OnePlus 5T: The Morning After

Posted on November 23, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 37 Comments

OnePlus 5T: The Morning After

Sometimes a deal seems too good to be true. And you start looking for that one flaw, the gimmick that betrays how you’ve been had.

That is not the case with the OnePlus 5T.

Two opposing qualifiers before I get all giddy on you. First, we’re only 24 hours into this, and we need to put what I’m about to write in perspective. But on the other hand, I’m not exactly known for irrational exuberance, and I test enough hardware that something has to be truly impressive for me to freak out over it.

The OnePlus 5T is truly impressive.

Here is a $500-ish flagship smartphone that meets, and in some cases beats, the $1000-ish market leaders. That isn’t just the sweet spot of value, it’s the answer to a riddle that’s bedeviled me in this age of ever-more-expensive phones. Is it possible to deliver flagship specifications at mid-tier prices and do so without some deal-killing compromise.

I think about this stuff all the time. As I wrote back in April in A Tale of Three Smartphones, “I am all about value, and from a morally responsible standpoint, I am no fan of the throwaway culture that has emerged in the wake of the iPhone … as a reviewer, as a human being, I have a hard time, often, recommending very expensive devices when I know that many readers cannot even afford them to begin. Heck, I can’t afford them either.”

Since writing that article, in which the OnePlus 3T played a role, OnePlus has released two flagship phones, the OnePlus 5 in June and then the OnePlus 5T this past week, just six months later. That’s a blistering pace even for the smartphone industry, and there’s a discussion to be had there, I guess. But let’s stay focused. Because the OnePlus 5T is fricking awesome.

How do I even begin to explain this without seeming to babble like an excited child on Christmas morning?

Compose yourself, Paul.

Here’s the skinny: For roughly half the price of a Google Pixel 2 XL, OnePlus provides roughly the same phone.

There are some differences, of course.

The OnePlus 5T’s 6-inch 18:9 display runs at “just” 2160 x 1080, but it is deep and rich and nicely detailed. And in a variety of lighting conditions, it is as vibrant as that of the Pixel 2 XL. I have a hard time telling them apart.

Sans cases, the two devices are likewise very similar: The seem to weigh almost identically in the hand, but the OnePlus 5T is clearly the thinner of the two.

My early camera tests have surprised me: The OnePlus 5T camera system appears to work quite well, and while it is perhaps falls just short of the excellent Pixel 2 XL camera, it works well in low-light situations. My side-by-side camera tests have, so far, resulted in a toss-up. Some photos are better on the Pixel 2 XL, some are better on the OnePlus 5T.

My gut feeling on the camera is that the Pixel will prevail. But I also feel that the OnePlus 5T camera is good enough for virtually anyone. It is a stunning achievement that, again, must be put into perspective by noting the relative prices of these devices.

Not everything about the OnePlus 5T is perfect, of course. It comes with a headphone jack, which is preferred, but it has only a single mono speaker, which is unacceptable in 2017. I’m sure it’s difficult figuring out how to route sound on these new-age near bezel-less displays. But even Google has figured it out.

From a hardware design perspective, overall, OnePlus 5T gets the clear nod. You’d think that two black slabs with the same basic design couldn’t be all that different, and you’d be right, from a high level. But it’s the little things. The OnePlus 5T feels better in the hand, thanks to its elegant metal construction. It’s prettier, with more elegantly curved corners. And it’s slightly less wide.

But it’s not just the hardware.

The Android-based Oxygen OS that OnePlus supplies with its devices is closer to the “pure Android” ideal than is the version of Android that Google itself supplies on its Pixel phones. It is also more customizable out of the box, meaning that it includes more tools, in Settings and elsewhere, that let you change things like system fonts and icon shapes, and more more capabilities, like parallel apps.

That is the very essence of open. It is the very ideal of Android, though you don’t get it from Google. It’s … incredible. And it will require a lot of exploration. You can really meld this thing to your needs, and do so without investigating any third-party apps.

