OnePlus 3 fingerprint scanner, NFC and connectivity

The fingerprint scanner is still a key feature and sits below the screen as usual. The fingerprint is extremely fast and accurate when scanning (under 0.3 seconds according to OnePlus) and can be used to unlock the phone from sleep and mobile payments including Android Pay.

We've got good news as OnePlus has listened to its fans and put NFC back into the OnePlus 3 – this can be used for a variety of tasks including Android Beam sharing, quickly pairing with Bluetooth devices which also feature NFC and mobile payments.

Remaining connectivity is about what you'd expect from a high-end smartphone with 4G LTE (Cat 6), 11ac Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth 4.2. Although there's no expandable storage, the OnePlus 3 feature a dual-SIM setup featuring two Nano-SIM slots.

OnePlus 3 battery life

The OnePlus 3 has a slightly smaller battery than its predecessor at 3000mAh (down from 3300mAh) but that's still a reasonable size. If you're thinking that you'd rather have a fatter and heavier phone with a larger battery then OnePlus' answer is fast charging. As usual, the battery is non-removable. Also see: OnePlus Power Bank review.

OnePlus 3 Dash Charge

As usual, the phone has a reversible USB Type-C port and is a supplied with the new Dash Charge charger which provides 5V and 4A of electricity (favouring current over voltage). OnePlus touts over 60 percent in 30 minutes which means you can top the battery up with minimal hassle despite its lower capacity. There's also a Dash Charge car charger if you want to top up quickly when driving which costs £24.99.

What's interesting here is the OnePlus has moved the power management controller to the charger instead of housing it in the phone. This means the phone keeps cooler during charging and can continue to fast charge while doing things like gaming as a result. To avoid any mishaps, when a different charger or cable is used the charging reverts to regular speed.

Inside the OnePlus 3 is a 3000mAh battery which is a little smaller than the OnePlus 2's (3300mAh). It still features the reversible USB Type-C port and now supports fast charging with the supplied Dash Charge (5V, 4A) which can give you over 60 percent in 30 minutes and can continue to fast charge even when you're gaming as the controller is in the charger rather than the phone.

In our test the OnePlus 3 charged a total of 61 percent over a period of half an hour and was only warm to the touch despite having a case on during charging. We recorded a benchmark time of six hours and 13 minutes in Geekbench 3 with a score of 3735 which is decent but a little way of some rivals which have hit nine, 10 or even 11 hours.

OnePlus 3 Sony camera

OnePlus 3 cameras

Going by specs alone, you’d be forgiven for getting excited about the OnePlus 3’s main camera. It has a 16Mp Sony IMX298 sensor (the same as in the Xiaomi Mi 5) and a lens with an f/2.0 aperture. There’s optical image stabilisation (OIS), electronic image stabilisation (EIS) and phase detection autofocus. Read next: Best new phones coming in 2016.

OnePlus claims the camera will give you clear shots in just 0.2 seconds, so you’ll easily catch a Formula 1 pitstop. There's support for shooting in RAW as well as JPEG files, plus a new manual mode if you want to take control of the ISO, shutter speed and focus.

The camera app’s interface is so minimal it takes a while to figure out how to find the settings, but you’ll have to resort to the manual to understand why there’s an HD button at the top which, when tapped, disables HDR. To save you the efforts, HD mode enhances detail, sharpens lines and increases clarity - Much like you can in an image editor such as Snapseed.

Overall, we’re impressed with the camera. That fast AF means photos were generally in sharp focus, although pushed to the limit (when attempting macro shots) it can be hard to judge whether your subject is too close and blurry.

OnePlus 3 camera macro

Colours are lifelike without being overblown, and dynamic range seems good even without using the HDR mode. A feature that works effectively is Dynamic De-noise. Our shot in a dimly lit bar shows no noticeable noise, but another taken in our office during the day proves the algorithm does work well in all scenarios.

OnePlus 3 low light camera

We took several comparison shots to see the difference between HDR and HD, but none existed. Whether looking at our usual framing of St Pancras or a macro photo, it was impossible to see any improvement in clarity or detail when using the new HD mode.

