OnePlus One User Review

A few months back, a very friendly reader dropped me a note to ask if I was interested in getting myself an invite to buy the OnePlus One. You see, OnePlus One, is actually a new Chinese phone manufacturer that marketed their product as a “Flagship Killer”.

OnePlus One (*Source : OnePlus website)

For an average consumer, you’ve likely not heard of the brand before. For a tech enthusiast, the OnePlus One is the MOST coveted smartphone in the mobile industry in 2014, for a few reasons:-

  1. OnePlus (the manufacturer) only released this ONE (pun intended) Android smartphone in their lineup
  2. To buy it, you need to get an invite from someone else who bought it. You then have 24 hours to respond.
  3. It was only released in selected countries, rolled out very very slowly to new countries.
  4. It runs on CyanogenMod. If you’re an Android user who roots your phone (equivalent to Apple jailbreak), CyanogenMod (CM) is the most popular root Custom ROM with a wide network of developers support
  5. Launch was in April 2014, and tech specs was top-of-the-line (more on this later) but priced at an affordable price tag from USD$299 (~RM 1,100) for a flagship smartphone. An eye-catcher indeed.

Naturally, as a tech blogger, I’ve been reading so much great stuff about this flagship OnePlus One for almost a year. But kicking myself because I don’t have the connections or resources to buy one for myself.

Until that one faithful day when I got the note from a friendly, helpful, generous reader. Unfortunately, I was on vacation then, without much access to internet to act on the invite within the 24 hours window. So I missed it. 🙁

I then tried my hand in requesting for one in their forum, and in a week or so, I got news – I landed myself another OnePlus One invite to purchase the smartphone in the next 24 hours!!! Yay! Yay! Yay!

I acted quickly and bought the phone on their website through my mobile browser. Because OnePlus One is not available in Malaysia officially yet, I shipped it to my virtual US address through a freight forwarder (VPost Asia, in case you’re wondering). In under 10 days, it arrived at my doorsteps!

Look what came in the mail for me today. #oneplus #gadget #smartphone #exclusive

A photo posted by Winnie Chen-Head (@winniekepala) on

I’ve been using the OnePlus One for months now, mostly as my primary smartphone swapping between review units. Here’s my full user review of this hard-to-get “Flagship Killer”.

 

Hardware Overview

First up, here’s a quick specs overview of the OnePlus One :-

  • 5.5″ Full HD IPS LCD display (1920 X 1080)(401 ppi)
  • 2.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
  • 16 / 64 GB internal storage (no expandable microSD) + 3 GB RAM
  • Powered by Cyanogen 11S based on Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” OS
  • 13 megapixel Sony Exmor 4K video rear camera; 5 megapixel front facing camera
  • 8.9 mm thin, weighing only 162 grams
  • 3,100 mAH non-removable battery
  • Connectivity : 4G LTE microSIM, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Available in 2 colours : Silk White (16 GB), Sandstone Black (64 GB)

For more information and specifications, check out the OnePlus One product page at https://oneplus.net/one

OnePlus One - Unboxing
Nice, minimalistic, clean box packaging
OnePlus One - Unboxing
Beautifully designed white & red box, product & accessories

I really like the box packaging of the OnePlus One. For a Chinese manufacturer, I didn’t expect this at all. The packaging, product and accessories all look and feels so premium. For an affordable flagship product, OnePlus One certainly leaves you more than impressed that they didn’t skimp on anything here.

OnePlus One - nanoSIM adapter
nanoSIM adapter

The device sits in a nice cardboard holder. USB cable, SIM tray pin, nanoSIM adapter (yup, if you’re coming from an iPhone, they got you covered) and user manuals are all included in the square box. The 2-pin charger (because I got the US region phone) was bundled in the purchase, but unfortunately, not included in the box.

OnePlus One - USB cable
Flat USB cable

I’m still impressed that the accessories all look so good.

OnePlus One - SIM tray pin
SIM tray pin, with rubber holder & keyring

Even the SIM tray pin has a nice rubber holder and a keyring! On par with a high end, premium brand. I really like this.

OnePlus One Review
OnePlus One in my hands

The unit I got was the 64 GB, Sandstone Black version. The 5.5″ display means this smartphone is one of the bigger screen sized device. It doesn’t feel too big though in my lady hand. I am used to 2 hand typing anyways, but for simple taps and clicks with single hand use, it wasn’t a problem.

OnePlus One - Front & Back
Front and Back

I like the back the One very very much. It’s Sandstone Black does not just mean the colour here. It actually has a rough-ish stone-like texture. The few friends who’ve handled the phone, commented how much they like the back, too. Without a case, the phone actually feels very nice to the touch in your hands, offering a good grip. Plus, showcase a really beautiful design.

