OnePlus 2 full review
Few smartphone launches get fans as excited as a OnePlus event. Ignoring for now the fact that it happened to be the world's first product launch in VR, it's not difficult to see why there's so much enthusiasm toward the growing Chinese company. The OnePlus 2 is a magnificent Android phone. Also see: Best new phones.
We're fighting the urge to append 'for the money' to that latter statement, because the OnePlus 2 offers unrivalled value in the smartphone space. But that would make it seem somehow cheap, and make no mistake: this is a flagship phone with high-end specifications. It just happens to be one with an almost too-good-to-be-true price tag. So is it too good to be true?
In our opinion the best phone you can buy in the UK today is the Samsung Galaxy S6. For the comparable 64GB version a year after its launch you're looking at £480 SIM-free from Amazon. The OnePlus 2 doesn't match the S6's specification, but it's very close on several fronts, and even throws in a couple of extras, yet it now costs just £249 for the 64GB model (previously £289). That's less than half the Samsung's RRP, and nearly £400 off the shelf price. The 16GB version is no longer available in the UK for £239, but can be found in certain other markets, such as in India. Also see: OnePlus 2 vs Samsung Galaxy S6.
We've just given you prices for the 64GB S6 and OP2 for good reason: not only is doing so necessary in order to fairly compare them, but neither phone has support for microSD. We think 64GB is plenty of storage for most users, given the availability of cloud storage and other means to add storage to Android, but 16GB may well not be.
Good news for those buying the OnePlus 2 in the US is that they can now pay for the phone in instalments. OnePlus says that any order over $99 will be eligible, and you can settle up early if you like. This is useful for those who are unable to afford to buy a new phone upfront, but don't want to pay over the odds on a monthly fee to a carrier. The 18-month plan for the OnePlus 2 starts at $22.60 a month, and the OnePlus X starts at $16.12 per month. There's no word yet as to when the service will reach Europe. Also see: Best MiFi 2016.
With its original OnePlus One smartphone this then-tiny Chinese company came from nowhere with the product everyone wanted and no-one could get hold of, fiercely fuelling hype over it. This underdog is still relatively unknown to the average man on the street, but all Android enthusiasts have heard of OnePlus, and few will be able to hide their intrigue over the new OnePlus 2. Also see: OnePlus One review and OnePlus One vs OnePlus 2.
At first the OnePlus 2 proved difficult to get hold of, with the company requiring you to buy the OP2 through invitation only. But since the beginning of December the OnePlus 2 has been available invite-free - forever.
We waited several weeks for our official review sample of the OnePlus 2, and eventually did what all impatient OnePlus enthusiasts do and found another way to get hold of the OnePlus 2. Also see: How to get a OnePlus 2 with or without an invite.
Although at the time you needed an invitation to buy the OnePlus 2 directly from OnePlus, you didn't need to hang around if you were prepared to buy from a third-party distributor. We received our sample from Geekbuying, which has stocks of both the 16- and 64GB models.
You need to weigh up the risks of buying from a grey-market site, but we wouldn't hesitate to recommend Geekbuying, which we have used on many occasions in the past.
Note that the Chinese model sold by Geekbuying does not support 800MHz/Band 20 LTE. This means O2 customers (which is the only UK network to rely solely on 800MHz for 4G) will not be able to get more than 3G connectivity. O2 customers looking to buy the OnePlus 2 will need to get the UK or India/SEA version (sold directly through OnePlus) which does support 800MHz in order to benefit from 4G.
The 64GB Sandstone Black OnePlus 2 we review here today costs £287.25 from Geekbuying, and runs the software build A2001_14_150725 which confirms it is the Chinese version of the phone. It does come with a two-pin charger, but Geekbuying will throw in a free UK adaptor for you. We have no reason to believe it is anything other than genuine.
Meanwhile, the 16GB OP2 costs £280 from Geekbuying. Free shipping is available, but delivery from China can take several weeks; faster paid options are also available.
So is the OnePlus 2 deserving of its hype? Yes and no, but mostly yes. A flagship phone with a mid-range price, the OnePlus 2 has some quirks but also several highlights in its specification.
