Review: OnePlus 6T - Almost Perfect

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I’ve been using the OnePlus 6T for almost a month now. This was after using the iPhone XS for over a month, as well as unboxing and playing around with the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
To spoil the surprise, the OnePlus 6T only lacks one certain feature that would make it my absolute favorite phone, Wireless Charging.

Index:

Hardware

OnePlus built on the outside of the previous model, the 6, for the 6T. Seeing as that phone already looked great this is not a bad thing. Some internal, and external, changes might upset some while pose as a great advantage to others.

Specifications:

As one would expect, the 6T packs every thing you’d want when it comes to power-specifications:

CPU Snapdragon 845
GPU Adreno 630
Storage 128/256GB
RAM 6/8GB
Battery 3700 mAh
Display 6.4" 1080p Optic AMOLED
Glass Protection Corning Gorilla Glas 6
Rear Camera Dual: 16MP primary camera + 20MP secondary camera
Front Camera 16MP single camera
Ports USB: 3.1, Type-C. Audio: none, #dongle-life.
Extra OnePlus' splash-resistance
A single bottom-firing speaker
Optical in-display fingerprint sensor

Now, here’s were people might object or cheer depending on preference. OnePlus finally removed the headphone jack after protecting it for a few years. Some users simply write the phone off due to this. I on the other hand prefer the increased battery capacity and in-display fingerprint sensor. The removal of the notification LED also makes a lot of users question design choices. The “teardrop” notch doesn’t leave a lot of room for this feature however and I haven’t missed it once.

Design

I can leave for work in the morning with about 55% and not worry that it won’t make it until I get home.

The 6T is slightly larger than the 6 by millimeters. Other than that the design is much the same with a few added bonuses. The symmetri of the bottom speaker is managed by a microphone holes on the opposite side in equal size.
As you might have seen in my unboxing I’m using the Thunder Purple color for my review unit, and I’m certain that this is the company’s best design yet. Not only that, but I actually think this beats the flashiness of Huawei’s Twilight gradient.

The purple starts at the bottom and gradients into a deep matt black at the top. The aluminium frames match the gradient, but the only comment one may make is that the buttons only match the color of where the they starts and turn out brighter than the top where the frame is mostly black.

The phone lies great in hand, but it’s also very slippery. It’s not as much of a fingerprint magnet as other blank phones may be though. But if you get the Mirror Black edition you might want to wipe it off from time to time. OnePlus has always been great at weight-distribution and the 6T is no exception. Even with the larger battery, the phone never felt heavy or unwieldy.

At the back we also get the camera, OnePlus logo and a “Designed by OnePlus”-marking. The camera protrudes just a little bit, but along with the curved back it would wobble even without it. Without a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor the back looks cleaner than ever before. Only the flashlight sticks out to me, and if OnePlus can hide it within the camera-bracket next year they’ll stand out in design-cleanliness for sure.

The buttons are positioned with finess, leaving me wanting for nothing. Nothing except for the fact that I occasionally have managed to press the power-button when trying to change the volume or vice versa. This might be because I wounded my left thumb though which affects my grip, and might just have to do with how I hold the phone.
The Alert Slider is still found on the right side, above the power button, and moves between three stages. Just like before.
At it’s lowest position the ringer is on, at the middle it vibrates, and at the top it’s muted. There’s not much in the way of customization here and basically all you can set is if the phone should also mute media volume, or if it should vibrate when the sound is on. With this, the volume buttons default to media volume (as is the new Pie-standard), and I never had reason to complain about this.

Up front we get the screen, and that’s about it. The chin have been slightly shrunken to more match the top bezel, although it’s still visible you’d need to nitpick to actually be bothered by it. OnePlus also claims that while it’s smaller than on the 6, it also allows for better cell-reception.
The side bezels are so small that they’re basically never noticed and the same goes for the top bezel. This is where you find the modern looking teardrop designed notch, housing only the centralized front-facing camera. The company managed to fit the earpiece above it at the top of the bezel, kind of like what Xiaomi did on the Mix 2s.

Display

The screen itself is also great, with a 1080p Optical AMOLED panel giving you a trouble-free viewing-experience as well as those deep blacks. OnePlus did however make the corners of the screen even more curved compared to the 6. This isn’t normally an issue, but in certain apps it looks kind off odd while cutting out edged buttons or texts.

The only thing that would make the notch even more perfect would be if the camera lens was toned even darker and thereby less visible. The screen offers really good viewing-angles, although if you tilt it to an unnatural level it does display some rainbow colors. Reports of screens shifting colors when tilted are kind of a blown-out issue though, as I find it hard to come up with an example as to when you might look at the screen like this.

