Review: OnePlus 6

Introduction

Few phones excite me as much as when OnePlus is about to announce their new devices. I believe it is a combination of the expected value and what the barrier company will break next. When the OnePlus 6 was announced I was however, like so many others, disappointed that they did not include wireless charging. 

But how has the phone stacked up in my real-world usage? After owning the OnePlus 6 for one month, here is my opinion on the fan-favorite smartphone.

Index:

Hardware

Specifications for Days

I'm starting to wonder if these tables are necessary, but anyway. OnePlus have always prided themselves with offering specs so good that you cannot ask for more. The OnePlus 6 comes equipped with the best of what 2018 have had to offer yet and with the highest Ram-configurations at 6 or 8GB.

CPU Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
Storage 64, 128 or 256GB
RAM 6GB(64BG) or
8GB(128&256GB)
Battery 3300 mAh
Display 6.28" 1080p+ AMOLED
Glass Protection Corning Gorilla Glas 5
Rear Camera Dual 16MP OIS f/1.7 and
20MP f/1.7
Front Camera 16MP, f/2.0
Ports USB: 2.0, Type-C.
Audio
: 3,5 mm
Extra Splash-proof (water resistance)
 
It is usually easy to point at more being better, but RAM is ment to be used, and on my OnePlus 6 the average used memory over the past day is 4.4 GB.

Now RAM usage and management in Android is a hard subject. Recent leaks point to the Google Pixel 3 XL only having 4GB of RAM while others discuss the unnecessarily high number Chinese manufacturers are packing with 8GB. 
It is usually easy to point at more being better, but RAM is ment to be used, and on my OnePlus 6 the average used memory over the past day is 4.4 GB. So that is about 3.6GB of RAM mostly unused and in Android or Linux terms is wasted.

I feel like the RAM-fixation that is going around is getting a little bit out of hand, and I see people thinking 6GB of memory considered a downgrade. I like to see the number, but realistically speaking I think Google is on-to something, sticking with 4GB. 
Where I would like to see OnePlus focus next is in battery-capacity. Imagine the OnePlus 6T with a larger 4000 mAh battery.

The Snapdragon 845 is a great performer and much to my surprise actually made a difference from the 835 which I initially did not anticipate.  

Build

Looking at build quality the OnePlus 6 is the step-up people have been waiting for. While the OnePlus 5 and 5T were nicely made with their aluminium builds they looked to much like the iPhones of the year before. That combined with the fragile and cheap feeling I experienced the 6's glass build is a welcome upgrade.
Now I know that I am strange in thinking that glass feels safer, I also know that it breaks easier. But the phone feels more sturdy to me.

OnePlus managed to retain the matt black color option giving us a glass back like no other. Looking straight at it I would be hard to convince that it is made of glass. Feeling it in hand gives it away though, and there is a nice reflection above the colored layer if you tilt it in off-angles. Just like before the phone is light, easy to hold and very thin. The back is rounded making it feel even thinner than it is. The aluminium frames holding the glass together is also slightly angled or curved, making it feel like it is meeting the back glass half-way. 

Truthfully though, while the in-hand feel is good I think this is starting to stretch my comfort zone for smartphone size. Since having held the LG G7 ThinQ in my hand (read my unboxing here) the OnePlus 6 feels just about over-sized. 

The phone's design is well thought out, blending inspiration from several pricier competitors with the placement of the camera sensors, oval shaped fingerprint sensor and curved glass. The Midnight Black variant that I have been testing reflects the light in an exiting way giving you this purple curve captured in the first image. I will always applaud OnePlus for their modest take on company logos. The only thing I wish OnePlus would have done is place the camera flash in between the two lenses, like other manufacturers have started doing. The Designed by OnePlus logo does not bother me, but I am confused as to why it is so hidden on the matt-black backing. 

The Alert Slider have been the stand-out hardware feature of OnePlus devices since the OnePlus 2 and I am glad that it's still here. OnePlus decided to move it this tima and positioned it above the power-button. They also refined it this time around, making it simpler. Instead of changing the Android notification settings for Do Not Disturb, Priority and Normal when switched it simply sets the volume between Ring, Vibrate and Silent. You can also set it to turn off media volume in Silent mode. Both changes are actually improvements in my mind.
As such the volume buttons control the Media Volume by default. For users like me, who wears a smartwatch I love the fact that I can easily get a look at my media volume by pressing the buttons. I rarely ever change my notification volume anyway, so when I need to the Alert Slider does fill a great role.

