I have been a follower of the OnePlus’s journey since 2014 when they first surprised us with the OnePlus One.
I called it a beauty with forgivable niggles.
2015 introduced the second episode of the flagship-killing journey. This time, OnePlus Two was good but not great. The surprise-effect was fading away. I critically labelled it as a “no-thrill” phone.
However, OnePlus never settled.
In 2016, we have their latest flagship-killer, the OnePlus 3.
I have been using this device for a month and a half now. There is no doubt that OnePlus has surprised us again this year with an excellent mobile phone.
However, keeping the tradition of the REASONTOUSE platform, I will turn my microscope on, put the OnePlus 3 (OP3) under it and carry out my critical review – from an end-user perspective.
I am going to cover 4 strengths, 4 passes and 1 weakness when it comes to the OnePlus 3 user experience.
Table of Contents for Quick Navigation
- Strength 1 – Great Price for Top Specs
- Strength 2 – Design That is Premium
- Strength 3 – Speed and Performance, The Workhorse
- Strength 4 – Small Stand Out Features That Make a Difference
- Pass 1 – How’s the Camera Quality?
- Pass 2 – Tell Me About The Battery Life
- Pass 3 – Oxygen OS and UI, Getting Better
- Pass 4 – Display Quality and Audio Performance
- The Only Real Weakness – Availability Issues
- OnePlus 3 Verdict – 8.5/10 – Excellent Smartphone
Strength 1 – Great Price for Top Specs
With Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 chip and a generous 6GB RAM, OnePlus 3 is a top-spec machine for 2016 flagship market. The battery size is acceptable at 3000 mAH and there is a 16MP main camera with optical image stabilisation included in the package.
The 5.5 inch Optic AMOLED screen is only 1080p (full HD) though which one can argue to be a “touch basic” in the 2016 flagship market. Other than that though, OnePlus is a high-end device when we talk about hardware specifications on paper.
In real life and after using it for nearly 45 days, it feels that way too – powerful and agile. Full of energy.
Let us talk about the price tag then.
I bought OnePlus 3 just before the UK Pound suffered a blow due to Brexit and paid £309 for it. I was over the moon.
It is now selling for £329 but there is a 14 days estimated delivery time mentioned on their official UK page (August 2016). It is presently not available for immediate delivery but I am sure this will change shortly.
If you are in a hurry and want to buy from Amazon UK, you will be asked to pay around £375 approximately via third party sellers.
So how does the OnePlus 3 compare to the other big players in the industry?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 sells for approx. £475.
The HTC 10 for approx. £470.
And LG G5 for approx £380.
You can do the numbers yourself. I don’t need to explain it to you that OnePlus 3 is an exceptional “value for money” flagship smartphone.
“I am not hesitant to call it a premium 2016 flagship at non-premium price.“
This exceptional value is the one single most important factor that has caused ripples in the western Android flagship markets.
If you are tight on budget and still want to enjoy a top-notch phone, start your research from the OnePlus 3.
A genuine contender.
Strength 2 – Design That is Premium
OnePlus 3 is a beautifully crafted unibody metal design with subtle and elegant curves.
No doubt a lot of attention and detail has gone in its design and OnePlus deserves praise for that.
I recently wrote a detailed article about the design, look and build quality of the device. Click the picture below to read if you are interested in knowing more.
At 158 grams and with 5.5 inch screen size, the shape, ergonomics and weight of the device feel balanced and comfortable. The grip is excellent and the texture of the Aluminium metal feels nice to touch.
The material used in construction feels premium and resisted day to day marks and scratches very well. I don’t use protective cases with my handsets and I can confirm that after a month and a half of normal use, there is not even a single mark or blemish of any type anywhere on the body. This includes the back, sides and front screen (although I protected the front screen with a plastic screen protector).
There is a strong possibility that at the end of 2016, I will be calling the OnePlus 3 my favourite design of the year. Even better than the HTC10 which I am going to use and review straight after this one.
The clash of the two design-titans will be interesting.
Strength 3 – Speed and Performance, The Workhorse
OnePlus 3 comes with a quad core Snapdragon 820 processing chip which is not shy to boast smart and snappy performance. The device has a whopping 6GB of RAM which makes it one of the fastest Android smartphones I have experienced to date.
