Accuse them of whatever you wish – invite based system that are a pain, software updates that are a trifle buggy, off-beat VR launches and the like – one accusation that cannot be levelled at OnePlus is of being consistent in terms of design. The company shot into the spotlight two years ago with the OnePlus One which came with a slightly curved top and base, a metal rim and a sandstone textured back. A year later, it followed it up with a phone that retained the sandstone textured back, but otherwise bore no semblance to its predecessor, going for a more compact, and slightly boxy look, resting on a metal frame and a removable back cover. Within a few months came the OnePlus X, which put yet another spin on design, this time going super compact and making the back a glossy glassy one. So we did not quite know what to expect when we clapped eyes on the OnePlus 3, except that of course, it would be pretty much unlike anything we had seen from the OnePlus stable.
We were spot on.
For once again, the folks at OnePlus have gone with a design that is rather different from the past. Gone is the trademark sandstone finish back that marked the first two editions of the device (those mourning for it can get a cover of the same texture) and so too is its removability – the OnePlus 3 is a unibody device. And yes, the leakers seem to have got it right – it does seem to bear more than a passing resemblance of devices from a Taiwanese company that was once considered the last word in Android phone design, but since when was “looking like an HTC device” a bad thing, really?
For, while it does not replace the OnePlus X in our affections (the compact frame and glass back have got something going for them, notwithstanding allegations of looking similar to THAT phone from Cupertino, and since when was that a bad thing, either?), and while it is the most ‘routine’ looking of all devices from the OnePlus stable, the OnePlus 3 is a strikingly handsome device. At 7.4 mm, it is impressively slim and much slimmer than the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus One, if not quite as sliver like as the 6.9 mm thin OnePlus X. And while OnePlus has stuck to a 5.5 inch display as in the One and 2, the OnePlus 3 is surprisingly lightweight – at 158 grammes, it is the lightest of all the 5.5 inch display devices from OnePlus. And while it is not as insanely compact as the OnePlus 2 (which was just 151.8 mm in length), it is the least wide at 74.7 mm, and much slimmer, making it perhaps the most palm-friendly OnePlus flagship.
From the front, the OnePlus 3 at first glance, seems a slightly longer and less wide avatar of the OnePlus 2. You have a jet black front dominated by a 5.5-inch display with a fingerprint scanner below it. A closer look will however, show changes – the fingerprint scanner is more compact, and the camera and sensors are on the left of the earpiece rather than on the right, as seen on the OnePlus 2. It is on the sides that the differences become even more apparent. OnePlus has a habit of fiddling with buttons placements from device to device and with the OnePlus 3, the volume rocker goes back to the left after having been on the right on the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X. The display/power button, however, stays on the right, just as the notification tweaking button (a OnePlus trademark) stays on the left. The unibody design means that the SIM card tray appears on the side again, and this time on the right (it was on the left in the OnePlus One, and below the cover in the OnePlus 2). The OnePlus 3 also becomes the first phone from OnePlus to have an absolutely plain top section – the USB-type C port, the 3.5 mm audio jack and the speaker grille are on the base.
It is however, on the back, that the OnePlus 3 seems to deviate most from its rather radical heritage. Gone is the sandstone finish on the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 and also the ethereal glass/ceramic back on the OnePlus X. In its place comes a grey aluminum back with two bands, on the top and on the lower part, that will remind people of HTC in its glory days. No, it won’t stand out in a crowd the way its predecessors did, but it is nevertheless a good-looking device. However, the camera sticking out of the back like a slightly square pimple seems to contrast with the general smoothness of the back. There is no separate metal panel on which these are placed, and rather surprisingly, the flash below it is a single LED one. Also missing is the laser autofocus component that we had seen in the OnePlus 2.
What is NOT missing however is the excellent hardware that has marked earlier OnePlus flagships. The display is a AMOLED one as in the OnePlus X, and while some will be disappointed to see it stay stubbornly in full HD territory, we have yet to see a compelling reason for getting into quad HD mode. The real stars, we suspect, are the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, a staggering 6 GB RAM and 64 GB storage – specs that so far have been matched only by the Le Max 2 from Le Eco, and which put the OnePLus 3 right up there with the very best in sheer hardware terms. The rear camera is a 16.0-megapixel affair and while there is no laser focus, it does come with optical image stabilisation. NFC, ignored on the OnePlus 2, returns on the connectivity front, accompanied by Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and 4G. The battery at 3000 mAh is a step down from the 3300 mAh one we saw on the OnePlus 2, but on the flip side, the phone comes with Dash Charging, which claims to charge 60 per cent of the battery in half an hour – so those long charging times of the OnePlus 2 should be history. All this garnished with OnePlus’ own Oxygen OS 3 (3.1.2, at the time of writing), based on Android 6.0, which tries not to drift too far from stock Android.
And all this comes for Rs 27,999, making it more expensive than the Rs 24,999 price tag of the OnePlus 2, but then this is a more powerfully specced phone. Just how much extra bang those extra bucks deliver will be revealed in our detailed review. As of now, we can say that the OnePlus 3 is handsome inside as well as outside, and at that price, is going to be headache for many brands out there. Yes, a part of us misses the sandstone finish, but hey, this is a company that does not believe in settling… not even on its well-deserved laurels.