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Major flagship smartphones have now set an entry level price of $1,000 or more, but you can still find phones that more than satisfy your needs for much less. OnePlus continues to release compelling smartphones with flagship specs at prices hundreds less than phones from Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei, and others.
After nearly two weeks with the new OnePlus 6T I purchased for only $280 from T-Mobile, after $300 for an old phone trade-in, I am not sure I can ever justify paying $1,000 or more for a smartphone again. There is so much to like in the OnePlus 6T that I haven't been able to take out my primary T-Mobile SIM even though I still have a Galaxy Note 9 and other flagships on hand.
While I've been very pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, other recent phones have disappointed me in various ways. The new iPhone models have rather terrible cellular reception, the LG V40 battery is a bit lacking, and the Huawei Mate 20 devices are not available in the US. This is a great time for OnePlus to step up with the OnePlus 6T and its first time launching with a US carrier should lead to more awareness of the brand. We'll see if the OnePlus 6T lives up to its potential.
After two weeks, I was very impressed to find the OnePlus 6T has the best cellular reception I have recorded on a phone in the past year, has a battery life that gets me through a full 18 hour day, has a small notch with a large display and minimal bezels, and is extremely responsive. It's not perfect, but it's close and for just $580 there isn't another phone out there that offers as much at this price.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Display: 6.41 inch 19.5:9 2340 x 1080 pixels resolution (402 ppi) Optic AMOLED, Gorilla Glass 6
Operating system: Oxygen OS 9 based on Android 9 Pie
Storage: 128GB and 256GB options
Cameras: 16-megapixel standard f/1.1 and 20-megapixel f/1.7 dual rear cameras. 16-megapixel f/2.0 front-facing camera.
Wireless technology: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
Battery: 3,700mAh battery with fast charging capability
Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm and 185 grams
Colors: Mirror Black (only color for T-Mobile) and Midnight Black
One feature missing on the OnePlus 6T that may disappoint longtime OnePlus fans is the 3.5mm headset jack. Very few manufacturers include a headphone jack today so it isn't much of a surprise it is not there and OnePlus includes a USB-C headset dongle in the box to help the transition.
Other Android flagships have a certified water and dust resistant rating, but the OnePlus 6T has no official rating. OnePlus states it should be fine if it slips and falls in a puddle or something, but there is no official IP rating. Given the significantly lower cost of the OnePlus 6T, it is understandable that there had to be some compromises made to keep the price in the $549 to $629 range.
The front of the OnePlus 6T is dominated by the 86 percent screen-to-body ratio AMOLED display that looks great to me. It isn't as high of a resolution as we see on a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but it's nearly half the price too. There is a small notch, but it's more like what we see on an Essential Phone rather than a Pixel 3 XL. You can use software in the settings to hide it too.
We also see the use of Gorilla Glass 6 on the OnePlus 6T and I have yet to see this on any other phone released to date. According to Corning, subjected to a new and rigorous test methodology in its labs, on average, Gorilla Glass 6 survived 15 consecutive drops from 1 meter onto rough surfaces and is up to twice as better than Gorilla Glass 5.
The first thing I wanted to check out is the new in-display fingerprint sensor and after a couple of weeks of use with hundreds of unlock actions, it has been performing well for me. Sometimes it takes a second or two to recognize my thumb, but the face unlock kicks in fast so the balance of face unlock and the in-display sensor works well. I have also used the in-display sensor to access my bank account securely on the phone and am pleased with this new technological feat.
The right side has the traditional three-way switch that is one of the most useful features on the phone and sets the OnePlus line apart from others. The power button is below this on the right side. The USB-C port is on the bottom, along with a very loud single speaker. The left side houses the volume buttons and SIM card slot with a mic opening up top. There is no longer a 3.5mm headset jack.
Dual cameras are arranged vertically on the back with a flash light below the cameras. There is no telephoto or wide-angle capability, but there is a new Nightscape mode for advanced low-light photography. It would be great to see telephoto and/or wide-angle support on the second rear camera, but the camera is one area of compromise at this price. Maybe with the US carrier release of the OnePlus 6T, we will see Moment release a case that fits this phone so we could use all of its fantastic lenses with it.
OnePlus 6T review: in pictures
The camera results are not as good as what I've seen from the Pixel 3 XL, Mate 20 Pro, or other much more expensive smartphones, but you definitely can take some compelling shots with the OnePlus 6T. I love that I can double press on the well-positioned right side power button to launch right into the camera whether or not the display is on or off. The ability to jump right into the camera from within an active app has resulted in me not missing photos that I might have on many other phones that do not support this quick launch capability. The retail package includes the fast charging adapter, a USB-C to 3.5mm headset jack dongle, a decent silicone case, and a screen protector that is already applied to the phone in the box.