It's one of the first Android phones to market with a reversible USB Type-C charging port, which will become more common with 2016 flagships as Google builds in USB Type-C support to Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and the supplied cable is also reversible at the Type-A end. In comparison with the original OnePlus One the 2 also has a slightly higher-capacity battery, now 3,300mAh in place of the previous 3,100mAh cell, but unfortunately it doesn't support Qualcomm Quick Charge or wireless charging out of the box. This means it will take two- to three hours to charge (over a relatively hard-to-come-by cable) and, for me at least, that could be a deciding factor. Also see: OnePlus Power Bank review.
It features the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chip that is found in the HTC One M9 and was originally slated for the Samsung Galaxy S6, but this is a second-generation chip that is said to have been optimised for OnePlus' Oxygen OS and avoids the overheating problems of its predecessor. This chip is paired with 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAM (3GB in the 16GB model) and Adreno 430 graphics. All that means performance is more than capable for everyday users. In fact it's very good, if not the best you'll find on the Android phone market. (Although it does tend to get somewhat warm toward the device's top with prolonged- or heavy use.)
The OnePlus 2 is also a dual-SIM phone and, although it's dual-standby rather than dual-active, we were impressed to find that both SIMs operate on 4G. Dual-SIM phones are becoming increasingly popular in the UK if traffic to our best dual-SIM phones article is anything to go by. Dual-standby means that although you can use either SIM for mobile data, you must set a preference for which one you want to use before you go online. For calls and texts you can also set a preference, or get the OnePlus 2 to ask which SIM you want to use before the call is connected or message is sent. With both SIMs on standby, you'll be able to answer calls and receive texts on either number, but only one number can accept a call at once. Learn more about dual-SIM phones.
Other connectivity options include the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and GPS, although you won't find a microSD card slot or NFC in the OnePlus 2. In the real world the latter is useful only for making mobile payments, and even that is still in its infancy in the UK. We can certainly wait until the OnePlus 3 for NFC, but it is nonetheless a notable omission with Android Pay soon to launch.
The OnePlus 2's design is very similar to that of the OnePlus One, a fraction shorter but a little chunkier and wider. There's a new Alert Slider on the left side and physical home button with fingerprint scanner on the front, twin speaker grilles (although just the one speaker) and a USB Type-C port at the bottom, a volume rocker and power button on the right, and a headphone jack at the top. The rear cover has the same grippy sandpaper-like rough texture as that of the OPO - a useful feature for a large 5.5in phablet that could otherwise be easy to drop - and it's removable, allowing you to swap in a new cover and giving access to the twin-Nano-SIM tray and non-removable battery.
The fingerprint scanner, in common with that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6, uses touch- rather than swipe-based input, which means it actually works. You can configure up to five fingerprints to work with the OnePlus 2, allowing you to also set up a fingerprint for use with a Guest account. Even better, the fingerprint scanner is operational even when the screen is inactive. On the down side, the home button itself is sometimes unresponsive or at least slow to respond.
Something we haven't seen before is the OnePlus 2's Alert Slider. To be quite honest I get an awful lot of work emails and my phone is almost always on vibrate mode, so it's not something I'd use, but we're sure many Android users will find useful the ability to alter what types of notifications are allowed to disturb them without even taking the phone out of their pocket.
A hardware component that hasn't changed is the screen. This 5.5in full-HD IPS panel can't live up to the ultra-crisp Quad-HD resolution of phones such as the Galaxy S6 and LG G4, but OnePlus reckons it's found the sweet spot between a decent display and one that places too much drain on the battery. Sat beside our S6 we won't pretend you can't tell the difference - the screen on the S6 is brighter, more vibrant and even clearer, making the OnePlus 2 look almost dull by comparison - but the OnePlus' screen is very decent nonetheless, and the company is keen to point out that its 600 nits brightness compares well to the 559 nits of the iPhone 6. Viewing angles are good, too, at 178 degrees.
As before the cameras are set at 5- and 13Mp at the front and rear respectively. For standard photography it offers a dual-LED flash, optical image stabilisation, a laser autofocus (which focuses in 0.3 seconds), an f/2.0 aperture, 1.3μm pixels and six lenses to avoid distortion and colour aberration, and the OnePlus 2 can shoot 4K-, time-lapse- and slow-mo video. We found the laser focus a bit jerky during recording, but camera performance is otherwise good for the money - but the best phone camera 2015 title goes to joint winners the Galaxy S6 and LG G4. RAW support will be added via an update in the coming weeks.
