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 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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Comments (28)

28 responses to “OnePlus 3T First Impressions”

  1. Vuppe

    Looks good, Paul! Thanks for reviewing more affordable phones – hopefully this one meets expectations.

  2. Bats

    LOL...I don't know why I kept laughing at the post. 

    However, overall I am happy for Paul. I am happy because it looks like that he's has finally been assimilated by Android thru one of the platform's number of flagships. Here he chose the fantastic OnePlus!

    I know Paul has this weird sense of looking at things. The kind that makes you lose your hair, because of all the head scratching one does when reading his post. One head scratching moment is this post. LOL....look how long this post is! His Pixel XL never got this treatment at all. Instead we got a "The Morning After..." post, the next day as if the blogger had a one night stand with the device. LOL. Ok, here's another headscratcher, Paul claims to have loved his Nexus 6P and that's he's a man of modest income and is not rich. Why on earth...why just why...does he have to change his Nexus 6P for a newer phone? What exactly is wrong with the Nexus 6P? Does a person who claims to not be able to afford things do this? Yeah, the tech is slightly-slightly better with the OnePlus 3T, but does that justify an upgrade? Especially from a Nexus and a Pixel? Let's keep this in mind too...

    MaryJo Foley STILL uses her Nexus 6P!

    There is just so many headscratching things that come into mind with Paul's "love at first" experience with his Android phone. I said. A funny post.

  3. Kvbex

    Be careful when updating this phone. I've just sent my 3T back to OnePlus. Updating failed two times in a row. In the end, the phone was bricked. Even Recovery Mode did not work anymore. Handle with care. ?

  4. dcdevito

    Thanks for this Paul, as an OP3 user I've been waiting for this article!! I love my OP3, I ordered it the day the Pixel was announced (no coincidence). This phone has never slowed down on me unlike any other Android phone I've used. If the camera was more consistent I'd call it the best phone ever. But a great value overall.

    The stock experience with awesome extras like a dark theme and gestures make for a great experience. And the amount of updates OnePlus is pushing is surprising but welcomed.

  5. Narg

    Too bad it uses DASH charging. Why do phones always seem to have at least one thing they can't follow the norm on?

  6. Anthony Lopez

    I purchased the MIdnight Black edition right when it went on sale and loved it when it arrived. It was supposed to replace my Nexus 6P, but unfortunately I had to return it because it had serious issues with Android Auto . . . like not working at all in my 2016 VW Jetta. There's a very large thread on the OnePlus boards about it:

    I ended up purchasing a Pixel XL and Android Auto works flawlessly.

  7. F4IL

    Although i prefer the camera on my XL, the 3T is simply an excellent device.

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to F4IL:

      Yeah. The Pixel camera definitely is better. I did a few night/low-light shots last night and will post something about that today. But overall, the 3T hits a nice sweet spot.

  8. russe11m

    There should be an update available to update the phone to Android 7.0, if you haven't already.

  9. CaedenV

    looking at getting a new phone soon-ish and very interested in the OnePlus 3T or the Xiaomi mi mix pro

    Both offer a lot of bang for your buck and look nicer than most of the flagships out there. Nice to live in a wold with options... now if I could just put a win10 rom on one of them lol.

  10. wolters

    This is the one reason I wish my workplace (who pays for my mobile phone) wasn't on Verizon...I hate that I can't many unlocked phones.

  11. Hidayatullah Patel

    I'd recommend using the hardware buttons instead of the on-screen ones. You'll get that extra space.

  12. ben55124

    The OP3 has impressed me. Make sure to get the latest OS update. There was a bullet point on camera improvements in OxygenOS 4.1.0.

    Unless you really like on screen navigation buttons, try using the buttons on the lower bezel. Settings -> Buttons -> On-screen nav bar (off).

  13. rameshthanikodi

    welcome to the club, Paul :) I will bet my money that you will end up using this phone as your daily driver at one point.

  14. lightbody

    I don't understand why Paul didn't test the Oneplus 3 (largely similar to the 3T, but even cheaper) when it came out. It was a natural successor to the Nexus phones (cheap, powerful flagships with close to pure Google).

    I got mine in October last year, and haven't looked back. Nothing has gone wrong, and its been the least hassle I've ever had from a phone. Its beautifully made.

    My only problem with it is its incredibly slippery when out of its case - it shoots off any seat cushion you place it on. Whats they point of an attractive, nicely made phone, if you can't actually use it like that? Also I wish it was at least splashproof.