The thing about OnePlus phones is, you generally know what you are getting. They have great but not class-leading screens, a relatively stock build of Android which works with latest-generation hardware to deliver rapid performance, good cameras, and excellent value for money. OnePlus phones have traditionally been the best bang for buck you can get for a decent budget.
- Screen: 6.41 inches, FullHD Optic AMOLED
- Processor: Snapdragon 845
- RAM: 6/8GB
- Storage: 128/256GB
- OS: Android 9.0 Pie
- Battery: 3,700mAh
As their latest offering — the OnePlus 6T — arrives on the scene, things have changed. This year, competition has rapidly escalated, as new entrants have arrived to take on the brand, and OnePlus’ own ‘Flagship Killer’ marketing strategy from its early days now applies to its own phones as much as those it once sought to dethrone. The 6T also marks the first time OnePlus has made a few bold choices with design and hardware, which has polarised some sections of its enthusiast fan base. The 6T is the flagship that has to take the brand through uncharted waters, and we are going to find out if it succeeds.
A new face
The 6T is not a huge departure from its predecessor the 6 in terms of design, and while the back is mostly identical, the major change is up front. OnePlus has ditched the wide notch that most phones these days have adopted in favour of an Essential Phone-like central one, shaped like a water drop. It houses only the front camera (no fancy face detection hardware here) and a tiny earpiece. This has also meant the company has axed the notification LED, which has been a point of contention for many. Personally, we did not feel it to be a big omission, and the ambient display served us well enough, though we would like an always-on implementation better.
Speaking of the display, the smaller notch and slightly thinner bezels have allowed OnePlus to expand the display to 6.41 inches, up from 6.28 on the 6. It is still a Full HD panel, and even though those pixels have been stretched a fair bit over the years as screens got bigger, the 6T’s display still looks excellent, with the AMOLED panel delivering incredible blacks and vibrant hues.
On the build side, the 6T is also thicker than the 6, and this, combined with the glass construction, gives it a hefty feel that we like. While that glass is Gorilla Glass 6, we did use the clear case included in the box to avoid any potential damage. To no one’s surprise, the Mirror Black variant does tend to accumulate fingerprints as well.That added thickness is not wasted, and OnePlus has upped the size of the battery from the 6 by 400 mAh to a respectable 3,700 mAh, which has its benefits. The other big changes on the 6T are two notable omissions. There is no fingerprint sensor on the back, and no headphone jack at the bottom. The latter also caused some uproar among enthusiast audiophiles, but we did not mind using Bluetooth headphones in return for a bigger battery and screen. OnePlus also makes a decent pair of earphones, which have both wired (USB-C) and wireless versions.
But wait, what about that fingerprint sensor? It has migrated below the surface of the screen. And the quick review for it is: it is slower than the regular one, tends to be less accurate, and obviously does not work without first waking up the display. That said, it remains perfectly serviceable, and once you are used to it, you will have no difficulty getting it to work four times out of five, once the required precision has been achieved. The extremely rapid face unlock option, when enabled, usually ensures the phone will be on the home screen before you even move your thumb towards the sensor. Some do not prefer this implementation, but for someone like this writer, who prefers the convenience of being able to unlock a phone placed on a desk without having to lift it or crane the head over its camera, the trade-offs of this sensor are worth living with. So this is a bit of a subjective one.
The OnePlus 6 was no lightweight in the hardware category, and the 6T does not mess with what is not broken, retaining the Snapdragon 845 and 6 or 8 GB of RAM. The 64 GB storage option has been dropped however, and the 6T now comes in 128 GB and 256 GB flavours. It runs Android 9 Pie now, with Oxygen OS 9.0.5 as of writing. Oxygen OS keeps going from strength to strength, and on the 6T it is a delightful experience that builds upon stock Android in the right ways. Gesture navigation is present, and users can opt for an iPhone-like fluid experience, as opposed to the jarring one used on the new Pixel 3. A long-ish press of the power button brings up Google Assistant, avoiding the need for a dedicated button (the Alert Slider is still around for quick ringer mode switching), and advanced battery optimisations combined with the larger battery push the 6T very close to endurance champion territory, which is great for power users. Even little touches, like the dialler app telling us to take the time to do some stretches when the other person is taking too long to pick up, are worth appreciating here. Overall, the 6T is just as rapid as its predecessors, and the immersive display with the smaller notch and excellent gesture navigation make phone-based productivity much easier.
On to optics
The camera department has not seen any major upgrade over the 6, so image performance is pretty similar, which is to say the 6T shoots great photos in well-lit areas and good ones in darker settings. There is a night mode on offer now, which cleans up some ugly noise and retains the highlights better. It is welcome, but do not expect top-of-the-line camera performance here. That said, it is on par with and mostly better than other phones in its price bracket, so unless the camera is a primary dealbreaker, it is unlikely the 6T’s camera will let buyers down in any scenario. The camera can also shoot 4K video at 60 fps, and slow-motion video at 240 fps at 1080p and 480 fps at 720p.
Who is it for?
Pretty much anyone who is not on an ultra-tight budget, who wants value for money, and does not own a OnePlus 6. Sure, at a starting price of ₹37,999 (6GB/128GB), this is not a cheap phone, and sure, there are some trade-offs this time around, like a slower fingerprint sensor and no notification LED or headphone jack. But the 6T does serve up the best implementation of a notched display, ups the battery life, improves upon stock Android in many ways and still offers a smartphone ownership experience that rivals devices that cost twice as much or more. With OnePlus also recently committing to a longer software upgrade cycle, we believe the OnePlus 6T is a robust-enough flagship to take OnePlus and its community through the choppy waters of smartphone evolution.