Review: OnePlus 2
2016 Flagship? Maybe. Flagship killer? Err…..
Founded by Oppo vice president Pete Lau in late 2013, OnePlus made a big hurrah about their entry into crowded Android world. Their journey started with the launch of OnePlus One smartphone. And yes, they were right. OnePlus One made more noise than any other start-up’s introductory device. Why? Because, OnePlus One had flagship level specs at a ridiculously low price. Unsurprisingly, it immediately became on-the-go choice for developers and budget conscious ones. Needless to say, OnePlus hit the home run with it.
The only problem was their invite only model. You need to be invited by company to buy it. Granted, they wanted to have more control on inventory to avoid unsold stock and we can’t expect a six month old venture to have that good distribution channel as likes of big players aka Samsung and LG. But, it was still irritating and something that needed to be addressed in future.
Fast forward to mid-2015, OnePlus is gearing towards its 2nd smartphone launch, called OnePlus 2. The company has been teasing its specs from last two months on social media. 2nd generation OnePlus has a lot riding on it. They just can’t afford a misstep here. The company gives it tagline of “2016 Flagship killer” Well, that’s a pretty bold claim. So, is it true or just another marketing tactics? Can OnePlus 2 achieve the same outcome as last generation or even exceed it? Or will it be a one time show for this Chinese start-up? Let’s dive in.
OnePlus 2 borrows some aesthetics from its predecessor. The back cover is still Sandstone black but, more refined one, which provides an excellent grip to hold the phone. It’s also removable and can be exchanged with Bamboo, Rosewood, Black Apricot (My favourite one), and Kevlar options. The phone weights at 175g adding the thickness of 9.9mm. It’s quite heavy compared to other flagships but, overall manageable and feels solid in hands.
As usual, 5MP selfie cam, LED notification (Glad to see that one), earpiece and some hidden sensors sits just above the 5.5 inch display. Below it, there is physical home button which doubles as fingerprint scanner and two capacitive keys on the both sides (More on that in Software section). 3.5mm audio jack and microphone are on the top. Down to bottom, we are introduced with USB Type-C and two speaker grills. Now, come to the rear part and we have 13MP camera, dual LED flash, laser autofocus and a company logo. On the right side of metal frame, there is volume up-down rocker and power button at a comfortable height. On the left, there is unique action slider button (Will cover it shortly in Software).
OnePlus 2 is one of few phones, on which you won’t want to put a case. Yeah, it feels that good and delivers excellent grip. I strongly feel OnePlus did a great job here, and didn’t cut any corners to reduce the cost.
OnePlus 2 boasts 5.5 inch full HD IPS LCD display with 1080×1920 resolution, resulting into a respectable 401 PPI. Unlike AMOLED, the colours are not vibrate and blacks are not deep but, instead they are truer to life and incredibly sharp. The brightness level goes up to 600 nits and viewing are at 178 degrees.
Text reading is sharp enough, videos and games are also enjoyable to watch. My only problem was visibility in direct sunlight even at full brightness.
If you pit OnePlus 2 against the QHD equipped Galaxy S6, then it will come out as little dull to you. But, then again considering the price, it’s still a winner in $400 league.
OnePlus One came out with all the latest components available on market and the 2nd generation is no different. OnePlus Two boasts the infamous yet, powerful Snapdragon 810 processor. Whereas, Adreno 430 is handling GPU’s job. It includes 16GB/64GB ROM (No micro-SD) and 3GB/4GB of RAM depending on the variant. But, the bigger mystery is, does it handicapped by overheating issues of 810 that we have encountered in Sony Xperia Z4 or HTC’s M9?
Ok, let’s jump to the conclusion. Snapdragon 810 (The newer one 2.1v) is no longer the bad guy in the room. The phone flies in day to day tasks, thought there were some minor shutters but I feel it was more due to software than hardware. As a typical flagship, it does get warm under heavy usage but not at a discomfort level. 4GB RAM was also generous enough to show its multitasking capabilities. Add to that, it doesn’t have RAM management issues (Ahem…Galaxy S6) and can easily keeps multiple apps running in background without killing them.
Overall, OnePlus 2 has a very powerful package running in it. But, you know, hardware is easy, software is where you need to shine. So, how OnePlus has differentiated its own version of Android from others? Was it worth messing with vanilla Android? Let’s find it out.
OnePlus did a smart job with software for their 1st product. They just handed all the heavy work to the guys at Cyanogen. As we all know, Cyanogen is pretty much similar to stock Android in terms of feel and looks. It adds small but useful ingredients on the top of pure Android. In short, Cyanogen was the biggest advantage of OnePlus One. We were also looking forward to the future of this partnership. But, out of nowhere things didn’t go well between them and OnePlus had to abandon them in favour of their own skin/OS.
