Short Term Review – The OnePlus 5, August 2017

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OnePlus debuted the new OnePlus 5 in mid to late June, with devices shipping a few days later. I was lucky enough to be amongst the first in the country to receive the device because I have an amazing fiance! If you don’t want to read the full review, I really like this phone! It’s not perfect, but OnePlus is improving it with software updates, and none of the issues are deal breakers for me.

As with my review of the Fitbit Blaze, there are stacks of review of the OnePlus 5. Some reviewers have bought the device, others are editors who see a string of smartphones day in, day out, and don’t have the same approach as somebody buying their own ‘phone. Also, no unicorns were harmed in the making of this review, but given some of the bashing OnePlus receives in the press, you’d think they used unicorn horn for the phone or something.

I pre-ordered my OnePlus 5 128 GB model to replace my aging HTC One M9 right after OnePlus event on June 20. There’s not so much wrong with the HTC, David (the aforementioned amazing fiance) wrote about it here, but I was really wanting the OnePlus. The OnePlus arrived a few days later but I wasn’t able to set the device up properly for a couple of days, thanks to being very busy at work and because of the huge number of personalization options. Also I was out to lunch when the flying monkeys delivered the package! No, I didn’t see the monkeys personally but my co-workers assured me they brought the package.

If you don’t know what’s under the skin of the OnePlus 5, it probably doesn’t matter but here goes anyway! There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of memory and a 3,000 mAh battery. It has a 5.5-inch AMOLED 1080p panel, so it’s bigger than my old phone. OnePlus has given the phone a 16MP front facing camera and a dual rear camera. The box also includes a OnePlus DASH charger and an unusually short USB lead. It’s a dual SIM phone but there’s no memory card slot, which is why I went for the 128 GB model.

The normal set up of the OnePlus 5 is like most other Android phones. After connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot and giving it your Gmail address, you can restore settings from another device or you can set it up as a new one. I set it up as a new device, so I had to set up the Wi-Fi networks I’ve used, but the OnePlus figured out how to use my SIM card. There’s a fingerprint sensor on the front, which is very fast to use.

There are no issues with cellular service, Bluetooth, or NFC. Sound quality on a call is good. The primary SIM can handle 2G, 3G and 4G LTE and the second SIM can only handle 2G and 3G, calling and texting only. You can change the primary and secondary SIM in the device settings. The speakerphone is too weak to mount on the dashboard or windshield in a moving vehicle.

Wi-Fi hasn’t been perfect on the device and it would drop off a few Wi-Fi hotspots I regularly use. However, the update to OxygenOS 4.5.8 seems to have fixed the issue.

Where the OnePlus was a little different to my old phones is that OxygenOS is a bit like stock Android with some nifty extras. These include the shelf, which is a swipe to the left away. Here I can see my top ten most used applications as well as check up on things like battery and internal storage. There are lots of options to configure and adjust the device over and above stock Android, such as on the Nexus 5X. One cool feature is converting the user interface to dark, which saves battery. My eyes sometimes struggle with the dark theme, so I’ll switch between the light and dark, but a bit like Luke Skywalker, I’m a light side kinda girl.

What’s it like in use? Fast, but it has “character.” Not everything works perfectly, but that list is getting shorter. Let’s write about the good stuff first – the fingerprint sensor unlocks the screen as quickly as pushing the unlock button. I don’t have to wait to open an app until it wants a network connection, when the OnePlus 5 is kept waiting around for either AT&T or more often whatever Wi-Fi I’m connected to. I don’t see that blank screen as an app redraws unless it insists on fetching data before showing the screen (c’mon devs, fix that issue!). The three-position slider switch on the side works with Android’s priority notifications to allow me to silence notifications without looking at my display. I do have to mention that it’s a little irritating that in every mode alarms will always ring. When I choose “silent” I would love to be confident that the phone will be silent but there’s always a chance that there’s an alarm I might have forgotten about so I have to go check. It takes away the convenience of the slider button on the side.

I wrote that the OnePlus 5 has “character,” and that some stuff doesn’t work as it should. My phone receives regular patches and bug fixes and it’s definitely better in the weeks since it arrived. So you know how I said that the fingerprint sensor is fast? It’s a bit too fast if I pull the phone out of my pocket when I’m outside: it takes the screen autobrightness a second before I can see the display. There’s an issue with scrolling wobble that I don’t see on my unit. You know the issue… the jelly scroll… sorry, I can’t mention it unless I sing the song in my head: “Cotton candy, sweetie go, let me see the jelly scroll!” Ok, I know that’s not the original lyrics but it’s all I can think about when someone mentions the jelly scroll – THE TOOTSIE ROLL!!!

Video playback on both Facebook and YouTube is a bit of a mess. I have a YouTube playlist downloaded for teaching my Zumba class and sometimes the app forgets that it’s already in memory, tells me there’s no connection, and asks me if I want to go offline. Sound and video is also out of sync when watching videos, especially on Facebook. I can’t say that this is solely the OnePlus 5’s fault (it’s Apple’s fault – David) and it isn’t a dealbreaker for me because I only want the YouTube music rather than video, but it’s a bit weird.

Let me write about battery life and DASH charging. DASH charging is fast and pretty much life changing. All of my other phones with fast charging get warm when being fast charged and hot when being used and fast charging. The OnePlus 5 might be a few degrees warmer if I use it when it’s on charge, but that’s it. Oh and it recharges really quickly too. This phone has easily the best battery life of any smartphone I’ve used – and if an app is using battery, it tells me. I see over six hours of screen on time in any twenty four hours, and it’s only on the charger for maybe an hour a day. Finally, a smartphone that doesn’t whine it needs charge every few hours.

The camera works really well. OnePlus has given the phone a dual rear camera setup, one being a telephoto lens and the other a wider angle lens. The front facing camera is very sharp. I’ll work on a small gallery of images.

As well as the OnePlus 5 I also have the official Sandstone case and tempered glass screen protector. The Sandstone case is my favorite accessory as the phone is slippery, and the case gives it grip. The tempered glass screen protector covers a bit of the display, which seems like an unusual decision by OnePlus, but it’s there should the worst happen.

Conclusion

This is the best phone I’ve ever used. It’s very fast and smooth, it’s battery doesn’t die by lunch, it takes brilliant pictures and sounds great on a call, and I can silence notifications as I go into a meeting without having to look at the screen.

The irony is that when I read the above, it reminds me of a new iPhone. From some angles the OnePlus 5 looks like an iPhone, but show me a phone without a keyboard that doesn’t look like any other smartphone? OnePlus is bashed by some corners of the Internet for, wait, what month is it? Okay it’s August, so this month they’re being based for not sticking to their original plan. Cutting through the negative comments and press, in use, the OnePlus 5 is a great smartphone. So great, in fact, that my fiance keeps trying to get his hands on it! I do have ways of “ignoring” his requests though:

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