Change is constant. But change for the sake of change is also not something that is always good. I am glad that the OnePlus, even if it changes a few things around in the OnePlus 6, keeps enough things same to ensure that it doesn’t break the goodness that it has going with the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 5T. That is my early impression, or in other words the quick review, of the OnePlus 6. Even if this phone brings forth a fresh design from OnePlus, it is also a device that will be familiar enough to most OnePlus fans. It is a difficult balance to achieve, change something and yet keep all the goodness of your earlier product in it. But with the OnePlus 6, OnePlus achieves it.
Now this may sound disappointing, this sameness, to some. But it is not. Or rather not yet. The OnePlus 6 comes with a new design, and improved hardware, including a faster processor and a camera that sports bigger sensor. It also comes with a marginally bigger screen compared to what we saw in the OnePlus 5T. And these changes are enough to keep OnePlus competitive, even at a relatively slightly higher introductory price of the OnePlus 6 at $529 (approx Rs 35,800).
The reason I believe so is because OnePlus doesn’t change things for the sake of changing. It retains all that was good with the OnePlus 5T. Just like its predecessor, the OnePlus 6 is a very fast phone. Surely a lot of this speed comes from the new Snapdragon 845 processor, but much of it also comes from the optimised Oxygen OS. Wait a second. I get ahead of myself here. Let me deal with OnePlus 6 bit by bit. Let’s start with the design, the biggest change in the phone compared to the OnePlus 5T.
Shiny like a jewel
In my opinion, the OnePlus 6 continues the trend that was started with the OnePlus 5: Of making the OnePlus phones more acceptable to masses. Hardcore OnePlus fans who lamented loss of edgy and industrial design that OnePlus 3 and the 3T had may scoff at the OnePlus 6, believing that it looks similar to many other phones that come with glass and metal design, but I think regular consumers will love it. In fact, I can already see that they like it. While I was trying OnePlus 6, a lot of people in the India Today office, the regular phone users and not the geeks, saw it. They touched it. They held it and turned it around in their hands. And all of them were impressed by how sleek and premium the OnePlus 6 looked. This is for the Mirror Black variant, which has very shiny and reflective finish, almost like a jewel. And my impression is that most people will feel the same for the Midnight Black and Silk White, which use glass with smooth frosted look.
While I do agree that with the OnePlus 6, OnePlus follows a trend set by the likes of the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X, which too have a metal and glass design, it has done enough to keep the phone classic OnePlus. The back has a curve, similar to the curved aluminium back in the OnePlus 5T. Fun fact: OnePlus CEO Pete Lau tells Indian Today Tech that their designers spent almost 6 months trying to perfect the curve. Similarly, there is that angle at which the bottom and top of the phone is cut, to make putting the USB-C connector or the headphone jack seamless, which is distinctively OnePlus.
Overall, I like the way OnePlus 6 looks and feels in hands. It is not larger than the OnePlus 5T despite coming with a slightly bigger screen. Although it could be a bit too big for some people, the curved back means it fits very well in hands, although if you are going to go for the Mirror Black do keep in mind that it shows smudges in no time because it’s so shiny. Also, irrespective of which OnePlus 6 you get, you will have to put it in a case because it’s all glass. This is no different from how you will use an iPhone X or the Galaxy S9.
I also feel that due to all the glass, most people are going to see the OnePlus 6 as a more premium phone, even if the design of the OnePlus 5T wasn’t lacking in any significant way. It’s just that we as humans love shiny and polished things, we love jewels, and OnePlus 6 is as shiny and polished as it gets.
Design wise, there are some other changes in the OnePlus 6. The phone’s rear camera module is in the middle. And under it there is a fingerprint sensor, which is squarish and smaller compared to the round one in the OnePlus 5T. Although I prefer the round fingerprint sensor, in terms of performance I don’t find any difference. The sensor in the OnePlus 6 is as fast as the one in the OnePlus 5T, which means very fast. The camera module doesn’t sit flush with glass rear cover, but given the chances — make it 100 per cent — that people will use the OnePlus 6 with a case that hardly matters.
