Making a mark on the smartphone market is hard enough. Muscling in to compete in the same arena – if not at the top step – doesn’t happen often. OnePlus has bucked this trend over the last three years with its phones of high specs and low prices.
Times change though. You may have needed an invitation to buy the OnePlus One in 2014, but the clamour was justified when the phone cost just £229 at a time when the then-flagship iPhone 5s sold for £549 and could compete on specs.
The £449 OnePlus 5T is an upgrade on the five-month-old OnePlus 5 in the same way the 3T was to the 3 a year ago. In eighteen months, there have been four flagship devices from a company that had previously only made two (the mid-range OnePlus X being its other device).
Read our full report on the OnePlus 5T’s announcement here.
The new OnePlus 5T is excellent – a huge, crisp screen and screaming performance – but it’s coming from a company that is dangerously close to annoying its fans and appearing like it has run out of ideas, even though it hasn’t.
We’ve been using the OnePlus 5T for a few days prior to its launch event on 16 November. We’ll update these initial impressions to a full review with score and verdict in the coming days.
Price and availability
These, pleasingly, are the same price points as the OnePlus 5 and means the 5T is priced very competitively. If you’re looking for value then you’ve come to the right place.
Phones with the same specs simply can’t compete with OnePlus on price. The Moto Z2 Force costs an insane £719, the Samsung Galaxy S8 sits at £669 and the HTC U11 is £599.
With this step up in design language, OnePlus has managed to make its pricing look even better than it did earlier this year.
Design and build
Let’s not pretend here, the OnePlus 5T naturally looks like the OnePlus 5. Yes, the front is more attractive with the lack of bezels (and fingerprint sensor) but the phone itself is largely unchanged aside from the new 18:9 display.
And yes, it looks a lot like the Oppo R11S.
It’s a tiny bit taller than the OnePlus 5 to accommodate the new screen, measuring 156x75x7.3mm. It won’t fit properly in an old case, but you wouldn’t want it to now that the fingerprint sensor is on the back. Luckily, it’s really fast, easy to use and is now circular.
The rear otherwise looks the same, with dual cameras and a OnePlus logo. It charges via USB-C (and it’s excellent but product-exclusive Dash Charge charger) and retains a headphone jack, but ships with no headphones.
There is no waterproofing of any kind, nor any form of wireless charging. We don’t care about the latter too much, but the former is something the OnePlus 5T lacks in comparison to nearly every other Android flagship this year. So there are some sacrifices to achieve the price.
It’s a phone we find to be ridiculously slippery. It’s so thin, and the back isn’t very grippy so we found snapping it into a case almost a must. This is a shame, as the cases don’t show off the excellent premium build underneath. This isn’t a problem unique to OnePlus, though.
It’s also definitely a two-handed phone. The lack of bezels looks lovely, but makes a phone harder to hold. Only the massive-handed will be able to reach their thumb to the top of the display, and for us texting with one hand is impossible.
But for £449, wow, what a looker. And it has the specs to match.
Features and specifications
Unlike the OnePlus 3T, the 5T does not get a notable bump over the previous generation in terms of core specs. But with a Snapdragon 835 and 8GB RAM in the version we tested (and a perfectly adequate 6GB in the cheaper model) that won’t prove a problem for all your smartphone needs.
Just like the OnePlus 5 was, the 5T is also the fastest phone we have ever used besides the Pixel 2 this year. This year’s iPhones are also ridiculously quick with Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip.
OnePlus 5 (left) next to OnePlus 5T (right)
The display is altered with a 6.01in Optic AMOLED panel that uses a 1080×2160 resolution to create the 18:9 aspect ratio. It takes up a whopping 80.5 percent of the front of the device.
The only changes are the display, fingerprint placement, camera sensors and new face unlock feature. The latter works stupidly fast but is less secure than Apple’s Face ID, and akin to the same feature on the Galaxy S8 – fooled by a 2D image.
The camera set up is now two Sony sensors. The main is 16Mp with f/1.7 aperture while the secondary is a 20Mp with f/1.7 aperture. This is an upgrade from the OnePlus 5, whose secondary camera was an f/2.6 telephoto lens.
With improved aperture, OnePlus claims the 5T is its best ever phone for low light photography. We’re still testing it, and will post results in the full review including how it handles 4K video at 30fps but some tests look positive compared to its predecessor.
The front facing camera is a 16Mp sensor with f/2.0 aperture and is pretty decent in daylight.
For all the hype around the OnePlus 5’s cameras, results were markedly behind the Galaxy S8 and Pixel, and now behind the Pixel 2. There’s a full evaluation coming, but it may be that the 5T won’t be the high-end phone to pick if you want the ultimate smartphone camera, despite its relentless ‘Shot on OnePlus’ social media campaigning.
Call quality so far has been solid, and it’s good to see OnePlus plow on with the dual-SIM slot as standard, but there’s still no expandable storage.
It’s a disappointment that the 5T doesn’t ship with Android Oreo. It’s on Nougat 7.1.1 but we’re hopeful for 8.0 Oreo in the coming months.
Oxygen OS, the firms interface, continues to improve. OnePlus pushes you on set up to use its new font ‘OnePlus Slate’ which is toying with a comic sans vibe at times. We still prefer the other option, ‘Roboto’, Google’s preferred font.
The changes to stock Android are thoughtful and unobtrusive. The swipe up for apps is better than an app tray, while the notification shade is familiar but excellently customisable.
Unlike previous OnePlus phones, the navigation buttons are now exclusively software features as the bottom bezel can no longer accommodate capacitive buttons either side of a fingerprint sensor.
The top bezel still has room for a camera though, and that’s how you can set up face unlock. It’s less secure than the fingerprint sensor or a simple PIN, but it is the fastest face unlock we’ve ever seen on a phone.
Along with Google, Nokia and Motorola, OnePlus ships a clean, uncomplicated version of Android that’s all the better for it.
If you like a bit of Samsung style flash on your phone though it might not be for you – the 5T is blindingly fast but partly because of its lack of animations. Everything is very austere and clean cut in order to get a process done as fast as possible.