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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Comments (30)

30 responses to “OnePlus 3T, Day 3: Nougat, SIM, Gestures, and More”

  1. skramer49

    So, if you're not disatisfied with your iPhone or IOS, are you just doing this because it's "your job"? Or are you bored with the iPhone form factor nd are looking for a change? Or is there another reason?

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to skramer49:

      There are tons of reasons. Android is the dominant smartphone platform, so I need to keep up on it generally. I feel strongly that flagships are too expensive, so the OnePlus 3T seems a value sweet spot, and I'd love to be able to recommend a good phone to people, where I cannot do that with the Pixel XL. I'm not bored by iPhone, I still think it's better than Android. But it's expensive, too, and not everyone wants to use Apple products.

      • skramer49

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:thanks. I get it and would be interested in doing the same thing, BUT my whole family - wife, kids, grandkids, etc. - re all in the Apple ecosystem and the loss of iMessaging and FaceTime makes it difficult. Plus, i rec'd an Apple wtch for Christms. Sigh.

        • red.radar

          In reply to skramer49:

          Do what I did.... confiscate them all in the middle of the night and replace. Sorry kids. Daddy doesn't like apple. Deal with it.

          did have to deal with a lot of push back. but it was worth it. Part of that was fueled by a really bad customer experience with apple. So I couldn't justify premium prices for devices when I get bad support in return.

      • idamanomo

        In reply to Paul Thurrott:

        Yes! I totally agree, if one can get 90% of the flagship quality for 65% of the cost, it's a big win for the consumer. Thanks.
        (I currently use the Xperia Z5 unlocked on T-mo and it's great. Slightly over saturated pics and (sometimes) slow switching big apps are the only draw backs for $400.)

  2. michaelmartinez

    I've been using the 3T for about 3 months now. I must admit, I never knew of that Opera VPN workaround. I thought I knew everything there was to know about this phone. Thank you very much for including that tip!

    • ben55124

      In reply to michaelmartinez:

      Suggest following the OP3/T forum on android central. There is usually news the day an update is released -- like Oxygen 4.1.3 today. Perhaps Paul is getting that today in Canada without the vpn silliness.

  3. IanYates82

    RE: Authenticator apps

    When setting up a site in an authenticator app I always

    a) use the QR code to get it into my current phone; and then

    b) hit the link all sites provide saying I need the secret code not via a QR. That then gives you a bunch of text that you can copy and paste into your password manager of choice.

    After doing (a) and (b) I then use my phone to do the confirmation with the site that I've set up the rolling code properly.

    When I get a new phone I then just open up my password manager and manually key the codes into the authenticator app on my new phone. Saves a lot of hassle. I appreciate it means the code is technically not locked in a single hardware device anymore but the password manager is a good place to have such things (and things like banks, which don't have second factor auth, are in the manager already so I'm already screwed if someone breaks into it)

    Paul: This way you don't have to have trouble moving between iPhone, pixel, OnePlus, etc...

  4. ilkkav

    Regarding that Microsoft Authenticator issue, you should take a look at an app called Authy if you haven't done so already. I'm using it and it's been extra convenient when I'm not tied to a single device at a time while still getting the benefits of two-factor authentication.

    What comes to the 3T, I'm also a fairly new OnePlus owner and I just can't seem to be able to put this one down even though I have also an iPhone 7 and an S7 Edge in my arsenal. If OnePlus comes up with a waterproof device, there's even less need for the latter two.

  5. dcdevito

    Thanks Paul, great article. I appreciate your love for the phone, of course I'm biased since I own a OnePlus 3. But I am really glad you're liking the phone, OnePlus really adds some nice touches to it, especially the gestures. The ones I find the most useful are:

    1. Double tap to wake - all touchscreen devices should have this, all of them.
    2. Fingerprint gesture - not really a gesture, but it's so fast to unlock the phone and go to the home screen, I find it faster than every other phone on the market (that I've tried)
    3. Long press recents - to auto switch to the most recent app, but now Android has it built in and it's a bit faster.
    4. Long press back button (custom) - to shut the screen off, very handy feature
    5. Next track - Android doesn't have any such built in gesture, even iOS has this ability with headphones, but when I run outside and on the treadmill the "less than" (<) gesture is invaluable and time saving.

    I also feel these are the best features of this phone in general:

    1. Speed - it's fast and fluid. 1st Android phone I've owned that never lags or slows down, ever.
    2. Battery life - I get 4-5hrs SOT and about 24 hours total battery life. The phone is so thin, they could have made a bigger battery
    3. Dash Charging - perhaps the best and most unique feature of this phone. It's so fast it actually has changed my charging habits
    4. Dark Theme - every Android phone should have this
    5. Advanced Reboot menu
    6. Gestures (listed above)

    The only weakness, besides shaky customer support, is the camera. But at $400 (OP3) I really don't care. When my wife's 6P needs replacing I will get a OnePlus for her. It's overall, in my opinion, the best Android phone right now.