As with previous devices OnePlus is nice enough to include a factory-mounted screen protector. This is not the premium Tempered Glass protector you want to have on your phone, but it is a great way to make sure you don't scratch it until you can apply one of your choosing. For me it has been on for the entire month with only a few scratches.

Now I recall complaining about scratches on my OnePlus 5T's body coming from using the official case in the box. I decided not to use the clear case with my 6, but instead go straight for an official Sandstone Case with from OnePlus. I am saddened to say that this case also left a mark on my 6's frame.

It is a small mark, not really bothering anyone. But since I finance my review-units through second hand selling and sometimes exchanging phones I can't have my phones losing value.
Also, personally I have a hard time accepting when a product this expensive (respectively speaking) starts showing wear and tear.

Now I don't know what is happening here. Maybe I have an abnormally large amount of pocket-lint, or maybe I am just unlucky. Either way I will carefully consider how to protect my next OnePlus device, seeing as my cases seem to mostly be the cause of harm thus far.

Display

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OnePlus have yet again equipped their phone with an Amoled panel sporting a resolution of 1080 x 2280, also known as 1080p+. Given the screen size you get a pixel-density of 402 pixels per inch. 

I know some people would prefer a more scientific description of color-accuracy and sharpness, but all I can give you is that I find the display very pleasant when it comes to both.
This is a large screen and sharpness is so good that I have to get it really close to my face to try and see pixelation, so close that my eyes cross and the display looks blurred because of my distorted eye-sight.
Colors are as they usually are with Amoled-displays vibrant and popping with deep blacks. While it is not the brightest of screens it is very readable in most lighting conditions and if you find yourself in a dark room it also gets very dim.

The notch, as well as the chin are present but like I have previously stated I do not mind neither. The Chin is rounded and curved so that it gives the illusion of being really small. The notch is also narrow and since I usually dismiss or look at my notifications right away I would not want to see more of them than what is displayed now. Truthfully a packed notification bar makes me more anxious than one with a maximum of four.
You can "hide the notch" with software coloring but as others have pointed out this makes the screen look unsymmetrical, and I personally do not like a black status bar with icons on it. I prefer leaving the notch visible.

Software - Breath it in

Oxygen OS. There is a reason why every tech-reviewer out there praise OnePlus' in-house Android Skin and once you have tried it it is hard to imagine really liking anything else again. It is clean and minimalistic while still being equipped with most features I actually see myself using. 

OnePlus' software department was built out of developers from the previously popular Custom-ROM Paranoid Android and it shows. Looking a lot like stock Android as Google intended it but with some design touches, feature additions and under-the-hood optimizations this is the smoothest experience you get from modern smartphones. Seeing as people used Paranoid Android or CyanogenMod to get break free from the manufacturer skins of Samsung and LG, OnePlus deployed a smart tactic here by using it as a base for their software.

OnePlus have made one of the few Launchers that does not need any excuse to keep me from using third party alternatives. It is fast, fluid and simple yet has everything I really need. Shelf is a great addition, and I love the ability to create a shortcut widget with direct app-actions (the same you get when you long press an app that supports it). As an example I use my Banking app's Log In shortcut as well as Swish (Swedish app for quick mobile payments between phone numbers) direct payment shortcut. I also use the Deezer Play Flow shortcut quite frequently.
The Hidden Space in the app drawer is also a quick way to either hide sensitive apps, or as I do hide apps I don't use very often if ever so that the main drawer is less cluttered.
If you don't like scrolling through the app-drawer you can enable quick-search which immediately opens the keyboard for searching when you swipe up for the app-drawer. 

One of OnePlus' most visible design changes from Stock Android is the launcher's Folder design which lays it on the bottom of the screen and ditches the white boxed background for transparency. The neat part here is that you can swipe down anywhere to close the folder, or press on an empty space if you so chose.

Speaking of smartphone software another important area to mention comes in updates. Specifically Android updates, and so far OnePlus handles these with finess. You might recall my test of the Android P Developer Preview, well OnePlus also released an open Oxygen OS beta a few days ago officially updating the 6 to Android 9 Pie. Oxygen OS betas are known to be stable, so any trigger happy user might jump on the band wagon today.
Either way this should imply that a stable release is imminent which is another point to Oxygen OS and OnePlus as both LG and Samsung remain quiet about their update-schedule. 

OnePlus have also adopted to Googles seamless updates (or A/B system updates), meaning that the phone installs the new update before rebooting, and then simply boots to the second partition. It is all quick and painless, but no less more secure.

Features

The Settings menu on the OnePlus 6 is much like on Stock Android, simple and easily navigated.

I have probably forgotten something, but this is just a list to give you an overview. Most of the features implemented into Oxygen OS are ment to simplify the everyday use of your smartphone.