Some have criticized OnePlus for shipping this device with an OS based on Android 7.1.1 when Android 8.0 Oreo has already arrived. But the firm explained this ably during the OnePlus 5T announcement, I think, noting that it prefers to ship a solid OS upgrade a few months after a major Android update to shipping a buggy upgrade—cough, Apple—and then having to patch it incessantly. And those who do wish to jump right to Android 8.0 Oreo can do so this month anyway: The open beta starts any day now.

I also love the community that OnePlus has built around its ecosystem. And one might argue that it is this community, whose announcements and forums can be accessed through the Community app on the phone, is a key strength. That app? Yeah, it’s customizable too, so you can access information about the devices and topics that matter most to you.

Anyway. It’s early yet. I know. But I am drawn to this device, attracted to this beautiful thing which can be had without a second mortgage. It’s the Nexus dream I’ve often expressed, and that Google has abandoned, alive and well in this other home. I wrote previously that OnePlus “gets it,” and this device confirms it, already. After just a day. It’s obvious.

So I’ll keep testing it. I’ll wait to see whether the OnePlus 5T lets me down in some major way, requires some caveat. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. No, it doesn’t support Project Fi, which is a tough one for me personally. But that doesn’t impact most people. And when you add up the capabilities here and cross that with the pricing … It just doesn’t seem possible. And yet here it is.

More soon.

 

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “OnePlus 5T: The Morning After”

  1. jbinaz

    Great second day write up. I look forward to the full review, esp. your thoughts on the camera.


    One thing I'd miss if I switched is Samsung Pay, which I've only recently started using but has grown on me quickly.


    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

  2. Michael Langone

    good luck getting the monthly updates. what a joke.

  3. rameshthanikodi

    OxygenOS really is the true spirit of Android. I feel like Google have lost their way with Android ever since they went down the Pixel route with their own Google exclusive version of Android. But OxygenOS, oh man. Paul has put it perfectly.

    • Stooks

      In reply to FalseAgent:

      I don't get it. It is not even on the latest version. Without Google and its OS/Store/Apps it would be nothing.

      • rameshthanikodi

        In reply to Stooks:

        Like OnePlus says, they aren't interested in shipping the latest OS until they've had ample time to test it to be stable. There's no point in shipping the latest and greatest if the kinks aren't worked out yet. Not too difficult to understand. As for your latter point....that applies to all Android phones. Any Android phone would be nothing without the Play Store, but that doesn't mean the spirit of Android's customizability needs to be thrown away just to conform to the purists that want so-called "stock" Android. I'd also remind people that without Google's backing, the Pixel phone would be just a shitty overpriced phone from LG...which some would argue that it already is, save for the camera software.

  4. jlmerrill

    I just ordered one because of your review. I hope it is good :-).

  5. James Wilson

    What the higher end phones have is 'support'.


    If you buy an iPhone or Pixel, as well as the hardware, you are paying for regular OS updates / bugfixes and some level of support (phone, 'real' store etc). That has to cost the company money.


    What OnePlus have done is take the physical phone, and sell it. No regular updates, no fixes, no real support. Is the OnePlus 5T still vulnerable to KRACK? How about the oneplus 5 / 3 / 3T. These aren't old phones.


    The phone itself may be a great phone - but do you value security? If so - maybe you have to pay that bit extra and look elsewhere.

    • MachineGunJohn

      I find it a bit ridiculous that this is classified as mid-tier to start with. $400-$600 is high priced, until $200 is lower end, $200-$400 is mid-tier. Over $600 is just massively stupid greedy, they're still making these things for under $200. I wish the masses would stop letting apple Google Samsung etc abuse them like this.

  6. wocowboy

    The reason the 5T ships with Android 7.1.1 is because Google requires that all phones shipping with Oreo will henceforth be required to comply with the Google Treble program that provides timely security updates to ALL those devices. By shipping with Nougat, OnePlus is not required to comply and they publicly said they will not be complying with the Treble program. This is unacceptable and adds to the Android fragmentation situation. I know Paul has tried desperately to claim that fragmentation is not a real problem, but it really is, as hundreds of millions of users' data, identities, and security is at significant risk every day because their phones do not receive updates at all, or only once or twice during the "life" of the device, which is just simply unacceptable imho.

  7. wright_is

    I understand there comment regarding Oreo, but it would be interesting if you could tell us to what patch level it currently is. Are the Android security patches for October or November already on the machine? Is it still vulnerable to KRACK?