    Also - Paul, be sure to try the display calibration set to sRGB.

  6. Tunno

    Well I finally decided, it's the end for me on Windows Phone. Just ordered a Oneplus3T 128 GB Midnight edition. I was looking at this phone and potentially waiting for the Samsung S8, but Paul's review of this phone put it over the edge. So after three Lumias, 920, 1020 and 950 I have surrendered to Android. I can no longer take the poor slow performance, reboots, terrible battery life etc etc. The Lumia camera was what sold me in the first place on Windows phone but it is not enough anymore and the Oneplus3T looks like it is good enough for the exceptional price. Oh and of course apps!

    • T. Hunt

      In reply to Tunno:

      You'll love it. Best Android phone out right now, IMO. Also, Android is what MS should have made. It's like having a pocket computer. To get the most of it, and be streamlined, don't be afraid to use Google's services. 15gb drive space, unlimited G Photos space (for slightly lower quality images stored), Google Keep is handy, Calendar, Google Maps, ECT.

  7. timothyhuber

    Slightly off topic... I'm using a year-old Nexus 6P with Project Fi. I've been very satisfied with the experience. The 6P was a reasonably priced device and Project Fi has worked well. Looking forward, though, I'm not sure I'm prepared to invest in high-end phones to stay with Project Fi. What I do use regularly is the hangouts integration of voice dialing and SMS with my Project FI number. I'd love to see a solution that supported phones like the OnePlus 3T with desktop SMS and voice send/receive integration.

  8. wolters

    I have both the Pixel XL and the Moto Z Force Droid and while I go between both, I tend to miss the Moto Z Force Droid the most. I like it's extra features the most and while the camera is a little slower, it's quality is very good. The mods are actually useful. An the battery life is fantastic and best I ever had on a phone. 32GB is a little tight for my needs so I use a MicroSD if I want to move things over to it. I used adoptable storage for a long time and never really had any issues with it but the camera app would crash often and camera is about the number one feature on a phone for me.

  9. mmcpher

    The HP Elite x3 has a dual-sim card tray that allows you to use 1 sim and a media card for an extra storage alternative. It requires a tricky bit of engineering and manufacture though, and the media card was prone to errors with the original batches of the device. I had to twice get a replacement sim card tray before it settled to dependability. I love the extra storage now though.

    I have the Arrow launcher on another Android phone and really like the look and feel and easy and familiar access to Microsoft apps. The one issue I had was with Cortana active, it would preemptively and persistently launch news alerts on my home screen and it was irritating to have to constantly swipe them away. And Cortana needs a sharper spam filter, as a lot of the need alerts were junk.

  10. obarthelemy

    I'm a lit bit puzzled by all the love for "the Nexus Experience".

    • I understand updates are nice even on Android, especially for security, and that the true Nexus offered that. A "quasi-Nexus Experience" really doesn't though. And let's be clear that updates on Android are nowhere near as important as on iOS, because most Android apps and features are independent of OS versions, contrary to iOS where simply getting iClips requires a brand new OS.
    • UI-wise, "the Nexus experience" can be had on any phone by using the standard Google stuff: launcher, keyboard....
    • I do think good OEMs do add some value. I just learned that " Nexus Android" doesn't even have notification toasts, I've had them for years thanks to OEM modifications. Same as I had post-install, per-app permissions control all the way back to 4.4 thanks to Huawei (who never got any credit for it in reviews. They also had toasts way back then).

    So I'm wondering. Is "The Nexus Experience" axiomatically better as some kind of Android nobility (is it old and white and male and straight, too) ? A wrongly chosen synonym for "updates" (I don't think OnePlus is particuliarly speedy or long term about those) ? Or a misinformed assumption that OEM customizations never ever bring anything of value ?

    • Darmok N Jalad

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      The comparison to iOS is moot. If you have an iPhone newer than the 4S, then you get the updates. Granted, not all phones get the latest features due to hardware limitations, but the wife's 5S gets all the meaningful updates, and it was launched back in 2013. So it doesn't matter if it takes "a brand new OS" if you are an iPhone user, you get the updates. Google had to pull more of the Play store services and apps away from Android to keep users current (and generally more secure). This works fairly well, but it also doesn't incentivize OEMs to provide OS updates.

