OnePlus has always been a unicorn of sorts in the mobile industry. And that’s not necessarily the tech geek in me talking. Pete Lau and Carl Pei’s creation is nothing short of a textbook example of viral marketing done right and I really admire its success on that front alone.
Every time we get a new OnePlus handset at the office, we seem to talk about company development more than anything else. Is the brand maturing? Sure. Has the value for money been decreasing gradually generation to generation? Probably true as well. The OnePlus 5 is the most expensive OnePlus yet, which I actually think is good news. This is hardly a popular opinion, but let me elaborate a bit.
Circling back to the maturity argument, OnePlus has been traveling down a pretty clear and obvious path over the past three years or so. Viral marketing campaigns, combined with limited availability and thin profit margins can only get you so far. All these tools have been defunct for some time now and they did their job masterfully – the OnePlus brand is currently enjoying a “trendy” status within the industry, supported by a sizable and vibrant fan and developer community. The only logical step from there is expansion and with its support for 34 network bands, the OnePlus 5 appears to be pushing in that precise direction.
A start-up, even one with Oppo’s significant backing, growing and morphing is always a two-way street. If popularity holds up, OnePlus is definitely in line for even more changes in the following years. In the meantime, for long-time fans and newcomers alike, there is still a good amount of value in owning the OnePlus 5 in 2017.
Despite the changes, one thing is still true for the OnePlus team – it listens to its fans in delivering a sensible product. A 1080p, 5.5-inch AMOLED panel, Snapdragon 835 chipset, a trendy and capable dual camera setup – these are just a few examples of the OnePlus 5 hitting the proverbial “sweet spots” in the current smartphone market. If I had to choose a daily driver for myself today, the OnePlus 5 would be pretty high up on the list.
OnePlus is probably the most successful of the small phone makers – newcomers that put out only a few devices a year. ZUK, Nextbit and others have folded while Team NeverSettle grows with each release. I think that its success is due to the community it built – a flagship killer at half the price was quite the conversation starter.
But the conversation has changed, imperceptibly at first but now its quite obvious. Each successive OnePlus was more expensive than the last, to the point where you can get a Galaxy S8 or LG G6 for around the same cash as the new 5. That change means the OnePlus 5 isnt a flagship killer but just a flagship like all the others.
And with that my expectations change. I settled for a 1080p screen in 2016, even though I have some interest in VR. I just wanted an AMOLED screen and clean Android, the 3T delivered. But to use the same screen in 2017 when everyone else is doing crazy stuff (bezel-less, curved, rounded corners, etc.), is just underwhelming.
And a Nokia flagship is looming, likely with an AMOLED screen (Old Nokia had some of the best) and a clean Android with a promise of fast updates over a long period. Of course, we dont know how much we can trust HMD on that one, but just ask OnePlus 2 or X users about their update situation.
So, the OnePlus 5 doesnt have a high-res screen, no Always On either, its not waterproof, no wireless charging, nothing spectacular on the audio front even the camera isnt all that it was cracked up to be. I want at least some of those things and will not settle for none of them.
Look at ZTEs Axon line – it was priced the same as the OnePlus 3 (still is), did the same flagship chipset!!! gimmick, had a QHD AMOLED (with Daydream VR support) and awesome stereo speakers. When is the Axon 8 coming out? You know, in case HMD gets overly ambitious with the pricing of the Nokia flagship.
But what do I know? The 5 became the fastest-selling OnePlus, so the company is still on good terms with its community. I will be skipping this generation, however.
Ill start with a quick trip down memory lane. Ive always liked OnePlus phones, ever since the One came and I was tasked with writing its review. I have a thing for large phones with stock Android and top of the line specs and for years Google refused to make one (until the 6P, which I owned for a while). I almost pulled the trigger on a OnePlus One but was put off by its LCD screen which had yellow tint issues. The OnePlus 2 wasnt much better (I wrote a review for that as well) its screen and battery life were a letdown. Finally my dream of having great battery life and an AMOLED screen became a reality in the form of the OnePlus 3 I bought it on the first day (wrote another review you get the point). The OnePlus 3T was okay but felt more like a do-over device than anything else.
