The OnePlus 5 is their latest flagship, and while priced more than previous years, remains mid-range at AU$699. Until now it has only been available through grey market importers but OnePlus have now decided to test the waters here in Australia with a soft launch. The stocks are limited for these and if it doesn’t sell as they hope then they may not extend their reach here permanently. For that reason many are wondering if they should take the risk purchasing this phone. Read on for my opinion after spending some time with a Slate Grey 8GB RAM/128GB storage model.
OnePlus 5 Look and feel
The OnePlus 5 is a decent sized device, but average for 2017. It is as long as the Pixel XL (give or take fractions of a millimetre) but is over a millimetre thinner. The thinness combined with the curved back give it a feeling that it is much smaller and sits into the hand comfortably. The casing is an anodised aluminium which gives the phone a light but solid feel.
The OnePlus looks incredibly like the OPPO R11, which is not surprising given their heritage. The noise cancelling microphone on the OnePlus 5 is on the back between the flash and the camera modules whereas on the R11 it sits at the top of the device. The OnePlus 5 also has a volume rocker rather than separate volume buttons. The rocker and power button also sit in very slightly different locations but at a quick glance it looks the same position.
The OnePlus 5 also has an alert slider above the volume rocker with is very iPhone-esque and at a risk of my iOS fanboi friends having a go at me, I loved it in the end. OnePlus allow you to customise each location on the slider with each location being for full ring, do not disturb and totally silent.
The OnePlus 5 has a very clean, uninterrupted look with the only mark on it a subtle OnePlus logo on the back. There are not even any FCC etc markings.
The model phone reviewed was the Slate Grey model which is available in either sku. Also available is a Soft Gold colour in the 6GB/64GB version and a Midnight Black in the 8GB/128GB variant. The Slate Grey is a fairly dark grey and is not far from black. It is a subtle colour which I liked. Stylish is a good way to describe how this device looks and feels.
OnePlus 5 Under the hood
The internals is where the similarities between the OnePlus 5 and the OPPO R11 end. The OnePlus 5 can hold its own against any flagship out there when it comes to specs.
The OnePlus 5 houses the latest Qualcomm processor, a MSM8998 Snapdragon 835 along with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of onboard storage (it also comes in a 6GB/64GB variant). There is no microSD card slot in the OnePlus 5 although there is a dual sim slot and both slots are LTE enabled but of course both cannot use LTE at the same time. As per most dual sim phones you choose which you prefer to use for the default data, calling and messaging sims. All sims can receive texts and calls and make both.
The front mounted fingerprint sensor is sandwiched between capacitive buttons that light up as small blue dots when pressed. The reason OnePlus have used dots instead of an icon is that the action of the button can be customised. There is the option of turning off these capacitive buttons and using onscreen buttons instead, while at the same time keeping the fingerprint sensor active as another button (eg. to turn the display off).
The fingerprint sensor itself was extremely accurate in any position I placed my finger. The haptic feedback when pressed is sharp and precise, unlike the OPPO R11 feedback which felt rough and cheap.
The charging port is a USB 2.0, type-c 1.0 reversible connector. I would like to see a USB 3.0 port but there doesn’t seem to be too many functions lacking with the decision to go with USB 2.0.
There is really very little missing with this phone with respect to hardware.
OnePlus 5 Connectivity
Many people are used to Chinese import phones not having support for all of our LTE bands (notably Band 28) but this Chinese import supports all of the relevant LTE bands. As such I did not have a single issue using the phone with both Vodafone and Telstra. I was only around the city but it was no different to my Pixel XL or Huawei P10 Plus. The speeds inside were still blazingly fast, constantly pulling down over 50Mbps on Vodafone LTE.
The bands it supports are:
GSM: Band 8
UMTS: Bands 1/8
LTE: Bands 1/3/7/28/40
GSM: Band 3/8
UMTS: Bands 1/8
LTE: Bands 1/3/7/28
GSM: Band 3/8
UMTS: Bands 1/5/8
LTE: Bands 3/5″
At this stage the OnePlus 5 has not undergone certification in Australia as this is just a beta sales run. It doe meet FCC and CE standards though and it will go through Australian certification should the soft launch be successful.
There is support for Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and also Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD support. This Bluetooth support is something that many other flagships lack and is a welcome addition.
OnePlus have also included an NFC chip so tap and pay your life away if you wish to do so.
OnePlus 5 Display
The display is a 5.5 inch Optic AMOLED display with a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. It is protected by Gorilla Glass 5 which is always a nice addition to any phone.
I am assuming the display in this is the same as that in the OPPO R11, albeit calibrated differently. It is once again a super-bright display which was one of the brightest displays I have ever used. OnePlus have calibrated this display so the colours seem more accurate, the whites are a warm white and not a blue white and the colours are much more realistic. It is a much nicer experience looking at this display than the R11.