  • Full-Screen Gestures: Utilize the full extent of the large display by removing the software-buttons and use swipe-gestures to go home, back and to the recent apps screen.
    You can also customize the Software-Buttons by swapping sides for the back and recent buttons as well as pick actions for long-pressing or double tapping.
  • Gaming Mode: Prioritize when gaming. Gaming Mode lets you stop interrupting notifications, automatically answer phone calls with the externat speaker and prioritize hardware for the game itself.
  • Parallel Apps: Have two of the same apps available. Useful for public figures or people like me who have two Instagram-accounts.
  • Simple Theming: Oxygen OS gives you the option to use the default Android Theme, a Light Theme or the popular Dark Theme. You also get to chose accent colors.
  • Audio Tuner: Equalizer for headphones.
  • Earphone Mode: Lets you dictate what should happen when earphones are inserted or activated like having it Automatically resuming audio.
  • Ambient Display: Utilizing the Amoled display the OnePlus 6 can activate a portion of the screen to show you the time, current date, battery status, and your notifications if you lift the device or have incoming notifications.
  • OnePlus Switch: Pre-installed app that lets you transfer files from your old devices to your new OnePlus device. (ex. messages, calls, and Wi-Fi settings)

It is also the lack of extensive features or Android modifications that make Oxygen Os so smooth and pleasant to use. I guess you can tell how much I like it.

The Navigation gestures are a nice addition and I like the fact that they don't disrupt normal usage such as the Xiaomi ones do with the back-gesture. The animations could use some work though as they are primarily the standard android animations. This is especially noticeable with the the recent apps gesture since you swipe the card to the middle before it pops back down to the bottom of the display. 

In my usage I utilize the gestures every day. I like the modern feeling as well as the added screen space. You'd be amazed at how quickly you forget to account for the home button when typing on a touch-screen, leading to accidental presses the first few days if I use the old buttons. 

Parallel Apps is a great addition to me as I can have my private account as well as my Mobile Swede account on the phone at the same time. This feature can easily be obtained on any phone using apps like Parallel Space

Even though I really appreciate all of these simple features and additions, Oxygen OS is still king much thanks to The Speed You Need. A marketing slogan that, however cheesy, is actually realized.

Truth is, whilst not terrible I have had occasions were I have been worried about my battery lasting

Battery Life and Stability

Battery Life on the OnePlus 6 was one of my initial issues with the phone. I am happy to say that it has gotten better, but it is still far from a battery champion. Reading up on the claimed benefits of the Amoled Display-technology for battery-life I have actually gotten the impression that it helps when most of the screen is black, due to not using those pixels. It also works pretty well in a lot of games or movies, but simple web-browsing where a lot of the display is lit up with white backgrounds the screen technology is actually worse for battery life.

This is also present in my usage as I have been impressed with the battery usage when playing PUBG, but not so much when I am reading up on the internet such as one does.
Since my usage is more of the latter than the former I could actually be badly effected by the use of an Amoled panel. Basically it feels like I am seeing almost 20% battery drain for every [combined] one hour of screen on time.

I could use battery benchmarking, but seeing as every user utilize their unit differently I think my usage should be more telling in this case. The OnePlus 6's battery life is not bad, it's just not that great either. I have on the other hand seen others post images of 6+ hours of screen on time, and it all depends on what you use your phone for, how much, and how good you are at optimizing the settings. I do not activate battery-saving techniques besides turning off the always-on Wi-Fi scanning, and I don't think most average users do.

  • Do you have any special techniques to get the most out of your phones battery?

Dash-Charging, or Warp-Charging is still a God-send, as usual. I do not think a quick charger makes up for a bad battery life, but since I always make it home before having to worry too much a quick charging session lets the OnePlus 6 walk through the rest of the day without breaking a sweat. 

Truth is, whilst not great I have had occasions were I have been worried about my battery lasting, and that should be the most telling part.

When it comes to phone stability Oxygen OS does a great job at keeping smooth no matter what. I have not had a single app crash during my usage, it even connects well to the Fitbit app and the Fitbit Ionic. It is like the phone never really breaks a sweat and it does not get warm enough to warrant a mention.

Gaming on the OnePlus 6 is great and I have had plenty of time to shoot people in PUBG without a single slow-down. As I mentioned battery life is also quite good when gaming.

Camera

As I said in the OnePlus 6 vs. Xiaomi Mi Mix 2s comparison: This is the year were OnePlus set out to redefine their camera-game, further closing the gap between premium and budget-flagship camera performance. 

