OnePlus has been one Chinese company, apart from Xiaomi, that has tasted early success for a startup since its launch of the OnePlus One early last year. It managed to sell over 1.5 million handsets globally. So naturally, the OnePlus 2 launch has been eagerly looked forward to by a lot many people. OnePlus as a company has certainly created a space in the mindset of phone buyers, so when Carl Pei launched the OnePlus 2, what the company calls the ‘2016 Flagship Killer’, at Rs 24,999 there has been a lot of buzz around the phone, so much so that there have already been over 2 million registrations for the phone, which goes on sale tomorrow. Also there have been reports of hacking the OnePlus invite system. We have been using the phone for close to two weeks now and here’s the complete review.
Build and Design: 8/10
The OnePlus 2 has improved on the design aspect of the phone over its predecessor. It employs a magnesium-aluminium alloy which makes up the metallic frame of the OnePlus 2.
The rear side, with its coarse Sandstone black finish, makes you feel at home if you’ve used the OnePlus One. The sandstone black cover is now easily removable, but it comes across as a bit too thin and easily flexes. Along with the sandstone back, you also get the option of a wooden back which will have to be bought separately. The phone has a slightly curved design on the back which helps with the grip. As compared to the OnePlus One, the OnePlus 2 is slightly heavier.
On the right hand side towards the top portion, you have the power/standby and volume rocker buttons. The top edge has the 3.5mm audio jack and at the base you have the USB Type-C port in the centre surrounded by two speaker grilles – which is new.
On the left hand side you have notifications notch called the Alert slider, which has a nice feedback to it. It lets you control notifications by sliding it from bottom to top (bottom – All notifications; middle – Priority interruptions and top – No interruptions), and as we experienced over the last couple of weeks, it will take some time getting used to that button.
The OnePlus 2 comes with a 5.5-inch display with a slightly larger scree-to-body ratio as compared to the OnePlus One. At the base of it you have a fingerprint scanner. It is not a button per se but a touchpad and it has a clear rounded rectangular marking. This is surrounded by two soft keys which light up when the phone is on. The metallic edge has chamfered edges which gives it a classy look. On the rear side, the camera is placed bang in middle with a dual LED flash unit on top and the laser autofocus system below the 13MP rear camera.
The OnePlus 2 comes with impressive internal specifications. It is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 810 SoC which has a quad-core Cortex A57 and a quad-core Cortex A53 and has the Adreno 430 GPU. This is paired with 4GB of RAM for the 64GB storage variant. The 16GB storage variant of OnePlus 2 will come with 3GB of RAM. Like before, there is no microSD card slot to expand storage. The phone comes with Android 5.1 OS with OnePlus’s OxygenOS skin on it, but more on that later.
On the connectivity front, you get a dual-nano SIM card slot which is 4G compatible as well, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, GLONASS, Digital Compass. One omission on the connectivity front is NFC, which could have been easily paired with the fingerprint sensor to verify NFC payments. Although this is a niche market segment in India and not really relevant, globally that is not the case. If Android Pay does get mainstream in India in the near future, then this feature may be missed. Although at the moment, its omission shouldn’t be that much of a bother. Also with the USB Type C connection, the OnePlus 2 will be the first phone to be selling with that connector in India.
The OnePlus 2 comes with the Android 5.1 OS with OnePlus’ own Oxygen OS 2.0 on it. Unlike some of the other skins we have seen in the past, the OxygenOS stays quite close to the design philosophy of the stock Android OS. Right from the arrangement of app icons, to notification settings, to the settings menu, a stock Android user will instantly feel at home. It does have a slight bit of some new design touches. For instance, swiping to left most home screen takes you to a feature called Shelf.
The looks inspired by HTCs Blinkfeed or the LG UIs side screen. At the moment though, it just has a list of your frequently used apps and your most frequent contacts with whom you have recently communicated. Not really much in terms of value addition, but who knows OnePlus may add in more social elements to it in the near future.
You can use gestures to launch the camera (make an O on the lock screen), turn on the torch light (make a V on the lock screen) and so on. Also the soft buttons can be interchanged, you can select quick actions on long pressing of the soft buttons. This makes some tasks quicker.