New to the OnePlus 2 is Oxygen OS, which is based on Android Lollipop (the OnePlus One ran CyanogenMod 11S, based on KitKat). It's very much like stock Lollipop, but with some useful additions. Customisations include the ability to set preferences for the functionality of the physical home button and software recents and back buttons, a handful of gestures that work while the screen is switched off, a Dark mode, scope to alter the accent and LED colours, plus the ability to control app permissions. All these things are common to Chinese phones, but new to UK users who are more familiar with the Samsung Galaxies and HTC Ones of this world. Also see: Best Chinese phones 2015.
Oxygen OS also features the in-beta Shelf, which sits a single swipe away from the home screen and displays your most frequently used apps and contacts, plus weather information. And there's an Audio Tuner, which lets you fine-tune the bass, treble, balance and more to preset audio profiles for music, movies and games.
Have we whet your appetite for the OP2? Let's take a more in-depth look at what the new OnePlus brings to the table.
OnePlus 2 review: Design and build
The OnePlus 2 is a large and sturdy-feeling black slab of a phone with a 5.5in screen; it's almost too large for us, but phablets such as this are becoming increasingly common in 2015 so it's clear there is a demand. We wouldn't want to go any larger, but the OP2 is just about usable in a single hand and its grippy, sandpaper-like and slightly curved rear helps prevent you from dropping it as your thumb stretches to the far corner of the screen.
This rear cover is removable, and extremely thin and flimsy. Given that the battery is non-removable and there's no microSD slot, we can't envisage you needing to take it off too often, however - all it gives access to is a dual-SIM slot. While a side-opening SIM tray would have done the trick, OnePlus also sells removable covers in Bamboo, Rosewood, Black Apricot and Kevlar for £19.99 each, which may appeal if the standard Sandstone Black does not. And anyway, we found no creaking or flexing in the OP2's chassis, which is often the case with phones with removable backs.
On the rear you'll see the OnePlus 2's 13Mp camera with dual-LED flash. There's also a strange-looking sensor here that works the laser autofocus. Unlike many high-end phones the rear camera doesn't protrude from the case, which nets the OP2 a thumbs-up in our books. We'll speak more about the camera performance later on in this review.
The OnePlus 2, despite its size, is a good-looking smartphone. It's a plastic phone but with a stylish metal trim, and as is fairly standard for Android phones you get a volume rocker and power button on the right side, and a headphone jack at the top. Down the bottom are two speaker grilles, which make it appear that you get stereo speakers; you do not. Instead, the single speaker sits under the phone's right speaker grille, and if you're not careful you could smother it with your palm. Of course, this is no different to many other flagship phones on the market, including the Galaxy S6. With the speaker free from your palms the OnePlus 2 is capable of some decent-volume audio and, as we'll see in the software section, has controls to configure audio presets for music, movies and games.
(Also see: OnePlus 2 in pictures)
New to the OnePlus 2 is a physical home button with a built-in fingerprint scanner, which sits in the middle of two software buttons - recents and back -the functionality of which you can reverse in the Settings. We say physical, but actually it feels more like a software button with a hardware ring rather than a button you can actually like, you know, push.
When we first began testing the OnePlus 2 we found this home button rather unresponsive, which led us to the impression that it could actually be just a fingerprint scanner and not a home button at all. Over time, though, either we got used to it or it became more responsive. It remains the single-most laggy aspect of the OnePlus 2, taking a second or two to spring into action, but the gentle tactile response you get when tapping it does at least confirm you have pressed it and aren't waiting around for the bus that will never come. See all smartphone reviews.
Regardless of our gripes with the home button, the fingerprint scanner itself is incredibly good, and OnePlus says it can scan your fingerprint in just half a second. Like that on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 it accepts touch- rather than swipe-based input, which is far more accurate - in our tests it worked nearly every time. You can save up to five fingerprints on the OnePlus 2, which means you could spare one or two for Guest users, making use of the phone's ability to configure a Guest account and keep prying eyes away from your personal stuff. Better still, the fingerprint scanner works even when the screen is switched off, meaning you're a step closer to using the phone. If only the OnePlus 2 had NFC it could be an ideal tool for secure mobile payments.
Also new to the OnePlus 2 is a hardware notifications slider known as an Alert Slider. It's the first of its kind we've seen on a smartphone, and allows you to toggle between no interruptions, priority interruptions and all notifications without even taking the phone out of your pocket. As we mentioned in our introduction, this isn't a feature that especially appeals to us personally, but we know many Android users who would like this to not only feature on their phone but to become a standard feature of Android phones.
