As a company, OnePlus have brand recognition amongst phone fans that’s hard to emulate from some of even the biggest brands in the market. Their devices are coveted, even if they’re not easily accessible here in Australia.
It’s the lack of availability that’s meant I’ve never actually used a OnePlus phone. Their reputation precedes them even here at Ausdroid where anyone who has reviewed their handsets rave about them, so when given the opportunity to review the OnePlus 6T I fairly jumped at the chance – and I’m glad I did.
The OnePlus launch schedule is fairly easy to monitor with a OnePlus X series device launched in H1 of the year, followed by a OnePlus XT version refining the design and specs later in the year. Chris enjoyed the OnePlus 6 earlier this year, now it’s time for me to go hands on with the OnePlus 6T and find out what works, what doesn’t and if you should go to the effort of importing one. (Spoiler: Yes, you should).
- Software – stock Android but with great additional features
- Battery Life that can be measured in days
- Specs to make you drool
- Physical ringer switch
What’s Not so Good?
- No IP rating
- In-display sensor can be ‘iffy’
- No headphone jack
Hardware and Design
I’m a fan of simple, elegant design on phones and the OnePlus 6T fills the brief admirably.
There’s no ostentatious design flairs with the OnePlus 6T in terms of design, or hardware features. They’ve offered up a minimalist design which fades into the background of the phone itself, allowing you distraction free usage.
One of the key features of this low-key approach to the design is the tear-drop notch for the front-facing camera in the display, with an almost imperceptibly placed front speaker just above it.
The display on the OnePlus 6T is massive too, measuring in at 6.41” with a FullHD+ resolution that also includes an in-display fingerprint sensor – something that’s become a ‘thing’ in the past 12 months.
The in-display fingerprint scanner is fairly easy to use, with a glowing green icon lighting up when you wake the phone. It’s fairly fast, though at some times it seemed to need an additional second or two to scan. Overall, I’m not a fan of front-mounted fingerprint sensors, with the rear a lot easier to wake up the phone when taking it out of my pocket. But, with it paired to my Wear OS watch, it makes it less of a hassle.
The display is faultless from my perspective, it’s bright, displays colours accurately and has minimal bezel all around. The way OnePlus’ Oxygen OS either uses, or hides the minimalist notch is something Google should be taking note of.
While the front and back of the phone are glass – they sent a Midnight Black for our review unit, which is an almost textureless matte black – the chassis of the phone is metal, and while it’s solid, it’s not overly chunky. Instead sitting comfortably in the hand, and also allowing them to include a 3,700mAh battery that just keeps going, and going (and going).
The Midnight Black does allow a little bit of fingerprint build-up on the rear, but it’s easy to keep clean with a simple wipe down.
OnePlus place their volume rocker on the left hand side of the phone, while the power button is on the right – a similar setup to a number of manufacturers. Where they differ is the inclusion of an alert slider above the power button on the right – and while I’m not the first to think so, I’m saying it: This thing is AMAZING.
There’s three settings for the alert slider, allowing you fast access to your alert settings:
- Top: Silent
- Middle: Vibrate
- Bottom: Ring
I have fond memories of the ringer switch on my Palm Treo 650, and after using it on the OnePlus 6T I can’t understand why more companies don’t include it.
The OnePlus 6T hasn’t much going on around the other edges. There’s a USB-C port and single speaker on the base, while the top has a microphone – and as you’ve gathered by now, no headphone jack. I’ve mostly migrated to Bluetooth headphones now, as have a lot of OnePlus customers judging by data the company released in the lead up to the launch of the OnePlus 6T, but occasionally I’ve been caught short in battery and it’s at that moment that it is disappointing to see the 3.5mm jack go. Still, a dongle is included in the box if you really need one.
OnePlus don’t go overboard on branding with the 6T, there’s a simple OnePlus logo on the rear beneath the vertically aligned dual rear camera sensors, and a ‘Designed by OnePlus’ brand in easy to miss script at the bottom.
