It is the phone which everyone seems to love, but whose existence many are finding a tad difficult to explain. We are talking of the OnePlus 3T, which comes hot on the heels (a mere six months or so) after the immensely acclaimed OnePlus 3. We had expressed our initial thoughts about the device and whether it represented a step forward or back for OnePlus. Well, we now have the device itself for review and without beating about the bush, let’s be blunt about it – it looks like an out and out OnePlus 3 clone. A routine hands on/first impressions would have therefore sounded repetitive, so we decided to take the help of one of OnePlus’ co-founders, Carl Pei, who was kind enough to explain just what was different. And what was not.
The place to start off is well, of course, the appearance, which is a DEAD RINGER for the OnePlus 3. So much so that even the proportions are exactly the same – 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm and even the weight is the same at 158 grams. Of course, the allegation that this one too looks like an HTC device can be leveled at it. So how on earth did OnePlus resist the temptation to meddle with the design of the OnePlus 3? According to Carl Pei, changing the design was never – yes, NEVER – an option.
“We see the OnePlus 3 and the OnePlus 3T as two versions of the same product,” he says. “Thus, there was never even a thought to change the design.”
The one thing that IS different is the color, a very different shade of gray (which of the fifty we know not – OnePlus calls it ‘Gunmetal’ – but definitely a very different one from the graphite and soft gold editions of the OnePlus 3). And while it does not jump out at you straight away, it does make the OnePlus 3T look a bit different from its predecessor. “We did, however, receive a lot of feedback from customers wanting stealthier color,” explains Pei. “After testing a lot of different shades, and finally landed on the Gunmetal. We even had a pure black variant, but it didn’t reflect light in a way we thought looked as good as something slightly lighter. In addition, it was more prone to scratches and chipping, which wasn’t something we were OK with from a quality standpoint.”
Which will leave people with mixed feelings. Those who want a different looking device might feel disappointed, but those who loved the OnePlus 3 will be grinning from ear to ear. Speaking for ourselves, we do wish the company had made a few design tweaks, especially given its excellent track record in the department.
But if the build, design and even the button arrangement on the OnePlus 3T are exactly the same as the OnePlus, the innards are distinctly different. Yes, the display is still a 5.5-inch full HD AMOLED one and the RAM stands at a pretty impressive 6 GB, but now there is a 128 GB storage edition, and the processor has moved up a notch from Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 to the Snapdragon 821. A sapphire cover has been placed over the rear 16.0-megapixel camera and the front camera too has been bumped up to 16.0-megapixels, making this a selfie specialist in its own right. And then there is perhaps the most impressive tweak of all – without changing the size or weight of the device, OnePlus has managed to place a larger (3400 mAh as compared to 3000 mAh) battery in the OnePlus 3T.
And if we are to believe Carl Pei, these are not paper tiger changes but will reflect in performance as well. “The most direct areas of improvement will be seen in battery life, speed, clarity of selfies, as well as the expanded storage that the 128GB version provides,” he says. “It’s always about the overall experience, which is why I’m frustrated when reading reviews that only list specs and price. Two products with the same specs can provide the user with very different experiences.”
There are changes under the hood too, with a new version of OnePlus’ own Oxygen OS, but that is expected to come to the OnePlus 3 too in due course. “We’ve worked hard on improving on the OnePlus 3’s software together with our community, pushing out new features such as Display Mode, App Locker and a much-improved proximity light sensor algorithm quickly after launch,” Pei points out.
But does all of this justify forking out an extra Rs 2,000 or Rs 7,000 for the 64 GB or 128 GB version of the OnePlus 3T? That is a question that we will be tackling in our review. But Carl Pei believes that the product is a worthy upgrade and comes with substantial advancements. “We’re in a very competitive space and believe that the only way to survive is to create the best possible products. From a product standpoint, a relentless pursuit of improvement is an embodiment of the Never Settle spirit,” he says. “Our team had also made improvements on the hardware side, and we felt that the advancements made were substantial enough for a refresh. From the craftsmanship to performance, from the hardware to the software; I personally believe that the OnePlus 3T occupies a uniquely competitive place in the market.”
But does the launch of the OnePlus 3T mean that OnePlus has broken its (largely unwritten) one flagship a year rule? Pei falls back on the Never Settle philosophy of the brand to explain: “We ourselves don’t know what our cadence will be going forward. Being a young company gives us more flexibility to experiment. What I do know is that we’re often unpredictable, and will do things in a way we feel is correct rather than what is established as norm.”
Whether the norm-breaking has delivered a(nother) blockbuster will be revealed in our review (which is in progress). Until then, we will summarize the OnePlus 3T thus: looks like the OnePlus 3, innards like a souped up Pixel, at a price that is much lesser.
Not bad. Not bad at all. Our advice to the competition based on our first day or two with the device: Never Settle. Because OnePlus isn’t!