Unboxing: OnePlus 6T

Purple Thunder

This unboxing was delayed due to personal reasons. Sorry to those who expected it sooner. I’m back on track though! Since the unboxing is late however, less time will pass before the full review.

The OnePlus 6T is the followup T-version of the Oneplus 6. While there aren't a lot of changes to this iteration, we've reached the point where OnePlus is early to the market when it comes to certain features. The changes that have been made are pretty significant to my eyes though.

With the biggest news being that the 6T is sold locally in the US through T-mobile, the in-display fingerprint sensor is not only coming before the major manufacturers jump on ship but also as the first one to be sold in the US. In Europe, Huawei beat them to the punch with just a few days to go.

With few upgrades in design, the newest version of OxygenOS, and a slight price growth, is the new device from OnePlus worth it?

Unboxing

The Unboxing experience is highly pleasant with everything placed where it should be. The box it self is simple yet elegant, with a band wrapped around it explaining how important the community is to OnePlus. 

Inside we're greeted by the phone first. It lies pretty snug in its place, and while it might be hard to get out at first I wouldn’t fear for the phone moving around in the box.

Underneath it is a small box which lies on top of the charging brick and cable, along with the 3,5mm to USB-C adapter. While Huawei’s new 40-Watt charger now takes the price for fastest smartphone charger, considering the price of the OnePlus 6T in comparison I’d say it’s still a godsend. The headphone jack is gone. OnePlus decided to include an adapter though (hint hint). While this is sad, and ironic, for a lot of users. I personally think the increased battery-capacity is worth far more than the headphone jack these days.

There is also a letter from the CEO of OnePlus, Pete Lau, again wanting to explain how important the community is to the company. It’s nicely wrapped inside this vintage-looking cover, again speaking for OnePlus’ attention to detail.


Inside of the small box we also get the famous free case, some amusing stickers, and a bunch of papers (warranty info, quick-start guides etc.), as well as the sim-ejector tool. 

Looking at the phone itself this is a clear indication on how far the company have come. The design is simply refined since the 6, yet pleasantly so. The limited edition Thunder Purple features a gradient design going from matt black to a brighter purple color shift. This is the same matt finished glass backing that people loved with the 6's midnight black model. The S-curved reflection is also present, bending the light when it shines on the back of the device. It’s even better than on the matt-black variant if you ask me.

The back is cleaner than ever thanks to the lack of a fingerprint sensor. All we get is the cameras, the logo and a subtle "Designed by Oneplus" branding. The gradient is surprisingly great, and not as dull as some press images could have made it out to be. To quote my fiancee: It’s really cool.

Setting up the Oneplus 6T is a breeze. It's actually so nice that I wonder why other manufacturers aren't copying it. The phone guides you through various settings at the fly (you can skip them) before letting you explore, making it feel like mine right out the box. Only thing I missed during setup is the gesture navigation settings. They’re easy to find though, in Settings>Buttons and Gestures>Navigation Bar & Gestures.


The Fingerprint Sensor

In my expectations for the OnePlus 6T I was utterly wrong. I didn’t think the company behind the slogan “The Speed You Need” would exchange their industry-leadingly fast fingerprint sensor for something less instant. They did however. Highly controversial, the Oneplus 6T's in-display sensor is a technical marvel of sorts. Not only does it free up design space on the back, but it also seems to work so well that I don’t miss the sensor of old. Some people find it less forgiving, since you can’t find it with your finger, but personally I think muscle memory makes up for this quickly.

Setup is pretty simple. While it takes longer than the standard capacitive sensors of old, it's quicker to set up than on the Mate 20 Pro. Based on my preferences however, I would have preferred if it was placed a bit higher up on the screen. Like Huawei did with the Mate 20 Pro.