I won’t get into any crazy details as I feel like your appreciation of a screen is a personal reflection of your preferences. I can honestly say though, that while the iPhone XS has a higher resolution I don’t prefer it when looking at them side by side.

The Fingerprint Sensor

So, with all the discussions about this I want to add my two cents. I’m thoroughly happy that OnePlus went with the in-display fingerprint sensor. I do however understand why some users feel disappointed. Firstly, there’s a learning curve. You need to re-learn where to put your finger and how. Why change something that isn’t broken? well, a lot of users don’t like the back-mounted sensors since they don’t work with the phone laying on a table. Also, everyone’s finger wont rest “naturally” at the same place, so I might prefer a placement higher up, or lower down, than you do.

The biggest learning curve that the new sensor requires is that you need to gold your finger still. Now this is harder than it sounds, since it’s a lot harder to not move your finger while your walking, for example. The more you move, the longer it takes. If it works. But since I’ve gotten used to this fact, I find it superior in many ways, and I definitely don’t see it as a minus for the OnePlus 6T. It’ not “as fast”, but it can be quicker than you really need. It’ll probably always be less forgiving, but that’s the one flaw that I can find.

On the contrary, I think this was a great move which will lead the development further. It also cleans up the back, as the squircle reader on the OnePlus 6 wasn’t all that pretty.

Speaker

One area on which OnePlus have always cheeped out is on speaker quality. The phone comes with a single bottom firing unit that gets loud, but while doing so the audio quality distorts. Simply out I wouldn’t listen to music on this thing.
It is however OK for videos where voices are the main attraction, such as tech reviews. So no, if speakers are a main-priority for you the 6T does not deliver.

Glass Design Controversy

Most reviewers tend to focus complaints on the controversial choice to build a phone out of glas without including wireless charging. Now, without a doubt I agree that the company should include wireless charging. As I said earlier, that would have made the phone a complete package for me.

When OnePlus announced the OnePlus 6 they also wanted to stress that glass backs allow for better signal-responsiveness. In addition, a lot of people feel like the glass design is more premium than one made of metal. Now some people really don’t agree with the last statement, and that’s the beauty of choice. Unless you hate glass backs, because everyone’s doing them.

So while I disagree on statements saying that OnePlus just threw a glass back on there for the sake of it (what do I know), I would’ve wanted Wireless Charging and I hope it’s there on the 7.

Software

I just answered a question on Swedroid (Swedish link) as to why I buy OnePlus’ phones and this is one of the main reasons. The software is just that great. It’s not only fluent in every single animation, but it also keeps up with the Material Design that Google builds Android upon. Changes to the core Android experience are few and far between, but the company still manages to include extra features that aid the user experience.

Oxygen OS was originally built from a team of ex Paranoid Android developers, and those guys knows Android. The company also likes to share (brag) about what the team is doing to further improve the experience. Now, the Oxygen OS team was merged with the Hydrogen OS theme after a while, but I can’t say that this have affected my experience with it through the years.
On the software side there’s also a team simply called FSE (Fast, Stable, Efficient) that focuses on optimizing and making sure every new or modified feature works as expected within the focus of speed that OnePlus is marketing.

Features

  • Full-Screen Gestures: As it sounds this replaces the navigation buttons with gestures relatively similar to the ones on iOS.

  • Navigational Button Customization: Lets you set long-press and double press actions to every navigation button. These can also be exchanged for a layout similar to Google’s own Home, Back buttons with the swipe up for recents and swipe left for previously opened app gestures.

  • Parallel Apps: As it sounds. Let you have two instances of the same app at once. Great for users who have several accounts on Instagram or Twitter for example.

  • Screen Calibration: Let’s you set the screen color and contrast to a setting of your choosing.
    Default, sRGB, DCI-P3, Adaptive mode, or Custom color are available.

  • Ambient Display: Let’s part of the screen light up to show you the time, date battery percentage, and eventual notification icons. As a half-way alwas on display the mode allows for lift to wake, tap to wake, or wake when new notification arrives. This display saves battery compared to using the entire display for a quick look.

  • Reading Mode: Let’s the screen turn on a gray-scale mode and adapt the color temperature to ease the stain on your eyes when reading. Can be set to turn on automatically in certain apps.

  • Face Unlock: Blazing fast facial unlocking of the phone. Uses the front-facing camera to identify your face and a stored image of you to test it against.

  • Gaming Mode: focuses device resources towards the game or application you’re using to optimize the experience. The mode can also prevent notifications to show over the display, preventing you to get killed in action.

  • App Locker: Let’s you lock certain apps requiring the pin or fingerprint to unlock.