The finger print scanner which also acts as the home screen button, is fixed. Feeding in your fingerprint takes half a minute as the scanner is scanning your finger multiple times, but once set the scanner works accurately. The scanner is quick when it comes to unlocking the phone and works fine on most instances. However, on a couple of occasions it just got stuck and the sensor couldn’t recognise the finger print, hopefully a bug that can be fixed by future updates. The phone also offers you the option of ‘tap to wake up’ the device.
OnePlus decided to go with the full HD display with the OnePlus 2. While many may think that in an age of QuadHD displays, how can a company launch a flagship phone with full HD panels? Think for a moment, how many apps that you’ve downloaded actually use the complete pixel array of a QuadHD display. And no, we are not talking about movie-watching apps. The display on the OnePlus 2 gives the same pixel density as its predecessor, but it is comparatively brighter. Although, when placed side-by-side, the display appears to have a slight warm tinge.
The contrast ratio is not as great as the SuperAMOLED displays we have seen, but it is quite well balanced. We didn’t notice any significant backlight bleeding while watching movies. Sunlight legibility is quite good on the OnePlus 2’s display. Thanks to the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection, the display is protected from scratches. On the whole, despite not coming with a 2K display, the OnePlus 2 has a pleasant display.
OnePlus has gone ahead with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC for the OnePlus 2 and it says that it has worked closely with Qualcomm to get rid of the heating issues that has been a cause for concern. So naturally, the first question that comes to mind is how does the OnePlus 2 handle the heating issues. Well, if you play heavy games, shoot over 10-15 images with the camera, watch a movie and you will immediately start feeling the heat, starting from the metallic edges and later on the front and the rear side of the phone. But it does not get ridiculously hot as the Sony Xperia Z3+ did. Outdoors in sunny conditions, the phone gets warm noticeably faster as compared in indoors.
We tested some heavy games such as Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8 and measured the temperature on the phone with an IR thermometer gun and it was hovering around 40-44 degrees centigrade on heavy usage, whereas in the idle state it hovered around 30 degrees. So yes, while OnePlus does get warm it does not overheat. The heat management is certainly better than that seen on the Sony Xperia Z3+.
Call quality is quite good with the earpiece speakers being sufficiently loud to even hear the conversation in traffic. The speakers on the base of the OnePlus 2 are sufficiently loud and provide a rich sound. And thanks to the MaxxAudio effects, you get the Music, Movie and Game audio presets, which deliver a much better sound quality than we had heard on the predecessor. Also you can tweak the equaliser to your liking.
If you go by the megapixel count, then the OnePlus 2 has the same specs as the OnePlus One. A 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. But evaluating a camera by just these numbers is fruitless and OnePlus has added some impressive goodies to the rear camera. For starters, you have the optical image stabiliser, which is meant to help you get good stutter free images and videos; secondly, OnePlus has added on a laser auto focus mechanism to improve the focus acquisition speed. The rear camera has a 6-element lens with an f/2.0 aperture.
Thanks to the OxygenOS skin atop the Android 5.1 OS, you get a very basic camera interface. It is quite reminiscent of the stock camera app seen on the Nexus 5. In terms of sheer user experience, for someone moving from a CyanogenMod native camera app to the OxygenOS camera app, it is way too basic. If like us, you like to play around with the camera settings and tweak them, then you feel quite restricted as you do not have ample control. Think of it as a DSLR with just the Program mode activated which only lets you tweak the exposure!
Note: Click on the images to see the full resolution samples
Also the swipe mechanisms are a bit of a hit and miss. Sometimes when you want to bring up the five options viz: photo, video, panorama, slow motion and time-lapse; you accidentally end up bringing up the focus ring. This may not be much of an issue when you’re taking leisurely photographs, but can be annoying if you want to quickly switch to the slow motion mode or time-lapse mode.
