OnePlus One preview: the cheapest, best phone yet?

29 April 2014

Relatively new Chinese company OnePlus has rocked the Android community with the announcement of its new phone, the OnePlus One. Other than stealing HTC’s naming thunder, the new phone rocks an incredible set of hardware when you look at the price.

On paper it’s a fully top-tier device with either a white 16GB or black 64GB (no 32GB) option for just US$299 or US$349 respectively. You noticed that correctly, for just $50 more you can get a full 48GB more internal storage.

When you include the other specs it’s both cheaper and more powerful than the beloved Nexus 5, which is $50 more at US$349 for the 16GB version. It’s less than half the price of the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8).

More interestingly for some, the OnePlus One will run a custom version of CyanogenMod (11s) that will give it some unusual options for security and customisation. Our favourite little item is the ability to switch between on-screen and capacitive keys in the menu setting.

Under the hood

The 5.5 inch 1080p OnePlus One is no slouch. It will boast a powerful 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPU that is the equal of any other top-end device on the market, and an Adreno 330 graphics processor. Better yet, it ships with 3GB of RAM, beating out the GS5 and One (M8)’s 2GB.

The rear camera is a 13MP shooter that records 4K video and the front-facing one is 5MP, which should hopefully translate to decent quality video calls and selfies. All of this is kept going by a large 3100mAh battery: the kind of thing you expect to see in a phablet, not a phone.

Cheap doesn't mean ugly

It even looks fantastic. Android Authority has managed to get their hands on one and it’s very pretty. The matte finish gives it a classy look and the entire package is compact and neat. The two colour options will be specific to their on-board storage, so the 16GB will be white and the 64GB is black.

Sometime after launch you'll even be able to switch out the default black or white rear cover for a new one. The StyleSwap covers from in "a range of materials and textures, including kevlar, bamboo, denim on top of standard silk and sandstone". We're guessing that last one is a texture and not a material.

You can’t judge a book by its cover

All of this sounds utterly fantastic. A truly high end phone for just $299, or up it to 64GB and it’s still only $349? It sounds a little too good to be true.

The truth is, specs don’t make a device. They certainly help, but software, UI and other engineering factors are just as important to the overall user experience. A fast CPU does not a fast phone make. Nor does a high MP count mean that a camera will be any good.

Right now the main competitor seems to be that other Chinese manufacturer making news recently: Oppo. The Oppo Find 7 is another very highly specced device for a comparatively reasonable price.

If the OnePlus One does turn out to be a real contender in the big leagues then it’s going to be another great device in a trend of cheap great devices. First it was the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 from Google, then Motorola released the Moto X. Added to that list could be the Oppo Find 7. This could be the tip of a new trend of ultra-affordable high-end smartphones, which is an exciting prospect.

Unfortunately we have to admit that we’re a bit too jaded to get excited just yet. There are just too many “ifs” and “maybes” floating around. We’re just going to have to wait till the OnePlus One hits shelves in Q2, which is now. So we shouldn’t have to wait long.



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