  • Audio tuner: Basically a built-in equalizer

  • Earphone Mode: Let's you automate what happens when you connect ear-/headphones like auto play, notification control, or Speak caller-ID.

  • Smart Answer and Flip to Mute: Simply put, smart answer connects a call if you raise your hand when looking at a contact or if you getting a call. Flip to mute mutes the phone if an incoming call is bothering you.

Oxygen OS offers features that the company believes users will need to enhance the experience. That also means that they won’t just implement a new feature because you want it, or everyone else is doing it. For the sake of stability though, I’m inclined to say that the company manages to pull off every major feature that I think I need in a phone.

I don’t tend to use the Answer by gesture or flip to mute features as I’m kind of afraid that they’ll miss-fire. Especially the feature that answers the phone, or makes a phone-call, when the phone detects movement towards your ear is a recipe for accidental calls.
What makes Oxygen OS such a great software experience is mostly due to the fluidity in animations and speed. It feels like the phone never slows down or takes a break. This applies to the home screen as well as when flipping through apps and games. The UI is so close to stock Android that it also manages to get the coherent design just right. So it never looks like the system UI clashes with other apps. This is an important aspect of designing a user interface, although a lot of people might not think about it directly.

OnePlus’ Ambient Display have always been good and the new tap-to-wake feature makes it better. Especially in addition to the in-display fingerprint sensor. I have however noticed that the glaringly high screen brightness that users are complaining about only happens on the Ambient Display,, never on the lockscreen.

The Home Screen is also still close to stock Android, although with a few tweaks. In the App-drawer you can swipe in from the left to access the Hidden Space where you can hide apps you either don’t want others to find or apps that you just don’t care about having in the drawer. On the left of the Home Screen we find the Shelf. This space can store widgets and shortcuts for various apps. Personally, I mostly use it to quickly access the Login shortcut for my bank apps. But in theory it can store any app widget you like. I would probably prefer the Google Feed in this location, but at least this helps to create a clean layout for the rest of the launcher. The simple truth is that even if shelf is a great idea (inspired by the Widget Center in iOS) it’s not always useful seeing as Android app-creators don’t design widgets to be viewed in a list. The home screen also features double-tap to lock as well as a gesture to swipe down for the notification shade.

Folders also look the best in Oxygen OS, taking a step away from the otherwise popular centered design. On the 6T folders open up on the bottom of the screen, which aids accessibility, and can be closed by either tapping on a blank space or by a swipe down.

The navigation gestures are great, and never interfere with the rest of the UI, as opposed to Xiaomi’s adaption (also Huawei’s). I’m referring to the back gesture of course, when swiping in from the sides can override the side menu swipe in most Android apps as well as occasionally misfire. On OnePlus’ implementation you swipe up form the middle to go home, swipe up and hold to get to your recent apps, and swipe up from the sides of the bottom bezel to go back. Development now also allows for quick swapping to the previous app by swiping up and then to the right, which will highlight the other app to indicate that it is being opened.
Also, finally, OnePlus have implemented that a long-press of the power button activates the Google Assistant. I asked for this on the 6 as I thought Apple had a good idea here. I liked it a lot on the iPhone XS and now it’s on the OnePlus 6 and 6T as well. Now a few users get confused by this as they sometimes want to, or need to, reboot their phone. On the 6T you just have to hold the power button for longer to get to the power menu.

With the inclusion of a true Dark mode, as well as the option for Light or Colored, the OnePlus 6T will also offer a pleasing software design for most users. In Dark- or Light Mode the user can also pick the accent colors to whichever their heart desire. I found Dark Mode with purple accents to compliment the outer design well.

Oxygen OS remains my favorite version of Android, both thanks to fluidity as well as the included features and simplicity.

Battery Life and Cell Reception

Talk about putting in the work. OnePlus upped the battery capacity from the 6’s 3300 mAh to 3700 mAh on the 6T. This might not look like much straight away, but the difference is definitely noticeable. This closes the gap between OnePlus phones battery capacity and that of the bigger players like Huawei (P20 Pro, Mate 20 Pro) and Samsung (Note 9). With the clean software it should be able to last a long time based on the battery.

In my testing I am happy to report that the OnePlus 6T have kept up with my usage throughout my testing. I usually get 6+ hours of screen on time during a full day, from around 6 am to 11 pm. It also managed to get through a two-days test without complaint, although I had to limit the amount of time I spent in the browser, on Youtube, or on Google.

I guess the best allround quote I can give the phone is that I can leave for work in the morning with about 55% and not worry that it won’t make it until I get home.

