Death came for the OnePlus 3 on Nov. 15, 2016, not even six months after the device was released. Even by mobile standards, it was an unusually short lifespan for one of this year's best phones. But it's not the end of the line for OnePlus; just the opposite.
Rather than wait to introduce a proper sequel to the OnePlus 3, the company has released a more souped-up version that sticks closely to the original. Same design, same 5.5-inch Full HD display, at nearly the same affordable price. The OnePlus 3T is everything we loved about the previous version and more.
For starters, the device packs a Snapdragon 821 processor, the very same included in the Google Pixel. Combined with the 3T's 6GB of RAM, and you have a phone that's faster than it has any right to be. Opening large apps and graphic-intensive games is smooth as butter.
The battery is also significantly larger: 3,400mAh as opposed to 3,000mAh. That's a smidge smaller than the 3,500mAh battery found in the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. In other words, big. The OnePlus 3 already offered all-day battery and the 3T improves on that by a wide margin.
Over a three day testing period, I only had to charge the 3T once, and that was due to a lot of gaming and YouTube. Under normal, everyday use, the 3T's battery held up like a champ, which was to be expected. Dash Charge returns; a quick half-hour charge will give you enough power for a full day.
There are the usual battery-saving features, too, and even an option to auto-close power-hungry apps, which OnePlus says will prevent the phone from getting hot. The phone did get warm during heavy usage but not enough to be a concern.
Improvements aren't just limited to hardware. The OnePlus 3T includes an updated version of OxygenOS (based on Android 6.0.1), which is cleaner and feels more lightweight than ever. And with inspiration taken from Nougat, 3T owners have access to handy new features.
"With the latest version of OxygenOS for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, we have streamlined our platform to increase the speed and cadence of our software update," the company said in a release.
The most obvious change includes an update to Shelf, which made its debut with the OnePlus 3. The feature lives to the left of your home screen, acting as a hub for your favorite apps, contacts, and more. You can also pin widgets in Shelf if you don't like them taking up home screen real estate.
While the refinements made to Shelf are nice, I didn't find myself using the feature all that often. It's a lot like how Apple handles widgets, hiding them away from your main home screen to maximize space. There's nothing inherently wrong with Shelf, I was just indifferent to it.
Outside of that, I didn't notice anything majorly improved in the latest version of OxygenOS. The ability to add a password or fingerprint to access individual apps is nice, and the built-in weather app is clean and informative. But, beyond some cosmetic differences, I'm more interested in giving Nougat a spin, which should be out by the end of the year.
Side note: Although the OnePlus 3 has been discontinued, OnePlus has promised to update both devices on the same schedule. So, when Nougat does finally arrive, it should be available for OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T owners. (Whether the company sticks to its promise remains to be seen.)
Notably, the OnePlus 3T's design is identical to the OnePlus 3. That's a good thing. Devices made of aluminum have become the norm, from high-end flagships to astonishingly affordable powerhouses. But there's something about the OnePlus 3T's design that manages to stand out.
The level of craftsmanship on display is stunning; the 3T feels as premium as the OnePlus 3 did when it launched over the summer. The size is just right, too; not too big and not too small. And even with the larger battery, the 3T retains the same dimensions as the OnePlus 3.
OnePlus did try to keep things fresh by introducing a new "Gunmetal" color option, which is a shade darker than the "Graphite" of the previous model. It's a nice finish that doesn't accentuate fingerprints. There's also a "Soft Gold" color but that option isn't available just yet.
A few other changes include a 16-megapixel front-facing camera for extra high-resolution selfies, and a 128GB storage option. Ninety-nine percent of the population don't need that much storage, what with the cloud. But if you're the type of person who hordes all their music, movies, and pictures on your device, have at it.
The rear-facing camera still sports a Sony IMX 298 sensor—the same 16-megapixel sensor found in the OnePlus 3—so nothing's changed there. You can still shoot in RAW, and there are manual controls aplenty. But, overall, the experience is largely the same. Launch, shoot, repeat. You can see samples from the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3 below.
OnePlus says it did upgrade its Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) algorithm, supposedly leading to improved video. The rear-facing camera also now sports sapphire glass, so you shouldn't have to worry about it accidentally getting scuffed. It's the little things that make a lasting difference.
The OnePlus 3 was impressive because it was a high-end phone without the high-end price. The OnePlus 3T repeats that feat while providing consumers with even better value.
You get a Snapdragon 821 chip, 16-megapixel camera, 3,400mAh battery, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, and one of the market's most beautiful designs. And all for just $439, a $40 markup over the discontinued OnePlus 3. That's a lot of extra phone for not a lot of extra money.
It's always tough for owners of old phones to see a new one come to market. Existing OnePlus 3 owners will no doubt be particularly aggrieved by the 3T's arrival. But they shouldn't feel the need to upgrade. Yes, the phone is faster and the battery is better, but not enough to justify paying twice for essentially the same device in under six months.
It's understandable why OnePlus felt the need to release a souped-up OnePlus 3 so quickly. Google's phone is getting rave reviews and the iPhone 7 is in high demand. Not to mention the Note 7 is wiped off the market because of a recall.
But there are also so many affordable flagships on the market that this is a surefire way for OnePlus to stand out—or, at least, to compete. The OnePlus 3 was already a terrific device—smartphone of the year worthy. But you know what's even better? The OnePlus 3T.
Now, it's simply a matter of OnePlus meeting demand over the next few months. Even without the company's labyrinthine invite system, the OnePlus 3 was difficult to come by after launch. If history is anything to go by, the 3T will in all probability be tough to find in the near future.
For my money, it's one of the best smartphones money can buy, made even better because of its improved specs. If you want to spend a few hundred dollars more on a Google Pixel or iPhone 7, by all means, you'll be getting good phones. Or, you can get the 3T for just $439.
That's a hard offer to pass up. If you want to read even more, check out our OnePlus 3 review below.
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