I would have preferred a 2K display but OnePlus made the decision to go with the 1080P display based on a few factors I am assuming — battery life savings, performance improvements and cost savings.
OnePlus 5 Software
Although the OPPO R11 and OnePlus 5 may look similar their software is poles apart. The OnePlus 5 runs a custom ROM called OxygenOS (v4.5.8) based on Android 7.1.1 with the last security patch supplied being the July 1 patch.
The OnePlus 5 was a breeze, just like it is on so many Android phones. There was no proprietary restoring, just the way Google intended it — Nearby worked perfectly as did signing in and installing as per a previous device.
The software is a very light custom ROM. There are a few tweaks and additions, installed into the Settings app of the phone like a custom ROM you would find on XDA Developers. Most are easily located in a single section of the app titled Customisation. The tweaks included are on the minor side, most likely to help the ROM remain as stable as possible. Some of my favourite tweaks included are:
- On screen navigation bar
- Customisation of capacitive buttons
- Three finger swipe screenshot
- Ambient display including wake on lifting phone
- Screen off gestures for any app or action
- LED notification customisation
- Custom screen calibration
The ROM is lightweight and does not seem to slow the phone down at all. In my opinion their not-so-distantly related sister company could learn a lot from what OnePlus have done here.
The theme is a really well done Pixel-flavoured theme. After using some horrendous attempts at theming Android recently this is a very welcome addition. The theme stays very true to Material Design and OnePlus should be congratulated for that. The user can also choose for themselves between a light theme, a dark theme and the default theme. The default theme is a cross between the two and is perfect in my opinion.
The choice of having onscreen OR capacitive buttons is a welcome addition. I do normally prefer the onscreen buttons but I would be comfortable choosing and ussing either with this phone. I did it both ways — both are a pleasure to use. There is the ability to continue to have the fingerprint sensor active as a button while using the onscreen buttons. This was probably my favourite scenario; but this is how Android should be — user choice.
OnePlus have not included any superfluous task managers or any of those wasted apps. They have only included two apps — their community forum app and their own launcher.
In the past I have been critical of companies and their lacklustre efforts with their launchers. As with OnePlus’ approach to the entire software, the launcher is a very light custom launcher that is very similar to the AOSP stock launcher. there are a few options in it but it does not over-complicate it. Considering that OnePlus market to enthusiasts who will very very rarely use the launcher that comes with a phone it is good they have not put too much effort into customising it. For those who want to use it there are enough options to make it usable; icon packs, app shortcuts, swipe down action, column number customisation and the OnePlus Shelf.
OnePlus have always been relatively developer-friendly and they continue this with the OnePlus 5. You can unlock the bootloader and flash ROMs to your heart’s content without automatically voiding your warranty. Obviously I did not do that with a review device but I see no reason why you wouldn’t if this is something you normally like to do. OnePlus provide all the factory images online should you wish to return their their stock image at any particular point in time.
OnePlus 5 Camera
The rear camera on the OnePlus 5 is the same as that in the Oppo R11. The rear dual camera is a 16MP, f/1.7, and electronic image stabilisation (EIS) and a 20MP f/2.6 camera setup with phase detection autofocus and 1.6 optical zoom. The dual camera setup and how it functions is explained elsewhere on Ausdroid if you are interested.
The EIS with 4K recording has been added relatively recently by OnePlus and Android Police have a good write up of it here if you are interested. In a nutshell it is awesome and works extremely well; amazingly considering it was added via a software update.
The front camera is only 16MP f/2.0 but it also has EIS via the gyroscope. The selfies this took were really good, sharp and not ruined by the automatic “beauty mode” that so many manufacturers include.
The camera app is basic and easy to use. There is very little fluff to it although there is a Pro mode that allows you to tweak your camera settings to the scenario. In keeping with the overall software it has a few small enhancements on Android without going overboard with gimmicks.
My conclusion on the camera is that it takes photos that are high quality — most cameras on phones can these days. See below for a few samples of the camera.
OnePlus 5 Performance and battery life
The performance of this phone cannot be faulted. From the speed that the display turned on once the fingerprint sensor was pressed to the swiping through pages in Chrome the phone did not miss a beat. While the animations didn’t seem as smooth as the Pixel’s it was certainly as snappy. The phone houses a Snapdragon 835 with 8GB of RAM and runs a very lightweight ROM — of course it flies.
OnePlus did NOT limit the number of apps that could be open at a certain time unlike their cousin. I lost count at 40 — and yet the phone continued to fly and not miss a beat.
With such speed you would expect the battery life to take a hit and who knows it may well have but I had no issue at all with my battery lasting well over a day (not up to two though). 4.5 hours of screen on time was my average for the time I used the phone, even with over two hours of Bluetooth music streaming from the cloud (GPM) each day and the very bright display set to be around 40%; this battery life is impressive as we all know how much you use a new phone.
