OnePlus 6T First Impressions

Posted on November 5, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 17 Comments

Following in the footsteps of its impressive predecessor, the OnePlus 6T shrinks the notch and adds an in-display fingerprint reader. It’s one of the most eagerly-awaited new Android flagships of 2018. But can it live up to the hype?

I believe it can. In fact, in some ways, the OnePlus 6T exceeds one’s expectations to such a degree that it almost makes a mockery of the hype that accompanies unexceptional handsets, like the Google Pixel 3. It doesn’t just offer better specifications, it’s more future-proof. And it’s far more affordable.

That value always been the key to OnePlus and its products is well-understood. Less well-understood, I think, is that OnePlus has also always done its own thing. That is, the company doesn’t just sell more for less. It creates something unique, in its software and configuration choices, that really differentiates it from the many Android handsets out there in the market.

And these choices are sometimes controversial. In my review of the OnePlus 6, for example, I noted some odd choices for a flagship smartphone, like its lack of stereo speakers, wireless charging capabilities, and waterproofing.

That product design is “all about compromise” is one of the single dumbest things a reviewer can write. And in the case of OnePlus, it’s just plain inaccurate: The firm has reasons for every decision it makes. And rather than caving in some areas so that it can make more positive strides in others, what OnePlus is trying to do is, I think, is create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s trying to do for Android what Apple does for the iPhone.

This is a laudable goal, but as we push forward to the OnePlus 6T, some of the design decisions—compromise or not—are more questionable than ever. After acknowledging that the majority of its user base used the headphone jack in previous models, OnePlus remove it from the OnePlus 6T. It added an in-display fingerprint reader that is slower than the excellent rear-facing reader from previous handsets. And it still doesn’t include those features—stereo speakers, wireless charging, and waterproofing—that I complained about last time around.

And so we’re at an interesting place. And I suspect that the OnePlus 6T, despite its incredible value, will be a hotly-debated topic in these circles for months to come.

So let’s start the debate. A OnePlus 6T review unit arrived today, and I’ll be using it as much as possible over the next few weeks to see whether it improves on its predecessor and still offers a unique value in the suddenly-overpriced world of smartphone handsets.

On paper, the value is real. OnePlus outfits the 6T with an incredible 6 or 8 GB of RAM, depending on model, far more than the measly 4 GB that Google uses in the Pixel 3 and 3 XL. It features a tiny, teardrop-shaped notch that makes the Pixel 3 XL’s buck-toothed monstrosity look even more embarrassing by comparison. It’s built with premium materials and suffers from none of the reliability issues that continue to dog Google. And it starts at just $550, a full $350 less than a comparable Pixel 3 XL. Even the value-priced iPhone XR, which costs $800 for a 128 GB configuration, is hundreds of dollars more expensive.

From a high level, the OnePlus 6T looks a lot like its predecessor. But my review unit is a matte black, as opposed to the shiny black of the OnePlus 6, that I prefer.

OnePlus 6 (left) and OnePlus 6T (right)

It’s also a bit thicker and heavier, though this is something I’d never have noticed if I were looking closely at both side-by-side.

OnePlus 6T (top) and OnePlus 6 (bottom)

The camera hardware looks identical—which, of course, it is.

And the various buttons and sliders found on the OnePlus 6 carry forward unchanged: The OnePlus 6T still includes the alert slider that is unique to this lineup.

On the bottom of the phone, the headphone jack is conspicuously missing. So the USB-C port is bordered on each side by two identical sets of holes, with the microphone on one side and the phone’s solo speaker on the other.

OnePlus was nice enough to bundle a USB-C to headphone adapter dongle in the box, which is the minimum, methinks.

What it doesn’t bundle is a pair of USB-C headphones—even Google does this—though the review unit came with a set.

Headphones not included

Looking at the two phones side-by-side, I can also see that the OnePlus 6T is just a tad taller. The difference is just about the exact height of the Android status bar. More notable, perhaps, is that the teardrop notch is possible one-third the size of the perfectly reasonably-sized notch in the OnePlus 6. That said, this new design means that OnePlus had to remove the LED notification light. (Which I disabled anyway.)

Initial set up was a multi-step affair, with OnePlus adding its own screens for configuring the in-display fingerprint reader and various OnePlus-related options midstream.

You can enroll your finger AND your face!

This type of thing has become problematic in mobile, in my experience. So where Windows 10, for example, requires just a few interactive screens, both Android and iOS really put you through the options wringer before you can use the device.

I’ve only taken a handful of test photographs so far—literally, the phone arrived less than two hours ago–but I’m struck by the accurate color reproduction and clarity. I realize this camera will never challenge the one in Google’s Pixel handsets, but it has me wondering if I could live with it day-to-day. I know that most people would be quite satisfied with it.