    It certainly seems like a great phone and might make a good replacement for my Nexus 5X.

  8. Bossy573

    Sprint contract is up for wife and daughter (Thank God) - and both have had it with Apple and IOS. I have been an Android guy and have been trying to talk both into switching. They now agree, and on the strength of Mr. Thurrott's recommendation, getting 2 of these and going to a pre-paid carrier. This is great, because if these phone's suck, I'm giving both Paul's Email address to discuss.

  9. dcdevito

    Any OnePlus phone is great out-of-the-box, then after 6 months updates seem to be far and few in between, and OnePlus is already prepping to launch their next phone - and you get left in the dust. I had the OnePlus One, the 3 and then the 5 before getting the Pixel 2XL. It doesn't have Oreo and won't support Treble. Add to that the WORST customer service on the planet, they truly are terrible. And not sure about Paul's pics, but the ones I've seen in reviews were truly awful in low light - nothing new from OnePlus. Good value, but no flagship contender. Then there are weird quirks like:


    -Security Vulnerabilities/Root backdoors

    -Android Auto incompatibility issues (especially with Waze)

    -Severe and quick battery degradation

    -GPS issues (my OP3 didn't work in less than LTE coverage)

    -They upload data to Singapore for unknown reasons! (and this is beyond the spying they already were doing!)


    So sure, right now it's a better deal, until a year from now when it's already a forgotten phone, while the Pixel 2 will continue to get updates and new features all the while get monthly security updates.

    No thanks

    • jrickel96

      In reply to dcdevito:

      This is the problem. OnePlus is terrible at supporting their phones. The price is nice, but you can save a bit of money by buying a U11 compared to a Samsung and HTC is usually once of the first to update - so get an unlocked HTC flagship if you want updates. That's a more economical decision than getting a Pixel or a OnePlus if you care about support and want Android.


      I have several phones I test software on. Samsung is usually the worst due to bloatware and not adhering to standards (Samsung's gyros are a pain compared to any other manufacturer for software). OnePlus has their own non-standard issue that can break software. The difference is Samsungs are so numerous, you have to do something about it. So few people use OnePlus that it's never a priority to add something so software will work on OnePlus.


      LG and HTC are the two Android makers I like the most. Nexus was great when it provided value, but that value proposition is gone with the Pixel. An LG G6 or HTC U11 is your best bet on the top end for unlocked phones with support. Moto doesn't do a bad job either. I actually like my Moto E4 pretty well for a mid-range handset.

  10. Simard57

    is this a universal phone that works on all US carriers?


  11. boots

    "18:9 display"


    Shouldn't that be a 2:1 display?

  12. jrickel96

    Just hope you never have to deal with their customer service. They're legendary for how bad they are. They also have not consistently fulfilled their 2 years of support promise.


    So if your phone has no issues, it should be a good experience. If your phone has problems, good luck.


    OnePlus phones have severe issues with build quality and reliability if you use them daily over several months. Hardware tends to fail on them and OnePlus does not support them very well. They do everything they can to avoid sending out replacements.


    It's one thing to grade how the hardware is when you receive it. After 6 months of daily use, how does it last? Had the same problems with Moto's G series. Great for a couple of months, terrible and unusable in less than six months. Same goes for many OnePlus handsets. Difference is Moto at least very willingly sends replacements and tries to get it right. OnePlus does not.


    You won't get the level of customer service you do from Apple or Samsung.

  13. MacLiam

    I'm expecting to have to replace my Nexus 6P before the end of 2018, and this one would be at the top of the candidate list but for the Project Fi thing. Though basically treated as a backup, my 6P is in reality a second line that I can press into service if the x3 on T-Mo can't handle the present reality, which happens occasionally (carrier problem, not the hardware/software). I don't mind that Microsoft gave up on the mobile OS. As long as I have a working Windows phone, I'll keep using it. By the time the last one dies, maybe Android and iOS will have become sufficiently Microsoftified that moving to one of them will feel like changing lanes rather than moving miles to get on some other highway entirely.


    But yeah, this one does look tasty.