With Dash-Charging, or Rapid Charging, the phone charges way to fast for complaints. A few faster alternatives are out there now, such as the Mate 20 Pro or McLaren Edition of the 6T, but I see no reason to complain. I have been charging my phone in the evening, or at times when I wake up, to avoid charging all night (due to uncertainty) and it’s so quick that I never have to really think about it.

When speaking of cell reception most phones function as expected these days. I didn’t have a problem with the iPhone XS that is being subjected to complaints due to having Intel’s modems and I definitely haven’t had any issues with the Qualcomm one found in the 6T.
What I do find bothersome though, is how aggressively the phone tries to stay connected to our Wi-Fi when I go out. We live on the fifth floor, and just across the street there’s a small convenience store. When I go down there I often notice that I can’t check for stuff online as the phone claims to have a signal through Wi-Fi but fails to load pages. And yes, this is with the “Smart Wi-Fi Switcher” turned on. This isn’t a OnePlus-isolated problem though, as I remember my Samsung Galaxy s8 having the same issue when trying to do mobile payments in the same store.
If I leave our apartment with a Youtube-video playing the phone switches to cellular data as soon as it needs to without buffering. But when I don’t use it as actively it sometimes has a hard time realizing that I’m far away from any standard routers reach. This also applies to when I get home, with the phone sometimes trying to connect from about 100 meters from our building. Needless to say, this doesn’t work either.

Camera

OnePlus likes to talk about listening to the community of fans they have gathered. To the companies credit they do publicly communicate with users on a level that I don’t see with other manufacturers. On the launch, public figures from the company talked about the most user-requested camera improvements they had received. This came down to two things, Portrait Mode and low-light photography.

For Portrait Mode, OnePlus worked closely with the portrait photographer Kevin Abosch to create an effect called Studio Lighting. This supposedly does something similar to the manual mode effect on the iPhone X/XS, but is automatic. As I said in my unboxing I have no real way of knowing when the feature is utilized, therefor providing a hard feature to really try out. Essentially the mode aims to brighten the subjects face, supposedly mimicking how photographer use studio lights (hence the name).

For low light photography OnePlus developed a new mode that they’re calling Nightscape. This night mode takes a series of pictures with different exposures and stitches them together with computational measurements, trying to compensate for movement in the process. While it might not be as great as the highly praised Night Sight on the new Pixel devices, it manages to capture more from a dark scene than the regular auto mode does. This has been a highly requested feature from any user since Huawei launched it with the P20-series.

The 16 and 20 MP cameras works in tandem, with the primary 16MP resolution being the pointer. The 20 MP shooter is even described as using 16MP actively on most spec-sheets.
Since removing the telephoto zoom lens on the 5T in preference to this setup a lot of comments have been made about this second camera being kind of pointless. OnePlus retains its statement that the second camera lens does aid the primary one for depth-information (portraits) and details/lighting. Although the latter uses are hard to find actual proof of online, the use of two cameras for Portrait Mode might be as evidentially simple as looking at the resulting images.

Auto Mode:

The camera layout, or viewfinder, on OnePlus’ devices are a simple to navigate as it gets. I have seen comments from people complaining that you have to swipe up to get the settings icon, but that’s about it. The camera is preset to using auto HDR, but you can change this if you prefer manual control.

I’ve kept auto HDR on the entire time I’ve used the OnePlus 6T as I think most people would.

As a primary camera, I’m actually surprised as to how great the OnePlus 6T preforms. There are little to no times that I’ve taken a picture and thought, “I wish I had a more expensive phone at hand”. The lines between $600 phones and $1000 phones are getting more blurred by the release.

A lot of users comment to even preferring it to the Galaxy Note 9, which no one would have thought to say a few years ago. I will however say that a quick comparison to the likes of the Huawei Mate 20 Pro shows that the 6T lacks a few of the finer textured details. Dynamic range is good, colors are vibrant but pleasant, and I really like the details in the captured images. What could, and should, be improved now is the details when cropping an image. If you pick up the picture on a computer and start zooming all those details blur out. This is standard photography facts, but I still think it could improve.

As an auto shooter, I truly believe that the 6T won’t disappoint most users.

Manual Mode:

This is a first for me when it comes to testing, but the OnePlus 6T also offers a simple UI for for using manual mode. This comes in addition to capturing images in a RAW-format. You can manually play with the white balance, shutter speed, ISO and aperture.

The UI for manual mode is very intuitive and simple to pick up. Obviously though, I have a lot to learn when it comes to using it. Still, setting a manual aperture and shutter speed does seem to aid in taking the picture I really want. I’m obviously a beginner at this stage though.

Portrait Mode:

Portrait Mode have been good on OnePlus devices pretty much since they started including it. The phone takes help from the second lens to create a depth-map, adding the blurred Bokeh effect behind the subject.

