OnePlus 3T Preview

Posted on April 4, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android with 32 Comments

OnePlus 3T Preview

I’ve pulled the trigger on the OnePlus 3T, a stunning mid-range Android handset that picks up where Google left off with Nexus. Here’s a quick look at the device I’ve ordered, and what I expect from it.

By way of background, I recently published a premium post, Let’s Talk About Smartphone Pricing, which arose out of a separate and still unpublished post about decision making. Smartphones are too expensive, and while flagship handsets like the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy S8+ have their place, I feel very strongly that there is better value to be had at the low-end and middle tiers of the market. In roughly the $250 and $400 price ranges.

On the Android side of the smartphone fence, I’ve identified two handsets, one in each category, which I feel are emblematic of that better value.

At the low-end is the 5th-generation Moto G Plus, which Prime customers can buy at Amazon (with Kindle-style lockscreen ads) for as little as $185. I bought mine direct from Motorola, and bumped up the storage to 64 GB, and paid about $300.

And at the mid-tier, we have the focus of today’s post, the OnePlus 3T. This handset starts at $439, for 64 GB of (non-expandable) storage, but you can upgrade to 128 GB for just $40 more, or a total price of $479. I purchased a Midnight Black version with 128 GB of storage, and paid just under $500 including expedited shipping.

Yes, both of these phones cost less, combined, than a new Samsung Galaxy S8+. Or to take the “thinking differently” thing to a different level, you might consider how those different prices look over a two-year period, which is the typical term of ownership for any smartphone. I suspect that most people would be able to use either of these devices for two full years, so your savings aren’t just real, they’re long-lasting as well.

Looking at the OnePlus 3T in particular, OnePlus released this updated handset in early 2017, just five months after it released the original OnePlus 3. That may seem like an unusual timeline, given the annual refresh norm in the industry, but I’ll point to a few precedents, including the Surface Book with Performance Base and the HP Spectre x360 (4K/Pen) in the PC space, and the Project(Red) iPhone 7/7 Plus and refreshed iPhone SE here in the smartphone market. It seems that device makers are increasingly responsive to the need for subtle, mid-stream updates to hardware that, in the past, might have simply sat untouched over the course of a year or more.

And on that note, the original OnePlus 3 was widely lauded for its handsome, professional-looking form factor, its clean Android software image, its excellent real-world performance, and the often-quirky and unique functionality that OnePlus is known for, like its proprietary quick-charge capabilities. It was also applauded for its reasonable pricing. Like the Nexus 6P and 5X handsets I loved so much, the OnePlus 3 provided premium smartphone specs and quality, and mid-tier pricing. It was a great value. (Still is.)

Full disclosure: I’ve never used a OnePlus handset. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen one out in the real world. But these phones are routinely the subject of fully positive reviews, and always for the same reasons I recommended Nexus devices in the past. Now that Google has lost its mind and is chasing Apple down the premium rabbit hole, OnePlus has emerged as the brand to take the place of Nexus. And from what I can tell, they are uniquely positioned, and willing, to satisfy this need.

As for the OnePlus 3T, it looks incredible on paper. Its made of anodized aluminum, which should afford a premium look and feel, and comes in Gunmetal gray, Soft Gold, and now the Midnight Black color that I ordered. It features a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 4, which sounds like a step down in this era of battery sucking 4K displays, but it matches the resolution of my iPhone 7 Plus, which also features a 5.5-inch display.

Inside, you’ll find a high-end, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with Adreno 530 graphics, an incredible 6 GB of RAM, and, as noted, 64 GB or 128 GB of non-expandable storage. The OnePlus 3T is powered by USB-C, of course, but the device utilizes OnePlus’s Dash Charge fast-charging technology, which the firm says is faster than that provided by Qualcomm: You can juice the phone up 60 percent in just 30 minutes. Too, the (non-removable) battery is a larger 3400 mAh unit, which should deliver stellar battery life.

The cameras are allegedly excellent: On the rear, we see a 16 MP Sony IMX 298 with an f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, auto HDR, and 4K video support. There’s a small camera bump, but unlike Apple, OnePlus utilizes a sapphire crystal lens cover to ensure no scratching. The front-facing “selfie” camera got a big update with the 3T, apparently, and is now a 16 MP Samsung unit.