One Plus has surprised us here.
I am not a gamer, nor a geek who likes to stress their devices with a number of apps and running tasks to see how they behave under this load.
I am different.
I use my phone freely with lots of app installed but using them just as a normal user. In these 45 days, I had almost 70 apps installed and running on the device. I hardly noticed sluggishness or signs of any fatigue by the device or the operating system.
“OnePlus 3 is a workhorse. You will not be disappointed if you are an average user like me.”
Strength 4 – Small Stand Out Features That Make a Difference
Android flagships in the current market are not very different from each other. The expectations and the offering are broadly similar. Hence anything that stands out in any of the devices make a difference and people tend to remember this “extra over”.
OnePlus 3 has the following 4 distinct features which are worth including here.
1Dash Charging – the included Type C USB cable and the Dash Charger offer quick charging which is different to others. The difference is that the dash charging on OnePlus 3 is much quicker than other fast chargers that I have tried in the past.
- 15 minutes for over 25% of the battery charge.
- 30 minutes for over 50% of the battery charge.
- And 1 hour for over 90% of the battery charge.
This is impressive.
You can feel the difference in a day to day routine. I am thoroughly impressed. I am not sure how OnePlus has achieved it but I would like this feature to be retained in the future models as well.2Quality of the Bundled Accessories – The bundled accessories (AC Charger, USB Cable and ejector tool) are of high quality in bright Red colour. The accessories come in a solid White and Red box and feel premium.
A minor element but it just shows the commitment and the desire of the OnePlus business to be at the forefront of the industry. Every little helps to create an overall impression.
I wish they had included a nice pair of earphones in the box as well.
Or am I asking for too much?3Fingerprint Scanner – again, one of the fastest and the most accurate imprint scanner (fingerprint) that I have experienced in a top-end Android device.
I absolutely loved it for its accuracy, responsiveness and snappy performance. The fingerprint scanner is becoming an industry standard in this range of devices and it is great to see that OnePlus has done it perfectly.4Dual SIM Support – OP3 supports dual Nano SIMS that are labelled as Card 1 and Card 2 by default. I have personally not used this feature but I can imagine that this will be super-useful for someone who want to use two SIMs at a time.
If you have any experience of using two SIMS on any of the OnePlus devices, share your feedback with us in comments below.
Before we jump on to the list of features which I call them as “passes”, I want you to have a look at this short poll (200 responses) that was conducted here and closed in November 2016.
Let’s go back to the list of “passes”.
Pass 1 – How’s the Camera Quality?
Camera is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) factor for selecting an Android nowadays. It is something which is close to heart for many of us.
Traditional point and shoot cameras are declining as we see the rise in smartphone photography.
I wrote a detailed article on OnePlus 3’s camera performance with 34 sample images included a few days back. Have a look.
The camera is good but not great.
It is a significant improvement over the previous model (OnePlus 2 camera review here). The 16 MP snapper comes equipped with the optical image stabilisation (OIS) and is capable of producing great photos. It could have been better but it is still more than acceptable. The macros and close-ups are decent quality too.
I gave it a 7.5 out of 10 in my overall review.
I conducted a poll on OnePlus forums and got a similar feel from the readers there as well. According to them, the camera experience got an average of 8.2 out of 10.
You can appreciate my 7.5 score is coming from a critical reviewer and their average 8.2 is coming from perhaps mostly those who like OnePlus.
I am sure you have got the gist. Good camera, neat and practical app with manual controls and overall decent camera user experience. You won’t be disappointed but at the same, won’t be stunned either.
Pass 2 – Tell Me About The Battery Life
It is average.
I can not tell you any more than that. It is very similar to my last few flagship mobiles in 2016.
A day (possibly more) of use with light use.
Just under a day (need to charge in the evenings) of low to medium use.
Charge it twice a day for medium to high use.
But remember Dash Charger that I explained above?
That does make a difference. A quick 15 or 30 minutes of charging before leaving the house will pump the battery up for the rest of the afternoon. Great feature.
Although the actual battery life in strict sense was average, it was the fast-charging (dash) that made the overall experience pleasant.
Pass 3 – Oxygen OS and UI, Getting Better
It used to be CyanogenMod when OnePlus 1 was released in 2014. The concept was brilliant but then OnePlus shifted to its own OS namely Oxygen OS.
