Introduction and design
Editor’s note: The OnePlus 2 is not running final software, so we’re holding off giving it a star rating and our full review treatment until we’ve received the update. We have updated this hands on review with our findings so far, which includes over a week of usage.
The tricky second album. That’s probably the best way to describe the OnePlus 2. After the surprise success of the OnePlus One there were big expectations for its successor, so has the fledgling Chinese brand delivered?
Dubbed by the firm as “the 2016 Flagship Killer”, it’s a claim which is more than just a bit far-fetched. So how about a more grounded claim of “the 2015 Flapship Killer”? If OnePlus bangs that drum instead, then it might just be onto something again.
The price tag on the OnePlus 2 remains around half of that of the phones it’s aiming to rival – the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 and HTC One M9 – with the 16GB model coming in at £239, £329 while the 64GB will set you back just £289, $389.
A quick flick through the spec sheet and you’ll likely be impressed with the bang for your buck offered by the OnePlus 2.
It’s not without its flaws however. There’s no NFC, no microSD, no fast or wireless charging options and while the rear plate can be removed, the battery cannot.
These may be seen as minor imperfections by some, but when you’re claiming the phone will beat handsets launched next year, and your company’s motto is “Never Settle”, is the OnePlus 2 in danger of letting down its fans?
It’s certainly not as easy to actually buy as its higher priced competition, with OnePlus continuing with its invite-only sales approach. Invites are easier to come by this time around, and OnePlus claims over two million people have already registered for an invite. That means you could be in for quite a wait still.
The interest is there, the price is still low and the specs are tempting. Has OnePlus managed to bring together all the elements for its second hit, or will the OnePlus 2 fail to chart? Let’s find out.
I forgave the OnePlus One’s functional, plastic design last year as it was the first phone from the start up and the price tag knocked our socks off. This time around though the market is expecting more, and OnePlus has delivered.
The OnePlus 2 sports a sturdy metal frame around its circumference, giving the handset a premium look and feel. It’s a similar design choice to the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Note 4, with the rear retaining a removable plastic back plate.
It’s with this black plate however, where I have my first gripe. The default rear for the OnePlus 2 is a textured grey affair which has the roughness of sandpaper. It means there’s a whole heap of grip – something I miss when grappling with the iPhone 6 Plus – but it doesn’t feel comfortable, nor premium in the hand.
That’s a shame as the metal frame round the edge gives the handset an air of sophistication which could see it in a higher price tier, but the rear reminds you that in order to deliver such a low price point some corners still need to be cut.
It’s not all bad news, as OnePlus is more than happy to sell you an alternative rear cover – pick from bamboo, rosewood, black apricot wood or Kevlar – for £19.99, $26.99.
I’ve tried these options out during an exclusive OnePlus event and can confidently say they feel better than the default offering – just as long as you don’t mind spending a little extra cash.
Peel the rear cover off and you’re greeted by a black plastic body with a dual-SIM tray towards the top left of the phone – pull this out and you’ll find space for two nanoSIMs.
Unlike some Huawei handsets, the second SIM slot doesn’t double as a microSD tray, so you’re stuck with the 16GB/64GB of internal storage.
In terms of size it’s similar to the OnePlus One, with the 5.5-inch display forcing the size of the handset to an extent. It has gained thickness, moving from 8.9mm to 9.9mm, while weight has increased from 162g to 175g.
I didn’t find it overbearing in the hand, with an even balance making it easy to hold. You will need to perform some shuffling during one handed use if you want to reach the fingerprint scanner at the base or the top of the display, which can lead to some near-drop experiences.
The power/lock key, located on the right below the volume rocker, falls nicely under thumb/finger, making it easy to locate and hit, while on the opposite side there’s a novel sliding switch.
This slider allows you to quickly toggle your notifications into three states – off, priority only and all. I found this especially useful when diving into a meeting, as a quick slide of the switch to its top position meant no interruptions.
There’s a LED notification light on the front, so you can still be alerted to new notifications without having to touch the handset – but you can turn this off in the settings if you prefer.
