2019 has been a great year for the silent majority of people who can’t or don’t want to spend $1000 on a smartphone. And while there have been some excellent entries in the mid-range market, the OnePlus 7T stands above them all. Because this isn’t a mid-range handset. It’s a flagship handset sold at mid-range prices.
Put another way, the OnePlus 7T is built to last, but priced to sell. It is the epitome of value in a market gone insane with escalating prices.
Consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+. It’s an excellent handset in so many ways, but then it should be at its $1100 selling price. Indeed, at that lofty price tag, the Note 10+ shouldn’t have any meaningful compromises. And yet it is full of compromise, from its terrible in-display fingerprint reader, decent but not marketing-leading camera system, often terrible Samsung app and service duplications, and its lack of a headphone jack. At $1100, you should be given everything.
Consider the Google Pixel 3a XL. It costs even less than $600—$480 to be exact—and at that pricing level, one expects some compromises, maybe even some big compromises. And you get ‘em: The Pixel 3a XL has an incredible camera system, of course, a fast fingerprint reader, a headphone jack, and a cool polycarbonate body. But it also has serious performance problems that pick away at you over time, plus an unacceptable amount (64 GB) of non-upgradeable storage, no Gorilla Glass display protection, no wireless charging, and no water resistance. The Pixel 3a XL may be a good value today, but it’s absolutely not future-proof. Its mid-level processor and low storage alone ensure that. And its lack of decent display protection means it’s a ticking timebomb.
Those compromises may be acceptable to you: That’s the deal you’re making when you spend about half the going price of a flagship smartphone.
Or is it?
The OnePlus 7T costs just $600, and as I was walking around Allentown last night, taking photos of places, food, and drink under increasingly dark conditions, I was thinking about compromise. Or, rather the lack of meaningful compromise.
The OnePlus 7T costs just $600, as noted, but it is the only smartphone in the world to ship with the Snapdragon 855+ processor, at a time when all Android flagships ship with a Snapdragon 855 or equivalent. This chipset is, basically, an overclocked version of the 855. Some of its cores run at higher clock speeds, and its graphics co-processor performs about 15 percent better. It’s future-proof.
The OnePlus 7T includes an incredible 8 GB of RAM. That’s more than an iPhone. It’s more than any Pixel. And it’s the same as the amount of RAM you get in a Note 10; the Note 10+ provides 12 GB.
The OnePlus 7T includes 128 GB of super-fast UFS 3.0 storage. This storage is faster than the storage used by any handset in the market, save one: The Note 10+ also uses UFS, but it uses the new F2FS file system instead of EXT4, making it a bit faster.
The OnePlus 7T, like the 7 Pro, offers an incredibly fast and accurate in-display fingerprint. It’s a joy to use after the frustrating unit in the Note 10+. It’s so good, I’m starting to get over my attachment to rear-mounted fingerprint readers. It’s the real deal.
So where’s the compromise? There must be some compromise.
And there is. The good news is that neither of these issues is a deal-breaker, at least for most people. Neither should prevent this handset from being future-proof, again, for most people.
The first is the display. Yes, it’s a super-smooth 90 Hz wonder, and yes it’s wonderful to use. But it lacks the curved display edges that mark most (non-iPhone) flagships these days. It’s just a normal, flat display with very small bezels (and a tiny, unobtrusive tear-drop notch). But two interesting points to that: Many people actually prefer a flat display and don’t like the curved edges or worry that they make the phone more fragile; there is some validity to that. More important to me, the flat display plays a role in the incredible thinness of this device. Compared to porkier flagships, the OnePlus 7T is svelte and light.
The second is that storage, not because of the F2FS/EXT4 issue, but because it’s non-upgradable. You can have a OnePlus 7T as long as 128 GB of storage is all you’ll ever want. And here’s the thing: That is all I’ll ever want. Maybe not forever, but for the foreseeable future. 128 GB is, from my perspective, the sweet spot in storage. And while microSD expansion would end that debate for good, we can at least agree that where 64 GB, like that in the Pixel 3a XL, is unacceptable, 128 GB is enough. For most.
The camera system will require more testing. But in looking at the shots I took last night, zooming in to view details, and assessing its performance in a variety of scenarios, I’m actually kind of impressed. This camera system is at least as good as that in the Galaxy Note 10+, at least as far as I can tell. Again, it costs barely more than half the price of that handset. I can accept less than perfect shots at that price range, yes. But these shots are very good, overall. I’m not compromising at all, regardless of price.
And I need to mention the fast charging. My God. It’s almost hilarious how fast this phone charges when you use the bundled Warp 30T fast charger. It’s amazing. It may literally be using alien technology.
Overall, I’m not getting up with a hangover this morning. Instead, I’m even more impressed by what OnePlus has accomplished with the OnePlus 7T. There are some questions, still, and some confusion over how this fits into the product lineup against the OnePlus 7 Pro. And how this new phone has completely obliterated the firm’s “one flagship” and mid-year “T”-model strategies. But whatever. I’ll just keep using it. And so far I really like what I see.