OnePlus has always liked to call their phones “flagship killers”. There is no clear definition of what a flagship killer is, but to my understanding, a flagship killer must be: a) a phone that’ll make you think how crazy you are to cast a lot of money to buy a flagship, b) most importantly, NOT a flagship. Let’s get to the not-flagship part first.
The thing you’ll notice right away is that the promotion line changed from “Never Settle” to “The Speed You Need”.
That’s because this time, OnePlus settled, hard.
It settles with basic water-resistance. It is not water-proof, nor is it certified with an IP rating. I guess OnePlus doesn’t want to make any promises because that quickly piles up the service requests, or hell, maybe OnePlus doesn’t dare to make promises because the water-resistance ability varies from unit to unit. The thing about not having an IP rating is that I wouldn’t know if it’s safe to use the phone in a bathtub. I know I probably can safely use the phone wet-handed for the most part, but it’s the uncertainty of to what extend can I push it that makes me feel insecure.
Second, It does not have wireless charging. This was one of the grudges I had with the OnePlus 5T, but since that phone has a metal body, I wasn’t emphasizing it. The 6 moved to a glass back design which could be used to enable wireless charging, but for some reason this feature is still lacking. It is possible that OnePlus deems wireless charging not a popular need, but then again this is what separates a flagship from a budget phone: a flagship wouldn’t care if it’s worth it to have a feature, especially when it is cool.
Third, OnePlus 6 still doesn’t have stereo speakers. Technically every smartphone these days have two components that make sound: the loud speaker and the earpiece. But it’s up to the manufacture to decide whether the earpiece should sound as good as the loud speaker to form a stereo sound. We are seeing more flagships moving to a stereo speaker system, some of the even come packed with Dolby Atmos. But OnePlus settles with just one speaker, which sits in a position that’s easily blocked by the palm when playing PUBG mobile.
And the OnePlus doesn’t have an HDR display, which isn’t necessary, but coincidentally come packed with nearly every flagship phone. The buzzing also feels lazy and sluggish, falling short of what’s on the Pixel, let alone the iPhone’s Taptic Engine.
The thing that MAKES a flagship is the pursuit of high-end technology. And that’s why the OnePlus 6 is not a flagship.
The price has also been creeping up, from $299 of the OnePlus One straight up to the $529 of the OnePlus 6. If you look back a little, the first iPhone cost about $499. Granted the OnePlus 6 is in every way better than the original iPhone, but at that time the iPhone is a revolutionary device that changed how we utilize mobile internet. This is a statement I cannot make with the OnePlus 6.
Okay, now let’s forget about the “not flagship” part, and focus on the phone itself, and see if it’s worth buying.
I’m sure you already know what the OnePlus 6 looks like. Yes it’s got a glass back that is more prone to fingerprints. Yes it’s got a notch display, and yes you can hide it. But the best part about this design is that it feels symmetrical. Traditionally a notch phone either has a forehead that is too big (the iPhone X) or a chin that is impossible to ignore (Huawei P20 line). Unlike the iPhone, OnePlus didn’t try to make the four borders equally thick, instead, it built on a Samsung-like design while removing the useless side curves and stretching the display vertically, reducing the size of the forehead and the chin bar. The subtle curvature on the top and bottom of the body makes the phone feel seamless.
OnePlus didn’t even try to imitate the iPhone this time, and the result is something unique. The chrome of the phone isn’t as shiny as that on the iPhone, and the camera layout, although vertically aligned, is nothing like the ugly protrusion of the iPhone. OnePlus even went out and equipped the back glass with matte finish, which might feel even more slippery than a glossy finish, but is quite more recognizable than normal iPhone rip-offs.
Overall, the design of the OnePlus 6 is able to set it apart in this everybody-copying-apple age. And it is a notch phone that finally doesn’t look terrible.
The camera department is where OnePlus falls short traditionally, and this time it’s no difference. While the camera is able to automatically enable HDR in bright scenes to capture wider dynamic range, in low light, it is still prone to a lot of noise. Overall this is still a mid range camera, not up to the standards of a Pixel or a Galaxy.
One part the OnePlus does nail is the screen. It doesn’t support HDR, but it is very bright (460nits) and very accurate (iPhone level accurate) when you set the color mode to sRGB. If you’re a hard-core reader, you can also enable the Reading Mode which turns the screen into basically a kindle. Beware, however, that you don’t do extended reading sessions in lower brightness because all AMOLED displays use PWM to adjust the brightness, which causes the screen to flicker that may hurt your eyes.
So, the OnePlus 6, is it a good buy?
Although $529 is not cheap, you’d be surprised to find it is very competitive in this price range. The smartphones are getting more expensive, the iPhone and the Galaxy Note line are ludicrously expensive at a thousand bucks. Imagine what you can do with that $471 you’d be saving if you chose to buy a mid-range “flagship killer”, and have 80% of the experience.