There’s a couple of seams around the body where glass meets metal, but there’s no gaping channels for ephemera or lint from the pocket to become lodged in. A nice all round job in terms of build quality.
The only real lacking feature from the OnePlus 6T which I’ve slowly gotten used to from other mid to high-range phones is an IP rating. At least a water resistance rating would have been something, but there’s absolutely no IP rating here, so be careful in a damp environment.
There is a final hardware feature ‘missing’ from the OnePlus 6T: a notification LED. It’s not a massive issue, at least for me, but if you rely on it, this is something to consider.
Internally, the OnePlus 6T features what you’d expect for a near flagship phone. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 runs the show with either 128GB or 256GB of internal memory and 6 or 8GB of RAM. Unlike the Pixel 3 which has suffered from memory management issues, the OnePlus 6T displays none of these issues – something Google should probably note of when speccing out the Pixel 4 next year.
The camera setup on the OnePlus 6T includes a dual setup with a 16MP main sensor and 20MP secondary sensor – both with f/1.7 aperture. There’s both Optical and Electronic Image Stabilisation included which allows for the phone to make use of the ‘Night Shot’ mode in the camera app to full effect. There’s also a 16MP f/2.0 aperture sensor on the front, hidden in that tiny notch – but it only includes Electronic Image Stabilisation.
The OP6T does include NFC for mobile payments, it’s located in the rear camera sensor housing making it easy to align your phone for Tap & Pay on the terminal rather than sliding your phone all over trying to locate it.
While the design, specs and overall package of the OnePlus 6T are excellent, the camera is, not quite a let down, but after seeing the results from flagships including the Galaxy S9/Note 9, Huawei P20/Mate 20 and the Pixel 3, it’s clear that OnePlus still has some work to do.
In terms of quality of shot the OnePlus 6T takes a good shot. It’s far better than what we’ve seen on some flagships in years gone by, it’s just that the competition has moved on to computational photography and incorporating more data from more sensors into their pictures than OnePlus has to date.
There’s no ‘bad’ shots when you take a picture from the OnePlus 6T, they’re all round good, but lack certain detail when you capture textures in some shots and they have a certain ‘flat’ feel to them when compared against the richer images from other manufacturers.
There is a strange affectation in the OP6T camera app, the 1x and 2x button which would appear to indicate an optical zoom, though it doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems to simply crop the higher end 20MP camera sensor to a 2x for you. It’s neat and looks pretty good anyway.
In low-light, OnePlus has done a decent job, especially when you switch over to their new Night Mode setting which gives you a boost, much like the Night Sight on the Pixel, bracketing shots and combining them into a higher resolution image with less noise than a standard shot taken at night would have.
The OnePlus camera app is fairly well what you’d expect from a high-end smartphone these days. It has the carousel design to access different modes like video, portrait, and Night Mode.
Settings and various modes are accessed by a swipe up or swipe left (depending on orientation) from beneath the shutter button. Here you’ll find fast access to ‘Pro Mode’ which includes your ISO, Focus, White Balance and other pro settings, as well as quick access to Panorama, and Slow Motion and Time Lapse for video. You’ll also find general Settings in here.
All-in-all it’s a pretty well made app that’s both easy to navigate and intuitive to use. The only suggestion for OnePlus would be to use sensors to judge ambient light and automatically fire up night mode as it’s required.
Battery and Performance
It’s pretty rare that I have a phone outlast my usage for a day but the OnePlus 6T achieved this, and achieved it handily offering up anywhere from four to five hours of screen on time with up to 18 hours of battery life each day.
I found overall that Bluetooth was a killer for battery, with a one-hour work out every day listening to music or Pocket Casts eating into the battery life fairly significantly. Other than that the battery just refused to die even under the onslaught of a severe Pokemon Go session.
If perchance you are able to run that battery out the rapid charging included in the OnePlus 6T more than makes up for any perceived short-comings in the battery life of the phone. The included 20W charger will charge your OP6T from 0 to 60% in 35 minutes – a formidable achievement with the phone staying quite cool while it charges.
