Update: OnePlus just announced that the OnePlus 2 will go on sale at 4 PM today on Amazon.
Last month, OnePlus, the scrappy little company that delivered last year’s surprise hit, the OnePlus One, made a bold prediction: that its next phone, the OnePlus 2, would be the “2016 flagship killer.”
OnePlus doesn’t care. The OnePlus One was priced at half of what Samsung’s flagship, the Galaxy S5 cost, and was just was powerful. It shook up smartphone pricing and redefined what customers came to expect from mid-tier smartphones.
With the OnePlus 2, which goes on sale on Tuesday, OnePlus is back for, well, round two.
What is it?
The OnePlus 2 is a high-end 5.5-inch phablet that costs Rs. 24,999 for a 64 GB version. It will be available exclusively on Amazon from Tuesday, August 11 as long as you have an invite (ugh). There are already 3 million people ahead of you but here’s how you can still snag one .
Why does it matter?
OnePlus hasn’t achieved Xiaomi levels of fandom in India (yet), but its user base is almost Apple-like in its passion. The company relies almost entirely on word of mouth to spread the word about its products (Literally. Last year it managed to sell over 5,00,000 devices with a marketing budget of just $300 ).
The OnePlus One sold over 1.5 million units. With the 2, the company has to prove that it wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
Wait, another huge phone? Will it fit in my hand?
Barely. Like the OnePlus One, the 2 is still a handful but it’s slightly less unwieldy than its predecessor. It’s kitted throughout with high-quality materials including that signature sandstone-textured plastic back that makes the phone incredibly grippy. That’s pretty vital—this is not a particularly thin or light phone, although it’s still narrower and shorter than the iPhone 6 Plus despite the same screen size.
The metal frame that runs around the edges gives it a refined, premium touch, which feels nice.
So what’s better in this phone than the OnePlus One?
The OnePlus 2 has a few neat tricks up its sleeve.
There’s an Alert Slider, a physical switch that lets you toggle between three different sound profiles — None (disables all notifications), Priority (notifications only from important contacts) and All—without having to fiddle around with settings on the screen. The iPhone has had a hardware button to do this since it launched in 2007, but on Android, this is unprecedented (and pretty awesome).
There’s also a fingerprint sensor, which doubles as the Home button. It stopped recognising my fingerprints early on, but a software update (mostly) fixed this. It works 9 out of ten times with the occassional hiccup. Unlike the iPhone, which needs you to wake up the device first before activating the fingerprint scanner, the OnePlus 2 can be unlocked even when the screen is off, which is much faster.
I also liked the ability to quickly swap the rear cover. OnePlus offers four other cover options — everything from Bamboo to Kevlar—to suit your style.
A quick note: If having a removable battery and a microSD card slot is important for you, the OnePlus 2 doesn’t offer either, although a 64 GB model should be enough for most people.
What’s it like to use every day?
Here’s what you’ll be interacting with the most: the big, bright, sharp 5.5-inch 1080P display. The viewing angles are amazing, but the colours are slightly washed out for my taste. A little more ‘pop’ would have been nice.The OnePlus is powered by the Snapdragon 810 chipset and 4 GB RAM — yeah, it’s a real screamer — and handles everything from quickly switching between multiple apps to 3D games just fine. And no, it never got uncomfortably hot, something that was a major conern before it launched, because this particular chipset had known heating issues.
The 2 runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1 and includes some new features like a screen called Shelf, which houses recently used apps and contacts, but overall, OnePlus has left Android largely untouched. This is the sort of restraint I’d like more companies to show as they slather their own features over Google’s version of the operating system.
I was concerned, initially, about the phone’s battery life till it received a last-minute software update, which got it about 14 hours — not bad but not great. It charges via USB-C, a new type of connector that lets you plug in the cable any way you want (no more fumbling!). On the flip side, I can guarantee that no one around you will have a spare one if you forget yours at home.
The OnePlus One also skips NFC, a popular technology in almost all high-end smartphones that lets tap your phone to make payments or pair other accessories such as speakers.
What’s the camera like?
It’s much better than the OnePlus One. Its 13 megapixel images are full of detail and free of graininess in low light. That said, camera tech has taken big leaps this year and the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the iPhone 6 Plus cameras are still a notch about the OnePlus 2.
So what’s the verdict?
I’ve always thought that the OnePlus One didn’t feel like a first-generation product from an unknown company. With the 2, OnePlus has done it again by making a refined product that ticks off most, if not all, checkboxes for devices that cost twice as much. It begs the question: if a two-year-old startup can offer such killer value for relatively little money, why would anyone pay outrageous amounts of cash to Samsung or LG?
Skip the OnePlus Two if you already own the OnePlus One. But if you don’t — and if you can get an invite — I recommend it strongly.
Tushar Kanwar is a technology columnist who has written for The Telegraph, Outlook Money, and GQ India. He tweets @2shar .