This isn’t a new idea, and iPhone users will be screaming at their screens to tell you Apple’s smartphones have had a silent toggle since the beginning of time. Sure it’s not innovation, but it’s a handy addition to the OnePlus 2.
The OnePlus 2 builds positively on the design of the OnePlus One, bringing with it a more premium and refined style which makes it look and feel like a more expensive handset. It means it’s easier to take seriously as a flagship contender, just as long as you swap out the sandpaper default rear for a real wood finish.
Specs, performance and camera
Specs and performance
The OnePlus 2 will be shipping with OnePlus’ own operating system, OxygenOS.
The OnePlus 2 is lightning quick thanks to a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip. With up to 64GB of storage and eMMC 5.0 flash memory paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, the handset was able to show off just how snappy its interface was.
Apps switched quickly and loaded fast while games ran smoothly during my usage. During a racing game of Real Racing 3 from EA, the phone ran a little warmer than I’d liked but it was kind of expected since the Snapdragon 810 has been accused of overheating in other devices like the LG G Flex 2.
I’m particularly interested in this element, as OnePlus has promised that it’s worked with Qualcomm to stop the issue being a big problem – it’ll be interesting to see how the phone performs under a stress test.
OxygenOS, based on Android 5.1, is essentially the same as the Android experience. There are subtle customizations like dark mode, the ability to switch between hardware and capacitive buttons and toggle quick settings baked in throughout the OS.
On screen gestures are back again enabling you to toggle the flashlight by drawing a “V” with your finger (even when the device is asleep), an “O” for the camera and two swipes down to play music.
Changes like dark mode have been used in other handsets but the OnePlus 2 allows you to change accent colors and even customize LED notifications.
I particularly liked the OnePlus 2’s ability to change sounds depending on whether you’re using the phone for music, movies or games. By integrating MaxxAudio tech, the Audio Tuner enables you to tweak the 10 band EQ settings for the three options to create custom sound profiles. You’ll be able to use the tuner for every app as well.
The OnePlus 2 has a 13MP rear facing camera that boasts six physical lenses, a dual LED flash, and f/2.0 aperture. Perhaps most impressive is the sensor, which contains large 1.3 micrometre light-collecting pixels to deliver low-light shots.
The OnePlus 2 camera has been engineered for improved clarity and stability, accomplished with the addition of an advanced Optical Image Stabilization system. Rear mounted laser technology sharpens and focuses the camera in just .33 milliseconds and the wide-angle 5MP front-facing camera ensures every angle is covered.
There are three different modes you can shoot in: Clear Shot, HDR and Beauty. Pressing the menu button pulls up the choices on the right hand side of the frame. Swiping to the right pulls up options for video, panorama, time lapse and slow motion video capture. Swiping to the right lets you view the images you just took.
At the moment, zooming in on pictures doesn’t consistently work right, but a OnePlus developer told me that the first over-the-air update will address the issue. He assured me that would be the largest primary fix with a few unspecified smaller bugs thrown in with the update.
Additionally, the OnePlus 2 also supports 4K video and RAW images – where both will be available through an update shortly after launch.
Aside from that zooming problem, the camera took crisp, clear photos with a definite distinction between its three shooting modes while being a quick snapper as well.
OnePlus has done something utterly remarkable here: created a fingerprint sensor to rival Samsung and Apple, a screen to take on Sony, a laser autofocus that steps up to LG and a build quality that elevates it above most of its other rivals, and yet does it for half the price.
However, it one-ups its lesser-known brethren because of the hype surrounding it – and rightly so. At the moment, I’m most impressed with its sharp display and fantastic camera.
The 5.5-inch LCD screen and 600-nits makes battery life questionable at this point but further testing in the review should reveal its capabilities.
Right now, the OnePlus 2 is a solid handset and asking $389 (£289, about AU$535) for the 64GB version is, well, simply fantastic… as long as it stands up to scrutiny in our full review.
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