  14. RoHo

    I own the One+3T and have used for more than a year. Despite Mr Negative-jrickel96, My 3T is as good as new. I have used a Spigen thin case that I don't even notice it's so light and forms to the phone body like it was part of it. I have had no issues with it and am very happy with it. It does all I need. The fast Dash charging is the best thing it has. I was so tired of charging my old Samsung 5s all the time and buying replacement batteries. The 3T dash charge will charge your battery in half the time of anything else. This phone is so good I'm not even thinking of upgrading to the 5T or anything else.

    • jrickel96

      In reply to RoHo:

      Good for you. I'm glad you've had no problems. There are quality control issues with them. That's easy to track. If you have no problems, customer service is not an issue.


      New Qualcomm Quickcharge 4 is probably superior. I wonder why they use a proprietary tech in Dash as opposed to just using the standard?


      My dealings with OnePlus have not been good. They're slow to respond and tend to claim they've communicated when they haven't. That company is poorly run and lacks internal accountability. Their customer service policy is also very antagonist.

  15. lilmoe

    Just like I mentioned in a previous article about the pixel phone. This is the max price point android OEMs are entitled to ask for these specs.


    If you're not Samsung or Apple, you just don't have what it takes to demand current premium prices for a flagship. Not unless you have the absolute best in hardware and availability (Samsung, and HTC once upon a time), or the very best in ecosystem and service (Apple), and both use custom parts in their hardware and have the best consumer image.


    Maybe Google will have what it takes in a couple of years after their new former HTC team settles in, and new, custom hardware is designed. But definitely not now.


    Here's the thing though, the Galaxy S8 can be had, brand new and unlocked, for the same price or 50 bucks more. Making it a LOT harder to recommend the OnePlus 5T.... Sorry, but the S8 is just a better phone; better hardware/software and better support, and seems will be getting Oreo faster when it's finally stable.

    • Roger Ramjet

      "... the Galaxy S8 can be had, brand new and unlocked, for the same price or 50 bucks more."


      Where, please provide a link or reference. Closest thing I saw online is a BOGO deal at T-Mobile but it's not unencumbered.


      Add: I have seen Galaxy S8 at Microsoft Store & Amazon for $575, close but not yet $50 difference ...

    • Stooks

      In reply to lilmoe:

      "and both use custom parts"


      This will mean more and more each year. Apple is way out in the lead with this custom chip stuff right now. It will begin to make a huge difference. There will be custom features that require specific OS and hardware that work together.


      Samsung is the only one that can also do this right now on the Android side but they do not make the OS. Google needs to do this.


      If they don't in a few years Android will be seen as the "OK" smartphones with a "good enough" hardware/ software and Apple will be seen as the clear technology leader with features that simply can't be matched by a Android solution. Face ID, which is way better on the iPhone X is an example of this.

  16. ids

    I'm not supprised by the 5T. I dropped for the 5 as my first Android phone after using Windows Phone/Mobile forever. To be honest I have never looked back. The 5 is brilliant so the 5T can only improve. I must say I would miss the proper buttons on the front but most phones have now dropped them. Face unlock is a gimic and I personally wouldnt rely on it, but the fingerprint reader is simply brilliant.


    Understand folks comments about support, but im hoping I never need it.... i

  17. Rayc Feedly

    I asked OnePlus Tech Support about monthly OxygenOS security updates and this was their reply:


    "Google, who manages Android devices, releases security patches every month. These security patches are usually included on the system updates of the OxygenOS but it is important to note that it is not on a monthly basis for OnePlus."


    5T would have been a very good device for the mass if OnePlus beefs up their patching infrastructure for OxygenOS.

  18. Bluelude1

    I know this might be hard to quantify, but it would be interesting to see what dollar value Project Fi was actually worth to Paul.


    When you are getting almost identical functionality in a $500 phone that you would get in your $1000 Project Fi phone, I'd really want to know how that actually pencils out in favor of the Project Fi phone (even though it's just for his particular use case).


    $500 is a pretty stout premium to pay up front in the hopes of recouping it in data cost savings, especially when you consider he is also getting thumped for ~50% depreciation by replacing his Project Fi phone every year.