There’s NFC, and the OnePlus 3T provides a fingerprint sensor on the front and all the usual internal sensors. Also on the down side, it provides only a single mono speaker, just like the lackluster Google Pixel XL. Come on, guys. It’s 2017.

On the software front, OnePlus goes with a very clean Android 7.x software image that it calls OxygenOS. Described as “light and customizable, OxygenOS 3.5 does look a lot like stock Android, with some light customization, and not like an Android “skin” as we see on some phones. This is an important distinction, to me, as I’ve not really liked any of the heavy Android customizations attempts I’ve seen.

I’m curiously excited about this phone. But I’ll need to wait a week or two to receive it because the Midnight Black color I ordered is apparently in high demand. Judging from the product shots on the OnePlus website, I can see why.


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Comments (32)

32 responses to “OnePlus 3T Preview”

  1. wunderbar

    I'll be very interested to know what you think of the camera.

    I love the idea of the mid tier phones, but often times where they do fall down on is the camera. The sensor is rarely the problem, but the processing of the image on the device is where they can't match the high end handsets.

  2. jgoraya

    I really wish that OnePlus was able to add CDMA bands to this phone. Need a true successor to the Nexus 5x/6p which worked on every carrier, had a SnapDragon 8XX processor and other high end features like finger print unlock.

  3. JBerls

    I purchased the OnePlus 3T Midnight Black as soon as it became available. I like the look and feel a lot, and almost instantly preferred Android to my iPhone 7. I've never liked the whack-a-mole Apple icon interface. So I've wanted to like Android a lot. Unfortunately, I'm already running into what I think are significant problems. There is no AT&T WiFi Calling, which is an essential for me as I do not get any cell reception in my home. AT&T won't provision phones they don't sell. But a bigger problem is that I've found that whenever the phone goes to sleep, it turns off the WiFi connection. Not just drops it. The phone turns off WiFi entirely. I haven't found anything online matching up to this, but a lot of commentary about issues regarding the OnePlus 3T dropping WiFi in general. I've tried several of the Android WiFi "keep alive" apps without success. (Why should an app like this be necessary in the first place?) At the same time, I've found that if there is no cell signal for any length of time, the phone needs a reboot to reconnect to available cell service.

    The only other problem I've found with the phone I didn't expect either: I've never tried a phone with virtually no side bezels. I'm not so sure this is actually a good design idea! I open apps or change screens, etc., unintentionally with annoying frequency. This may be exacerbated by the sheer responsiveness of the display, but still. I find myself wishing for a setting to require more definite presses on the buttons before opening an app or changing a screen. I feel like I'm always backtracking or closing unwanted apps, and wondering about my own clumsiness. I never had that problem with the iPhone.

    That's a lot of nuisance for a modern smartphone at any price.

  4. red.radar

    Just bought a OnePlus 3T to replace my Iphone. I have thoroughly enjoyed mine.

    Only downside that i have run into on AT&T is that VoLTE doesn't provision. So the voice clarity is not as good as my Iphone. Apparently AT&T only white-lists phones they sell onto VoLTE. However T-Mobile and other MVNOs do not do this.

    So keep an eye out for that and let me know if you have a different experience.

  5. MeaditatingAmigo

    I bought a Lumia 640 about eighteen months ago. I paid forty dollars at the online Windows Store. I love this phone and the Windows Phone user interface. I left Android because those phones stop getting security updates after a couple of years. It's disgusting that the only way to get security updates is to buy a new phone. I haven't had this problem with my Lumia. Microsoft keeps it up to date. If this Lumia was an Android phone, it would no longer be getting security updates. I'm thinking about updating to a newer Lumia. I can't decide if I should get another Lumia or try one of the other brands.