This is innovation, so to speak, and for technology to really advance someone needs to use it. OnePlus is early in the game here, especially outside of China, and I like it. I've grown accustomed to Apple's face id, which requires very little of me. While there is Face Unlock on the 6T that only utilizes the selfie camera, I haven’t seen fit to activate it just yet. While I tend to not worry too much about my data to mind the less secure option, I still think it’s better to have a secure lockscreen. Of course. This is also a sentiment to how good the fingerprint sensor actually works. Most of the time it blows my mind when it comes to speed. This might be because the internet lowered my expectations based on every complaint, but I really don’t think anyone would be able to call this sensor slow. Actually, it’s faster than I remember the rear-mounted sensor on the LG G7 ThinQ.

When in use the screen will light up underneath the sensor area. You get to pick between 3 different animations.

When using it for a day I didn’t expect to be annoyed by the fact that the entire display lights up, which can be hard on the eyes in low-lit situations. Firstly, OnePlus implemented a “single tap to wake” feature that brings up the Ambient Display (replacing double-tap to wake), meaning that very little of the screen is used before unlocking the phone. Somehow though, I think OnePlus could fix this by removing the clock widget when unlocking. Comparing it to the Mate 20 Pro, again, Huawei only shows the sensor area during unlock if the display isn’t turned on manually. If OnePlus could remove the surrounding widgets without delaying the authentication, I’d say that would fix the “problem”. For now though, it will surprise your eyes in the morning.
If you can’t stand this, make sure you go to the lockscreen before trying to authenticate. When the screen is in full use (not Ambient Display), only the sensor area seems to go all fourth of July on you.

Some reports say that the sensor is easily disrupted by substances like water, or that the sensor is slower/won’t work when your hands are freezing. I have also encountered issues with freezing hands, but I wouldn’t say that the fail-rate have been high so far. Overall, I am happy that OnePlus decided to be part of the technological advancement.

Hardware

When comparing the OnePlus 6 and 6T not a whole lot have changed. You get the same Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 or 8 gigabytes of RAM. The storage capacity starts at 128GB now though, making the cheapest offering a 6/128 GB setup. for most people, 6 or 8 GB of RAM won’t make a huge difference today.
OnePlus claims to have optimized the advantage of extra RAM by keeping apps available in the memory you wouldn’t use anyway. This should improve the speed when opening and reloading apps. Not that this was an issue on OnePlus’ phones in the past.

When reviewing the OnePlus 6, my biggest concern was with battery life, as I struggled to get through a full day without charging early in the evening. With the 6T OnePlus upped the capacity from 3300 mAH to 3700 mAH, which is part of the reason why there’s no headphone jack present. As I said, this is a valid change for me, but your mileage might vary.

The screen size have increased slightly along with the bezel-shrinking, and the standard small notch have been replaced with the “teardrop” design. On the topic of screen size, this is getting ridiculous. In my mind, the perfect smartphone would be manufactured with these bezels, at a smaller display size in between 5.8 and 6.0 inches. The 6.4 inch OnePlus 6T is manageable, but it’s not a one-handed device for most situations.

Fun fact though, when I picked up the iPhone XS I couldn’t help to feel like it’s shrunk. I guess the reality is that I’m having a hard time deciding which form factor I prefer. On the topic of in-hand feel however the 6T is prefect, with its curved glass back and button-placement.

Within quick testing, the speakers on the 6T are OK. They get loud, but still consist of a single bottom-firing hole lacking in bass. With the new teardrop notch, the earpiece is now positioned over the camera sensor, which seems to work just fine for phone calls, which is all it is used for. The lack of an LED notification light have upset many of the previous fans. I for one am pretty happy to see this trend die off in exchange for the ambient display. Blinking lights kind of disturbed me.

Battery Life

While it's too early to really tell, first impressions tells me that the OnePlus 6T beats even the iPhone XS when it comes to battery life.  

Now, with the 6, OnePlus kind of disappointed me with its lackluster battery longevity. On the 6T, with its bigger battery capacity the improvements are really showing so far. First day with the phone I reached 6 hours of screen on time from 6:30 am until around 11:30 pm. Second day I went from the morning until noon the next day with over 4 hours of screen on time and 23% battery left. On both occasions I charged the phone in the morning too. Over-night charging feels unnecessary when the fast charger (previously called Dash Charger) is so quick.