One could almost believe that dogs were the primary focus in developing Portrait mode these days. Still, the edge detection is mostly really good on the rear cameras. What’s less impressive is how over-exposed the white skies are on the first image. Blur and really white isn’t the same thing. The images does however look a bit grainy, or noisy. Still, for portrait mode it’s hard to go wrong with the 6T.

I have to admit though, as I wrote in the camera intro, that I have no idea how to evaluate the Studio Lighting effect.

Nightscape:

Nightscape is still in it’s infancy in most regards. I am pleased with the way it handles lights and manages to brighten the overall area. I also feel like shadows and the like are improved over the regular pictures taken at night.
It’s hard not to react to how blurred the details usually become though, and stuff like roads tend to look washed out.

Most of the time, it acts as an HDR mode however which is particularly visible on the lit signs below:

While it might not be perfect, yet, it’s fun to see that OnePlus is closing in on one of the most requested camera features of 2018. It manages to do a lot already, and should only get better with time. Of course, moving objects should be avoided if not for artistic purposes. As a quick example it's way better to have Nighscape than it is to have no nigh mode, like on the iPhone XS.

Selfie (Front Facing Camera):

Full disclaimer, I still don’t take a lot of selfies. Even so, the 16MP selfie camera does a pretty good job at capturing you in the moment, with pleasant details and a good ability for HDR. I also appreciate that the camera sensor itself is centered on the display.

Portrait Selfies

When capturing portrait selfies the edge detection is pretty good. Overall I’m mostly pleased with it. It’s not uncommon though, that the camera softens the edges as is seen in the example below. The lack of HDR is also very noticeable on the front facing portrait mode and I don’t particularly like the “effect” when skies are whitened.

Video:

The OnePlus 6T offers up to 4K resolution at 60 FPS video recording, as well as Slow Motion at 240 FPS in 1080P (which will display in 30 FPS slo-mo).
Personally, I haven’t really shot videos with the phone.

Conclusion

To sum up, the OnePlus 6T is a beastly device when it comes to speed and convenience. The software lends itself to aid the user while being easily navigated and friendly. The phone is pleasant to hold and the inclusion of both a free case and a screen protector also improves the user experience.
A quick shout-out for the amazing gradient of the Thunder Purple design, as I feel like OnePlus really nailed the premium design this time.

The notch has improved since last time, and even though I don’t mind the wider cutouts myself this deigns is superior without risking motorized parts or a slider-panel. The display is a pleasant experience all around, and while it might not be “the best” in tests there’s nothing I found to really complain about. If Apple can get away with a low-res display, maybe it’s time to admit that 1440p never really became a necessity except for when using Virtual Reality. To tell you the truth, I prefer it to the iPhone XS in some regards. More on that in my upcoming comparison.

It’s just a shame that while creating such a well-rounded package, OnePlus still neglected Wireless charging. A feature that have become more and more widespread throughout 2018. As I said in the intro, that’s really the one feature that I actively miss with the 6T.

OnePlus’ own ingress protection leaves more room for interpretation than when using a IP-certification. Still, I haven’t been afraid to keep using the phone in the rainy days of the early Swedish winter and I haven’t had any issues with it.

The camera is ever-improving and I feel like OnePlus is able to compete with several larger manufacturers. I for one feel more comfortable with the 6T than I did with the LG G7 as my daily shooter. It’s not just me though, my fiancee and family members also point out that the OnePlus 6T takes pleasant pictures whenever displayed. It is however a question of preference, and the 6T seems to favor taking pictures that are ready for social media directly. Pictures that the average person will enjoy. Some more camera-focused users might prefer the less processed image for the pleasure of editing themselves or might look for an even more natural outcome. Most people will enjoy the amount of details that the phone can produce though, and it’s hard to go wrong with the 6T.


 

Overall though, the OnePlus 6T sits next to the iPhone XS as my phone’s of the year. If I were to recommend an Android smartphone today, it would be this one. The battery life is great, the software flies throughout any task without slowing down, and even if it’s large it is still manageable and even comfortable to hold.

The lack of Wireless Charging is the one thing that bothers me.

This is Andreas @ The Mobile Swede,
Happy New Year!

OnePlus 6T Rating:

Pros:

  • Oxygen OS

  • Stability

  • Speed

  • Fingerprint Sensor

  • Camera

  • Design

  • Battery Life

  • Fast (dash) Charging

Cons:

  • No Headphone Jack

  • No Wireless Charging

  • For some, lack of IP-Rating

  • No HDR in Portrait Mode

  • Speaker Quality