It feels nice, solid and premium in your hands. Nothing plasticky here, which you’d stereotypically expect from a Chinese phone. But nope. It’s nicely done here. A nice premium and solid phone, that can sit up there with the iPhones (aluminium) and Sony (glass) or HTC (aluminium) in the market.

See Also : HTC One (M8) User Review

OnePlus One - Buttons & Ports
Buttons and ports

While I can’t stop gushing over the back of the phone, the sides of the phone was perfectly designed as well. With the headphone jack at the top, Power On/Off button on the right, volume rocker & hidden SIM tray on the left, and USB port and speakers at the bottom.

OnePlus One Review
Insert SIM with the gorgeous SIM tray pin provided

The SIM tray is accessible with the SIM tray pin provided. As mentioned earlier, if you’re coming from an iPhone (or any other flagship Androids) using a nanoSIM, OnePlus included an adapter for you in the packaging, so no need to go buy one or change your SIM with your telco.

OnePlus One Review - Featured

So far, from a hardware and build quality perspective, I am liking the OnePlus One. A lot.

 

Features & Usability

OnePlus One Review
Cyanogen 11S is based on Android OS

OnePlus One is powered by Cyanogen 11S, which is based off Android OS. As mentioned earlier, CyanogenMod (CM) is one of the most active and supported community of Android developers. As an Android tinkerer, I have tried multiple forks of CM custom ROMs in my years as an Android root (aka jailbreak) user.

So, naturally, the founders of Cyanogen turned the modified Android OS into an independent business. Got their forked (modified) Android OS installed on a few devices in the market. Most prominently, of course, is this OnePlus One.

OnePlus has announced that they are developing their own ROM now, and not depend too much on Android or Cyanogen, with a new OS called OxygenOS in their blogpost here. It’s been slightly delayed, but it’s coming soon in the next few weeks, I hope.

OnePlus One - Software

The OnePlus One Cyanogen 11S user interface (UI) and experience (UX) is very much like a Google Nexus device running on vanilla (pure and original version of) Android. As you can see, the same swipes and taps works here. It is based on Android.

See Also : Google Nexus 5 User Review

You have your homescreens with widgets and app shortcuts. App drawer for all apps. Pull down notification shade to show notifications and alerts, tap on a second tab to reveal shortcut toggles for WiFi, brightness, Bluetooth etc.

OnePlus One - Google vanilla apps

As a predominantly Android base OS, the usual Google apps are used – from Calendar to Contacts. So, if you’re an existing Android user, there’s no major learning curve here. The usability of navigating between apps and feature is rather easy.

OnePlus One - OnePlus extras

There are of course, OnePlus themes, apps and features pre-installed here. Some of them I really like. Like Screencast, which allows you to record a video of your Android screen – handy when you’re trying to show someone how to do something on the phone, like for a demo of an app or something.

There’s also a host of really beautiful themes and icon packs pre-installed on the One. Because there’s a wide network of developers and tinkerers, you’ll have plenty of options here to change the design, theme and look-and-feel of your One.

The One also comes with a few gesture to activate some features when your phone display is off and it’s on standby. These gestures bypass the lockscreen passwords to access quick actions – for eg, draw a circle to launch the camera, draw a “V” to launch the flashlight. Very very handy in so many occasions for me.

Originally, the One comes with the default Google keyboard. But in the recent update, SwiftKey is now the default keyboard. My favourite on-screen keyboard, hands down.

There are many many more features of the OnePlus One that I really like. Check this video below that shares the Top 5 features of the phone.

There are more videos out there with more feature showcase, of course. But I’ll leave you to find them on YouTube, if you wanna know more.

 

Camera & Image Quality

OnePlus One Review
13 megapixel Sony Exmor rear camera

OnePlus One uses a Sony lens at the rear camera here – a 13 megapixel shooter.

In my review of the phone, taking oh-so-many pictures already, I really like the camera a lot.

OnePlus One - Camera

One of my favourite feature, as shown in the video above, is the ability to swipe between different shooting modes in the Camera app. Without having to go into the menu settings. There are modes ranging from Auto (duh!) to Posterize, Sepia, Steady Photo / Action (action photography), Beauty mode (portraits), HDR and many more.

Below are some sample pictures taken with the OnePlus One. Images are unedited and not resized, so click to view enlarged image, uploaded onto Google+ Photos HERE.

[pe2-gallery album=”http://picasaweb.google.com/data/feed/base/user/109532722643475070188/albumid/6133119239140146161?alt=rss&hl=en_US&kind=photo” ]

View full album of pictures on Google+ HERE.

 

Overall, I am happy with the OnePlus One camera’s image quality. In mid to bright lighting, the phone takes exceptional picture, either with the rear 13 MP camera or the front 5 MP one. Images have vivid colour contrast and looks very good on the phone screen, or even on a larger laptop screen.