The charging port on the OnePlus 2 looks different to that of any other Android phone we've seen. It's quite a bit larger than what we're used to with Micro-USB and symmetrical in shape. This is a USB Type-C port and, although the OP2 isn't the first smartphone to include one, it is the first that we have reviewed. USB Type-C is a reversible connection, meaning you can insert the connector either way up and it will still work.
The USB Type-C cable supplied with the OnePlus 2 is also reversible at the Type-A end (that which goes into your mains adaptor or PC's USB port). It's a pretty cool-looking cable, with a flat, tangle-free design and bright red colouring. Which is good, since it's probably the only USB Type-C cable you'll own and you will therefore be carrying it around everywhere you go in order to keep the OP2 topped up.
Sadly, the USB Type-C connector implemented here works over USB 2.0 and not the faster USB 3.0 protocol. Slow connections is something of a theme for the OnePlus 2: for some absurd reason, despite the Snapdragon 810 chip inside the company has neglected to include support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0, which can reduce charging time by up to 75 percent. That's our single biggest gripe with the OP2, and the fact it also lacks support for wireless charging is a kick in the teeth when you're already down. Also see: How to add Qi wireless charging to a phone.
Something that hasn't changed from the OnePlus One is the screen, and the OnePlus 2 is as before fitted with a 5.5in IPS panel with a full-HD resolution. At 1920x1080 pixels, it has a pixel density of 401ppi.
We think we may have been spoiled by the gorgeous Quad HD Super AMOLED panel fitted to our everyday Galaxy S6, because sat next to it the OnePlus 2 just doesn't compare. The Samsung is notably crisper, colours are more vibrant and the screen is brighter. The OP2 looks almost dull by comparison - but it's not.
Take away the S6 from the mix and the OnePlus' screen starts to look a lot better. It has a 600 nits brightness rating that is higher than that of the iPhone 6, and it has excellent viewing angles. Colours are indeed more vibrant with AMOLED tech, but in response IPS offers a more realistic colour palette. Also see: Best Android phones 2015.
OnePlus 2 review: Hardware & performance
It's difficult to find fault with the core hardware inside the OnePlus 2. If, as we have done, you get the 64GB version you'll get 4GB of LP-DDR4 RAM, which is a massive amount for any phone. The 16GB OP2, by comparison, has 3GB of RAM. Neither support microSD storage expansion, so choose your model carefully.
The processor is the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 as found in the HTC One M9, but here it's a second-generation octa-core chip, clocked at 1.8GHz, which OnePlus says has been optimised both for the software and to avoid the overheating issues that allegedly led Samsung to use its own Exynos chip inside the Samsung Galaxy S6. We did notice that, despite OnePlus' claims of a cooler-running processor, the phone could get warm toward the top with heavy- or prolonged use. The same is true of just about every phone, of course.
Benchmark scores can be misleading, since results can vary each time you run them (we average the best of three results), and they can lead some readers to believe phone A is not worth buying because it is slower than phone B when in fact both are incredibly fast and more than capable for day-to-day use. What counts more is real-world experience, and in our time with the OnePlus 2 the only time we ever noticed any significant lag was when waiting for the home button to do its thing, and when taking photos. (The autofocus is fast, the actual photo capture and saving process not so much.)
We ran the OnePlus 2 through our usual benchmarks and compared it to its predecessor, the OnePlus One, a close rival, the HTC One M9, and the two fastest Android phones we've seen to date, the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. You can also compare it to all the phones we've recently tested in our article What's the fastest smartphone 2015?.
We use Geekbench 3.0 to measure overall performance. The leader in this benchmark was the S6 Edge with 5076 points; second was the S6 with 4438; third, the OnePlus 2 with 4094; fourth, HTC's One M9 with 3778; and fifth, the original OnePlus One, with 2570 points.
Geekbench 3.0 is also used to measure battery life, although it's a relatively new test to the PC Advisor lab and we have results only for the S6 and S6 Edge of the aforementioned phones. Unsurprisingly the OP2 came in third place behind those phones, with 3390 points against their 4136 and 4011 respectively. In real-world use the OnePlus 2 is quite capable of at least a full day's use away from the mains, but the OP2 is lacking an ultra power-saving mode, and the lack of wireless charging and Quick Charge 2.0 support is a major bugbear. It could take between two- and three hours to fill this phone's battery using the supplied adaptor.