The thing to check here will be if the device can keep this up. OnePlus’ fast charging remains a great addition for anyone with battery-life anxiety, as it charges the device faster than most people spend time in the shower. The company made a forum post explaining how the software team is working on battery-management. Essentially focusing on standby drain, OnePlus omits to have lowered over-night battery loss to about 5%. The focus is machine learning, taking up the power to limit resources during night-time. There’s also a more powerful management option. The risk is that notifications cannot come through for closed apps, but both of these are optional if you don’t want apps to close automatically.
The lack of wireless charging still bugs me though. But with a phone that doesn’t require constant charging I guess it’s less of a problem. For me it’s the principle of “Never Settle”, which honestly makes me feel like this is the main area OnePlus settled on. The official word is still that wireless charging is too slow to be worth including.


Oxygen OS - You Know the Deal

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. OnePlus makes the best Android version available. I haven’t been able to test the Pixel phones yet (they’re not sold in Sweden), and I guess they’d be similar in a lot of ways.
The UI is consistent and smooth, with animations that doesn’t try to show you everything but instead increases the impression of speed.

Features are important, but a lot of us would never utilize most of the ones found in Samsung or Huawei’s Android skins. Truth is, Oxygen OS focuses on being adaptive, optimized, and useful, before implementing new options.

The popular gesture navigations that came with the OnePlus 5T have improved with smoother and more coherent animations that creates a feeling of being natural to the OS. On top of that, OnePlus also offers the standard software buttons Android users are accustomed to, as well as a version of Googles gesture navigations.
Following every complaint about the two-swipe requirement for reaching the app-drawer on the Pixel 3s, I’d be forced to agree that this version beats Google on its own implementation.

On the topic of animations OnePlus is keeping them blazing fast and short. While it feels more rushed than on the iPhone XS it never stutters. One thing that I appreciate coming back to Android is the fact that scrolling isn’t slowed down. With a quick swipe I instantaneously get to the top of a page. Sure, there is a hint of loading when this is applied, but at least I have the option whereas iOS keeps you scrolling several times on a long page.

Design wise, we’re seeing Android Pie in a package very close to Googles own design language. The new round quick settings design is present, as well as the horizontal recent apps menu. You don’t get all the bells and whistles, like the ability to copy text from the recent apps view, with the option for split-screen hiding away in the “3-dots” menu. Compared to Apple’s recent apps, the way the cards don’t stack on top of each other is a great improvement. This also goes when comparing the old vertical view of Android. Pie-features such as Adaptive Battery are present, but unfortunately the headline feature of Digital Wellbeing is nowhere to be found as of yet.
The different color-themes are great, with the ability to pick accent-colors out of hex color codes, or a slider. Of course, I utilize the Dark theme to get the most out of this Amoled panel.
OnePlus has nailed the importance of consistency, and I think the company realizes that users want a stock-like not just because they prefer it, but because third-party apps usually fit better in design as well.

About the full-screen gestures, be ware that the included case makes them really hard to use as it climbs above the screen ever so slightly. Essentially making it hard to swipe from the bottom. I’ve used the Home, Back layout from Google mostly due to this.


Camera - Same Old With a Twist?

I’d say OnePlus is beating around the bush here, offering pretty much the same camera sensors as on the OnePlus 5T (but with the OIS introduced on the 6). Following recent development however, software is key to a good smartphone camera these days. In this, the company focused all of its efforts on optimizing the camera software, with the help of a portrait photographer, as well as listening to feedback on low light camera features.

Compared to last years iPhone X, the OnePlus 6 won in HDR comparisons. I will publish a comparison, checking out how the 6T compares to the newer iPhone XS and its improved Smart HDR feature soon.
The camera enhancements are scheduled to arrive with the OnePlus 6 as well with a software update so this isn’t a forced reason to upgrade.

Today, I will reverse my order and begin with special features, before looking at auto mode.