Fantastic screen, fast performance
When I used and reviewed the OnePlus 5T, I loved that phone, largely because of how fast it was and what a brilliant screen it had. It’s nice to see that OnePlus 6 follows it through and through. The OnePlus 6 comes with a bigger screen, but the difference to be honest is just the notch. The area that was bezel in the OnePlus 5T is the screen in the OnePlus 6. That is how it gets the 6.28-inch screen with 2280 X 1080 pixels, but in this same area there is also the notch.
I know some people may not like the notch but I didn’t mind it on the iPhone X and I don’t mind it on the OnePlus 6. You use the phone for a few days and you forget it’s there. In fact, you like the way notification area extends into the bunny ears, saving you some screen space. The big problem with the notch and the 19:9 screen — instead of 16:9 — is that watching video may feel little weird on it because the screen may look narrow for content not optimised for it, or content may break due to notch. I don’t find such issues with the OnePlus 6 because of two reasons: One, the screen is large enough so that even if it is slightly narrow, it is big enough for a grand video viewing experience. Two, by default OnePlus hides notch in most apps, including movie player and YouTube. (You also have option to keep the notch on). So there is no break in video even in zoomed in mode, which is better than how videos are handled on the iPhone X.
Now, that the notch is out let me talk about the quality of the OnePlus 6. After my brief use, my impression is that it’s not as good as the out-of-this-world screen in the iPhone X. But then that phone costs Rs 90,000. For all practical purposes, the OnePlus 6 screen — this one too is made by Samsung — is brilliant and is better than what you get on more expensive phones like the Pixel 2 XL. By default it shows extremely saturated colours and is bright enough. But if you want your screen snugly warm with more real and deep colours, you can turn on the DCI-P3 mode. I love the DCI-P3 mode on the OnePlus 6.
Recently, when I met OnePlus CEO, I asked him: What is the one reason why someone should get a OnePlus 6? His answer: Speed. He said OnePlus 6 is an all-rounder but speed is something that really sets it apart from others. Much of its comes from the good hardware — Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 8GB RAM, 128 GB fast storage — but some of it also comes from the attention that OnePlus has paid to the software in the phone. It is well optimised and there are no discernible lags. The OnePlus 6 is a fast phone, although if you already use a phone like OnePlus 5T, which too is very fast, you are not going to notice anything significant in its speed.
Camera and battery unknowns
As I have said several times, the OnePlus 5T is a fantastic phone. To make the OnePlus 6 a winner, all that OnePlus needed to do was evolve the OnePlus 5T. And that is exactly what the company seems to have done. Its design is an evolution that makes it look and feel in hand more premium. Its screen is as good as the fantastic screen in the OnePlus 5T. And its Oxygen software, with its almost stock Android Oreo interface, is fast and useful as what you get in the OnePlus 5T. Judged against the high-standard set by the OnePlus 5T, the OnePlus 6 is already a phone that should shine bright and worry its competitors.
But there is more, even if this more is something I will be able to talk about only in the full review because I need to try out the phone for some more time. And I also have some concern about it, and that is camera. The OnePlus 6 comes with improved camera hardware. It has an image sensor — IMX 519 — that is 19 per cent bigger than the one in the OnePlus 5T, even if the megapixel count remains the same at 16MP. It also has a optically stable lens with F1.7 aperture. In theory this should mean better photos in low light. But that is theory. I need to test the camera more thoroughly to figure it out better.
The battery capacity is the same as OnePlus 5T battery. This means 3300 mAh. But because the OnePlus 6 uses a processor with 10nm process, it may offer slightly better battery life. But again, this is something I need to try out thoroughly before I say something, although so far I can say that the phone’s battery should last one full day with ease.
Other features in the OnePlus 6 are classic OnePlus and they work as intended. The Face Unlock is wickedly fast. So is the Dash Charging (don’t you all OnePlus users find it magical). Same is the case with custom options like changing the position of back button. It’s useful.
What I feel right now is that if you already have a OnePlus 5T, you won’t find the OnePlus 6 big enough of an update, that is unless you badly want your phone all clad in shiny glass. But if you are out to get a new high-end phone that is in the same league as that of the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone 8 Plus and yet is relatively affordable, you will love the OnePlus 6.
Disclaimer: The reporter’s travel and stay for this event in London have been arranged by OnePlus.