In terms of performance, there’s no problems here. I reviewed the 8GB model, and it runs like greased lightning. Apps remain in memory for days, and I didn’t feel the need to restart the phone for the entire review period.
With no restarts, I was often surprised when scrolling back through the app list in the multi-tasking overview that apps from weeks ago still had a persistent state.
While there’s no particular issues with connectivity on the OnePlus 6T, there’s also no localised partnerships with carriers. This means there’s no VoLTE or VoWIFI built-in to the communications layer.
There’s no issues with calls, connecting to data etc. the quality of audio on calls is good, and data is fast, it’s just that there’s no bells and whistles you’d get with a true carrier partnership.
The storage on the OnePlus 6T is more than adequate. With either 128GB or 256GB depending on what your budget allows for, combined with things like Google Photos means you won’t be lacking for storage. There’s no microSD Card slot to expand the memory, but then again, it doesn’t really need it, so I’m more than happy with their decision here.
Put simply, I love stock Android. But, over the years I’ve also come to recognise that sometimes Android doesn’t quite do ‘everything’ you want, and sometimes a manufacturer has to step up and add these little things to make Android that little bit better – so is the story with Oxygen OS on the OnePlus handsets.
Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 6T is built on Android 9.0 (Pie), with the November 1st security patch installed. There’s been several updates to the phone in the time I’ve been reviewing it, with improvements to the camera and more.
With Oxygen OS you can enjoy Android Pie pretty much as Google wants you to, or take advantage of the improvements such as improved Gesture Support, Customisable Navigation Bar, their reading and gaming modes and more.
The Oxygen OS launcher is similar to the Pixel Launcher you’re used to, though with ‘extras’ built-in like the option to turn notification dots off (Yes!), or implement a new icon pack.
The notification pane displays notifications just like a stock Android device, and the layout of Quick Settings is also similar.
Settings too is mostly unchanged, though a few tweaks here and there to layout make it a little more pleasing to the eye than stock Android. Since Google built a search into Settings it’s been easy to find what you’re looking for, but OnePlus has also made the settings simple and intuitive.
As well as leaving their OS clean, the team behind Oxygen OS have also worked their proverbial butts off to make this thing as optimised as possible As noted above, greased lightning is the best description of performance from the OP6T.
In terms of cruft, ‘bloatware’ or other apps, the OP6T includes surprisingly little. There’s the OnePlus Switching Tool, and a shortcut to the OnePlus forum and a Gallery app. There are a few double ups like Clock, Calendar and then you also get more useful apps like a fully fledged File Manager.
Other than that, Oxygen OS is to be applauded for their lack of garbage installed on the phone. The software is what makes the OnePlus 6T sing, and it’s an opus worth listening to.
Should you buy it?
If the OnePlus 6T were available to purchase in Australia there’s no question this should be the phone that most Australians should buy. Unfortunately the hurdles in the way of purchasing a OnePlus 6T put it out of reach of most Australians.
In terms of pricing, the $549 price tag offers champagne specs on a beer budget. Once you add in GST, Duty, Shipping Forwarding etc. on top of this, plus the rigmarole you have to go through to acquire one makes it hard to recommend for Australians.
Beyond actually getting your hands on one, there’s also the warranty implications to consider. As with any phone you import, the warranty is back in the country you purchased it from and having to send back a faulty phone to an overseas repairer can get costly.
There’s little to not recommend about the OnePlus 6T beyond the few niggles listed above. The camera can be a bit better, there’s room to include Ingress Protection on future models, but apart from that – I simply love this phone.
I’ve been buying Pixels and Nexus phones for so long that maybe it’s time to start putting my money towards buying a new OnePlus every year if they’re this good.
If you are willing to jump through some hoops, it’s well worth getting yourself a OnePlus 6T, and for any carriers out there, you need to start adding these phones to your range.
Retained to monitor software updates on device