The OnePlus One was released June 21st but OnePlus is 41 weeks old this week and in their weekly address they’ve releases details on several recent events. One in particular is their upcoming pre-order program for the OnePlus One. Now seems like an appropriate time to see how their 2014 flagship killer, the OnePlus One stacks up to the competition.
In it’s short life, OnePlus has been one of the most controversial Android handset makers in the history of the OS. Using mainly the fervor of social media to drum up support, the OnePlus One (or OPO as it is called by some of it’s fans) the phone was slowly teased and specs unveiled one at a time. The buzz this created was Apple-level in the amount of speculation on the net. Once everything was revealed the only question was… “When can I buy it?” And for most of us, the answer was “You can’t.” OnePlus launched the One on an invite only system. A lucky number of users would receive invites (gaining them through promotions like “Smash The Past” and the even more controversial “Ladies First”) to purchase the device for $300 (16 GB) or $350 (64 GB). Promised, to those who purchased, were invites to share with their friends along with the phone and while the invites to those aren’t being released as fast as some would like, they are slowly trickling out.
You can still only purchase the One by invite only but the invites are easier than ever to find. On social media sites like Twitter and Google Plus and also on sites like Reddit and OnePlus’ official forums. While much maligned by the community, the purpose of the invite system was to control scaling. Basically, if OnePlus were to produce 100,000 phones without orders and they fell short, the company would fold. A bigger company like Samsung has the buying power to absorb some unsold units, but a start up can not. Luckily the end is in site. In their most recent weekly update post administrator Catherine wrote that “… this month our factory saw fantastic production levels and really exceeded our expectations.” Also announced a pre-ordering system will be released in October rather than an invite system. More details have yet to be released.
The One stacks up considerably well against all of the flagship devices released in the first half of 2014 and the last half of 2013, if not beating them. As we all know, specs aren’t everything but they are important. The One lines up with a 5.5″ 1080p screen backed up by a Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AC) processor clocked at 2.5 GHz, 3 GB of ram, a 6 lens 13 megapixel Sony Exmor IMX214 camera and a 3100 mAh battery. Two storage sizes were initially announced, 16 GB for $300 and 64 GB for $350 but due to consumer demand the company focused their efforts on the 64 GB offering exclusively.
Also announced early on was a “swap style” backing that users could remove and replace to fit to their liking. Originally announced where Sandstone (which ships natively on the 64 GB version), Silk (which ships natively on the 16 GB version), Denim, Kevlar and Bamboo. Unfortunately on September 17 it was announced that disappointment with the quality of production, these would never go into mass production. A small number of bamboo would be released for sale for $50 and that was it. Luckily for Owners, the Sandstone Black backing is one of the standout features on the phone. The amount of grip you can get on this 5.5″ phone is directly related to how excellent the backing sticks to your hand. They call it sandstone for a reason.
The One, outside of the invite system and promotions, is not without issue. Early units of the device were getting literally within a week of being manufactured which caused some of the glue under the screen to not be dry yet. The direct effect of this was that there was some yellowing at the bottom of some screens. While there were some pretty easy fixes found around the web some were rather frustrated after having to deal with the invite system then when they could finally buy the device, it came defective.
There has also been a rather bad, in some cases, multi-touch issue. While CyanogenMod are convinced they can fix this through software updates, a version of CM 11S (the custom version of CyanogenMod that ships on the OnePlus One) has yet to be released that contains the fixes. An OTA (Over The Air) update has been promised some time at the beginning of October. The final controversy to touch on is simply the size of the device. At the beginning of OnePlus users were given the chance to vote on certain aspects of the phone. One of the most hotly contested issues was the size of the screen. While the vast majority of users voted for a 5″ screen, OnePlus chose to go with a 1080p 5.5″ JDI screen. While not a continuing controversy, this set an early tone of how OnePlus would interact with their forum users.
But Can It Make Toast?
The OnePlus One appear to be the phone that can do it all. While it doesn’t have everything (removable battery and MicroSD card support come to mind) the things that it does do far overshadow it’s deficiencies. Take the example given, the removable battery and MicroSD support and consider that this $350 flagship ships standard with 64 GB of storage and can routinely get over a day of battery life with between 5 and 7 hours of screen on time. Sure, popping a 128 GB MicroSD card in a phone is great but for most people, 64 GB of storage is more than enough. The screen is simply beautiful on top of being big. Will it be too big for some? Sure but most people find that after a week or so of use, they adapt quite nicely to the size. The phone truly is a phablet. For me personally it’s wiped out the need for my tablet of choice, an iPad mini.
Are you one who has to have on screen buttons? They come standard. Are you a Samsung refugee that can’t get past not having physical buttons? They’re there too, all you have to do is select them in the settings. The One (pun intended) killer feature I’ve yet to really touch on yet is CyanogenMod and that’s because I believe in saving the best for last. To say that CyanogenMod (or CM as the community calls it) is an advantage would be an understatement. Bringing the look of pure Android and the customization of a custom ROM addresses both major audiences of the OnePlus. The Android enthusiast and someone looking for a good, cheap phone. It’s straightforward enough at first glance for the person just switching to Android and it has enough depth to satisfy even the most experience of ROM flasher.
Unlocking and rooting the One is extremely simple. The ROM community is second only to phones like the Nexus line and some Samsung and HTC devices. Last but not least I’d like to touch on CM’s theme feature. This is something that needs to be introduced into stock Android. The layout is well done, it’s easy to figure out how to apply a theme for even the most inexperienced of users and there are a lot of free themes and icon packs on the Play Store. Even better is the ability to apply icon packs that you’d normally have to use a third party launcher for.
The OnePlus One isn’t everything the perfect phone could be. It doesn’t have a week’s worth of battery life. It doesn’t have a screen that won’t scratch and it certainly isn’t the most widely available device. But what it is, is the best flagship phone currently on the market. The screen is beautiful. There’s more than enough storage for most of us and there is no lag in this device. I haven’t been able to get this thing to lag in the three months I’ve had it as my daily driver. The customization, battery life and how easily I can use it in one hand despite it having a huge screen absolutely makes it a winner and I without a doubt recommend buying one, if you can get your hands on an invite!