In 2014 smartphones were going through very large changes. They were starting to not be as much of a novelty product that only a select few people had, but something everyone had in their pockets. Displays got bigger, batteries got larger, and processors got faster, however, with that the prices of these devices went up as well. We never had a phone worthy of holding the “flagship” moniker that didn’t come with the “flagship” price until OnePlus came along. They were able to build a device that ticked every box smartphone enthusiasts were looking for. Good camera, latest processor, big battery, big screen, customizable, and best of all, cheap, $299 for 16gb and $349 for 64gb. This was almost unheard of, especially from a new company. They made waves that year in good ways and bad.
Fast forward three and a half years and we have an older, more mature version of the OnePlus company. They no longer throw around the moniker of “Flagship Killer” but now have a more reserved “Never Settle” branding. With words like this in the past few years technology enthusiasts have been left wondering “have we settled”? At their most recent event titled “A New View” in Brooklyn New York I attended to find out how OnePlus had grown since then and help us believe that by purchasing their devices we were not settling.
I would best describe this event as a coming of age event. OnePlus invited journalists as well as fans to this event to talk to us about, what we thought was just the OnePlus 5T. After a quick introduction to the event by some people on the OnePlus team Carl Pei took the stage and by the look on his face you knew it was serious. He discussed with us OnePlus’s history, their triumphs, and faults, and just how the company remodeled with each device to meet the demands of their fans and where they went short. It was something you would never expect the co-founder of company known for being very proud and bashing its competitors. Watching it back on the computer was a good experience, however being there, and hearing the sincerity in his voice, we knew we were in for a change in the way this company handled its customers and how it builds devices.
The OnePlus 5T is fairly similar to the OnePlus 5 however the few things they did change about the device were fairly big. OnePlus stretched out the display to a 2160 by 1080p and increased the size to 6 inches, brightened the display for improved outside visibility, added a face unlock feature, and they moved the fingerprint scanner to the back. These changes are firsts for OnePlus as they have never changed the resolution or screen size of their flagship devices The face unlock feature worked very well, even in the dark lighting of the room we were in. They removed the capacitive buttons, therefore if you’re a fan of them they have unfortunately been omitted.
After the presentation we got hands on time with the phone, however I was more excited to talk to the people who created the phone. I spent a few minutes with Carl Pei as he defended his reasoning for features such as the same capacity battery as on the OnePlus 5, why they didn’t add a front speaker, didn’t add waterproofing, as well as why they omitted wireless charging. Although these may seem like deal breakers this phone checks all the boxes on the essentials, and more, as well as keeps the $500 base price point. He did not cut any corners in his responses and truly believed in all the decisions he and his company made. It was very humbling to speak with someone who believed in and trusted the product his team was putting out as well the decisions he made himself.
My favorite part of the event was meeting people who worked on the software. I got to ask them all about decisions they made with the phone. One questions the gentlemen and I get into a debate about was the lack of a front speaker. We discussed aspects of cost as well as how it could benefit user experience. He did say OnePlus was listening and that they are trying, however, it was good to know that he knew exact reasons why it could not be done at this time and the response was not simply “well we had no room”. He also showed me how OnePlus was utilizing the rear facing fingerprint scanner in ways I was genuinely excited about such as being able to swipe down the notification shade with the fingerprint scanner. We have it on a few other devices, however, to see that OnePlus added that showed attention to detail and brought a huge smile to my face. Although this gentleman didn’t speak much English and needed some translating assistance from colleagues he assured me that as well as working on the phone he was also working in the forums to make sure people consistently had good answers to all their questions.
By the end of the event the OnePlus 5T event the two words I had walking away from this event were “trust”, and “commitment”. This company will commit to this phone, not just in software updates, but by actual responses to our questions without beating around the bush. They are slowly working to improve the issues we had with previous phones such as jelly scrolling, and large bezels. The only way we can see if OnePlus commits to these promises is time, however, for the first time since they launched I am more likely to keep a closer eye on them and even possibly buy my first OnePlus phone.
Disclaimer: I purchased my own $40 ticket to the OnePlus 5T event in Brooklyn and provided my own transportation. I did receive the backpack, sweatshirt, and other goodies however I did not receive anything that other general admits did not also receive. I did not have any hands-on time or in-person looks as everyone else. I did keep up with rumors though and partially knew what to expect from the device, however all my reactions are genuine.