OnePlus 7 Pro Preview

The latest OnePlus flagship smartphone, the OnePlus 7 Pro, might be good enough to catapult this quirky firm to fame and fortune.

And its been a long time coming: My personal history with OnePlus goes back to the OnePlus 3T, which I described as “a stunning mid-range Android handset that picks up where Google left off with Nexus.” I’ve owned several OnePlus handsets since then, and each has impressed. The OnePlus 5T offered “a modern design, a stunning 18:9 display, crazy-fast facial recognition, and more for about half the price of a typical smartphone flagship.” The OnePlus 6 introduced a few curious compromises, but it was still “a better value than other flagship smartphones.” And last fall’s OnePlus 6T, with its in-display fingerprint reader and teardrop notch, was “best value in flagship-class smartphones.”

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You can see the similarities in each review, and that is by design: OnePlus has always targeted the sweet spot of the smartphone market, and it has always provided the best overall value in a field crowded with well-funded competitors.

That said, the price of OnePlus handsets has risen in tandem with the prices of flagship smartphones over the years, too. That initial OnePlus 3T I loved so much two years ago started at just $439. But a base OnePlus 5T was $499. An entry-level OnePlus 6 would have set you back $529. And the OnePlus 6T? It started at $549.

That creeping escalation continues with the OnePlus 7 Pro, which starts at $669, the biggest jump yet in model-over-model OnePlus pricing. That will trigger some groans, and in this case, I’ll join in with the chorus. But OnePlus is (somewhat) justifying this differential by noting that it also sells a non-Pro OnePlus 7, which is essentially a lightly-updated version of the 6T, for about the same price as that handset. The catch? You can’t buy it in the United States.

In a world of $1000+ flagship smartphones, $669 is still quite the value, of course. That this pricing falls well under the $749 starting price of the entry-level iPhone XR is, I’m sure, not coincidental. That it falls neatly between the $480 starting price of the Google Pixel 3a XL and the $899 starting price of the Pixel 3 XL is, likewise, I’m sure, by design. The OnePlus 7 Pro is more expensive than previous OnePlus handsets, but it still offers the same value, in the context of today’s smartphone market.

As important, and with just one major exception, the OnePlus 7 Pro appears to finally step back from the cliff of quirky design choices that marred the otherwise-excellent previous two OnePlus handsets. For example, the OnePlus 6, as good as it was, didn’t support wireless charging and came with a single mono speaker. The OnePlus 6T was even more compromised: It had the same issues as its predecessor but also came with a lackluster camera (compared to other smartphone flagships) and no headphone jack. Controversially, it also included an in-display fingerprint reader, which was fast … when it worked. But like other in-display fingerprint readers—I’m looking at you, Huawei—it didn’t work a lot.

The OnePlus 7 Pro seeks to fix these problems while one-upping the rest of the smartphone industry in ways that are both obvious and exhilarating. Does this justify the price increase? Assuming it all works as advertised, yes. But it leaves a hole in that $400 to $600 range that, weirdly, Google is now suddenly targeting again with its Pixel 3a and 3a XL. I’m not sure we can call what OnePlus is doing the sweet spot anymore. Maybe just the sweet spot for flagship smartphones. I don’t know.

But let’s focus on what OnePlus is doing, which is redefining, again, what it even means to be a smartphone flagship. The design looks modern and sleek, and with OnePlus being the first to truly remove both the notch and bezels from its smartphone face, the OnePlus 7 Pro stands alone in its modernity. This will be even more obvious this fall when Apple ships new iPhones with humongous notches, thick bezels, and an ugly, square camera array on the rear. Forget Apple’s marketing. The OnePlus 7 Pro is the first real “all screen” flagship.

It achieves this feat courtesy of a peekaboo front-face camera that pops out of the top of the device like the periscope in a submarine. That looks goofy to me, but it’s hard to argue with the resulting display design.

Speaking of cameras, the biggest change in the OnePlus 7 Pro, to my mind, is its elevation from camera also-ran to camera dominance: This handset boasts the single best photo score that DxOMark has ever given to a smartphone, beating out industry heavyweights like the Huawei P30 Pro and Google Pixel 3. When you factor in selfies and video, the OnePlus 7 Pro comes in second place, behind the P30 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy S10. Impressive.

