iPhone rival OnePlus 5 brings sleek refinements, but not perfection
Unless you are a tech enthusiast there is a good chance you probably haven't heard of Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus. But as its more than 6.5 million Facebook fans will tell you, it's time to pay attention.
Arriving onto the smartphone scene in 2014 the company has built a robust online brand and devoted following by creating smartphones that rivaled the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy in style and performance but for a fraction of the price. On Tuesday the company announced its latest phone, the OnePlus 5, its most polished device to date but one that is not without its drawbacks.
Available in either a sleek "midnight black" or "slate gray" aluminum design, the OnePlus 5 matches up nicely compared to the iPhone 7, Galaxy S8 and other recent high-end smartphones. At a starting price $479 for the 64GB model with 6GB of RAM (or $539 for a 128GB model with 8GB of RAM), it is also one of the company's priciest launches, though still a nice discount compared to the $625 on up that Samsung and Apple charge.
The phone is sold unlocked through the company's website and is designed for use on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks in the U.S. (Similar to earlier OnePlus models, the new phone does not support Verizon or Sprint's networks).
There is a lot to like in the new OnePlus 5. While it lacks the higher resolution displays found on the Galaxy S8 and Google's Pixel line of Android phones, the 5.5-inch full HD display is sharp and vivid and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor keeps the device zippy.
A large 3,300 mAh battery had no trouble lasting through the day. Similar to other modern Android phones the OnePlus 5 employs a fast charging technology that works as advertised—bringing the phone from zero power to roughly 58% in around 30 minutes (though you need to use the company's included power box and cable). And while it is 7.25mm thin, or roughly .15mm thicker than the iPhone 7, OnePlus has kept the headphone jack.
It is in the camera department that the OnePlus 5 loses its luster. While the front facing 16-megapixel camera did an excellent job taking selfies, the rear camera still falls short of rivaling the iPhone, Galaxy and Pixel.
Like the iPhone 7 Plus and some Android phones, the OnePlus 5 features two rear cameras. The main shooter comes in at 16-megapixel while a second, 20-megapixel telephoto sensor to its right adds the ability for sharper zoomed-in shots. The two-camera setup also gives the OnePlus 5 the ability to take "portraits," or pictures the keeps the main object in focus while blurring the background.
Outdoors with plenty of natural light, the cameras performed admirably, taking perfectly shareable pictures but not necessarily ones as sharp as photos taken with an iPhone or Galaxy S8.
Photos shot indoors or at night also left room for improvement, with some appearing "grainy," or at times, a bit blurry, particularly compared to those from the aforementioned rival phones.
The portrait mode similarly struggled, at times taking pictures that either did not properly capture the subject or did not accurately blur out the background.
In addition to the camera shortcomings, the OnePlus 5 lacks the water resistance capability of the latest iPhone and recent Galaxies. It also does not include the ability to charge the phone wirelessly, a feature found on many of its higher-end Android competitors.
OnePlus prides itself on the mantra to “never settle,” and its latest device continues the trend of producing a strong competitor to the best Apple, Samsung and Google currently offer. But as it continues to approach the price of its rivals it will need to do more to stand out.
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal