OnePlus One

By on Jul 29, 2014 in Technology

There’s a new kid on the smartphone block. Hailing from China, they call it the “flagship killer” due the extremely low price of $299 off-contract. It’s the OnePlus One, the smartphone that can be purchased only through invitation.oneplus-one

Pete Lau, former employee of OPPO where he led the Blu-ray division, launched this startup in December of 2013. His product is a serious competitor to Google, which has been dominating the low-cost, unlocked, off-contract flagship space with its Nexus line. OnePlus One is priced at $299 for the 16GB model and $349 for the 64GB model and requires the aforementioned invitation to be able to order it.

Design and specifications-wise, this smartphone explains why it’s called a “flagship killer”. This is a sleek and solid phone that looks anything but cheap. Aesthetically it resembles the HTC more than the plasticky Galaxy phones. It has the tough Gorilla Glass 3 display that rises slightly above the thin metal lip, but the real center of attraction is the rear of the device: OnePlus introduces 7 exchangeable back covers that come in a range of materials and textures including kevlar, bamboo, and denim on top of faux silk and sandstone.

The OnePlus is a thin 0.35 inch and weighs in at 5.7 ounces – quite light for a 5.5-inch phone. The display is no slouch at 1,920 x 1,080 IPS LCD with 401 ppi. Its left side is adorned with the volume control and the micro-SIM slot, while the right side has the power button. On the top side there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and the twin speaker grilles flank the micro-USB port on the bottom. At the bottom of the screen is where its three buttons are – Settings, Home, and Back, from left to right. Its charging apparatus is a micro-USB cloth-coated cable that prevents from tangling.

Looking under the hood we discover that the device is in fact, a beast. A 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, a 578MHz Adreno 330 GPU coupled with a generous 3GB of RAM, more than Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, or iPhone 5S. A massive 3,100 milliamp-hour (mAh) battery feeds the hungry beast throughout the day. In fact, the firmware gives the option to choose one of the three performance profiles, ranging from power conservation to battery sucker.

The Never Settle motto of the young company seems a bit far-fetched, as the company does make a few compromises (perfectly acceptable considering the outrageous low price): the speakers present themselves as two small grilles and distort the sound quality when getting them to a decent volume. Furthermore, even though the rear camera is a 13-megapixel equipped with a Sony sensor, six-element lens setup and f/2.0 aperture, it is not a leader in the space. The front camera stops at 5MP a noteworthy improvement from the 1.3MP sensor of the N5. However, the photo-editing software is pretty robust and there are things that can be remedied.

There’s more to the phone than the premium hardware and the affordable price point, and that is the CyanigenMod – a custom firmware based on the Android Open Source Project that gives the user the possibility to play with nearly every aspect of the Android experience. Although OnePlus is not the first phone to ship with the software preloaded, the One ships with CyanogenMod 11s, the latest version of the software, built directly on top of Android 4.4 KitKat plus a few custom additions for OnePlus.

The keyword for the software is ‘customization’. Fonts, wallpapers, sounds and icons can be played with, as well as a new theme wholesale a la Tumblr template, downloadable for free or for s small amount of money. Even when the screen is off, the phone responds to a quartet of gestures: double-tapping wakes the device; drawing a circle boots the camera app; drawing a V triggers the camera flash light; sliding two fingers up/down turns on the music.

One of One’s best features is the always-listening voice recognition, thanks to Qualcomm. As soon as the phone learns your voice, you can say “OK OnePlus” to activate Google Now or any app of your choice.

Taking into account every aspect of OnePlus One, the new kid on the block deserves all the attention it gets, and then some. The price:quality ratio is superior to any other device out there, the fact that it’s harder to get shouldn’t stand in the way for the curious tech lovers.