In low light conditions, however, the front cam struggles with noisy images and lots of pixelated dark backgrounds that I don’t appreciate.

For macro (close up) shots, the camera struggles a little to focus on an object 2-4 inches away. Several times, I have to move the phone back and forth and tap several times on the manual focus to get a decent shot.

 

Battery Life

OnePlus One - Battery Life

As I said, I have been using this phone as my primary smartphone for a few months now. Through heavy power use, to light browsing and low activity days.

I am happy to report that the OnePlus One with the 3,100 mAH battery actually performs really well, as you would expect from a flagship phone. Or flagship killer, as they call it.

With medium to heavy usage, the OnePlus One can easily last me a good full 24 hours of use. In certain light usage days, it can even go as far as 36 hours (a day and a half) of battery life.

Impressive indeed. Coming from the almost 2 day battery life boosted from a Sony Xperia Z2, I am very happy to continue to use this phone as my primary phone that can last me a full, busy workday.

See Also : Sony Xperia Z2 User Review

 

Pricing & Availability

OnePlus One list price is USD$ 299 (~RM 1,100) for the 16 GB Silk White coloured version; and USD$ 349 (~RM 1,300) for the 64 GB Sandstone Black version.

 

Since its launch, OnePlus One has only allowed their smartphones to be purchased online via their website through an invite-only system. This is because, they are a small operation with limited production quantity and can only produce so many phones to meet the demand.

OnePlus One Review - How To Buy
How To Buy the OnePlus One

Today, there are 2 systems for you to purchase the OnePlus One, as stated on their website at https://oneplus.net/how-to-buy

Every Tuesdays at 4.00 pm KL time, you can purchase the OnePlus One on their website here, without an invite!

All this, but it’s still not officially available in Malaysia yet. 🙁  Even with their expansion to more countries, including Indonesia, but not Malaysia. Even though OnePlus held a media event here in November 2014, to announce that they’re launching here soon. But apologized later to their Malaysian fans in a forum post here.

If you’re not particular about warranties and origin, you can opt to purchase the OnePlus One via Lazada Malaysia HERE.

Additionally, OnePlus also included a bunch of official accessories that you can purchase along with the One HERE. From screen protectors to headphones to phone cases. Another plus, in my books.

 

UPDATE (22 Apr 2015) : OnePlus One Officially On Sale in Malaysia (and no more global invites)

 

Conclusion

OnePlus One Review

Another lengthy review so far, huh? If you’ve skipped all the above just to read this portion, then this is all you need to know.

Having used the OnePlus One as my primary phone for months, I have to say I am rather impressed by what a Chinese manufacturer can produce. All my initial misconception of cheap, plasticky, wonky Chinese phone went out the window! OnePlus did an amazing job with this one.

A quick summary…

What I Like

  • Solid and premium build quality, with a stunning back
  • Excellent price tag – high end flagship device, for the price of a mid-range one
  • Cyanogen OS was easy to use – with little to no learning if you come from an Android phone
  • Gestures to activate apps when phone on standby
  • Good camera with Sony Exmor lens & easy-to-use settings

What I Dislike

  • Not easily available to purchase – Why can’t we buy them officially in Malaysia yet?
  • Low light front (selfie) cam needs more improvement

 

As you can see, I’ve listed way more pros than cons here for my review of OnePlus One. This is not a sponsored review, nor is this a review unit. I bought this with my own money! Wrote this review with my personal opinion. I like this phone that much!

Personally, I am super-impressed with the OnePlus One. It is certainly a smartphone that can sit up there, on par with the other flagship phones in the market. From specs to build quality to usability – OnePlus did an awesome job here.

If you want a premium, high-end, top of the range spec-ed Android smartphone, you can now also include the OnePlus One in the mix. In fact, for the price tag of between RM 1,100 to RM 1,300, you would likely not find any other smartphones that ticks all the boxes in your wishlist. It’s almost a no-brainer.

The only pain point, of course, is how hard it is to get your hands on this phone, officially through OnePlus, since they’re not available in Malaysia yet. OnePlus did promise they didn’t forget us, and the OnePlus One will be officially on sale here soon.

However, it’s almost time that the rumoured successor OnePlus Two (??) might be coming out soon. So, perhaps OnePlus will go in sale in Malaysia when that version is announced?

As mentioned, if you really want the OnePlus One, you can purchase them for a one-day window every Tuesday at 4pm KL time on their website HERE without an invite. Or, if you don’t mind parallel imports, you can buy them off Lazada Malaysia HERE at a slightly marked up price.

 

For more information, specs and features, check out the OnePlus One product page at https://oneplus.net/one of LIKE their OnePlus Global Official Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/oneplusofficial or OnePlus Malaysia Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/oneplusmalay

 

 

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