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OnePlus One review: The best Android phone ever?

Can the sub-£300 OnePlus One live up to the company’s Never Settle mantra, or is it pure hype?

What do you do if you’re a small Chinese company spun out of Oppo and you want to make the world sit up and take note of your new smartphone, but you don’t have a massive Samsung-esque marketing budget to do it with? Here’s how. The first step is to tell your potential customers that you’re going to make the best device in town. With its Never Settle motto, OnePlus made it clear from the start that the device was going to be a monster. Next, simply announce that you’re going to sell it insanely cheap, undercutting not only everybody else’s flagships but a bunch of mid-range devices too.

And so goes the story of the OnePlus One, the £269.99 (in 64GB specification no less!) super-phone that does indeed pack the very latest technology in almost all areas of the device. So what do you get for your money?

The processor is a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, which is the best CPU you will find right now. This is backed up by 3GB of RAM and that 64GB ROM (each equalling the best we’ve seen in any device). The screen is a 5.5-inch 1080p unit with Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. Every networking technology you could wish for is included, with the possible exception of AptX Bluetooth audio, which isn’t included due to the stock Android nature of the software build.

The phone is unquestionably targeted at enthusiasts and with that in mind, the darling ROM of Android fans everywhere is preloaded – CyanogenMod. Right out of the box you get the enhanced CyanogenMod 11S, support for switching to regular CM nightly builds and an unlockable bootloader. An Android nerd’s dream!

Of course, all the lovely bits inside wouldn’t mean anything if the device looked and felt horrible, but thankfully that isn’t the case. The design is simple – it looks a lot like a scaled up Oppo Find 5 – but it works, in the same way that Nexus devices just work. The device has a plain black front with a silver trim and is available with either a soft-touch textured Sandstone Black back or in Silk White, which is a more conventional smooth white finish. Build quality is absolutely top notch, with no flex or creak at all.

So the specifications are right, the build and design are up to scratch, what is it like to use? Impressive. The screen is bright and sharp with exceptional colour tuning, the sound is loud and clear and the device positively speeds along, as you’d expect given the internals. The tweaks to CyanogenMod for the One are minimal so the build feels very stock Android. One area that has received attention is the Camera app. It’s been enhanced to really make the most of the One’s excellent 13-megapixel camera and the equally impressive five-megapixel front-facing shooter.

OnePlus’ Never Settle mantra slips only on a couple of occasions. The first is the fact that there is no micro SD onboard, which many enthusiasts are fond of. In reality, with a whopping 64GB available, it is a non-issue. The other is the lack of a QHD (2K) screen. The LG G3 has shown that at this point in time, QHD screens aren’t a noticeable step up in quality and certainly not worth the hit in battery life or device performance.

So, you want one? Sadly, OnePlus simply don’t seem to be able to make enough devices, and as such purchasing is currently only possible with a hard-to-find invite. Production should however scale up in the near future. We hope.


For more reviews on the latest Android devices, make sure to check out the latest issue of Android Magazine.