  6. JJUK

    I was an early adopter of a OnePlus One 64GB. I've since bought 3 more secondhand for family members. We're all still using them as our only phones. I updated all to CM14.1 prior to the demise of CM and only today I updated mine to the latest LineageOS nightly (weekly) Android 7.1.1 build. If I were to upgrade there's only one phone I'd buy: the OnePlus 3T. Outstanding ROI to the extent that I could actually make a profit from all of the secondhand purchases if I were to sell them today!

  7. thechise

    Doesn't really matter because according to Paul in another article this week all Android phones are terrible

  8. bassoprofundo

    I've had this exact phone sitting in a shopping cart waiting to pull the trigger for the last week or so, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. I'm currently on an S7 Edge as my daily driver, and while it has every feature I could possibly need, it has a couple of very frustrating flaws:

    1) 32gb of base storage is not enough (and SD card expansion is just not the same). I find myself micro-managing it just to maintain enough space for the apps I want plus a few games of substance (ex.- GearVR stuff). I would have bought a 64gb model if they'd offered, but they didn't.

    2) Performance on this is device is noticeably (and maddeningly) slower than a loaner Pixel I used for a while and a buddy's OP3 with basically the same app load and usage patterns.

    The performance thing drives me especially nuts, and I've been considering trying the OP3T just to see if it gives me a more "lean and mean" approach to software and performance. It's frustratingly inconsistent as to when issues crop up, too. Simple things like just popping the phone out of my pocket and doing a double home press to launch the camera sometimes fire instantly and other times take 4-5 seconds (which is an eternity to wait when trying to capture a moment).

    Factory resetting the phone does seem to resolve it for a time, but it comes back (even if I don't do a restore and just start from scratch with only the necessities installed). I don't know if it's an Android thing in general (I suspect it is to some extent), but I honestly feel sometimes like I'm back in the days of PCs with Win9x when you had to reload your PC every 6-9 months to keep it running optimally. Anyway... I'm interested to hear your take, Paul. I may yet take the plunge just to experiment given the modest price of the 3t. I'm just not sure I can part with the goodies the S7 offers. I'm spoiled by the camera, wireless charging, and Samsung Pay.

  9. manwithoutsleep

    If only the phone worked with Project Fi... That service dramatically changes the long-term price of a phone.

  10. QuantumC0mputer

    They are GREAT phones cant say enough about the amazing value. Couldn't agree more about current high end phone prices. I just don't see the value proposition on those purchases, especially something that is exposed to so much risk. Mid-range IMHO is the sweet spot; Seriously how much HP do you need to Facebook and Snapchat? Feels like most phone battles are spec wars because once a user buys one they do the same workflow as always, which doesn't require 8 cores and 8GB of RAM.  OnePlus 3T  camera hardware has excellent specs but real world results have been mostly in very good territory (aka last years excellent?). Not at same level as Pixel, Samsung or IPhone which are essentially at the cutting edge of mobile device photography. However since its not a hardware limitation I could see this improving. They have already improved camera in latest "Nougat" update.

  11. AlwaysOn

    I've been using the OnePlus 3T since February. I loaded the Arrow Launcher, have configured Cortana to launch from the finger print reader, using Outlook and all of my Office365 and Microsoft apps.  Everyone in my offices have taken a serious look.  I've been jumping back and forth between the 3T and a iPhone 6S for the past 30 days and ready to make the 3T my daily driver. It is super fast and a pleasing experience.  I think this device hits a sweet spot in value!  I look so forward to hearing about your experience and review once you receive it.  Would also like your perspectives about security and identity between Android vs iOS.

  12. ben55124

    I've enjoyed my OP3 (pre-T) since launch. Most users seem to like them. Reviewers will say low light photos are not as good as Pixel. There are plenty of comparisons online. Updates come direct from OnePlus - no carrier middle man. Samsung likes to have carriers involved. Google only seems to advertise their Verizon Pixels. Between the Moto G5, OP3T, and Pixel, you will have your un-carrier phone range covered. Dash charging is proprietary (sharing cables will yield standard charging), however dash does not heat up the phone like Qualcomm's method. The phone comes with a cheap screen protector -- it is a fingerprint magnet. It is 2017, but this is a 2016 model. I think they made the right compromises to get to stay under $500 and with 6GB ram, I could see getting more than 2 years out of it.