Internally, the OnePlus 7, like the past few OnePlus handsets, is an absolute beast. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, an Adreno 640 GPU, 6, 8 or 12 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256 GB of UFS 3.0 2-lane storage, heady specs that outperform … well, everything. There’s a 4000 mAh battery, and the OnePlus 7 Pro supports Warp Charge 30 Fast Charging, which can provide a 50 percent charge in only 20 minutes, an industry best. It even has stereo speakers—finally­­—and they provide Dolby Atmos support out of the box.

Aside from the camera system, however, the biggest new feature is the display. It’s not just edge-to-edge, it’s also the fastest and best overall display in the industry, according to DisplayMate, which awarded it A+ grades in every single test, and its unique 90 Hz performance. (Most other smartphone displays run at 60 Hz; if you’re not yet tired of the phrase “buttery smooth,” you will be.)

So. What’s missing?

OnePlus continues to ignore waterproofing tests because they are expensive but the device is, wink, wink, waterproof, really. Not officially. But really.

There’s no wireless charging. Which I don’t consider a major handicap.

It still includes, controversially, an in-display fingerprint reader. OnePlus says it’s improved, and is faster and bigger. But I would still prefer a physical fingerprint reader, on the back. Or facial recognition that was actually secure.

There is still no headphone jack. Come on, OnePlus. This is an area where you could differentiate.

And that camera system, for all its goodness, provides only 3x optical zoom. It arrives after the P30 Pro, which provides 5x optical zoom and a good 10x hybrid zoom too.

OK, I’m nitpicking now. There aren’t many downsides, at least not on paper.

I’m hoping to get a OnePlus 7 Pro review unit this week so I can find out for myself—and for you—if OnePlus has finally delivered on its “never settle” promise. But from what I can see so far, they have done so. And if this handset’s camera in any way challenges the market leaders, OnePlus will have done something I considered impossible given its previous efforts. And I can’t wait to find out if that’s true.

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Conversation 21 comments

  • Omega Ra

    Premium Member
    15 May, 2019 - 9:32 am

    <p>I got a little hands on time with the Pro yesterday at the NYC launch, and it is a thing of beauty. The pictures were nice, but the very limited time with it didn't really let me get a real feel for the camera. But I would say it is definitely better than the 6T and comparable to the S10+</p>

    • jdmp10

      17 May, 2019 - 3:08 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428296">In reply to Omega Ra:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>How was the size in person? It's a tall display and for me would be primarily a two-handed device which isn't something I wanna get back to after now going back to a more compact phone and realizing how much I miss this smaller size.</p>

  • dcdevito

    15 May, 2019 - 9:58 am

    <p>It comes down to this: if you want to be successful in the phone market, you need to achieve success in the US. In order for that to happen, your phone needs to be in every major carrier store, period. </p><p><br></p><p>Add to that the phone market has peaked and is overly saturated. OnePlus makes good phones and all but they’ll never reach outside the nerdsphere</p>

    • rmlounsbury

      Premium Member
      15 May, 2019 - 10:54 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428301">In reply to dcdevito:</a></em></blockquote><p>Or China, see: Huawei.</p>

      • wright_is

        Premium Member
        18 May, 2019 - 2:13 am

        <blockquote><em><a href="#428321">In reply to rmlounsbury:</a></em></blockquote><p>Or Europe, see: Huawei.</p>

  • Patrick3D

    15 May, 2019 - 10:20 am

    <p>Nokia released their 4.2 phone recently, dual camera, dual sim, fingerprint &amp; face unlock support, NFC, Android One (Pie), all for $189 unlocked. The only thing it lacks is wireless charging.</p>

  • eric_rasmussen

    Premium Member
    15 May, 2019 - 10:57 am

    <p>Everything about this device is great right up to the headphone jack, or lack thereof. I listen to YouTube at night to fall asleep, but I also like to charge my phone at night. The USB Type C dongles do not allow this scenario and I'm not keen on falling asleep with Bluetooth radios stuck to my head. How is it more modern to pay more money for less usability? I don't get it.</p><p><br></p><p>When I saw that the new Pixel 3a includes an exceptional camera <em>and </em>a headphone jack I ordered one right away. It'll be here at the end of the week! :)</p>

