The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition is the highest spec, best OnePlus phone to date. It is also the most expensive and the one with the dumbest name. It’s a juxtaposition that I can take, but tech consumers will rightly have a hard time justifying purchasing one – especially in the UK.
For the record, OnePlus is probably my favourite overall Android phone manufacturer and I have followed the McLaren Formula 1 team since I was six. But matches made in my personal heaven don’t work out for everyone else.
OnePlus is only six years old, and even in late 2018 was still turning out a new flagship phone every six months, each better than the last. The only bumps in the road were the dodgy OnePlus 2, the mid-range OnePlus X and skipping the OnePlus 4 branding (‘four’ in the company’s native Chinese sounds like the word for ‘death’).
But then OnePlus surprised us with a special McLaren Edition of the 6T and things got more convoluted from there. Since, we’ve had a OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus 7, OnePlus 7T, OnePlus 7T Pro and now two region-dependent versions of the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition. That’s a very confusing line up for consumers to unravel when just a year ago the message was simply “buy our latest phone”.
The 7T Pro McLaren Edition represents a fork in the road for OnePlus. It is an outstandingly capable smartphone and a total joy to use. It is the fastest Android phone I’ve ever used, has an Android skin I prefer to Google’s and has outstanding battery life.
The haptics are great, it charges ridiculously fast and has the best camera set-up on a OnePlus phone to date. But at £799, it lacks wireless charging and waterproofing – missing features that only the cheaper OnePlus 7T Series phones can justify.
In the US, the 7T Pro McLaren Edition is 5G-ready, meaning it has become the flagship OnePlus phone to get US customers onto T-Mobile’s 5G network. In turn, its added connectivity manages to justify its high price.
In the UK, it’s only a 4G model – so the £799 asking price is simply £100 more than the regular 7T Pro for the McLaren design and 12GB RAM instead of 8GB. To make matters worse, that regular £699 7T Pro is a great deal more already than the excellent £549 OnePlus 7T, a phone with the same superb 90Hz display tech.
On paper, you do not get much more at all from the £799 7T Pro McLaren than the £549 7T. In fact, if you want a more manageable form factor, a flat display and no pop-up camera then the 7T is a no brainer for less money, and the phone I’d buy between the two.
With the 6T McLaren Edition, OnePlus only charged £70 more than the normal 6T but gave you a cool design, exclusive theme, faster charging, a case, an AR book and a piece of framed McLaren carbon fibre. That was a great deal!
In comparison, the 7T Pro McLaren ships with a lick of paint, an exclusive theme and a case for £100 more than the 7T Pro. As much as I love using the McLaren Edition as a phone nerd and a massive McLaren Formula 1 fan, I can’t see a reason to recommend it unless you too are both of those things.
In the US, the 5G capability is the selling point. If I were a UK customer, I’d feel short-changed. OnePlus already has deals with UK operators to sell its OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, a phone the company itself no longer sells thanks to its relentless upgrade pattern. It seems this McLaren Edition came along at the right time to act as the vehicle (ahem) for its 5G ambitions in the States.
The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition is a fine smartphone. But it’s not necessary, and not necessarily a OnePlus phone you should buy, particularly if it's not the 5G model – and it’s the first time I’ve felt that about a OnePlus phone.
I hope the OnePlus 8 can restore some cohesiveness to OnePlus’ smartphone range.