DSC_0689When we think of super phones or smart phones for that matter we tend to think of the first and second tier companies that include such names as Apple, Google, HTC and of course Samsung. It seems a rarity for a brand to come along and offer a cell solution that can rival any of the above brands. It seems that OnePlus wants to challenge that idea. Founded in December of last year they worked the first quarter of 2014 designing a flagship killer and in Q2 have taken an interesting marketing strategy to promote their phone; Invites.

In order to even think of purchasing a OnePlus One you must first sign up to be invited or get an invite from the community (someone who has already purchased the One will get three invites to share). We had signed up and were waiting for some time when a community member by the name of mail_milind_77 dropped us an invite so we could get in sooner. Many in the tech community know that if you make something exclusive, it only makes us want it more. The question is this, Is the OnePlus One really worth the wait? We take a look at the One that arrived on our doorstep a few short days ago and let you know our thoughts. Check out after the break for the review and if this is the device for you.

Hardware

DSC_0667When looking at the hardware specs of the One, it is definitely one area it does not fall short in. With internals like an Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor clocked at 2.5GHz, 3GB LP-DDR3 RAM and storage space of 16GB or 64GB with only a $50 price difference it is hard to compete. This is only some of the internals but check out the specs below for a complete list.

 

BASIC PARAMETERS

Color Silk White/Sandstone Black
Dimensions 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight 5.71 ounces (162 g)
Operating System CyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4
CPU Qualcomm© Snapdragon™ 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
GPU Adreno 330, 578MHz
RAM 3 GB LP-DDR3, 1866MHz
Storage 16/64 GB eMMC 5.0, available capacity varies
Sensors Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity and Ambient Light
Battery Embedded rechargeable 3100 mAh LiPo battery

 

The device itself is 5.5 inch JDI display with full HD (1920×1080 pixels) and 401 PPI. This is pretty (maybe a .5 or .6 inch difference) standard with todays phones but what really makes it special is the Corning Gorilla Glass IPS screen they use. The device in hand is something to behold. Thinking of a 5.5 inch screen in your hands might be considered cumbersome but OnePlus has figured a way to make it fit naturally.

The backs of the devices come in one of two flavours depending on the internal storage size you choose. The 16GB model has a smooth silky backing while the 64GB has a sandstone backing or almost like a very fine grit sandpaper. The volume and power buttons are on either side of the device with the volume rocker on the left of the device and the power on the right. They are housed a little higher than half way to make the phone not feel too large in your hands. The charge port is on the bottom, centered might we add for BitBitByte’s sake, and the 3.5mm headphone jack is at the top on the right side. There are also three mic’s on the device (top, bottom and back) that assist in noise cancelation and listening for voice prompts. We saved the best for last and will be addressed separately below as well. The phone also comes with a not too shabby 13MP camera that uses 6 lenses to avoid distortion and aberration.

If you only happen to read this paragraph instead of everything above, know this. The OnePlus One team did not skimp on the hardware and it is because of this that allows the company to rival the big names. In all current flagship devices there is one area that a brand seems to ignore or not do to bring the costs down. OnePlus has shifted the paradigm and challenged them to think differently. Because of the One’s superior hardware, will customers accept less from major brands next year?

Software

DSC_0684Software is a pretty big thing for cell phone manufacturers. Most of the time they can’t keep their hands out of it and skinning it to their hearts desire. The only people that win in that situation are the manufacturers and possibly the carriers but not the consumer. OnePlus has taken a different approach to this by using CyanogenMod. A very interesting choice since CyanogenMod is the epitome of customization and freedom in Android. We also assume that they may not be paying royalties to Microsoft like the other manufacturers and brands are since they are basing it off a derivative of Android and not the AOSP itself.

Screenshot_2014-07-30-11-10-31The platform itself (CyanogenMod) has matured over the years and has come to be in a position where it is supporting most older phones with their latest version than even Android can do. The system, since based off Android, has all of the features of Android and some of them that it doesn’t. On the OnePlus One we have a few nifty apps that we want to shout out about. The first is AudioFX which allows you to tune the audio on all fronts (speakers, bluetooth, etc.) to your liking. For example, if listening to Ultra Music Festival sets you may want to increase the bass and set the equalizer to electronic. This is a huge help for us as we find that most music on phones sounds a little flat or not quite loud enough.

Another great app is the camera that is included in CyanogenMod. It looks quite plain when you first start the application but packs a huge wallop of features that allow you to customize the quality right down to how the volume and power button are used. We compared the stock camera application to google’s downloadable camera in the play store and it seemed that the quality did not change by much but the ability to customize what the camera did went to CyanogenMod.