Since then, it is developing, getting better and getting more refined with each update and revision. In OnePlus 2 last year, it impressed me and I praised the company for that.
This time in OnePlus 3, I enjoyed it again. The most important factors for me are responsiveness (no jerkiness or lag), intuitiveness of navigation and quality of bundled apps that come pre-installed in the machine.
And OxygenOS ticked all the boxes. As I have mentioned before, with 6GB RAM, the whole operating system and the interface feels extremely fast and responsive.
There is one thing which OnePlus can definitely improve in the future revisions. Make it more beautiful and elegant in terms of fonts, transitions and colours/themes. This is one area where I found that the OS could have done better.
And my usual gripe again, no multi-window (running two tasks at a time) support by default in the OS. For a 5.5″ screen, this option should be given to the user.
Give us more personalisation options OnePlus and this will help to create an even stronger bonding with the Oxygen OS.
We are getting there.
Pass 4 – Display Quality and Audio Performance
Let us talk about the 5.5 inch Optic AMOLED display first.
5.5 inch screen size is excellent – currently my favourite, as it is neither too small nor too big and awkward to handle.
OnePlus opted for the AMOLED type (like Samsung) instead of LCD panel in OnePlus 3. The difference is blacker blacks and not-so-purer whites.
If you ask me personally, I prefer the IPS LCD panels. I just find their colours to be more real to life and more subtle.
I don’t like the vividness and sharpness which sometimes feel unnatural in AMOLED panels. However, in OnePlus 3, the AMOLED panel is not exaggerating and over saturating the colours and tones too much. It is pleasant and acceptable.
The resolution is 1080p (full-HD). It could have been a 2K or 4K panel but hey-ho, we can’t ask for everything. The impact would have been the battery life and I am not ready to compromise on that.
The 1080p display with Optic AMOLED type is fine for me. It is was easy to use it on both indoor and outdoor and I have no complaints from it. Yes, the 2K screen would have been ideal but I am borderline on this issue and perhaps live with the 1080p this time.
The Only Real Weakness – Availability Issues
I tried hard to think about finding some real holes in the OnePlus 3 – some weak points that I can find out and share them with you.
OnePlus 3 is an excellent phone and there is no real let-down in it in my opinion.
However there is something which is less-than-acceptable and I am going to reluctantly call it the weakness here.
First, the good point.
OnePlus 3 is now available without an “invite-only” system which was the limitation of the previous 2 offerings by OnePlus.
While it is great and well done by the company, the demand perhaps due to the quality of the device has introduced some hiccups in the availability of the unit in certain countries.
In UK, there is a pause of approximately 3 weeks currently and the units can not be shipped to the buyers straight away.
However, as I am typing this article, the shipping time is reduced to 12 days in the UK and 8 days in the US.
At this level of competition, the availability should have been “dispatching next day”. Carl has explained the issue in this forum announcement here.
But I appreciate that for the company of OnePlus size, it is a challenging task to keep up with the demand of the unit from across the markets.
So overall, still a few niggles around availability issues. At this level, I personally see it as a weakness.
Sorry OnePlus. I wish I had said, this smartphone has no real weakness in my opinion. But I can definitely say that the OnePlus strengths outshine its weaknesses by miles.
05.11.2016 update – In UK, the OnePlus 3 official store shows both variants (graphite and soft gold) as out of stock again.
OnePlus 3 Verdict – 8.5/10 – Excellent Smartphone
In every box of the OnePlus 3, there is a small note by Carl Pei, the co-founder of the company.
It says that if you like the device, spread the word to others.
And why not?
It is a great phone at a great price. It is the best flagship that I have experienced in the 2016. It is beautiful, fast and a no-hassle phone for an Android enthusiast.
Irrespective of its cost, the phone quality and features are worth considering anyway.
Add to the mix its ultra-competitive price, you will be highly tempted to consider this phone in your list of options.
Well recommended from my side.
“I will give it an 8.5 out of 10 for the overall Android user experience – feels extremely good.”
Have you had a chance to try or use this phone? (if so, share your thoughts in comments below)
If you are thinking of buying this phone, is there any question that I have not answered in my analysis above? (feel free to ask)