David just beat Goliath – OnePlus 3 review

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3 smartphone in graphite

You won’t see its name emblazoned around the edges of football pitches at the Euros or on massive billboards across London. But venture into any online discussion of the best Android smartphone and at some stage it’ll come up. Apple and Samsung have their devout followers – and that’s fine. Each to their own and so forth. But one of the most exciting smartphone manufacturers is far less well-known .

OnePlus may have started life as a small Chinese offshoot of the larger phone company Oppo, but it’s grown into something much more.

The OnePlus 3 is the latest offering and, like last year’s OnePlus 2, is planning to steal the collective thunder from Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG and Sony.

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It’s a simple set-up: Hugely powerful phone sold at a rock-bottom price because the company doesn’t have to recoup the massive marketing costs it splurged to advertise the product in the first place.

The OnePlus 3 is available for £309 compared to £549 for the similar Samsung Galaxy S7 or £599 for the iPhone 6s .

The result is a smartphone with everything you could need – and a few extras thrown in to boot.

Design

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3 smartphone in graphite

The OnePlus 3 is crafted entirely out of aluminium, making it light to hold and pretty to look at.

The company has worked hard to get the most out of the space as well – the 5.5-inch screen doesn’t have thick black bezels stuck either side. The phone itself is narrow at only 7.35mm in thickness and weighs 158g. In fact, it bears quite a resemblance to HTC’s flagship phones.

It comes in a choice of Graphite or Soft Gold, but OnePlus also makes a range of Nokia-style back covers that you can clip on to change things up.

One nice aspect of the design is the physical slider on the left-hand side that controls notifications. You can quickly slide it to silent if you’re going into a meeting or heading to bed and back again to enable all the beeps and flashes.

OnePlus doesn’t reinvent the smartphone wheel with its design here but the all-metal construction goes a long way to making this phone feel premium.

Features

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3 smartphone

After three phones, OnePlus is far less reliant on the price point to sell the handset. Aside from the fact you can get it for a song, there’s a couple of really useful features tucked away that benefit you without you realising it.

First off, the phone has what OnePlus is calling “Dash Charge” – which means that you can charge the phone up from dead to around 50% in 30 minutes.

“We believe it’s the best available in the market and probably 10% faster than other ‘quick charge’ formats,” OnePlus’s CEO Carl Pei told me in a recent interview.

Like its predecessor, the phone uses the new USB-C connector for charging and data transfer. It means that none of your current microUSB cables will fit but trust me when I say that over time it’s worth the investment.

A quick mention as well to the fingerprint scanner – which doubles as a touch-sensitive home button. It’s fast and accurate and means you can use the OnePlus to pay for things securely with Android Pay.

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Camera

The other big deal is the camera. OnePlus has packed it full of features that’ll have compact camera companies handing out the P45’s. White balance, shutter speed, ISO and high-dynamic range are all selectable.

There’s also optical image stabilisation and the option to support RAW image files for editing on professional software suites.

The rear camera uses a 16-megapixel sensor from Sony that’s capable of processing 4K video if needed.

Here’s an example of a picture taken on a bright day with the OnePlus 3 with HDR disengaged.

This was taken in bright daylight with the OnePlus 3 on standard settings

Battery

OnePlus 3
OnePlus 3 smartphone in soft gold

Fast charging aside, the battery life on the OnePlus 3 is stellar thanks to the 3,000mAh power pack tucked inside and several little tricks included in the software. There’s adaptive brightness for the display which, at 1080p resolution, doesn’t suck up as much power as a QHD picture would.

After using it with moderate intensity (sending messages, browsing the web and watching videos during a commute) I was easily able to get over nine hours of use from the OnePlus 3.

Conclusion

The OnePlus 3 has improved on its predecessor in just about every way. The specs have been improved, the design has been refined and the price is still just as attractive.

If I had to nitpick, I could point out that although there’s 64GB of storage space there’s no microSD option to expand it.

But that’s a minor point in the face of what is an incredibly impressive smartphone. It feels every inch a top-tier flagship and I’ve got no problem recommending it as an alternative to the likes of Apple or Samsung.

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