GFX Bench 3.0 is used to test graphics performance, and here the OnePlus 2's Adreno 430 GPU turned in an outstanding 46fps in T-Rex and 16fps in Manhattan. That's faster than the S6 (30fps T-Rex, 14fps Manhattan) and S6 Edge (39fps T-Rex, 16fps Manhattan), but a little behind the HTC One M9 (50fps T-Rex, 24fps Manhattan), which uses the same GPU. The OnePlus One managed 29fps in T-Rex, and we didn't run the Manhattan test on it.
Finally, we ran AnTuTu on the OnePlus 2, and noted an average score of 56,299 points. Others have seen higher scores in the low 60s, which just goes to show how you should take benchmark results with a pinch of salt.
OnePlus 2 review: Connectivity and other features
We touched on the OnePlus 2's dual-SIM functionality in our introduction. There is a rapidly growing interest in dual-SIM phones in the UK, since these smartphones allow you to carry separate SIMs for work and home, or perhaps two SIMs with different tariffs for home and abroad, without needing to carry two smartphones. In the vast majority of cases only one of the two SIM slots in a dual-SIM phone will support 3G/4G mobile data, and quite often you'll find they mix Nano-, Micro- and full-size SIMs, making it impossible to switch them around on the fly.
What's great about the OnePlus 2 is that although you must set a preference for which SIM you use for data before you go online, both are Nano SIM slots and both support 4G. For calls and texts you can either set a preference for which SIM to use, or you can request that the OP2 asks you each time which you'd like to use. Because the OnePlus 2 is a dual-standby phone, either SIM will be able to accept calls or texts.
The connectivity specs are otherwise fairly standard for a flagship Android phone - dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS - but with the notable omission of NFC. This has actually been removed from the OPO because the company felt people weren't using it. (Erm, but we were about to.) With a new fingerprint scanner and Android Pay soon to launch in the UK, it's a bizarre move. Right now, we don't think UK users will find the lack of NFC and inability to use mobile payments services too much of a pain, but given that this is supposed to be not only a 2015- but a 2016 flagship killer, it's something of an oversight. Also see: Best budget phones 2015.
Note that if you are an O2 customer looking to buy the OnePlus 2 then to benefit from 4G you will need the UK or India/SEA model sold directly through OnePlus, and not the Chinese model we review here.
OnePlus 2 review: Audio
We found the OnePlus 2 to have a weak speaker output, not only in its sound quality reproduction but also in its overall volume it could output. In our tests which we conducted against other major smartphone manufacturers, we found the OnePlus 2 only being able to output a loudness level of 6/10, whilst other phones such as the Microsoft Lumia 950 scored 8/10 and even against the outdated LG G3 which scored 8.5/10, the OnePlus 2 struggled. A dual firing speaker would have really helped it output a louder volume and potentially better sound. Also see: Best Sounding Phones of 2016.
In terms of its sound quality, we found the highs to be well presented, where they were able to provide a nice extension and a pleasant, albeit slightly sibilant sparkle. However, its bass lacked any sort of conviction and had a non-existent extension into the sub-bass regions. Furthermore, the mids were not well presented and left us unimpressed.
On the plus side, we found the soundstage of the speaker to be reasonably good with a decent depth and width to it, which improved our overall listening experience of the phone’s speakers.
Internal Sound Quality
The OnePlus 2 utilises the Qualcomm WCD9330 Audio Codec alongside a NXP TFA9890 audio amplifier, which was able to deliver a powerful sound output, where we used the OnePlus 2 at 60-65 percent volume during our listening tests. A lower overall volume in comparison to most of the other phones we had tested. For our in-depth sound comparison article see: Best Sounding Phones of 2016.
The OnePlus 2 comes equipped with MaxxAudio's tweaks which can be enabled to allow you to customise your sound. We chose to disable all the settings and tweaks when we performed our audio tests as we didn’t want any equalisers or software settings to affect the overall sound signature of the phone.
In terms of the sound quality, we found the sub-bass to be unfortunately like its speakers, non-existent, whilst its mid-bass had a decent slam but lacked control. We found the mids to be affected by the mid-bass slam and the highs to extend well, but slightly roll-off at the top-end.
Note: When we used the phone alongside an amplifier, we found it to suffer from audio interferences, where the phone would have crackling problems and hard-drive sounds being outputted through its headphone jack.