In the end though I did not care how much my battery was use. You know why? Dash charging. Simple as that. Dash charging is OnePlus’ name for their proprietary charging. OPPO call theirs VOOC and to me the system looks exactly the same and charged at exactly the same rate — which is not a bad thing.
The OPPO R11 was possibly the fastest charging phone I have ever used. The OnePlus 5 is on a par with that; funny that considering that VOOC looks identical to Dash charging (see pictures below) albeit that one is red and the other is green.
OnePlus 5 What’s great?
In case you skipped past the above paragraphs I will just put here; basically EVERYTHING.
The hardware is well designed and looks stylish and is extremely comfortable to hold (although a tad slippery). The specs included are nearly at the top end in every single category (only display aside). The software is a lightweight, speedy, custom ROM and the theme is something that Mattias Duarte would be very happy with.
The result is an easy to use phone that does everything you ask of it extremely fast and looks good while doing it. It takes very good photos and ticks nearly every single box you could ask for.
OnePlus 5 What’s not?
As mentioned above the rear of the phone is a little bit slippery although I did not go close to dropping it even once. This is easily fixed by using one of their cases. Those purchasing a OnePlus 5 in the soft launch get a free Sandstone protective case and you can also buy other cases at the same time that you purchase the phone.
At this stage there is only a UK charger included with the phone but is easily overcome using an AU AC adapter. If the soft launch goes well OnePlus will then release it here with an AU adapter. Why they did not include a US adapter or a Chinese one (from my experience most Chinese rooms use either a US or AU style plug) is a strange one. Most of us would have some form of US AC adapter already. My $1 adapter from eBay did the trick and did not hamper Dash charging in the slightest.
The sales are, at the moment and most likely in the foreseeable future, online only meaning you can’t go and check one out in person. My advice is to go and check out an OPPO R11 and then imagine that phone with decent software that looks like Android.
Ideally I would have liked an 18:9, 2K display but that is really nitpicking. A 2K display may have not only made the phone more expensive but also altered the user experience. Maybe next year they will finally include one.
Many users have mentioned the jelly scroll effect due to the display being inserted upside down to fit into the body of the phone. For me I could not see this effect for the life of me — and I looked hard to try and see it but was still unable to.
OnePlus 5 Warranty/service
OnePlus have stated to us that the OnePlus 5 will come with their standard two year warranty and that “if you are not satisfied with your OnePlus product for any reason, you may request a return within 15 calendar days of delivery. Once we approve your request and receive the product, we will give you a full refund.”
Aftersales services such as repair and replacement for phones bought during the soft launch will take longer than they typically do in other countries due to the fact that there is no local service centres at this stage and phones will have to be shipped back to Hong Kong or Shenzhen for repair. The average time would be at least 12 to 13 days. We expect this to improve in the future should OnePlus become a staple in the Australian market.
How this plays out in the future is hard to tell but I can tell you I’ve never had a good experience repairing a phone in Australia no matter the manufacturer so in my opinion it surely could not be any worse. Some grey market importers are known for their unscrupulous attempts to avoid any and all requests for warranty services so this way at least you are getting the manufacturer themselves.
OnePlus 5 Future updates?
OnePlus, except for one omission, have been relatively good with their updates to their devices. There are reasons why that particular phone was not updated and many of them do not lie with OnePlus. OnePlus have hinted that the OnePlus 5 will receive Oreo and P(avlova?) updates as well as security updates along the way. Their current security update sits at July 2017 but remember that sometimes manufacturers will fix hole sin kernels etc and apply security updates that way but their full security update does not get updates. I DO NOT know if this is the case with OnePlus but am waiting to hear back regarding their update policies.
Users of the OnePlus 3T have seen constant security updates so we hope this continues with the OnePlus 5 but for how long is unknown. Hopefully OnePlus can shed some light on that for us.
OnePlus 5 Should you buy it?
Two simple questions before I answer this for you — do you need (want) a new phone? Can you afford AU$600-AU$700? If the answer is yes to both of these then my reply is a resounding yes.
This phone is downright amazing for a device that is only AU$700 at its highest spec. It has high end flagship specs which only lack with the display resolution but the rest of the phone is on point. It’s fast, its stylish, it’s user experience is at the very pointy end of Android phones and it takes great photos; what more could you want?
If you want to wait for more information surrounding warranty etc then that is your risk — the soft launch has limited stock only. If they sell out and have very little issues in dealing with it all we expect them to sell to Australia permanently at which time you could get one with a local, warranty and local AC adapter. BUT if they decide not to sell directly here after the soft launch then you will have to source one elsewhere.
The phone is a great high end device at a mid-range price. I really can’t and do not have to say any more. If the phone interests you I say wait no more and race on over to the OnePlus website and buy it now.
The phones offered for sale here in Australia include the 6GB RAM/64GB storage variant in Slate Gray and Soft Gold colours for A$599 and the 8GB RAM/128GB storage variant in Midnight Black and Slate Grey colours for A$699. There are also an array of accessories you may want to purchase while you are there.