The great thing about CyanogenMod is that is has a host of developers that are dedicated to making the Android platform better and are not afraid to get their hands dirty. We applaud CyanogenMod for all of their hard work as it has been paying off for us, the consumer, on the OnePlus One.

Display

DSC_0682This seems to be a highly contested issue in the OnePlus forums. It seems that some users have been getting devices that have a yellow material or liquid that has stained the bottom portion of their screens. For those out there who are reading this before the OnePlus forums, if you have this issue it has been suggested by the OnePlus team to put your device under a blacklight or UV light to try and rectify the issue.

That being said, the device that Binary Wasteland received did not have this issue. The screen looks gorgeous and we cannot imagine the issue above happening to our screen.

For those of you with this issue we would love to get some images of these for a post we are doing if you want to respond in the comments below or message us at greg[DOT]jacobs[AT]binarywasteland[DOT]com and we can coordinate on this.

Performance

One thing that we hate is getting that device that you have been longing for months on end about and turning it loose and all of a sudden there are hiccups on the app you are using or the screen lags or glitches. The OnePlus One has amazing hardware specs and the combination of that and CyanogenMod make this device blazingly fast. It renders web pages with no issues and opens and closes apps with no issues. We notice a half a millisecond when unlocking our device using a PIN. This could be due to the fact that we have the option in CyanogenMod checked that if the correct password is entered to auto unlock our device. Other than that the One is shaping up to be one of the best performers we have seen yet.

Camera

This section is a favourite of ours because we don’t talk as much and allow you to drool (or not) over the images we take with the review device. Well we have snapped a few shots and they can be seen below.

 

Connectivity

Connectivity is always a hot topic on smart phones and super phones. For all of the great features and apps people sometimes to use the device for what it was originally intended; calling people. Living outside a major city we are privilege to some pretty decent LTE speeds and connections. Inside our headquarters is another matter entirely. Usually the only brand of devices that does well in a faraday cage such as the Binary Wasteland HQ is BlackBerry. We may have a new up and comer as the OnePlus One seems to get anywhere between 1-2 bars in our basement and 3-4 on the main level. This is almost unheard of using HTC, Samsung and LG products for the past couple years. We have head some people with the One are having connection issues but it seems we won’t be one of them.

Battery Life

DSC_0679Ah the highly contested issue of batteries in cell phones. We love this one as the end user/consumer just wants the phone to do everything and the phone is expected to take it all in stride while maintaining battery for the rest of the week. There was a point in time where BlackBerry owned this arena and could have a device last for a week before a charge was necessary. For those users out there with that mindset, the OnePlus may be the device for you. We deem ourselves power users in terms of having 4+ mail accounts, 4 calendars to sync, 4+ twitter profiles, facebook, pinterest, nook, games and such always running on our device. This isn’t mentioning when we are on the road and use it to connect to a bluetooth device and stream media from Google Play Music or Songza. We went through an entire day yesterday doing all of the above and come time to lay down our newborn daughter we had just bumped under 50% (about 46% to be a little more precise).

This turned out to be very helpful as we forgot to charge the device and a 3AM feeding allowed us to end the night and actually charge the device at the end of the day only hitting 36%. To clarify the day started at 6AM and ended the next day at 4:30AM. This is unprecedented with any device we have used before the OnePlus One. Those of you out there longing for the days of not charging a device for a week this may not last you the week but it may be the best you will get to coming close!

Conclusion

The OnePlus is a highly talked about device. As well it should be due to the exclusivity of the invites being given and the very low price point of $299 USD for the 16GB Model and $349 USD for the 64GB model. We want to clarify that it cost us in CAD dollars $428.71 (case and device and shipping ($27 USD)) plus an additional $57 and change in the duties, taxes and import charges from DHL. This brings the total cost of the device to around $486 after it is all said and done. Compare this to the $699 price tag of the HTC One M8 or the Samsung Galaxy S5. In our minds it was worth the cost because we know now what a quality product should look like as well as how much it should cost.

We applaud OnePlus for selling the phones at a deficit to their bottom line in order to attract more customers and build a bigger base in which to launch new products. We would highly recommend any of our readers to get the device in a heartbeat (pending you can get an invite :)) and we think it would be your money well spent. We are looking to get some accessories not just from the OnePlus store but other vendors that recognize that the OnePlus accessory market is somewhat bare and could make some money easily.

Let us know if you have a OnePlus One in the comments below and if you do what do you think of it? Money well spent we hope. Make sure to check out the new OnePlus One Gallery below for you to drool over while you wait for a OnePlus One invite. Until the next review, Happy Hacking!

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OnePlus One Gallery

Check out the OnePlus One

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