  13. jrickel96

    Frankly, I don't see the point of a display greater than 1080P on a handset that is 6" or smaller. It works great on the iPhone 7 Plus and I'm sure it works great on the 3T as well. I had a QHD display on the Nexus 6P and that thing didn't look any different to my eye than the iPhone while needing more juice to power the pixels. I also think Apple is right for phones 5" and smaller to have a display that's just over 720P. You don't need ultra high res in a small handset.

    It begins to make sense on the 9.7" iPad and displays of that size, though I think 1080P displays are still perfectly acceptable for most laptops and even tablets. It can run HD content at full res and it looks good.

    At 40", we've got a different story.

    Wise of OnePlus to just stick with the HD display while keeping the price down and helping the battery last longer.

    • prettyconfusd

      In reply to jrickel96:

      Depends on your eyesight to an extent too. The QHD resolution at 5.2" on my Lumia 950 looks incredible and is the first phone I've not been able to discern individual pixels on the screen. I can on the 1080p iPhone 7+, which is still a gorgeous screen.

      its also not just about things looking smoother. The higher the pixel density the more detail can be rendered in a smaller screen area. I can clearly read text much smaller on my 950 screen than I can on an iPhone 7+. Sure it's subtle but the lower res and larger screen mean I need larger text to see it as clearly.

      600ppi is the point of no further returns in being able to see pixels - and is the upwards limit of print in books, and eventually it should become standard. But yeah, anything above 300ppi is acceptable. ?

  14. Matthew Hubbell

    I purchased a OnePlus 3T Midnight Black Edition and received it last Thursday, replacing my LG G Flex 2. The phone came with a 128GB of storage, Dash charge cable, and a translucent gray soft case. I had to go to the local AT&T store to get a new nano SIM card for my new phone. Popped the card in started the setup and all went according to plan. The only step I had to redo was sync all my contacts on my LG with my Google account. I did that via WiFi and my 3T picked up all of my contacts automatically. Google synced all my apps, including all of the AT&T required apps that you can't delete. Well, you can delete them in the 3T once the process is complete.

    Overall, I am very pleased with the phone. It looks good. The battery life has be very good. I am at 50% right now having unplugged at 6:00 am and it is 5:00 pm now. That is with casual usage throughout the day.

    The biggest change was getting a fitness app to work properly. Turned out to be an issue with the power saving feature that limits background apps. A few searches on Google resolved the issue.

    So far I am very pleased.

  15. Bats

    Well, OnePlus makes good handsets, especially for those people who want Android's technology, open-ness, and freedom. They are also good for those people who don't mind not receiving developing technology that is either late and slow. 

    Paul says that this is the phone take off where Google's Nexus left off. Huh? That can and will never happen. The Nexus line was known for two things: The Google Experience and Priority Updates. LOL....that's what Paul won't get with a non-Google phone. As a matter of fact, if he loved his Nexus 6P so much, then why won't he just stick to it? Makes absolutely NO SENSE to me whatsoever, especially from a person who claims to be "not rich."

    I think we are being setup for another Android Bash-a-thon. LOL.

    Look, I know what Paul is trying to do. He wants the total "Microsoft Experience," by installing the Arrow Launcher (LOL) and Cortana (LOL). He probably figures that his problems with his Pixel lies in the fact that his so-called "best Android Launcher" can't co-exist with the native one (lol). Nor can Cortana. Honestly, it's a decent strategy, but if you ask's kinda funny. I kinda liken it to one of those guys (or gals) who drive Honda Civics and replaces the car's stock stereo, install sideskirts, adds a rear spoiler, tints the windows, replaces the wheels with very expensive ones. In the end, it's still a Honda Civic.