OnePlus 6T official case options
While I purchased my own OnePlus 6T directly from T-Mobile, OnePlus also sent along three of its new cases for me to test out. These include the red silicone protective case ($20.95), black nylone bumper case ($25.95), and the sandstone protective case ($20.95). The prices are very reasonable for these cases and there are other color/style variations available too. You can also purchase bundles and save 5 to 15 percent off the separate regular prices.
The red silicone case stands out with a vibrant color while offering serious grip with the matte finish and soft silicone material. The inside is lined with red microfiber material so your phone will remain free from scratches in this case. The raised buttons are easy to press and the case adequately protects the corners of your phone.
The bumper case is available with a carbon fiber finish, an ebony wood finish, and a nylon material. The nylon one arrived for testing and is the case I used most of the time while testing the OnePlus 6T. This case provides a bit more protection than the other two with material along the bottom and openings for the USB-C and speaker. The nylon covers most of the back with a TPU shell around all four edges.
The protective case is a nice option for those who want a minimal case to primarily protect the four corners and back of your phone. It is available in sandstone and carbon fiber. The sandstone one has a bit of a rough finish so it doesn't slide around on a tabletop. The top, bottom, and button areas are all open on this case so it barely adds any weight or bulk to your phone. Sandstone is a popular finish for OnePlus and this case is great.
OnePlus builds upon Android with its OxygenOS and it is honestly one of my favorites on Android. OxygenOS adds enhancements that help you improve your productivity and efficiency on OnePlus devices. The OnePlus 6T launches with OxygenOS 9.0 built upon Android 9 Pie.
OnePlus has also shown an ability to release monthly Android security updates on a timely basis. The September 5, 2018 update is present on the OnePlus 6T out of the box.
It is great to see the option to have your Google feed shown on the left panel, much like what we now see with LG too, since I personally never used the Shelf. You can choose to enable the Shelf, or completely turn off this left home screen panel too.
The camera UI has some swipe elements from side-to-side (video, photo, portrait, night) but swiping up from the capture button gets you to all of the modes and settings quicker. Modes include video, photo, portrait, night, pro mode, time-lapse, panorama, and slow motion. 240 and 480 fps slow motion options are available with video editing software provided as well. Video resolution options include 720p, 1080p, 1080p at 60fps, 4K, and 4K at 60fps.
Above the mode designation on the viewfinder you will find a round button in video and photo that toggles between 1x and 2x. This is not an optical zoom button, but a digital zoom one so don't forget this dual camera setup is the same hardware as the OnePlus 6 with no telephoto camera lens.
OnePlus includes many of the great features found in stock Android Pixel devices, such as adaptive battery, night mode, and more, while also adding other enhancements to your experience. These enhancements include the alert slider settings, navigation bar options (you can completely hide it and just use gestures too), quick gestures, and more. I'm a huge fan of dark themes so I am pleased to see you can change the entire device theme to dark and then select a custom accent color.
There are a ton of customization features available while also providing you with a light and very stock Android experience. The phone flies and you won't see any lagging in Oxygen OS.
Price, availability, and competition
The OnePlus 6T starts at $549 for the model with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. For just $30 more you can get 8GB of RAM with the most expensive 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage model at $629. I bought mine from T-Mobile at the $579 price with a special early launch $300 trade-in deal. The T-Mobile one is only available with 8GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage and a Mirror Black finish.
The least expensive one is available in Mirror Black and the mid-range model can be purchased in Mirror Black, Midnight Black, and soon Thunder Purple. The highest capacity model is available only in Midnight Black. Midnight Black is a matte finish glass that looks similar to the Silk White OnePlus 6 I bought last year.
The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus ($840), the Google Pixel 3XL ($899), Samsung Galaxy Note 9 ($900), LG V40 ThinQ ($920), and Apple iPhone XS Max ($1,099) are the primary competitors to the OnePlus 6T. As you can see, these phones are $260 to $500+ more than the 8GB/128GB OnePlus 6T.
Daily usage experiences and conclusions
As a smartphone reviewer, I get the opportunity to test out all of the latest and greatest smartphones. Today's modern smartphones are fantastic, but the flagships are also ridiculously priced. The masses appear to be cooling on iPhone purchases as most are priced in the $1,000+ range.
There hasn't been much missing on the OnePlus 6T. With T-Mobile carrying the OnePlus 6T in stores, I look forward to hearing of broader name recognition of OnePlus since the phone is extremely competitive and much more affordable than high-end flagships.
The innovative in-screen fingerprint sensor is fun to use, the alert slider rocks, reception cannot be beat, battery life is excellent, and the camera works quite well. I give the OnePlus 6T a very high recommendation and once you give it a try you may not go back to paying nearly twice as much for your next smartphone.