      • obarthelemy

        In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

        Indeed, but my point is mostly that the comparison of updates between iOS and Android is moot the other way around too. iOS users misunderstand the update situation on Android because in their iOS experience updates are everything (OS features, new and updated apps, security); while in Android OS updates are only about some OS features, apps are updated separately, security patches are distinct from OS updates, and even straight OS/ecosystem stuff (Pay, Wear, Home,...) was backwards compatible at launch with previous OS versions.

        So iOSers imagine themselves living with a 2-version old iDevice, which would suck, and don't realize a 2-version old Android is nowhere near as outdated as an iOS would be.

    • T. Hunt

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      OEM customization goes deeper than just the launcher and keyboard. If it was just things like that, my phone options would open up. OEMs customize the settings menu, notifications, icons, the drop down quick menu shade, and much more. They go deep and change everything. It's like buying a Windows computer and HP changed the icons, start menu, control panel, explorer, ECT. Everytime you see it, it bugs you because you know it's not supposed to look like that.

    • obarthelemy

      In reply to Sir_Timbit:

      Agreed, lots of crapware is irritating. Yet again, it's not fatal, don't use them, and either uninstall or at least disable them and put them in the Junk folder / remove them from the home screen. I'm not bothered by the clothes at the back of my closet that I never wear. Ditto the apps.

      Also agreed, security patches are a mess. Is there any indication the Oneplus' alleged "Nexus experience" makes it any better ? Are security patches available sooner, for longer... And what about OS updates ?

      The "Nexus experience" moniker seems wildly overstated and misapplied, and its puported benefits (or even... definition ?) strangely unclear.

      Is it

      • unmodified Google Android (and how is that better ?)
      • timely and long-term security patches ? (does OnePlus provide that ?)
      • timely or at least long-term OS updates ? (does OnePlus provide that ?)

      And frankly, I find all 3 rather overvalued

      • OEM customizations and apps are either valuable or can be disabled
      • security patches have nothing to do with how close to AOSP/gAndroid the variant is, and most to do with how serious the OEM is; on top of that, security is not much of an issue despite the headlines (0.03% of PlayStore-only, unrooted phones had any kind of malware:
      • ditto OS updates, which are not as vital as in iOS since most new functionnality and apps are not OS-dependent. I'm still running 4.0 on one tablet, which can use all the same apps as my other devices. Sure, new Oses sometimes have cool features... but most of those are backported to older versions (again, contrary to iOS), or 3rd party substitutes exist.

      So in the end, I'm not sure what the definition of Nexus Experience is, nor why it is so desirable. I'm suspecting it's an approximation for something else ?

    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to obarthelemy:

      Yes, it is misinformed. It's because Android is a dominant platform and the fanboys continuously hijack the conversation. The truth is that OEM phones sell for a reason, and OEMs provide valuable customizations like localization and some of what you mention, although Google has been adding most of these features into the OS, toast notifications have been added in Marshmallow, multi-window support in Nougat, there was a point when stock Android didn't even have quick toggles in the notification tray. And this is on top of phone hardware specific optimizations for the battery and performance. Stock Android doesn't do all this on its own.

  11. idamanomo

    I need a camera that's fast enough for capturing 4 year olds. That delay when turning cam on, and especially the delay between shutter press and capture is a killer. Can you mention how quick the cam is?

    • wolters

      In reply to idamanomo:

      The Google Pixel XL is the absolute best for the camera speed. While the quality on my Moto Z Force Droid is fantastic, you can miss a lot of pictures, especially if darker, due to the slow shutter speed.

    • red.radar

      In reply to idamanomo:

      In my experience with the 3T this has been good. You double tab the power button and you are instantly brought to the camera. you can then press the volume slider to activate the shudder. if you are quick on the draw, 2s total from touching the phone to snapped picture.

      Somewhat reminiscent of the camera button on older windows phones.

  12. Hidayatullah Patel

    "OK, I promise I won’t keep providing daily updates like this." No, please continue :)

  13. F4IL

    I believe double-tap to wake tanks battery life, since it forces the screen to stay active (to track touch events) and only turns off the backlight . I remember enabling the feature on my old Nexus 5 (custom kernel), which in turn introduced a 5% drain / hour.

  14. T. Hunt

    Good choice. Probably best choice in my book. Android is like the Windows desktop OS of mobile. I won't buy an Android phone unless it has a stock like system on it. Can't stand OEMs changing the look of Android. Motorola and the pixel phones are physically ugly imo (vain, I know). My only complaint is lack of smaller phones that are like the OnePlus 3t. I originally had the 3, sold it and got an iPhone (my fruitless boycott of big Androids, got tired little things on iOS, and got the 3t.