Technophile

More than just mathematical progression

Visvaksen P | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 05, 2015

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OnePlus resumes its war on flagships with the Two's killer features and price tag



Two years ago, OnePlus did not exist. A little more than a year ago, they launched the OnePlus One. The original ‘flagship killer’ sold 1.5 million units - a huge number for a startup. The successor isn’t even commercially available yet and already the queue is more than a million people long. Clearly, OnePlus knows how to generate hype.

There is much more to the OnePlus Two than just hype though. OnePlus prides itself on its willingness to listen to users and the Two exemplifies that quality. Delivering a flagship phone at half the cost is going to involve a fair few compromises but the OnePlus Two gets almost all the choices right.

Design

The OnePlus Two has a slightly different shape but is essentially the same size as the One. The new metal frame gives it the premium feel required in a phone taking on flagships twice as expensive. Our review unit came with the Sandstone textured back panel that may not look as fetching as an iPhone’s rear, but is much more resistant to wear and tear. For those who prefer the gloss, OnePlus will be selling alternative panels.

Despite other manufacturers falling over each other in the race to cram more and more pixels into their displays, OnePlus has chosen to go with the same 5.5-inch 1080p display that was in the One. This is one of the more popular compromises they've made, because while the display is clearly not as good as some of the other flagships, the difference in quality is more than made up for by the increase in battery life. Inferior resolution aside, the display gets really bright - 600 nits is the magic number OnePlus likes to keep repeating - and looks sharp in both low light and daylight. The capacitive buttons below the display are completely customizable, allowing you any layout of your choice.

According to OnePlus, the fingerprint sensor on the Two is much faster than the iPhone 6. This claim did hold true in our experience, but with the caveat that it is also far less reliable. And a fingerprint sensor that doesn’t work all the time quickly becomes an annoyance rather than a feature and, more often than not, ends up disabled.

The speakers on the OnePlus are located at the bottom of the device. Clarity and volume are adequate at best, but the positioning means that if you intend to use it in landscape mode, you end up covering the speakers with your hands, especially while gaming- which in our opinion would be the primary use case for the speakers.

The hardware notification toggle which lets you choose between all, priority or no notifications at all is a feature that more Android makers must start including. They don’t have to call it steal from the iPhone. ‘Standardisation’ is a much better word. USB-C is a standard that other device makers will eventually adopt. OnePlus has chosen to take the dip early, meaning that you will be the odd one out among a sea of microUSB users at least for another year.

Performance

The OnePlus Two is powered by the much-talked about octa-core Snapdragon 810 SoC paired with Adreno 430 graphics and 4 GB of RAM. Storage space is more than adequate at 64 GB, making up for the lack of a microSD slot. A lot has been said about the 810’s heating problems. OnePlus claimed to have solved the issue with some software adjustments that balanced load between different cores and a large dollop of thermal paste. And it does seem to have worked in large part. The device managed to stay within an acceptable temperature range through a number of intensive games and benchmarks, but it did suffer from the occasional mystery flare-up while charging or using the camera. These episodes were more the exception than the rule though. Over a week’s daily usage, overheating was not a major problem with our review unit.

Benchmarks put this combination of internals significantly ahead of the previous generation, also clocking in ahead of phones like the Nexus 6, LG G4 and iPhone 6 Plus but comfortably behind the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. In real world terms, what this means is that the Two can handle some of the most demanding apps on the Play Store comfortably and even several of them at once. Multitasking between all but the most graphics-intensive games is completely seamless and lag is unheard off.

Camera

Using the OnePlus Two’s camera out of the box is a frustrating experience. Thankfully, the hardware is not the problem. OnePlus has stuck to a 13 MP sensor in the Two, ditching the Sony used in the One in favour of a OmniVision sensor with larger 1.3-micron sized pixels. Dual LED flash, Optical Image Stabilisation, a low light sensor and laser-assisted focusing round out a solid camera hardware package. The problem is the camera software, which is unacceptably bad when you’re in flagship territory. It is hard to navigate, lacking in features and very slow to process HDR images. Despite this, we were able to capture some excellent pictures using the device. The laser focus is lightning fast and very precise and OIS ensured minimal shake even at high zoom levels.

Battery life

The battery has received a minor upgrade to 3300 mAh which lasted 4 hrs 38 mins in Geek Bench 3’s battery test. In real world usage, with social media apps constantly in use, texts flying in and out, the odd gaming break and heavy web browsing, the device barely managed to limp home alive at the end of a typical working day after starting from a full charge. This amounts to between 4-5 hours of SOT on average. We had 3G or WiFi enabled throughout, with screen brightness set to half and vibration on. While the Quick Charging feature is not enabled despite the presence of a supported processor, the OnePlus Two charges fairly quickly, going from zero to full juice in a little over two hours.

Software

Cyanogen’s relationship with OnePlus came to an acrimonious end when the former chose to sever ties and tie up with Micromax isntead. A court case and a short-lived ban later, OnePlus announced OxygenOS, their own custom version of Android. While users of the One had the choice to stay with Cyanogen, the Two comes with Oxygen preloaded. Power users who crave customizability in every corner of their OS will be disappointed, because while Oxygen does add some nice bells and whistles, it is still distinctly Cyanogen Lite. Lockscreen gestures and individual app permissions are retained, but the privacy panel is lost as is theme support. The shelf, which appears when you swipe right from the homescreen is an interesting addition, but it currently only displays frequently used contacts and apps. As with the camera software, most of Oxygen’s features are still in a nascent stage. While users have the option of rooting their phones and jumping back to Cyanogen or another ROM, stock software features were a big selling point for the One, which have definitely deteriorated with the Two. OnePlus released an OTA update to Oxygen OS a couple of days ago but no major UI-level changes were forthcoming.

Bottom line

Overall, the OnePlus Two is a great package at an unbelievable price. It does fall short of the ultra-expensive flagships in some aspects, but rarely in aspects that matter. The new flagship killer appears to have gone through a very considered process of iteration and the final result is a phone that has created a new category of affordable, but powerful smartphones. Motorola’s new X series of devices, launched in the same week as the OnePlus Two, is a clear indicator of the disruption that OnePlus has unleashed on the mobile phone market. All that remains to be seen is if their production lines can keep up with the hype machine.

Price: ₹25,000

Love: Design, Performance

Hate: Inferior software, lack of quick charging

Correction

The OnePlusOne does not have a Quick Charging feature as an earlier version of this review said.

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Published on August 05, 2015
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