NightScape:

Following the trend that Huawei started with Night Mode, more recently taken on by Google with Night Sight on the Pixel 3/3XL, OnePlus have developed their own version called Nightscape. Utilizing the mode the camera captures four images with different exposure points and stitches them together for a brighter, more detailed low-light shot.
Reembering the price of the phone, the mode can’t compete with Googles revolutionary camera software, but still. If in a tight spot, the camera can bring extra detail and color to an otherwise to dark scene.

This is a great first step for OnePlus, starting to get into the low-light photography competition that currently is owned by Huawei and Google. Still, this is a first step without a doubt. Most of my restriction towards it lies within the fact that images often enough adds an orange hue on top of the picture. It does however do a good job in limiting glaring light sources and makes details below spotlights visible. When the stage is right, this low-light DHR mode really impresses me when it comes to lighting. Especially since it actually darkens the image at times, when necessary, as seen in the third sample. The details seems to get smudged though, which may simply be because I cant stand 100% still. I’ll keep testing this for my full review.

Portrait Mode:

OnePlus have been able to create good Portrait shots for over a year now. Edge detection definitely passes for acceptable, and good on most occasions and the blurred Bokeh effect feels natural. There are no exciting bells and whistles however, so you can’t change the effect after the fact. Still, if what you want are good Portrait images, without a forced 2x zoom crop, the OnePlus 6T delivers.

What’s new here is what OnePlus calls Studio Lighting. It’s hard to explain exactly what it does. Basically it’s similar to Apples optional Studio Lighting effect, which aims to create artificial lighting to the face of the portrait model, lighting up stuff like skin-tone and the eyes. The mode is automatic, and there’s really no telling when it’s active. So honestly, testing the feature will get hard.

Edge detection is good, but like with any portrait mode uneven objects might not fare that great as seen on the bicycle’s handlebars. Other than that though, colors are really natural. It’s a shame about the HDR (or lack thereof) on the first shot though.

Selfies:

The selfie (front) camera consists of one 16 MP shooter positioned in the middle top portion of the screen (teardrop notch). This camera features an aperture of f/2.0.

It’s kind of a bummer that OnePlus haven’t mastered HDR in portrait selfies either yet. The HDR without portrait mode does a pretty good job overall, but in portrait it seems to be turned of entirely.

Auto Mode:

OnePlus also claims to have enhanced shadows and HDR with the new software.
For the price of the 6T, OnePlus keeps impressing me on a lever whereas consumers don’t have to pay a premium for a good all-day camera. Auto HDR is enabled by default, but in software settings it is possible to enable manual HDR instead.

Details and dynamic range are good. The colors look pretty vivid in the view-finder, but I find the end-result to be pretty accurate. The camera functions really well in preferable weather conditions (preferable both in colors and to me, as opposed to cold bleak days).

The weird statue RETURNS, AND EVEN OUR DOG SEEMS TO THINK IT’S STRANGE.

On cloudy days, any camera will struggle to create a very appealing picture and the OnePlus 6T is no exception.
However gloomy, the details remain fine throughout.


Summary

With this being a “T”-upgrade, one shouldn’t expect major changes from the previous OnePlus 6. While the list of changes is short, I still find the OnePlus 6T to be more exciting than the phone we got earlier in May.

The teardrop notch is a characteristic design-choice, at least if you’re not from a country were OPPO phones are popular. The shrunken chin-bezel is a welcome upgrade as well.

When it comes to software, Oxygen OS is still king on the Android market. With the Pixel 3/3 XL’s software issues at launch, I can actually imagine people starting to prefer it to stock Android soon. This is key to a good smartphone experience, software, and the company keeps delivering.

The headline-feature of an in-display fingerprint sensor is one that I appreciate a lot. It’s not as quick as the sensor of old, and it does have a higher fail-rate. But most of the time, it works really well on my device. Once or twice I had issues with a poor registration, but with a do-over I fin dit much better. It’s less forgiving, but OnePlus also claims that it’s always learning, updating your biometric scan for a better future.

I will use the OnePlus 6T as my phone for a while before publishing the full, in-depth, review. Stay tuned for more coverage to come!

This is Andreas @ The Mobile Swede. Thanks for staying with me!