OnePlus 3 HDR vs HD

The rear camera is also capable of recording video in up to 4K, but while there’s OIS for photos, this doesn’t appear to be used for video, which relies on EIS. It’s reasonably effective if you stand still, but start walking or moving the phone around and you’ll soon find its limitations, with slightly jerky movement and odd sparkling effects in skies.

4K video quality is very good, though: sharp and packed with detail. What’s unimpressive is the soundtrack. Voices sound distant and muffled, as though underwater – this could well be a failure of the noise cancellation of the dual microphones. Hopefully it’s fixable in a software update.

Extra modes include a great panorama function which deals well with changes in brightness across a scene, and a slo-mo mode which records at 720p.

At the front is an 8Mp camera with 1.4um pixels. It can record 1080p video at 30fps. Selfies are sharper than we expected, and the field of view is easily sufficient for two people at arm’s length. A Smile Capture option saves you stretching for the shutter button.

OnePlus 3 selfie camera

OnePlus 3 review: Software and apps

As you'd expect, the OnePlus 3 comes with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out-of-the box. OnePlus provides its OxygenOS 3.1 which is a very close to stock Android with a few different features and ways to customise the interface.

Update: OnePlus is rolling out OxygenOS 3.2.0 to OnePlus 3 owners. The software update brings bug fixes and improvements such as sRGB mode in developer options, RAM management, enhanced audio playback and camera quality/functionality. Find our more here.

For starters, it's nice to see OnePlus hasn't gone down the route of some rivals by keeping the app draw/menu. Open it up and you'll notice that there is next to no bloatware installed on the phone. You get the usual suite of Google apps plus the odd duplicate from OnePlus such as Gallery, Music and Files. Control over apps is very good as OxygenOS allows you to set permissions for individual apps as well as control notifications, too.

OnePlus 3 OxygenOS 3

Not a great deal has changed with OxygenOS for the OnePlus 3 – a key new software feature is the latest camera app as detailed above - but that's not exactly a bad thing. It offers a slick and easy use interface with a great deal of customisation. OnePlus said it has polished it to ensure animations and transitions are as smooth as possible.

Gestures are still available to switch on in the settings to do things like wake the phone with a double tap, open the camera by drawing an 'O' and toggle the flashlight with a 'V'. You can also draw different shapes to control music playback.

We like existing features such as the dark mode, an accent colour for the themes, customisable LED notifications and the Shelf which is a swipe away from the home screen. Shelf allows you to get quick access to things like apps, contacts and information; you can also add widgets like you would on the homescreen. If you like, you can switch Shelf off completely if you want.

OnePlus 3 Shelf

Either side of the fingerprint scanner are two capacitive buttons, similar to the Galaxy S7 but you can choose which one is use for back and recent apps which is a real boon. In addition you can choose for shortcuts for long presses. Furthermore, you can use onscreen buttons if you really want.

There's more as you can rearrange the quick settings, customise the Google search bar or remove it and make use of the proximity sensor to activate the screen when you wave in front of the camera. The latter is turned off by default – presumably to save battery – switch it on in Settings > Display > Ambient Display.

You can also customise the size of icons, the grid in the app draw and switch features like quick search (swipe up) and quick notifications (swipe down once instead of twice).

As previously OxygenOS comes with the SwiftKey keyboard which is widely regarded as one of the best available for Android. The MaxxAudio app is no longer present but the OnePlus 3 does support 24bit/96kHz audio playback.

Read next: Best new phones coming in 2017

Specs

OnePlus 3: Specs

  • OxygenOS based on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor
  • Adreno 530
  • 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • 64GB internal storage
  • 5.5in full-HD Optic AMOLED screen (1920x1080, 401ppi), Gorilla Glass 4
  • 16Mp rear camera, f/2.0 aperture, 4K video/120fps slo-mo at 720p
  • 8Mp front camera
  • proximity sensor
  • USB Type-C charging port
  • 11ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • GPS with GLONASS
  • NFC
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • bottom-facing speaker
  • dual-mics with noise cancellation
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • 4G LTE Cat 6
  • Dual Nano-SIM
  • 3000mAh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 153x75x7.35mm
  • 158g

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