The OnePlus 6's Dual Camera setup consists of one 16MP primary shooter with f/1.7 aperture and OIS and one 20MP with the same focal length and aperture but without OIS. OnePlus also states that the 20MP secondary camera utilizes 16MP and is ment to assist the primary camera with depth sensing for Portrait mode. 

OnePlus have also been nice enough to give you direct access to Google Lens through the camera app, which will please Google fans. Whilst not very useful at the moment it did help us identify that the foreign language on a Guinness bottle was Hebrew. 

OnePlus' camera app is easily navigated, simple, and effective. 

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The available modes are not many, but each one offers their own options directly from the viewfinder. For auto mode this is for example the ability to change the aspect ratio, activate hdr, turning on/off the flash, or setting a timer. 

Auto Mode

The OnePlus 6 is, in daylight conditions a very competent camera performer. I do not worry for the quality outcome as much as I worry for my skills as a photographer. Overcast weather with a bright white sky is however difficult for the phone, and best portrayed by the second picture you can see the sky looking very over-exposed. 
Overall pictures turn out with sharpness and vivid colors.

It is, however, not a very versatile camera, and with the second lens having such an undefined role in normal photos there is not much more to do than point and shoot. This is of course comparing it to other phones with a second lens with a defined purpose, such as a wide-angled, telephoto, or monochrome functionality. 

This is not neccessarily a bad thing, just something to be aware of. 

Portrait Mode

Seeing as I was happy with the portrait mode on the OnePlus 5T I came in expecting good results. Mostly that is the case, but I also feel like the camera optimization have taken a hit, and while blurring out the background for a Bokeh effect the subject is also blurred ever so slightly.

Low Light

Most of the time, low-light photography results in accurate colors and relatively pleasant details. The OnePlus 6 is no champion in the field of low-light mind you, but it does an ok job. 
The orange hue I encountered in my first impressions are still present, although I believe the culprit to be streetlights, making the camera adapt to the warm light tones as best it can. White dogs will therefor remain slightly orange.

Selfies

Now I have a hard time judging the Selfie camera, because a lot of the time it is good. But then sometimes, especially in the face of white clouds holding a monopoly over the sky, it over-exposes a lot. The selfies above, showing both a normal selfie and a portrait mode selfie, the sky is very bright and almost studio-light like.

But then there are times when the selfies come out very well, with the blue skies being visible and everything detailed. I guess it depends on how important the background is to you, when it comes to selfies.

Pro Mode

As normal, and to be expected, the OnePlus 6 offers a full Pro Mode with support for capturing RAW pictures. The layout is pretty straight forward and easily navigated. As I am not familiar with shooting in Pro Mode however, I have not tested the quality personally.

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The UI gives you a full histogram as well as the ability to see how tilted the device is and the wheel for changing stats such as ISO or White Balance is a nice design choice. 

Video

For video-makers out there the OnePlus 6 offers a variety of options including 4K at 60 FPS, slow motion in 1080 at 280 FPS or 720p at 420 FPS as well as a time-laps mode.

Stability seems to be improved from the 5T thanks to optical image stabilization and the quality is overall good. Slow motion in 720p is of course good, but the loss in resolution makes me lean towards the 1080p option firstly. 

Conclusion

The OnePlus 6 is a great benchmark of what good software does to a phone, and a pleasure to use. My only real complaint is the battery life, which is not bad but unfortunately not that good either.

The camera does a good job, and actually challanges a lot of expensive flagships this year. That should be a celebrated achievement for the company.

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I still don't know if I trust OnePlus' devices not to show marks of usage even when being handled with care though. Being this is my second OnePlus device to scratch from using an official case I will be vary next time, or maybe I will pick up a third-party case from a renown case-maker..


OnePlus is currently known for being "worth the price" and a cheaper but legit alternative to the Apple's and Galaxies of the world. I do however believe that the software experience offered by the company makes this one of the most pleasant phones I have tried yet.
Speaking of software I am pleased an assured that OnePlus will keep supporting the 6 for at least two major Android updates, if not more, and in addition the company does a good job at updating Oxygen OS in-between Googles releases to ensure stability and new features. 

So yes, if you ask me I will absolutely recommend the OnePlus 6 to most people. It is stable, quick, effective, and simple. The camera will satisfy all but the most photographically-inclined analog camera fan. For smaller users however the phone is rather large, and I will not deny that I would like a minor shrinking in overall size. 

Thank you for reading! I would love to know what you think in the comments below.


OnePlus still offers a kind of Invite System, only now it is called the Referral Hub. If you feel like purchasing a OnePlus 6, or maybe the future 6T, use this link for a $20 price-cut on additional accessories.