OnePlus 2 review: Cameras
The OnePlus 2 is fitted with a 13Mp rear camera with six-element lens that's capable of shooting 4K, time-lapse and slow-motion video. It has all the features you would expect for a flagship camera, including optical image stabilisation, a laser autofocus (which can focus in under 0.3 seconds), a dual-LED flash, an f/2.0 aperture and 1.3μm pixels that should work more effectively in low-light environments.
The camera app itself is easy to use, letting you swipe in from the side of the screen to access camera modes and settings, while buttons to turn on or off the flash and switch to the 5Mp wide-angle selfie-camera are on screen at all times. Photos are by default shot in a 4:3 aspect at 12.4Mp, or you can choose 7.9Mp 16:9 or 9.3Mp 1:1. You can also select Beautify, HDR or Clear photo modes, with the latter stitching together several images to create one super-clear shot.
In our tests the camera worked well and produced shots worthy of a flagship camera, with lots of detail in our close-up shots but as you'll see at long distance the bricks on the St Pancras Hotel begin to lose their definition. It did take a while to capture shots, though, and in our hands-on with the OnePlus 2 (see below) we weren't overly impressed by the low-light performance. Our main gripe, though is with video - no matter which mode you use the laser focus appears to make the footage jerk as it locks on to the focus. This is likely just a software issue, which will hopefully be cleared up with a future update.
OnePlus has also vowed to add RAW support in a software update. Also see: Best smartphones 2015.
OnePlus 2 review: Software
We really like Oxygen OS, which is a custom version of Android Lollipop. Unlike so many other mods, Oxygen OS simply adds to the existing Android experience rather than replacing or taking anything away. On the whole the experience is largely vanilla Lollipop, but with some nice little extras.
One of the first things you'll notice is some new additions in the Settings menu for Buttons and Gestures. The former lets you set the function of the home button and the two software buttons that sit to either side of it, while gestures allows you to turn on the ability to access some of the OP2's key features in a single step from screen off. You can double-tap to wake the screen, or draw an O to open the camera, a V to turn on and off the torch, and II, < and > to play, pause and skip audio tracks.
These will be new features to those accustomed to European phones, but gestures such as these are a standard feature of Chinese phones. In fact, many of the Chinese phones we review have many more gestures and allow you to create your own custom gestures for launching specific apps.
Something that's coming with Android 6.0 Marshmallow is greater control over app permissions, but it's already here with the OnePlus 2. You can access and turn on or off the individual app permissions for every app you install on the OP2. This doesn't include preinstalled apps, but there are very few of those beyond the Google essentials.
One we especially like is the Audio Tuner, which lets you fiddle around with the treble, bass, balance and more for a variety of audio types, such as Jazz, Hip Hop and Metal, and then configure presets for music, movies and games.
Within the Customization menu is a Dark mode, which switches the black text on a white background to white text on a black background and should be easier on the eyes in certain situations. When Dark mode is enabled you can also alter the accent colour, and at any time you can change the colour of the LED notifications that show when the battery is full, charging or low, or you get a new notification.
A nice but small tweak is in the drop-down quick settings menu, where a small tile icon lets you rearrange the ordering of or hide/reveal the settings most important to you.
Still in beta is Shelf, which you access by swiping from the side of the home screen. You can turn it off if you prefer, but Shelf isn't offensive, serving up quick access to your most frequently used apps and contacts, plus weather information.
One last thing to add about the software is that the OP2's bootloader is unlocked, which will ease your ability to flash new software at some point down the line.
That concludes our in-depth OnePlus 2 review, but read on for a second opinion in our first look at the OnePlus 2 by Lewis Painter.
Original hands-on review of the OnePlus 2
Following on from the success of the OnePlus 1, the OnePlus 2 has been branded by OnePlus as the "2016 flagship killer" at its announcement, which, we might add, is the first smartphone announcement available to watch in VR (which you can rewatch here). So, is the OnePlus 2 really the 2016 flagship killer its claimed to be? We've gone hands-on with the device and put it to the test (in the short time we had, anyway).
See also: Best smartphones of 2015
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: UK price and availability
The OnePlus 2 is set to be released fairly soon, on 11 August 2015 for those of us in the US, Europe and India. However, if you’re from Indonesia, Singapore or Malaysia, we have some bad news – the OnePlus 2 won’t be available there until some time in Q4 2015. Pricing wise, the cheaper 16GB OnePlus 2 will cost only £239, with the 64GB variation costing only £50 more at £289 (update 10 February 2016: it's now available for £249).