Enter Oxygen OS, running on top of Android Lollipop 5.1.1 and perhaps, the biggest loophole in OnePlus 2’s appeal. So, what’s new in Oxygen OS? Unfortunately, little to none. Most of the features are borrowed from Cyanogen. Also, I don’t know why they are calling it OS! It’s not even an UI in terms of features. It offers subtle customizations like dark theme, the ability to switch between on screen navigation and capacitive ones, LED notifications. One can also change accent colours throughout the OS. Screen gestures are also present, even when the device is asleep.
On the left side of home screen, there is shelf. It is basically a home for frequently used contacts, apps and widgets. OnePlus did say, it’s still in beta and will be improved in future releases. One interesting addition is integration of MaxxAudio Tech. You can tweak the 10 bands and EQ settings to create the custom audio profiles, which can change the sound whether you are using phone for music, movies, and games. Nice!
Overall, Oxygen OS still needs little bit tweaking and polishing. Right now, it doesn’t properly justify under the hood capabilities.
Does OnePlus 2 have what it takes to beat other flagships in camera department?
Here, we have 13MP shooter on the back with optical image stabilization, laser-assisted autofocus that can record up to 4K. The interface is quite simple and easy to go. The app is quick and responsive. All the popular modes like Photos, Videos, Slow motion, Time-lapse and Manual mode are included too. Camera works great in day light but as the situation gets darker, it starts sweating. The focus might just give you a hard time now and again. Overall, the camera is above par, but gets the job done.
Now on the front, we have 5MP shooter and it is very impressive. The image quality is quite good than what I expected but, the lens isn’t that much wide to fit more details.
OnePlus 2 offers the standard 2160p (3840 x 2160px) video at 30 fps compared to 1080p in the OnePlus One. It also includes regular 1080p at 30 fps as well as slow-motion at 720p with 120fps. Again the interface is simple enough with almost no options rather than selection of resolution and flashlight. The 4K recording is acceptable but, not that amazing. Camera does a good job with optical image stabilization. So, if you’re shaking/walking while shooting, that won’t be a problem. The slow motion and Time lapse works just fine.
Now, OnePlus did roll out updates to include manual mode and some tweaks to the image processing algorithms, but the low light quality still leaves a lot to desire for 3rd generation.
Battery life is one of the most important aspect in smartphones. You have all the latest and powerful gems to enjoy your newly purchased phone but, what if it just doesn’t provide enough juice to run on it? In the race of making flagships thinner and lighter, OEMs have largely ignored the need to provide bigger battery in their top offerings (Looking at you Samsung). So, is OnePlus 2 in same category or they have done something different here?
Let’s start with numbers. OnePlus 2 is powered by 3300mAh Li-Po battery. It also comes with future proof USB Type C. Here are two things to consider. First, OnePlus 2 is actually thicker and heavier than other flagships, which pays way to fit more juice in it and second, it has battery friendly 1080p screen, which is less power hungry. So, the results are the exactly what you have hoped for. OnePlus 2 can easily last you a day. Even under a heavy usage, I barely need a charger before going to bed.
Though, all things are not perfect. OnePlus 2 lacks fast charging and Wireless charging. The former can be negligible but, the lack of quick charging is a bummer. It means it will take up to 3 hours to fill up the power. Overall, OnePlus provides solid battery life which is a rare case now-a-days.
- Fingerprint Scanner is quick. It doesn’t require to wake up the screen first. Just put the finger on it and it will serve you under a second.
- The action slider is another nice addition. When pushed to up or down, it changes the profile to silent or vibrate respectively. Very handy in some situations.
- Capacitive buttons are customizable too. One can change the back and multitasking menu to left or right depending upon his comfort.
- NFC is missing here. OnePlus said that their users weren’t using it on OnePlus One but, it feels more of an excuse to cut the cost than a practical explanation. Well, users in India won’t be bothered by it but, in those countries, where Android Pay is available, this alone will pull them away from OnePlus 2.
- The company still haven’t figure out the perfect balance between demand and production. So, as a result OnePlus 2 is again invite only purchase! I personally know at least half a dozen potential buyers who ended up with rival products just because of this non-sense.
- The updates speed is unacceptable. First, they don’t believe in security patches and most importantly, OnePlus 2 still haven’t got the taste of Marshmallow even in early April. OnePlus actually have only 3 phones to support and yet they haven’t figure out a way to provide quick updates.
I once recall Larry Page, co-founder of Google, saying “Always deliver more than expected” and what OnePlus did here, is the exact opposite of it. After overhyping the product for over 2 months, OnePlus somewhat under delivered here. Make no mistake, OnePlus 2 is still a great upgrade over its predecessor. But, it got worst ever possible launch. First, OnePlus 2 got delayed in western countries and in Asia, there was very limited stock on launch day with invite only. And yes, about that shitty invite system, I would just like to pass this message to Carl Pei (CEO of OnePlus)…
“Buying experience is also a part of overall smartphone experience”
So, there you go. Ask yourself, are you ready to live with OnePlus 2’s shortcomings? If yes, then this one will serve your better than any other $400 priced rivals and if no, then there is always another opponent widening their arms to welcome you.