Still life sample shot

Anyway. I’ll keep testing the phone, and if it’s possible, I switch the OnePlus 6T onto Project Fi—a configuration that is not officially supported—and actually use as my day-to-day handset. Either way, I’ll have more soon.


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Comments (17)

17 responses to “OnePlus 6T First Impressions”

  1. BeckoningEagle

    Please include in the review how close the OS is to a stock Android configuration. Thanks.

    • UbelhorJ

      In reply to BeckoningEagle:

      I have a 3T, not a 6T, but OxygenOS is very similar to how Nokia handled Windows Phone. They make additions where beneficial and leave alone what was already working. I went from a Nexus to OnePlus, and I have zero desire to return to fully stock Android.

      • BeckoningEagle

        In reply to UbelhorJ:

        Yes, I have no problem with non-stock if whatever they install is not duplicate junk which can't be turned off. I have a Galaxy Note 8 and had to jump hurdles to customize it the way I wanted. Then there were little things, like Emergency Alerts, which can only be seen in the stock Samsung messaging app, and the stupid app will not open if you don't allow it to be the default. During Hurricane María last year I would get the alert, open the messaging app, set it as default, read the alert, go back to pulse, set it as default and so on..... That is the kind of stuff that made me jump ship from Samsung, which is a bummer since they have very sturdy phones in my experience. I now have a Pixel 3XL and since I haven't experienced any of the issues that Paul has described, I am pretty happy with it, but the pricing is ridiculously high.

  2. tomschenkenberg

    The 6T is waterproof according to OnePlus. Non-certified waterproof apparently. Should potential buyers care that there's no official waterproofing stamp?

  3. gartenspartan

    One thing maybe you can look into with this device Paul is if changing launchers affects the gesture navigation feature? Like if I switch to microsoft launcher, will I still be able to use the Oxygen OS gesture navigation, which sounds like it's very similar to the iphone gestures.

  4. wocowboy

    I have used a couple different OnePlus phones in the past and found them to be very good function-wise, and they received regular and timely updates, both the security updates and full-fledged OS updates. This new model looks great, as Paul noted, it looks FAR better than the horrific Pixel 3 XL with its "bucktooth" notch and GI-normous chin. OnePlus for some odd reason has the design language down pat just like Apple does of a near-full-screen display with no chin. What a concept! The Pixel looks like the display has been shoved upwards from the bottom of the phone for no reason, giving it that awful notch and huge chin. It's just "unbalanced" and severely ugly. I will be going to my T-Mobile store and checking this phone out.

  5. Richardsona39

    Wait, it doesn't have a notification LED? That might kill it for me (no, am not being hyperbolic... I love being able to see if the LED is blinking without having to turn the screen on - means less distraction from another task I'm doing).

    Still interested in seeing how the camera stacks up though.

    • markld

      In reply to Richardsona39:

      Your reply is what I would have said. I very much like my LED notification light on my LG G6, that I wouldn't do without.

      Also, the sample shot Paul rendered looked very good. I'm also interested in how the cameras stacks up.

      It's strange but the camera usually is a make it or break it thing with me, but add the LED notification light into the mix.

  6. bhatech

    Pixel 3 has kind of become everyone's punching bag. Sure it's expensive but it does cater to someone who wants the best camera and latest Android version asap along with monthly security updates. (Niche crowd)

    I agree most people don't care about that and perfectly fine with devices like OnePlus (great value and experience) or something like Samsung filled with features.

  7. jpwalters

    Last year, I got the 5T for my son and I who was away at school. It was the first migration for me away from Windows Phone. The Microsoft Launcher has eased the transition quite a bit. But my point was I was exceedingly pleased with the 5T. I do wish the camera was slightly better. My son dropped his and messed up his volume buttons. I'm hoping to give him my 5T and upgrade to a 6T while getting the old one repaired and hopefully to a new home. The other point is that in a brave new world where phones cost over $1,000 it seems hard to justify upgrading. But in a world that more realistically looks like OnePlus, upgrading seems at least somewhat more sustainable!

  8. homer

    Very interested if Project FI works on this phone

    • Paul Thurrott

      In reply to homer:

      It's not supported, and it's not something that most could do.

      What you need is a SIM card that's already been activated for Project Fi. That means you need a supported phone, like a Pixel, too.

    • jdmp10

      In reply to homer:

      I'm still hesitant about OP as a company after some things were outed in the past and their Chinese overlords.

      I do still however commend them for being able to produce a phone in 2018, as compromised as it may be, that easily rivals anything from the competition, on the iPhone or Android end, at a far lower price. Time will tell if their T-Mobile partnership will get them more noticed by the US general smartphone buying public and if based on that success they may change their formula of offering these types of devices at these prices.

  9. fishnet37222

    Apple needs to start including in-display fingerprint readers and bring back Touch ID.