Now comes the OnePlus 5, the one I was most excited to see and the one that left me the least impressed heres why.
To help you understand where Im coming from I want a Pixel-like phone with stereo speakers and waterproofing. I wanted the OnePlus 5 to have a larger screen, stereo speakers and water resistance. I knew the screen wasnt getting bigger and I can live without an IP rating, but stereo speakers are a must for me as I consume almost all of my media through my phone.
OnePlus has a great formula cram the latest Snapdragon, the most RAM and storage you can find, put an AMOLED on it and add a dual-camera and you have a great phone, but one thats not perceptibly greater than the OnePlus 3T.
That leaves me unimpressed, rather than disappointed. I think the OnePlus 5 is great and I think its a true testament to the small team at OnePlus that its brand is better known internationally than its much bigger counterparts Oppo.
If I had to kick my iPhone 7 Plus to the curb right now I would, without hesitation, go for the OnePlus 5 it makes the most sense. I love its Oxygen OS, its lightning fast fingerprint reader, its battery life, its fast and plentiful storage, and mainly its price but the same things are true for its predecessor. Personally I dont care for dual cameras, not yet at least. So I would rather wait for the Galaxy Note 8 or Pixel 2.
Deja vu. The feeling of having already experienced the present situation before.
Thats what its like for me using the OnePlus 5. We were just here six months ago when the 3T debuted. And six months before that when the 3 released. Whats changed?
The reality is, not all that much. Sure, there is a new design but from the front youd be hard pressed to tell the difference; its just as bland and unimaginative now as it was last year. From the back, the source of inspiration is clear. I personally dont mind that it looks a bit like the iPhone 7 Plus, especially because in reality it doesnt all that much. What I do mind is the slippery back and the curved edges that make it hard to hold the phone. But thats nothing that you cant fix with a skin from dbra wait, this isnt YouTube.
The display is different, though. Wait, no, its not. Its actually exactly the same.
The processor is definitely different. And there is also faster storage and RAM, all of which definitely make the OnePlus 5 a smoother and faster device.
The camera is also different. Theres two of them now, one underwhelming and the other 2x underwhelming. Or is it 1.6x underwhelming? Not sure. Will probably have to wait for another tweet from Carl Pei.
Also, has anyone heard from DxOMark lately? They seem to be awfully quiet about this phone.
Then there is the software, which for me is the crown jewel here. It was great last year and it is great now. It looks good, works beautifully and there is little to complain about here. Its amazing how far we have come from the days of the buggy OnePlus One, and when Cyanogen was relevant.
Truth be told, I do like the OnePlus 5. Its an iteration over the OnePlus 3T and that can only be a good thing considering how fabulous that phone was. However, its not the generational leap that we were promised and feels more like a lateral step. Which would have been fine if it wasnt more expensive. But, it is, so now I dont know what to feel about this phone.
I think Ill just go back and watch that Emily Ratajkowski video again for, umm, clarity.
The OnePlus 5 is faster, more powerful and to some extent better looking than the its predecessor that I am using as a daily driver. With the 3T Ive never felt even a twitch with 6 GB RAM – the phone is flying. But now OnePlus goes even further with 8 GB RAM. My question is why? Augmented Reality and VR gaming arent in the foreseeable future of OnePlus, so why would you even need that many gigs?
Another talking point is the OnePlus 5 design. To me, the OnePlus 5 looks like the lovechild of a weird relationship between the Oppo R11 and the iPhone 7 Plus. Yet, implying the OnePlus R&D team goes in the meeting room and says Hey, this iPhones thingy looks amazing, LETS COPY IT is absurd.
So is the OnePlus 5 worth something? Of course it is. The phone is the most logical choice for all the specs geeks who want the best chipset, lots of RAM and clean OS. OnePlus 5 is winning that race, and thats no small achievement feature.