When I first got the OnePlus One back in July 2014 there were already so many people writing reviews about the phone that there was really nothing more left to be said. It is difficult to write anything new about a phone that was surrounded by so much hype; both good and bad.
There was a time when I would be writing a long term review about a device after nothing less than 6 to 8 months. However in the fast moving world of smartphones, I believe I might already be late. However, the obsession with writing about the next best thing as and when it comes out, leaves a pretty good chance that there has been very little said about any device after people have had a chance to use it for any decent amount of time. The term “Daily Driver” gets thrown around a lot and the answer to “What’s your daily driver?” changes even more frequently.
Anyway, I digress. Back to the device at hand; the OnePlus One.
I was as awed with the specifications on this device as everyone else and it helped that it was priced really aggressively. What drew me to the phone finally, was the way it looked. To me, it looked great! This is, in many ways, the biggest phone that I have ever owned and used. I bought the 64gb Sandstone Black version. I didn’t really have any other choice as it looked like the invite system favoured this version instead of the 16gb white one. This continues even today. Also, the phone wasn’t available in India as the time and I had to get the global version. No problem, I had enough experience with forwarding services. Piece of cake.
What is it about this phone that has kept my interest so far? Here is a list of the top 3 things.
One – The Screen
That 5.5 inch 1080p screen is just the best. If I am not mistaken, this is the same screen that the iPhone 6 Plus uses. Good choice Apple. I am in sales and am out of the office a lot in the bright Indian sunlight. While there is no phone that I have ever seen do a really great job visibility in bright sunlight, this one comes close. The brightness levels are sufficient that I don’t have to squint and try to see who is calling or what message is showing up on the screen.
No mention of the screen would be complete without the mention of the touchscreen bug that seemed to plague the One until OnePlus released an update to fix it. I am happy to report, that I faced none of these issues with my One, before or after that update, or any other update. I am unhappy to report that my wife’s One did suffer from this bug and it was mostly resolved after the update.
Where I do have this problem is on my iPad 2. But that’s another story.
Two – The Speed
This OnePlus One is fast. We all know the specifications, but those are just numbers on paper and on tests. In the hand, this phone is fast. It is exactly as fast I need it to be, after using it for all these months and loading it up with hundreds of apps, the phone never gives me the feeling that it had slowed down in any way, unlike my Nexus 7, which needs “optimization” every now and again.
The speed of the system is evident when I play some of the heavier games that I play on the phone and the Nexus 7 and the iPad. Something like Godus, loads the fastest on the One, then on the iPad and then on the Nexus 7. There are other games that I have played that give the same results.
Three – The Customizability of Cyanogen
I am the kind of guy that gets bored with my devices pretty quick. The One is no exception. However, what prevents this from becoming just another phone that is like a utility to something that I enjoy using on a day to day basis is the fact that Cyanogen on this device allows me to customize this to no end.
Be it a simple matter of making the phone look different by using a different theme or going a little deeper and exposing deeper customizability using Xposed and the like, I love the fact that I can have a device that looks and works completely differently.
Some people, including my near and dear ones, feel that this is really silly. For me, change is what keeps me interested. Which is why iOS is just such a bore to me. I will let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I run my iPad on negative just to have iOS look different. It doesn’t help that iOS feels like it’s been designed for 7 year olds.
However, all is not well in OnePlus land. There are issues that need to be addressed and addressed fast. Firstly, there is a serious lack of consistency in the experience that people have with this device. So much so that in a household with two One users, the experience differs (although the other person’s view is heavily coloured due to having bitten the poisoned Apple). This ensures that there is a lot of back and forth on the OnePlus forums and a lot of infighting between owners who have had a great experience (your typical fanboys) and those that haven’t (the balanced and not so balanced rubbish-ers). This is why a lot of good discussions devolve into online arguments ending in a lot of name calling and threads being shut and people being banned.
It doesn’t help that the OnePlus staff is not very committed to the forums and only seem to post notices and announcements. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and thinking that they may have better things to worry about at this time (OnePlus Two, the relationship with Cyanogen Inc. etc), still leaves a lot to be desired from the staff.
Secondly, this whole business of Micromax having gotten exclusive rights to use Cyanogen in India, puts a lot of pressure on the OnePlus to deliver on its promises to provide the latest updates to all OnePlus owners, especially the ones that bought the phone with the India release. As of now the company has been flip flopping on whether everyone will be receiving OTA updates when CM12 comes out.
Thirdly, one of the smaller things that I don’t like about the One and about OnePlus in general is the availability of accessories. I have had accessory orders cancelled on me twice over the last couple of months due to the inability of OnePlus to supply them. This leaves me no choice but to use third party accessories that do not “go” with the design of the One. That to me is not a happy situation to be in. I had dropped my One a few weeks ago and this caused on of the corners of the sandstone back to be chipped. I have yet to find a replacement back on the internet.
All said and done the downsides are not deal breakers for me and I still recommend this phone to anyone who asks me for a recommendation on a high end android phone. Sadly, in India, people are not used to looking beyond the bloated and crappy experience provided by Samsung phones. However, I do feel that the One made a mark on the Indian subcontinent and can’t wait to see what the OnePlus Two has to offer.