Long time fans may notice that this is slightly more than the OnePlus One which was originally priced at £229 and £269 respectively at launch, but this is apparently because of the “more premium build quality and feature set of the OnePlus 2”.
This means that it’s close to the prices of the recently announced Moto X Play and Moto X Style, which is also set to launch in August and starts at £279 and £359 respectively. The OnePlus 2 and Moto X series both offer high-end specs at a mid-range price, so it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top once all phones are readily available.
With regards to buying your own OnePlus 2, you’ll have to first get an invite. Yes, OnePlus decided to stick with a similar system to what was used last year when the OnePlus One was launched. If you want to find out how to get an invite, simply head over to our how to: How to get a OnePlus 2 invite
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Design and build
The OnePlus 2 is a huge step up from the OnePlus One in terms of its design. Though some may argue they look similar, the addition of an aluminium trim and slimmer form factor really gives the device a premium look and feel. The textured Sandstone black back panel has returned for another year and feels absolutely gorgeous to hold, thanks in part to the slight curvature on the back of the device that allows it to fit snuggly in your hand.
Though you’re given the sandstone black OnePlus 2, OnePlus will also offer StyleSwap covers at launch to personalise the look of your device. This allows you to swap out the textured sandstone back panel for a different panel, including: Bamboo, Rosewood, Black Apricot and Kevlar. There’s no UK pricing yet, but we were told that the US pricing was $29.99 so don’t expect them to be too expensive.
Measurement wise, the OnePlus 2 measures in at 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.85mm, with similar dimensions to the iPhone 6 Plus, we were worried that it would feel big and bulky but due to its curved back, it feels a lot nicer to hold. It feels solid at the hand, weighing in at 175g, which adds to the overall premium feel of the device.
See also: OnePlus One review
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Display
Let’s talk about the OnePlus 2’s IPS display. It measures in at 5.5in and boasts a full HD (1080x1920) resolution and a great pixel density of 401 ppi (pixels per inch), 2ppi less than the Moto X Play and the same as the iPhone 6 Plus. It also boasts a 178 degree viewing angle, and a brightness of 600nits, which is brighter than the iPhone 6’s 559nits and is definitely noticeable with the naked eye – in fact, we had to turn the display down slightly to get a better quality photo, and that very rarely happens.
When we compared the screens of the iPhone 6 Plus and OnePlus 2, they were surprisingly similar in terms of brightness and quality, but couldn’t decide on a clear winner between the two devices. We spent some time playing games on the OnePlus 2 testing out both the screen and processor, and the screen was bright, crisp colourful and, overall, quite impressive.
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Specs & features
Inside the OnePlus 2 is a 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor alongside an Adreno 430 and 3 or 4GB RAM, depending on the model you choose (the 16GB variation has 3GB RAM, the 64GB has 4GB). As mentioned earlier, we spent a while playing games on the OnePlus 2 to get a feel for both its screen and processor, and we found the whole process quite enjoyable with no visible lag. With this being said, we imagine it’ll do pretty well in the benchmarks once we get it back to the PC Advisor towers.
In terms of storage, there are two options available for the OnePlus 2; 16GB and 64GB. As mentioned earlier, there’s only £50 between the two options and considering the slightly more expensive option comes with an extra 1GB of RAM so we think it’d be £50 well spent. It’s worth noting that there’s no MicroSD card slot in the OnePlus 2, much to the disappointment of many Android users, so it’s worth keeping in mind when considering the two storage options.
The OnePlus 2 also touts a fingerprint scanner a la Samsung Galaxy S6 in design, except it’s a lot faster than both Samsung and Apple’s fingerprint scanners and can scan your fingerprint in 0.5 seconds. We thought this was near on impossible and unlocked an iPhone 6 Plus and OnePlus 2 side by side three times, and the OnePlus 2 won each time by at least half a second. Though with this being said, we do prefer the circular fingerprint scanner design to the rectangular one, as it feels a little bit awkward trying to use it.
The OnePlus 2 also features an alert slider on the left side of the device, which is used to switch between different notification profiles quickly and easily. You have three to choose from: None (all notifications apart from alarms), Priority (only allows notifications form priority contacts) and All (any notification).
