When the OnePlus One made its debut in 2014, it was a genuine delight. The device featured a unique sandstone design, powerful specs, and a shockingly affordable price ($299). It dared to challenge the status quo when Apple and Samsung were at their most powerful. And thanks to clever marketing, the company's risk paid off, as OnePlus quickly gained a loyal following.
OnePlus has more or less stuck to that same strategy over the past few years, with small refinements and more powerful specs with each subsequent release. The downside is every new phone has been more expensive than the last, and thanks to an increasingly saturated mobile market, the company's devices are beginning to feel less unique than they once were.
The OnePlus 6 is no different.
That's not to say the company's latest device is bad. Just the opposite. But we've reached a new level of saturation where nearly every phone has an all-glass design, dual-camera, and notched display. The OnePlus 6 falls in line with the rest of them, though it does have a headphone jack. Unfortunately, it doesn't carry an official IP rating, and wireless charging is nowhere to be found.
At $529, however, it's hard not to compare the OnePlus 6 against something like the Galaxy S9, which is a few hundred dollars more and similarly specced. At the very least, OnePlus's device is worth serious consideration; it offers a phenomenal design, clean software, and a decent camera.
This phone feels familiar
OnePlus devices are traditionally made of sleek slabs of aluminum, but this year's release is different. The OnePlus 6 features an all-glass body with a rounded back and a rigid metal frame. The precisions and choice of materials makes the design looks and feel unending, the result of a 40 step process, according to OnePlus. The device also features what OnePlus refers to as the "Horizon Line," which helps to highlight the OnePlus 6's curves.
We tested the glossy black version (with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage), which is very pretty to look at. It shimmers beautifully under sunlight, flashy and confident. OnePlus said it stuck a thin layer of film underneath the glass to give it a sense of depth; I can say with certainty that it makes the iPhone X in Space Gray look dull in comparison.
And there are no obtrusive antenna bands or annoying protrusions. It's impressively engineered, and it feels very comfortable in the hand thanks to its subtle curves. But, like all phones made of glass, the OnePlus 6 is a fingerprint magnet, ultimately taking away from the device's stellar sheen.
Encased in the all-glass body is what you'd expect from a device in 2018: Snapdragon 845 processor, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of storage, 3,300mAh battery, a dual-camera setup, and Oxygen OS based on Android 8.1.
Right below the dual-camera rests a fingerprint sensor, which feels narrower compared to last year's OnePlus 5T. And on the right side is the Alert Slider, which allows users to quickly switch between different sound profiles. It's one of the company's best contributions to the mobile industry.
The OnePlus also sports a 6.28-inch OLED display (2280×1080), which is fairly small as far as notches are concerned. Regardless of the notch's size, I never found it to be a very big deal. It's something you don't notice after a few minutes. If you're really that appalled by the notch, OnePlus offers the option hide it.
Ignoring the notch, the display itself is lovely to look at, vibrant and bright. The large size makes it great for playing games and reading articles, but it's not so big that the phone is unwieldy. The display can get plenty bright, too, offering good outdoor visibility.
Overall, it doesn't feel drastically different from the OnePlus 5T, despite featuring an all-glass build. OnePlus has offered stellar designs for the past few years now, and its latest effort is the company's best yet. And there's a 3.5mm headphone jack to boot.
Performing at a new level
As expected, the OnePlus 6 performs beautifully, whether doing simple tasks or watching Netflix. Everything about the device feels like it's in tip-tip shape. Even unlocking the device feels lightning quick; the fingerprint sensor will recognize and unlock the device in the blink of an eye.
There's also a Face Unlock feature, something OnePlus introduced with last year's OnePlus 5T. The feature uses 100 facial identity points to unlock the device, and while it worked well during our testing, it's not nearly as advanced as Apple's Face ID. We haven't tested this ourselves, but the OnePlus 6's Face Unlock feature can apparently be fooled by a photo.
While its quickness might not seem like a big deal at first, remember that everything adds up over time. Comparing the experience of the OnePlus 6 with the beefy Galaxy S9, you'll notice smoother, faster animations. Not that the Galaxy S9 feels slow; the OnePlus 6 just feels like it's operating on a higher plane.
You can thank OxygenOS for being a major contributor to the OnePlus 6's brisk performance. As in years past, OnePlus' software feels as trim and clean as ever, offering a "stock" Android experience with plenty of complementary additions, such as Gaming Mode, which is designed to reduce latency and block notifications.
There are several other clever additions, including Expanded Screenshots, which allows users to take larger screenshots, and Reading mode, which filters out blue light and uses gray-scale mapping for a reading experience that mimics an e-reader. I also very much appreciate the Dark mode option and the ability to customize the launcher's appearance.
We've long considered OxygenOS to be among the best software on the market, and that remains true here. It helps elevate the OnePlus 6 into hallowed territory, providing users with a refreshingly light and nimble experience that never feels excessive or unnecessary.
Everything works in harmony to provide users with adequate battery life. The 3,300mAh unit can easily power through a heavy work day with several hours of screen on time. Strangely, there's no wireless charging, although Dash charging technology is back. OnePlus's favorite saying is, "A day's power in half an hour."
A decent camera
While the OnePlus 6's software is arguably at the top of the Android pile, the device's camera falls somewhere in the middle. That's been the story, more or less, with previous models. Images are sharp and evenly exposed, but they're not quite on the level of the Pixel 2 or iPhone X.
The OnePlus 6 features a dual-camera system, with one 16-megapixel main sensor and a 20-megapixel secondary sensor, allowing for features like Portrait Mode. OnePlus says the main sensor is 19-percent larger than last year and now features optical image stabilization for improved low light performance.
New this year is the ability to shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second and support for super slow motion (480 frames per second) at 720p resolution. The results are fun in well-lit conditions, but the video otherwise falls apart if ample light isn't available.
The nice thing about OnePlus 6 camera is how quickly the application operates. Auto-focus is fast and reliable and images are processed without any hiccups. The app itself is also a joy to use because of how spartan the design is. You won't get overwhelmed by settings or confused by its features.
By no means does the camera hold the OnePlus 6 back. You'll get quality images that will look terrific when shared through social media, which is about all you can ask for. Put it this way: the pictures are pretty phenomenal for a device this cheap.
Not to be overlooked
Compared to last year's OnePlus 5T, the OnePlus 6 doesn't feel all that different. This is the device OnePlus has been working toward from the beginning, and there are no surprises. It's nice to see all of the company's ideas come together so seamlessly, without any unnecessary gimmicks.
As in years past, the OnePlus 6 doesn't feel so much like a flagship killer as it does an imitator. But that criticism in no way means the OnePlus isn't good, because it's actually fantastic. It is missing some high-profile features, like wireless charging and true water-resistance. But it more than makes up for those shortcomings with design, power, and price.
At $529, you'll be hard-pressed to find a device that offers better value. And thanks to its specs, you're getting a device that is future-proof. It will be interesting to see if OnePlus releases a OnePlus 6T and what that device has to offer, because the OnePlus 6 is already so good.
With so many great options in the Android market, the OnePlus 6 is among the best there is.
Disclaimer: OnePlus sent us the OnePlus 6 for review. We used the device for 7 days before beginning our review.