These issues aside, the camera performance was quite impressive. The laser autofocus paired with the optical image stabilisation is a joy to use. If you’re into street photography where getting the shot at the right moment matters, the OnePlus 2 should be a good companion if you’re not already carrying your DSLR. The focus lock acquisition speed on the OnePlus 2 was not as fast as the LG G4, but much better than the Sony Xperia Z3+. The day light images are packed with details and colours appear natural. But in terms of what you can do after shooting the image, the Sony Xperia Z3+ offers a lot of editing, album-making features.
Although we felt that the HDR mode wasn’t as impressive as the one we have seen with competition such as LG G4, Sony Xperia Z3+ and even the Xiaomi Mi 4/Mi 4i. Check out the unnatural greens in the image above which was shot with the HDR mode. Sure, the phone does light up the dark areas but it isn’t able to control the highlights – which often get blown out. We felt the image was over processed in the HDR mode. Also when shooting against the sky, you get a strange halo effect. The regular mode is quite good though.
But daylight shots were good even with the OnePlus One. Just that One Plus 2 throws in fast AF and OIS which helps a lot. Low light photographs on the OnePlus 2 were impressive and certainly a notch above the mediocre output we got with the OnePlus One. Video shooting allows you to shoot 4K UHD videos. Daylight videos are good, but you will notice the twitching if you are panning the camera and the camera is trying to acquire the focus. The OIS helps in keeping the video output steady if you are shooting handheld while walking.
So yes, barring the limited functionality with the user interface, we have to say that the camera performance impresses on the whole. The wide aperture helps you get images with shallow depth of field as seen above. We just wish that OnePlus gives users the options to activate more controls with the camera app, hopefully in an upcoming update. Sure, there are a lot of third party camera apps which you could use. Another area that they could help is by giving a dedicated gallery app and not force one to go for Google Photos, which opens with a noticeable delay – which again tends to ruin a simple experience of going back and forth between image preview and using the camera.
Battery Life: 7.5/10
The OnePlus 2 comes with a 3300mAh non-removable Li-Polymer battery, which is a good capacity for a phone with Snapdragon 810 SoC and 5.5-inch full HD display. Battery life wasn’t an issue with the OnePlus One, and that is true of the OnePlus 2 as well. With the PC Mark for Android benchmark we got around 10 hours 12 mins. On regular usage, the phone easily lasts over a day of usage. Heavy usage will drain the battery sooner.
But with a regular work day, the phone lasted from 9am to 8pm with around 10 per cent remaining, which is quite good. The only issue is that since the phone comes with a USB Type-C port for charging, the QuickCharge feature of the Qualcomm SoCs is not present on the OnePlus 2. And you will always need to carry your charger or at least the charging cable, if you are the kinds who is fond of watching movies and playing lot of heavy games daily.
It takes close to 3 hours to go from no charge to full charge, which may irritate some who are used to seeing the phone charge in half that time with QuickCharge. The bundled charging cable is similar to the one seen with the OnePlus One – red-coloured flat cable with a dual-sided USB portion on one end and a Type-C connector on the other side.
Verdict and Price in India
To buy or not to buy! After having used it for a considerable time as a primary phone, we would definitely recommend this phone, if you manage to get the invite. Although you also need to be aware of the shortcomings – limited camera user interface, lack of Quick Charge, lack of NFC and so on. Some of the dropped features which we have mentioned may seem like nitpicking, but if you are calling your device the ‘2016 Flagship Killer’, it better have it all. And we are not even getting to the IPxx certifications for water and dust resistance. But the heat management in the OnePlus 2 is quite impressive considering it has the Snapdragon 810 SoC – with which we have had issues in the past, specially with the Sony Xperia Z3+. This itself gives the OnePlus 2 a big advantage, apart from of course the cost – at which there is not much competition at the moment.
For those of you who already have the OnePlus One, there isn’t much incentive to upgrade. OnePlus One is still an able phone and barring its mediocre low light camera performance, it keeps up in most tasks. For others who are on a mid-range phone and were looking to upgrade, the OnePlus 2 is a good choice. Only the 64GB variant will be selling from launch date, with the 16GB variant costing Rs 22,999 expected to come in at a later date.