OnePlus One: One Year On, One Phone Later

The OnePlus One stirred up the smartphone community when it was released on the 25th April 2014. Dubbed “The Flagship Killer”, it was released at the extremely competitive price of £229/$299. Not only that, but the OnePlus One had specs that rivalled the flagship phones from Samsung and LG which cost flagship prices. Looking purely at specs one might even have chosen the OnePlus One over the other flagship phones.

Here’s a snazzy little table that compares the secs of the three biggest flagship phones in 2014.

OnePlus One Samsung Galaxy S5 LG G3
Display 1080p 1080p 1440p
Camera Dual LED 13MP LED 16MP Dual LED 13MP
CPU Snapdragon 801 Quad Core Snapdragon 801 Quad Core Snapdragon 801 Quad Core
GPU Adreno 330 Adreno 330 Adreno 330
Storage 64GB 32GB 32GB
RAM 3GB 2GB 3GB (only with 32GB model)
Battery 3100mAh 2800mAh  3000mAh

As you can see, the OnePlus One keeps up with the other two, and in some cases overtakes them. Naturally, then, it seemed like buying the OnePlus One was a no-brainer. There were of course factors that put people off. Not only was it notoriously hard to get (I only managed to buy one by winning a competition for an invite with over 300,000 other entries, probably the first and last thing that I have ever and will ever win) but it was from OnePlus, an unproven Chinese company with some talent from Oppo although no other big names. People also reported issues with the phone, some had weird yellow banding towards the bottom, others had the infamous touch screen problems (which I myself experienced for a short while) and although they were fixable with a simple software update, OnePlus and specifically Cyanogenmod took ages to fix it, probably due to the falling out that they had with each other.

In any case, OnePlus did excellently with the phone, making tech headlines around the world. They certainly created a fanbase, and interested enough people for there to be huge demand for the OnePlus Two.

Speaking of which, now that the OnePlus One has a replacement phone, how does it hold up today? It’s a slightly mixed bag, although overall it looks good. Let’s start with the hardware.

And by hardware I mean the outside of the phone. Most people would have probably bought the 64GB Sandstone Black version, since the only other option was the 16GB Silk Whiteversion, and the two were similar enough in price for it to be 100% worth buying the 64GB version. The only downside was the, in my opinion, inferior back cover material, as it’s a lot coarser, to a certain extent like fine and soft sandpaper. This does reduce the chance of it slipping out of your hand or slipping on surfaces but the Silk White material is a lot nicer to hold. In addition to that, it scratched very easily. Marks appear on the back even when you run your fingernail on it, and not very hard. However, somehow if you rub the place with the mark enough, they seem to disappear. What I do is just lick my finger and rub the spot where the mark is, and after a bit it disappears. Even the bigger ones fade over time. Despite this lots of friction and bumping and scratching on one particular area can and will rub off the sandpaper layer, leaving the rest of the cover underneath. Since it’s a much more complicated and layered material than simply plastic or metal it’s a lot easier to disfigure the back on this phone than on other phones with simpler materials.

Coarse and slightly scratched back

Coarse and slightly scratched back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another worry I had is that the camera very slightly protrudes from the back, which I thought would mean that it would scratch easily and often. Thankfully this happened, and even through my pretty careless usage it only ha a couple of barely noticeable tiny nicks. The phone is also very square, and the edges have suffered from that a bit, as they have landed a couple of times and this has put some marks on them. Thankfully however the screen is completely fine, no visible scratches on it at all and it has fared very well. Finally, the earpiece at the top has a surprisingly small amount of dust in, considering how other phones, such as the Nexus 5, have collected.

One of the edges

You can barely even see the nicks on the camera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next it’s software. And the situation here is a bit complicated. Although the phone was officially released with Cyanogenmod, and although Cyanogen will continue to support the OnePlus One (to an extent, and they are doing so very slowly) OnePlus recommend that people switch to their own newly created OS for the phone, Oxygen OS. It’s a 5.0.2 ROM that plays very nicely with all the OnePlus One’s features (you’d hope so) and since it comes from OnePlus themselves it can be considered 100% safe and stable, with only a couple of bugs that are quickly ironed out. However, it is still a ROM and you will still have to manually flash it, or use ADB. because of this, many people who can be asked to and have the technical know-how how to flash ROM’s onto phones tend to go with other, more customisable ROMs, especially ones that comes pre-rooted. Personally I’ve opted for the Cyanogenmod Nightlies, which are updated every day. So in that front it’s a bit disappointing that OnePlus and Cyanogen have fallen out, since Cyanogen are no longer focusing on the OnePlus and have instead put it on their backburners, meaning the device will not regularly receive OTA updates (unless you’re running the nightlies and willing to cope with the fair share of bugs that the nightlies receive).

Finally we get onto the specs. You’ve seen what they are before, however now we’re going to compare the specs of the OnePlus One to the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4.

OnePlus One Samsung Galaxy S6 LG G4
Display 1080p 1440p 1440p
Camera Dual LED 13MP LED 16MP LED 16MP
CPU Snapdragon 801 Quad Core Exynos 7 Octa 7420 Snapdragon 808 Quad Core
GPU Adreno 330 Mali-T760 MP8 Adreno 418
Storage 64GB 128GB 32GB
RAM 3GB 3GB 3GB
Battery 3100mAh 2550mAh  3000mAh

 

As you can see, the competitors have easily caught up and overtaken the OnePlus One. This isn’t is not very surprising, and indeed you’d hope that one year later there would be some improvement in smartphone technology. However the OnePlus One is still not that far behind. It is still easily considered a high-end phone and the battery life will still easily outlast both of the other phones. However, the twist here is that buying one second hand in good nick, which even with a modest price drop would still make this phone so much higher value for money than the other two phones, which you have to buy at their full price. On Ebay you could easily find one for ~£200, indeed there were good examples selling for even less, and if you’re not looking for the latest and greatest that the smartphone world has to offer, and looking to get an excellent phone for a cheap price, I would recommend no other phone than the OnePlus One, as it’s still and excellent phone for now an even better price, and will still stand tall and strong for another 2 years, even with newer and better iterations coming out.

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