    As for Google going down to the premium pricing, like Apple....clearly Paul doesn't understand basic economics. Price isn't determined by a single person or company out of thin air. It's based on two things: Supply and Demand. Clearly, there is a demand for the Apple, the Pixels, and Galaxies phones in this world. Let's not forget this: A few years ago, Paul was PUSHING Microsoft to make premium priced phones. He said, that if Microsoft had these expensive phones to sell, it would pick up the rest of the Lumia phone lineup. This was when iPhones and Galaxies were $500-$600. Do people remember this? I do. Now, he is against this? LOL...did Paul complain about the pricing of Surface Studio? No. He just wimpered and said that he couldn't afford it. However he complained about the Pixel's pricing and reasoned that it's doesn't come from the same pedigree as the iPhone. LOL...did Surface Pro v1 (starting at $899) come from the same Pedigree as the MacBook Air to which Paul encouraged us to buy it? How about the Surfacebook that is mired with issues? 

    LOL...can we really take Paul seriously when it comes to his opinions? 

  16. Tony Barrett

    I might finally pull the plug and upgrade my Nexus 5 - a brilliant phone that still does pretty much everything I ask of it, but, battey life is poor, the camera is very 2013, it's not getting Android 7 (unless you load a custom ROM) and new features such as fingerprint sensors are all the rage. I will say though, I've lived with only 16GB storage for 3 years now. Not sure how I did that!

    So, I'm very interested in the Moto G5 Plus. Looks good, and seems like a natural successor for Nexus holdouts. I don't need the fastest processor, or the best screen, just a phone that does everything ok. My kids have Moto G phones, and they're great - very reliable.

    It's a shame that Google now seem focused on the premium end of the market. They had an opportunity to keep Nexus going in the mid-range but introduce Pixel at the high end. Best of both worlds, and I'd currently be looking at the Nexus again if they were.

  17. Larry Sarge

    Maybe it's just me, but being on Verizon, it's not always obvious if some of the phones being talked about cover all the right bands.  I think I read the 3T is missing some of the VZW bands so the service would be degraded in some areas.  Paul, does it make sense to call this out in a standard way when you do your phone reviews?

  18. Hidayatullah Patel

    Glad to see you reviewing this phone. Looking forward to it. I have the original oneplus 3, when the price was lower, especially in the UK.

  19. zorkor

    I sold my Galaxy S7 Edge to get this phone and I love it. It has a great price, amazing design, fluid UI with no junk apps, excellent fast charge which surprises me all the time whenever I put it on charge and its already 70% in less than half an hour.

    The mono speaker sucks, camera struggles in low light (amazing in bright areas) and no waterproof is a little disappointment but otherwise this is an excellent Android phone. Highly recommended.

  20. Narg

    Stereo speakers and industry standard charging (maybe wireless charging too) and I'd recommend highly. Otherwise, meh...

  21. MikeCerm

    I'll spare you the suspense, the camera is among the best in bright light. In normal indoor conditions and low-light scenarios, it's not quite as good as the more expensive flagships from last year, like the Galaxy S7 or the Google Pixel. The sensor itself is one generation older, and though it has more megapixels (16MP vs 12MP), the pixels themselves are smaller and less sensitive, yielding less accurate low-light shots.

    Even though they call the screen 1080p, it's not quite as sharp as a real 1080p LCD screen because it uses Samsung's PenTile subpixel arrangement. Samsung has been lying about the resolution of their screens forever, and the same goes for all the other manufacturers that use AMOLED screens, so it's not like OnePlus is alone here. It shouldn't be that big a deal in normal usage, but you should be able to tell that it's not really 1080p if you look close enough. On a 5" screen you probably wouldn't notice at all, but 5.5" is right on the threshhold of where those with sensitive eyes will start to see the matrix.

  22. Jamie_Olney

    Hi Paul - just to say that the OnePlus 3T does actually have NFC - so will be Android Pay compatible.

    It was the One Plus 2 which did not have NFC

  23. Polycrastinator

    My big fear on these phones is always updates. It's one of the reasons that I've always stuck with Google is updates. If I could be assured of timely updates for 2 years (the lifetime of a phone IMO) I would look at OnePlus, but I just don't know if I trust them to deliver on the investment I'd be making. I may pay through the nose for the Pixel, but at least I know it'll be kept up to date.

  24. mortarm

    > provides only a single mono speaker...

    Really, though, how many people actually use phone speakers for music? I've only seen them used as a speakerphone.