 mAh battery from zero to 60 percent in just 30 minutes. And there is a catch as well, dash charge is only possible with the adapter that comes with the phone and not with any other adapter. Anyways, the 3’s Type-C port will also need you to carry the USB cable around although Type-C ports are getting popular. However, I believe that dash charge is marketing garble but if you are a loyal OnePus fan then this what you shall believe: “Dash Charge carries more current than other charging solutions, and at lower temperatures, by shifting the power management process from the phone itself to the Dash Charge adapter, so a vast majority of the heat generated while charging never reaches the device.”

The battery performance on the device is fairly OK but don’t expect it to carry throughout the day if you are an heavy user but we also have to keep in mind that flagships also give way middle of the day. However, OnePlus has tried different power optimisations to draw the best out of 3,000 mAh lithium rock.

(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times)

Well, lets play cheery again and this means we are talking about the awesome display. The OnePlus 3 comes with 5.5-inch 1080p Optic AMOLED display with smallest of bezels. While the screen may not matchup with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Super AMOLED, it is still one of the best out there. Now what in God’s name is an Optic display? Simply put, it is a variation of the Super AMOLED display but with lesser temperature and colour tone. OnePlus has achieved the same with software adjustments. This means that while OnePlus 3’s display will be able to go close to Galaxy S7’s capability but at the same time use up less power and give better battery life. Hence there is no doubt that videos and pictures are a delight on the 5.5-inch display.

After the phone was ready to take on the task of handling my daily usage, I tried to test the camera with the apprehension that the stock Android camera app will disappoint me although Google has added some features to it like slow motion, manual, panoroma and time lapse. The 16-megapixel rear camera performed ok but not to the flagship level. The added advantage is the next-gen OIS or optical image stabilisation. The camera can capture distinguished colours but is nowhere near to the Samsung S7, HTC 10 or the iPhone 6S. I was a little disappointed with the front camera as it did not offer a wide-angle view for selfies.

Once my fingers’ appetite for clicking the software shutter was filled, I moved on to play with the downloaded apps and games on the phone. The 3’s top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor – which features two 2.2GHz cores paired with two 1.6GHz cores and an Adreno 530 GPU - coupled with the titanic 6GB RAM was a delight. Switching between apps and games were fast but the performance faltered a bit when switching between three heavy games as it took time to load after the switch. If you are someone who cares for AnTuTu scores then the 3 will impress you here as well as it is nearly on top of the order.

The other interesting aspect about the phone is the 360-degree fingerprint sensor which is blazing fast. However wet fingers are a problem. Other pluses of the OnePlus 3 are adaptive brightness, ambient display, home screen and screen-off gesture controls and custom icon pack support along with NFC, Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi support. However, the phone has no expandable memory and you have to be content with the inbuilt storage of 64 GB.

(Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times)

The company has also brought out a few accessories with the phone which inlcudes snap-on rear case in variations of karbon, bamboo, rosewood or black apricot, a sandstone case, a flip cover in black, gray or sand, a tempered glass screen protector, a Dash Charge USB Type-C cable, a dash charge power adaptor and a dash charge car charger. But all these accessories will have to be bought separately.

So, the OnePlus 3 is the closest to the dream of being an affordable flagship killer smartphone. If the quirks are gone and battery life improves, which I am guessing will happen with the next instalment as OnePlus is on the right track, then Apple, Samsung, LG and HTC should take guard.

Availability: Amazon India

Full Specifications: 5.5-inch screen | 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display (401ppi) | Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4mm | Weight: 158 grams | Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with Adreno 530 GPU | 6GB RAM | 64GB storage | 16MP main camera | 8MP selfie camera | USB-C port (Dash Charge 5V/4A) | 3,000mAh battery | Fingerprint scanner | NFC | Bluettoth 4.1 | WiFi | Dual-SIM | 3.5mm headphone jack | Oxygen OS (Android 6.0.1)

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