  • obarthelemy

    15 May, 2019 - 11:03 am

    <p>I'm having a hard time selling people on flagships now that midrangers are Good Enough ™ and cute. Let's compare to the $150 Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 which I end up recommending to 3 out of 4 of people:</p><p><br></p><p>1- What can this one do that the Redmi can't ? AR/VR, Fortnite, and low-light pics ? I understand there's some quality of life stuff too, but most people by far don't care.</p><p><br></p><p>2- Why are there so many features lost in that "upgrade" ? Audio jack, SD card, FM radio, IR blaster, sensible fingerprint scanner… Those are rarely dealbrakers, except when the finrgerprint scanner is really flaky (Nokia 9) or people really like the option to get a cheap 32 or 64GB phone right now knowing they'll be able to add 128GB for $20 later if they feel the need.</p><p><br></p><p>I understand smartphones are an incredible value at any price on a time spent / cost basis. But you've still got to be able to do more if you pay more, or at least do it significantly more comfortably. More expensive phones aren't providing that anymore, especially when you take the various "flasghip unfeatures" into account. Most people are better served spending the extra money elsewhere, if only on a better headset, a tablet, a smartwatch, a smart speaker…</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      18 May, 2019 - 2:26 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428323">In reply to obarthelemy:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes. Most people I know are moving away from contract phones and buying outright, which means they don't want to spend much money on the phone. 150-250€ is the limit for most people I know, a few want a "high end" phone, which they are willing to fork out 400-500€ on.</p><p>Most iPhone users I know have SE or 7 models, because they are the only affordable models at the moment – at work, we have mostly SE models, because they were the only iPhones that came in under the limit the company subsidized the contracts with; few people are willing to fork out their own money to subsidize a company phone for 2 years (especially as they are only allowed to use it for phone calls and email).</p><p>The exception being my daughter, who bought an iPhone X last month. But the rest of the family are all on low-to-midrange phones, generally from Huawei. I know a few people with Wiko phones or Nokias. They quickly outnumber those I see with Galaxy S or iPhone XR/XS phones.</p><p>Another thing with the likes of Huawei (and to a lesser extent Samsung), the phones start off near 1,000€, but after a couple of months the prices drop drastically. The Mate 20 Pro, for example, is down from 999€ to 600€ now, on Amazon.</p>

  • rosyna

    15 May, 2019 - 11:46 am

    <p>Getting an IP rating isn’t expensive, just that it implies a warranty that BBK doesn’t want to fulfill.</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      18 May, 2019 - 2:16 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428333">In reply to rosyna:</a></em></blockquote><p>Exactly, making the device waterproof is the expensive part. The IP certification is relatively cheap (I think we paid just over 10K for our industrial terminal, which was a major cost, considering we had a production run of a couple of hundred devices a year, but for a smartphone selling hundreds of thousands or millions of devices, it is peanuts).</p>

  • Bibbit

    15 May, 2019 - 11:50 am

    <p>I have the 6T and I have no complaints about the fingerprint reader. It's been great for me.</p>

    • Simard57

      17 May, 2019 - 1:58 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428334">In reply to Bibbit:</a></em></blockquote><p>Go Bruins!</p>

  • RonH

    Premium Member
    15 May, 2019 - 12:43 pm

    <p>I have a Note 9.</p><p><br></p><p>I like the size and battery life, the finger print reader on the back, the S Pen, the cameras, the headphone jack, wireless charging…</p><p><br></p><p>I don't like the the glass back, the curved edges on the screen (to much glare), Bixby and most of the apps that Samsung duplicates (messages, contacts, gallery etc)</p><p><br></p><p>I would like a back that comes off with a replaceable battery. Even better if there was a very small internal battery to power the device while I swap batteries on the go without shutting down. A headphone jack, wireless charging are a must.</p><p><br></p><p>A guess a Note 9 with pure Android with Microsoft apps in a 950 XL 'ish' type body.</p>