In terms of battery power, the OnePlus 2 houses a 3300mAh battery, which is a little larger than the OnePlus One, which boasted a 3100mAh battery. We can’t comment on the overall battery life of the device as we only had a short time with it, but, as with many other elements of the phone, it will be put to the test when we get our hands on it to review.
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Camera
Let’s talk about the camera. The 13Mp rear facing camera of the OnePlus 2 boasts a dual-LED flash, the same as its predecessor, but with some improvement to the lens. It’s claimed that the OnePlus 2 has an f/2 aperture, 1.3μm pixels and six lenses to avoid distortion and colour aberration. With specs like these, we were very excited to use the Camera during our hands-on time with the device, but our excitement turned to disappointment.
After taking a handful of photographs, we saw nothing amazing in terms of photo quality – it did well picking out small details in photos, but we found that a few images were over exposed and when zooming in, quality was lost. This may be down to the automatic photo settings we were using, or the lighting of the room we were in – either way, it’s something we’re going to investigate further when we get the device in to review.
One area that the OnePlus camera excels in is the auto-focus. It boasts a laser auto-focus, which allows the OnePlus 2 to take a photo in 0.3 seconds. We decided to test this out by covering the lens with our finger, then taking a photo as soon as we moved it. The iPhone 6 Plus took over a second to focus before taking a photo, whereas the OnePlus 2 took a perfectly focused image almost instantly.
The camera also boasts Optical Image Stabilisation, and can record in 4K. It’ll also be able to shoot in RAW shortly after launch, via a software update.
The front-facing camera is still 5Mp, and uses a wide angle lens to fit as much in as possible. When we used it during our testing, we found it to be a fairly standard front-facing camera in terms of quality and detail – not breath-taking, but not bad either. It’ll definitely do just fine for those Instagram selfies, anyway!
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Connectivity
The OnePlus 2 has a trick up its sleeve, and that trick is dual-SIM capabilities that supports 4G LTE, something that no other flagship smartphone currently offers. Yes, you can get dual-SIM smartphones from the grey market, but very few (if any) can support 4G. Along with 4G, the OnePlus 2 also boasts dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS and a digital compass.
The hard-core OnePlus One fans among you will notice that NFC has been removed from the connectivity options, as OnePlus believed that it was a feature that wasn’t really being used by its customers.
The OnePlus 2 is also the first flagship smartphone to openly adopt the new USB-C standard, which allows you to plug the cable in either way, just like with Apple’s lightning cable. OnePlus has also implemented patented technology that allows you to plug in an existing USB Type-A cable in whichever way you like, too. The supplied USB-C cable is also reversible at both ends, not just at the phone end.
OnePlus 2 hands-on review: Software
The OnePlus 2 comes preloaded with the firms own Oxygen OS 2.0, based on Android 5.1 Lollipop but with a handful of features that will be available in the upcoming Android M OS. One of these features is a dark mode, which can be toggled on and off and will benefit those of us that like to stare at our bright phones in a darkened room.
It also offers customisable accent colours, LED notifications and advanced access to app permissions, a massive plus for the device. With access to app permissions, you can disable the app from using any feature of the phone that you’re not happy with – using location services or gaining access to your contacts, for example, which is a huge deal for some privacy-concerned smartphone users.
The OnePlus 2 also includes off-screen gestures which allow you quick access to certain functions, including double tapping the screen to wake it up, drawing an O to launch the Camera (or Snapchat, as we found out during out hands-on!) or V to switch the flashlight on. While these are a welcome addition to the OnePlus 2, we found that they wouldn’t always recognise the gesture, and in turn will leave you staring at a darkened screen like a bit of a lemon.
OnePlus 2: Specs
- 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.85mm
- OxygenOS 2.0 based on Android 5.1 with Android M features
- 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 1.8GHz Octa-core CPUs
- GPU: Adreno 430
- 3/4GB LP-DDR4
- 16/64 GB, available capacity varies
- Fingerprint, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity and Ambient Light sensors
- Embedded rechargeable 3300 mAh battery
- Dual-SIM connectivity
- 4G/LTE support
- Dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Internal GPS antenna + GLONASS
- Digital Compass
- USB Type-C
- 5.5in IPS Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) display (401 PPI)
- Rear camera: 13Mp, 1.3um, 6 lenses, OIS, Laser Focus, Dual-LED flash, f/2.0
- Front camera: 5Mp, Distortion free
- Video: 4K resolution video, Slow Motion: 720p video at 120fps