OnePlus is taking orders for its latest top-of-the-line smartphone, predictably called the OnePlus 6. The company started by offering almost impossibly cheap phones with flagship-level specs — it cheekily called its second phone a “flagship killer.” However, over the years, OnePlus has increased the price of each phone. Now, the $530 OnePlus 6 is encroaching on flagship territory itself. Reviewers like the phone, but OnePlus still can’t compete in the flagship space.
OnePlus has upped its design game, and this is the aspect that feels most competitive with more expensive phones. The OnePlus 6 is the first phone from the company to embrace the screen notch design. This is something everyone seems to be doing lately, and OP did it rather well. You don’t have to like screen notches, but this one is an improvement over what we’ve seen on flagship phones like the LG G7 ThinQ and Huawei P20 Pro. The “chin” at the bottom is negligible, and the notch is small enough to fit in a standard status bar space.
Around back, the OnePlus 6 has a glass back with several different looks. There’s a glossy black, matte black, and white. They use thin film layers to make the glossy phone shimmery, and the matte one is treated with corrosives to give it a rougher texture. Meanwhile, the white phone’s glass contains pearl powder for a shimmery effect. These phones are all somewhat fragile, which is par for the course with glass phones. Samsung, Huawei, LG, and many others are doing glass phones now. Still, OnePlus’ innovative glass makes it look and feel more expensive than it is.
You also get a flagship-level experience if you care about specs and raw speed. The OnePlus 6 has a Snapdragon 845, 6-8GB of RAM, and 64-256GB of storage. This is as good or better than phones that cost much more. The OLED display has a 19:9 ratio and 1080p resolution. That’s a little lower res than, for example, a Galaxy S9. The brightness of the screen is also lower than true flagship phones, which makes the OP6 harder to use outdoors. The OnePlus 6 also lacks the cellular radios needed for Verizon and Sprint. That means a lot of US consumers can’t even use it.
OnePlus has gone through a few dual-camera designs, but the OP6 kind of takes a punt on that. There’s a 16MP primary camera and a 20MP secondary shooter. However, the secondary camera only works in portrait mode to apply a fake blur effect to the background. The camera is better than past OnePlus phones, but it’s far short of devices like the Pixel and Galaxy S9. Unlike so many other aspects of the phone, OnePlus can’t acquire better hardware to make the camera better. A good camera these days requires complex image processing technology that OP does not have.
Pricing is also an issue for OnePlus. While this phone is less expensive than flagship phones in absolute terms, it costs a lot more up front. At $530 unlocked, the OP6 is within spitting distance of the $650 Pixel 2. The Galaxy S9 isn’t much more. These phones are also available with payment plans in the US, either from carriers or the manufacturer. Even if they cost a little more, consumers find the small monthly payment more desirable than dropping $530 all at once. The latter is fine in markets where buying a phone for full price is common, but it’s a major drawback in the US.
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