  • vyty

    15 May, 2019 - 10:16 pm

    <p>One plus7 is a great phone. </p>

  • wocowboy

    Premium Member
    16 May, 2019 - 6:23 am

    <p>Paul's calling the bezels on the iPhone XS "thick" baffles me. This new OnePlus 7 Pro has a biggeer bezel at the bottom than the iPhone has on any of it's 4 sides, so no mention of that? Maybe Paul is referring only to the bezels on the iPhone XR, but he does not make that distinction and never has, indicating a definite bias. And, by the way, the notch is necessary because of the fully-capable for security sensors that have to be there to use face unlock for purchasing purposes. The pop-up camera on the OnePlus 7 is not capable of being used for those purposes, but the in-screen unlock button is. When a manufacturer figures out a way to put all those required sensors into a tiny sliver of space, then notches can go away. We haven't reached that level of technology yet. Since Apple is the only manufacturer who uses those types of sensors for unlocking and purchasing purposes, the fact that any other device contains a notch is only them copying the look of an iPhone for no actual reason than that copying. (Pixel) The gigantic notch on the Galaxy Fold that only contained a couple of camera modules and a HUGE amount of unused blank space comes to mind. </p><p> </p><p>I do like the full-screen look of the 7 Pro, outside of that bezel on the bottom, and some reviewers say that the screen that slopes around the side edges is giving them problems with false triggering, which also happens with the Galaxy phones, but the need for the bottom bezel is odd considering that the iPhone in fact does not have a bottom bezel at all. Apple's explanation is that they have folded the display controller underneath the screen, but various explainers have said they do not do this, so who knows? I do know that the iPhone is the only phone that does not have some sort of big bottom bezel, and I do know that a lot of Android devices do really have HUGE bottom bezels with notches at the top of the screen that make the device look like the screen has been shoved upwards to create the notch (are you listening Google with the Pixels?) </p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      18 May, 2019 - 2:10 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#428505">In reply to wocowboy:</a></em></blockquote><p>Geschmackssache, as the Germans say (a matter of taste). I would prefer a version of the 7 Pro without the popup camera (i.e. no front-facing camera at all). I never use the camera, it is a waste of space and money.</p><p>As to biometric unlocking, whether fingerprint or facial recognition, they are a convinience factor, not a security factor.</p><p>Fingerprint readers can generally still be relatively easily fooled, as can IR-camera systems. Plus, biometrics is just a username replacement, it is not a password replacement. If somebody hacks your password, you can change it. If they manage to fool the biometric reader, you can't change your fingerprints or face.</p>

  • bke72

    16 May, 2019 - 10:57 am

    <p>Beautiful phone at a great price!</p>

  • johnh3

    17 May, 2019 - 4:45 am

    <p>I suppose its a great phone. But the price have gone up to of course. I think the new Asus Zenfone 6 might attract some old fans of the OnePlus brand.</p><p>A flip camera, no edge display and a very attractive price compared to OnePlus 7 Pro.</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    18 May, 2019 - 1:50 am

    <p>I was in two minds about the lack of headphone socket on my Mate 10 Pro, but after over a year of use, with an average of 2 hours listening to podcasts or audio books over earphones eachday, I have to say, I don't miss the socket.</p><p>I use a mix of 90% cabled headphones and 10% bluetooth, plus the rest of the time either BT to a radio in the kitchen or the entertainment system in my car.</p><p>So far the supplied USB-C headphone adapter has worked flawlessly with my Sony headphones. I really don't miss the socket – plus that is one less socket for water and dust ingress and no problems with the contacts in the socket getting flattened out over time and losing contact – something that used to be a real problem, but which in recent years seems to has gone away. I remember having to dismantle one Walkman every couple of weeks to bend the contacts back into place.</p><p>As to waterproof testing, that is the cheap part of waterproofing. We went through a lot of prototypes and had to set up our own test tank. The actual testing was quick and relatively cheap. We received IP65, IP66, and IP69K on our industrial terminal. The terminal worked fine in our tank, but the test institutes tank pulled the terminal an extra 2cm deeper in the water, which was enough for the seals to breach – we left it in our tank overnight with no problems, in the test tank it failed within the 2 hours of the test. If OnePlus has spent the money on getting it waterproofed, why not chuck in another 10K for the test? That is peanuts at the scale at which they will (hopefully) be selling the device.</p>

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