OnePlus 3T, Day 3: Nougat, SIM, Gestures, and More

Posted on April 13, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 30 Comments

OnePlus 3T, Day 3: Nougat, SIM, Gestures, and More

OK, I promise I won’t keep providing daily updates like this. But I’m captivated by the OnePlus 3T in ways I never was with the Pixel XL. And my appreciation grows by the day.

Note: For my previous musings about this delightful, affordable handset, please check out OnePlus 3T First Impressions and OnePlus 3T, Day 2.

Tomorrow, we’re heading up to Montreal in the car for a long weekend. This is actually a home swap, and the first time we’ve done so for such a short period of time. So it’s sort of an experiment on a number of levels. Part of that experiment will be using the OnePlus 3T out in the world. And that means a couple of things: I’ll be taking photos with it, of course. But I’ll also be using it as my actual phone.

Given that, I decided to make a few changes.

First, I decided to upgrade the phone to Android 7 Nougat, partially because I can’t stand not doing so, and partially because the update promised two improvements to the camera experience. (We all need some justification.)

Making this happen required just the tiniest bit of work: I installed the Opera VPN app on the phone, configured it to use Canada as the location, and then checked for updates. Literally immediately, I was offered the Android 7.1.1 upgrade. After disabling the VPN for better download performance, I downloaded and installed the update. And 10 or 15 minutes later the OnePlus 3T was up and running on the new version. Possibly the simplest upgrade I’ve ever performed given the fact that I shouldn’t be able to get it in the United States.

As part of my transition from the iPhone 7 Plus to the OnePlus 3T, I also needed to swap the SIM card. Both phones utilize a nano SIM, so now adapter was needed. But the OnePlus 3T has dual SIM slots, and looking at the little SIM drawer I found myself wishing one of them was for a microSD card. (Yes, I understand the need for dual SIMs, especially in certain markets. Maybe that could be an option you choose at purchase time.) That process was simple and straightforward, and the OnePlus 3T is now and up and running on AT&T.

I also started fiddling around with some of the OnePlus-specific features on this handset. As you may know, I generally prefer and recommend a pure Google Android experience. And I had briefly considered installing the Google Now launcher, which would replace the home screen experience and that Google Now-like screen to the left of the first home screen with the stock interfaces. But I actually like the subtle customizations that OnePlus provides. And I was curious about taking that a step further.

So I’ve made two changes.

First, using the Customize choice that appears next to Wallpapers, Widgets, and Settings when you long-press on an empty area of the home screen, I experimented with the available and OnePlus-specific icon sets you can use in place of stock Android. I ended up choosing one called Dives, which provides round icons for most apps, and resembles the look of Google’s Pixel launcher. It’s quite nice.

Next, I disabled the on-screen navigation bar, which provides software-based Back, Home, and Recents buttons. This frees up screen space, of course, and it lets me use the capacitive buttons built into the bottom of the phone instead. Home is, of course, a physical button, but the Back and Recents buttons are hidden in the bottom bezel on either side of Home. This system works well and is especially nice if you intuitively know your way around an Android phone.

(OnePlus lets you overload those buttons with long press and double-tap actions as well. I’ve not yet gone down that path, but might. As with some other phones, you can double-press the Power button to access the camera quickly.)

OnePlus also supplies some nifty and unique gestures. You may recall that I enabled double-tap to wake during Setup. But I could also enable some other interesting choices, such as flip to mute, a three-finger screenshot swipe, and others. (You can use gestures to launch the camera, toggle the flashlight, and play/pause music, for example.)

As the final step in this migration, I enabled Microsoft Authenticator for all my accounts, removing them one-by-one from the iPhone as I did so. I will lose one really neat feature by moving off iPhone—thanks to Touch 3D support, the iPhone version of Authenticator makes it much easier to approve Microsoft account challenges—but if this is the phone I’m going to have on me all the time, this change was a must.

So we’ll see how it goes.

For whatever it’s worth, I’ve often written and spoken about my general preference for iOS/iPhone over Android, but there is something about this phone that is helping me overcome this. This is something the Pixel just isn’t capable of, for equally confusing reasons. But the OnePlus 3T reminds me, strongly, of the original Nexus 5. Which was a fine phone. Probably still is.

Anyway, much of the iPhone advantage has to do with the predictable and consistent performance and reliability. And if the OnePlus 3T follows the traditional Android trajectory, it will eventually let me done. But there are other little things that make iOS better than Android, in my opinion. For example, I use the same apps across both platforms, of course, and while some are basically identical, others are not. And when there are differences, the iOS version of any given app is usually better.

For example, I use Duolingo every single day and this app couldn’t be more different on both phones. The iOS version supports bots, for example, where the Android version does not, and it’s a much cleaner and more attractive app on iOS. But one of the issues I always had with Duolingo on the Pixel was the microphone: In the spoken word tests on the Pixel, it often couldn’t hear me correctly, and that gets frustrating fast. But this works just fine on the OnePlus 3T. It’s not quite as flawless as on iPhone, but it’s certainly acceptable.

Anyway. I’m off on a new Android adventure. And unlike with the Pixel XL, I find myself happy to do so.

 

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