OnePlus 3T First Impressions

Posted on April 11, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 28 Comments

 

OnePlus 3T First Impressions

My new midnight black OnePlus 3T arrived today, and my first impressions are quite positive: This is a handset that absolutely rivals, and perhaps surpasses, the Google Pixel XL, but for a much lower price.

As you may recall, I first discussed this device in the premium post Let’s Talk About Smartphone Pricing, where I described it as a neat middle ground between the entry-level Moto G5 Plus and true Android flagships like the Galaxy S8. It is, I wrote, an interesting alternative to the Nexus handsets I still mourn.

I did get a kevlar case for the phone as well

I also provided a quick rundown of this device’s history, specs, and pricing in OnePlus 3T Preview. As noted, I ordered the midnight black version with 128 GB of (non-expandable) storage. That choice delayed its arrival a bit as it’s apparently in high demand.

But it’s here now. Some first impressions.

As I had hoped, the OnePlus 3T gives off a real Nexus vibe. That is, it looks, feels, and (so far) performs every bit like an Android flagship, but at less than two-thirds the cost. We’ll see how this holds up over time, but from the moment you open the box, there’s a nice, premium feel to everything.

Even the packaging is impressive. It’s a nicely made box with various compartments, each of which reveals a hidden surprise: Hefty documentation, a SIM tool, a free clear protective case, laptop stickers, and of course the high-quality and striking DASH charger and USB-C cable. There’s even a nice welcome letter that includes a code for a discount on some future OnePlus.net online purchase. The whole thing is very classy, and a far cry from the pathetic AT&T boxes that used to barely arrive intact holding Windows phones back in the day.

The phone itself is gorgeous, with a nice matte black finish, those iPhone-like antenna lines that seem to adorn almost all smartphones these days, and a prominent but attractive camera bump.

Where the Pixel places power and volume up/down on the right side, this device places power by itself on the right and has a slider, plus volume up/down on the right. That slider is configured to place the phone in Do Not Disturb mode, similar to what the iPhone does, but you can change it to some other options if you’d like as well.

Powering the phone up, I see a very familiar Android M 6.x-style Setup wizard that’s followed by a few OnePlus-specific settings. You can choose between SwiftKey and the Google keyboard, and configure a PIN, fingerprint, or other security method early on, but the OnePlus stuff is interesting: You can choose to use gestures on the Home button for navigation or use more standard on-screen buttons, and choose to enable a variety of interesting gestures (like double-tap to wake).

And like that, you’re into a fairly standard Android home screen experience. The Google Now screen to the left of Home is replaced by a very similar OnePlus alternative, and there are a few additional apps—like (OnePlus) Community, File Manager, Gallery, Music, Weather, and some others—but beyond that, it seems pretty stock.

I haven’t done this yet, but I’m going to pull the AT&T SIM out of my iPhone and use that in one of the OnePlus 3T’s SIM slots for the next few weeks. We’re heading to Montreal and then Stowe Vermont soon, so there should be ample time for testing on a number of levels. Including, of course, the camera.

I did take a few test shots outside today, but there’s not much to say: It’s gorgeous and sunny today, with no clouds, and almost any smartphone camera could probably show up and accomplish a few good shots. But I did at least take shots side-by-side with the Pixel XL, and so far so good: They are uniformly crisp and clear, and hold up well against the Pixel shots.

Outdoor shot by OnePlus 3T

Outdoor shot by OnePlus 3T

Of course, where the Pixel XL really excels—where it surpasses most cameras—is in low light conditions. I’ll see if I can’t get some night city shots over the weekend in Montreal, but my understanding is that the Pixel will retain its edge. It had better, given how much it costs.

OnePlus 3T (left) and Google Pixel XL (right)

Which, ultimately, is the best thing about the OnePlus 3T. Here’s a phone that costs just two-thirds of the price of Google’s flagship, but it appears to offer a nearly identical experience. Even if the low-light shots don’t hold out, it’s already clear that OnePlus is onto something here. This looks like a great smartphone.

More soon.

 

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