  19. Bats

    Here's a question: If the Pixel 2 XL was on $450-500 would it be worth getting that phone over the OnePlus 5T? Right now, that's the price for the Black Friday/Cyber Monday special going on for Verizon if you go switch to their Unlimited Plan.


    Look, the OnePlus 5T is a good phone. It's a like a top of the line Lexus to Pixel's Mercedes. The consensus around the Android Community is that OnePlus 5T is no where in the class of the Pixel.


    I see where Paul is trying to go here, but like I've always said....I always felt that Paul steers you in the wrong way. Paul called the Samsung Galaxy phones a great phone, but he never really used it to truly experience TouchWiz? Then he goes off to write that the Galaxy phones are just sooooooooooooo premium, that they can overprice their phone. LOL...this is a guy who tells everybody that the Xbox One is the better gaming console despite the sharing issues, the Xbox Live Gold membership to pay for Netflix and other apps, the cable pass-thru, etc.... LOL...then mostly everyone buys the PS4. Or how about when Paul convinces you to buy a Windows Phone and it fails....and your investment shrivels down the toilet. Or how about when he tells you how GREAT the Microsoft Band is and then .... *poof*.....it disappears, only to be followed by Windows Phone later. This is a guy who buys digital media from all the virtual stores and then goes out to look for a solution where they can all be consolidated to one platform for ease of use. LOL...remember his "Woku?" Wouldn't it just be easier to buy all media from one reliable place, rather than buy one movie from Amazon, one from Apple, one from Microsoft, etc.....? BOY, I could go on forever? Paul is the guy who tells people that Xbox One with Kinect, costing $399 gives far better value than the $299 PS4, because you get a Kinect with it. LOL! And Paul thinks that he has the capability to write articles such "OnePlus gets it?"


    The point of all this, is that Paul analysis and review of products is often skewered. This is a guy who review products from his own eyes and not from the viewpoint of people from the real world.


    Another thing? Didn't Paul order the OnePlus 3 and stated that he loved it....after he complained about the Pixel? Then......he goes back to the Pixel?! HUH???


    I clearly don't understand this guy? With all the stuff he has gotten wrong, I can't see how anyone can get any value being a premium member?


    I would love to see Paul go out of his Microsoft bubble....not even,......but his own bubble and participate in general tech roundtable discussions and present his thoughts and argument with other tech people and hear what they say about it.

    • Stooks

      In reply to Bats:

      "Xbox One is the better gaming console despite the sharing issues, the Xbox Live Gold membership to pay for Netflix and other apps, the cable pass-thru, etc.... LOL...then mostly everyone buys the PS4."


      What sharing issues are you talking about? I know people that game share with each other and they each get to play each others games, even on MP. Fantastic feature really.


      Who buys a PS4 and not PSN to use Netflix?????????? Answer no one.


      I never use those media apps on either the PS4 or the Xbox One because my TV's have those apps, or my Apple TV's have those apps plus other stuff I get from the Apple world.


    • lwetzel

      In reply to Bats:

      Sounds like you should have your own blog and keep proving Paul wrong. Sounds like you must have all the answers. Yeah set up you own "Truth about Tech." Might even call it "BATS.com."

    • MoopMeep

      In reply to Bats:
      i dont get why he plays his favorite game on xbox when its better on ps4. I dont play cod but his articles seem to suggest the ps4 version gets priority to other version


      • Stooks

        In reply to MoopMeep:

        First off COD is simply trash. I just finished the single player game on the Xbox One X. I was hoping for the glory days of COD (MW). The SP was pretty good. Heavy on the rails (scripted) but defense quality and it looked amazing on the X. The MP game is simply HORRIBLE.


        The PS4 version is not better, in fact the X version is better than the PS4 Pro version in may ways. Sony paid Activision to get stuff early. Early as in 14-30 days earlier. After that it is the same content on both.


        Microsoft used to pay Activision for years to do the same thing. COD games on the 360 had the same early content advantage and Battlefield games were on the PS. They have essentially swapped now. Battlefield games get early content on the Xbox and there are Battlefield Xbox versions.


        Battlefield games are 100x better than COD games these days. BF1 MP is 1000x times better than that joke COD MP.

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