OnePlus 5 Review – The Android Phone (Remaining) Windows Phone Users Should Switch To

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Two words are all that’s needed to most accurately describe the OnePlus 5: iPhone fast. If you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to have an iPhone running Android, look no further. I’ve been so, so impressed with this phone. Although performance is the reason to buy an OP5, there’s a lot more to it, mostly great.

Hardware

It doesn’t feel like an iPhone. And I don’t actually think it looks like one either. It feels premium and Midnight Black sexy. The fit-and-finish is something I admire every time I take out the phone. Heck, I actually sometimes take it out just to admire it. It’s pretty manageable in one-handed use most of the time, especially if you’ve got bigger hands than me (most likely) and/or use the on-screen navbar.1 The one misstep is that it’s incredibly slippery in the hand. So much so, I actually purchased phone insurance for the first time (as well as a couple of dBrand skins). Another niggle is with the hardware buttons on the sides of the phone. The phone is beautifully thin but I think there’s room for them to have been slightly bigger for a more assured press.

In a contest between less pixels and more battery, in an unusual (but welcome) move for a flagship device, the latter was prioritised. Although the screen packs less pixels than other flagships, it doesn’t matter because it’s still a beautiful display. Battery life has been better for it, consistently and comfortably lasting an entire day. Win-win. Dash charging is legit too. Especially appreciate how the phone remains cool when I’m using it while it’s being charged.

Making it 3/3 is a camera that by default takes beautiful pictures. I don’t know whether it’s better/worse than the competition, but I do know you won’t be disappointed by it. It’s really fast too. For the second lens, I’d have a preferred a wide-angle because of my shooting preference. Maybe in the future phones will ship with more than two lenses to cater for every situation. Or maybe interchangeable lenses become a thing. Finally, Portrait mode is cool but a little finicky; I expect it to continue being optimised with software updates.

My biggest gripe with the hardware is the mono speaker and, more specifically, its placement on the bottom of the phone; watching a video in landscape requires you to carefully grip the phone to avoid blocking the speaker grills. Not a showstopper but highly inconvenient. Especially crappy because the display’s size and quality make me want to watch video on this.

A few minor points:

* The fingerprint sensor is lightning quick but I’m not particularly fond of its pill-shaped design. I think it looks ugly (and is actually one of the reasons I was always put off by the Galaxy design pre-S8); as far as geometric shapes go, I much prefer a circle. But I realise that would exacerbate claims that the phone is an iPhone copy.

* Most days I switch between “Silent”, “Do not disturb” and “Ring” modes. The Alert Slider thoughtfully ensures I don’t need to turn on the phone’s display to do so – one of those little things that make a big difference to each day. An issue I have though is in “Do not disturb” mode I can’t set it to stay silent when a phone call comes through. The workaround is to either only allow (favourite) contacts to get through or repeat callers (i.e. presumably urgent calls). Neither option is great.

* Changing phone profiles during the average day is common. The Alert Slider acknowledges this. But taking pictures is even more common. And so I wish there was a dedicated camera button to help speed things up and make taking pictures more satisfying by enabling a more tactile experience. This is probably the feature I miss the most about Windows Phones.

Software

I know stock Android is all the rage within tech circles. That and being on a budget is why I went with the Nexus 5X when I decided to switch to Android in early 2016. Coming from Windows Phone where the experience was delightful even on the low-end, I went into this with high expectations. This was a Google phone. Yes, it didn’t pack as much power as its 6P sibling, but Android was several iterations old. And so I still expected it to fly. And, to be fair, it did some of the time. But not all the time. Less so at the end of every day. Less less so with time. The other disappointment was while the most visible/important layer of Android is unquestionably good, the admittedly less important but not unimportant middle layer of polish was absent when you dig deep. Although I consider the gap to have reduced, significantly in many areas and bettered in some even, Android as experienced on the 5X for me still trailed iOS in the overall design and performance stakes. What I really didn’t expect was OnePlus’ OxygenOS to address this. But it has. No doubt helped by 8GB of RAM. OxygenOS is understated in the best possible way. It’s uninterested in adding more bloat to Android, instead focused on carefully applying a considerate layer of polish to the experience.2 The OnePlus 5 has actually changed my opinion of Android. Buttery smooth. Finally. My next phone will need to run OxygenOS.

Maybe more than performance, an even better reason to buy the OnePlus 5 is its price. I know a £500 phone is not cheap, but for almost £200 less than a Galaxy S8, after ~1 week of use, for me it’s a no-brainer. If you do, you won’t regret it. But don’t be mislead, even if the OnePlus 5 cost the same as a Galaxy S8, I’d still go with it because of its superior performance and OxygenOS.3 I’ve been seriously productive because of these two factors; multitasking is a breeze with no sign of stutter regardless of what I throw its way. But your priorities may be different.4 If they’re not, then the OnePlus 5 is highly recommended. Especially if you’re on a Windows Phone and don’t want an iPhone.

1. I didn’t because you get more screen estate with the capacitive buttons and it’s more predictable as they’re always there, unlike the software buttons whose visibility may vary depending on what you’re doing. 

2. A beautiful dark theme that’s carefully applied everywhere (and not just selectively like in other Android skins) is my favourite addition. It gives the phone a similar overall look and feel to the one that pulled me towards the Zune and later Windows Phone. 

3. Although I can’t ever see OnePlus hitting price-parity with established high-end flagships in the future (especially as their prices increase), I won’t be surprised if it gets a little more expensive with each iteration. Considering what you get in return though, I won’t complain, because as a OnePlus fan (and not customer) I’m more interested in seeing them succeed than saving myself a few pounds. In the meanwhile, I’ll savour this relative bargain. 

4. Such as wireless charging, minimal bezels, expandable storage and water resistance. For me, it’s actually a simple and clear choice. Performance is essential. The rest are luxuries. 

I originally wrote this at: http://mtrostyle.net/blog/oneplus5_review.

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