A little earlier than its usual June refresh window, OnePlus has revealed its new flagship Android device today, the OnePlus 6. The most controversial aspect of the new design, the notch at the top of the 6.3-inch 19:9 OLED display, has already been the subject of a preemptive rationalization from the company, and fan demands have been answered with the added option to conceal the notch by putting a black bar on the screen around it.
Though beloved by few, the notched design does have a significant upside in helping OnePlus fit a lot more screen into basically the same dimensions as its previous OnePlus 5T and 5 models. The OnePlus 6 is a little smaller than my 6-inch Google Pixel 2 XL, but it offers more vertical screen space and makes the Pixel’s bezels feel crude and chunky by comparison. It’s not that the 6 lacks bezels; they just happen to be minimal and nicely designed. OnePlus’ interface is well-tailored to the notch, and the company has tested the top 1,000 Play Store apps to ensure they play nicely with it. Whether or not the notch is to your liking, you can’t accuse OnePlus of moving to it without sufficient forethought.
The other big change with the OnePlus 6 is the introduction of a new glass back, replacing the unibody aluminum case that’s been the norm for OnePlus for a number of years. The company’s press release says that this is “the first in OnePlus’ line of flagships to feature an all-glass design,” suggesting that the metal backs of the past are going to stay in the past. With this alteration, OnePlus joins the vast majority of smartphone manufacturers — companies like Apple, Samsung, Sony, Nokia, LG, and Huawei — in having glass on both the front and the back of its flagship device. I’ve been told by a number of these companies that the general trend has been driven by the requirements of faster and more advanced LTE, making it increasingly difficult to produce a phone with a metal back.
Although the OnePlus 6, replete with a notch and a glass back, now blends into the mass of Android phones out there, it does stand out with a number of its own unique strengths.
Firstly, the software is clean, thoughtfully designed, and unfailingly fast. The OnePlus 6 was among the first Android phones to support the Android P beta, even before it was officially announced. OnePlus says that it’s committed to heeding and responding to its fans’ wishes, and its eagerness to deliver updates as soon as possible is a testament to that.
The other thing, the one that matters a great deal more than it’s discussed on pages like these, is the price. Starting at $529 with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, the OnePlus 6 is once again a little more expensive than its predecessor, but also a lot less pricey than the typical Android flagship. It’ll be compared to phones like the Galaxy S9 and Huawei P20 Pro, both of which cost hundreds of dollars more, but it’s priced right in line with the Honor 10. I think the OnePlus 6 has the quality of design, materials, and display to be held right up alongside the best Android phones on the market.
Where I remain dubious with OnePlus is on the camera front, though the company’s made positive strides by increasing the main sensor size of its dual-camera system by 19 percent (for a pixel size of 1.22μm). Optical image stabilization has also been added to the main camera on the back, and you can now shoot faux-bokeh portrait mode pictures with the front as well as the rear cameras. OnePlus is getting into the algorithmically reprocessed photo game by offering the option to turn the bokeh in a photo into various shapes like hearts and stars. I’ve seen a demo of that, and, well, I guess I’m too old to appreciate its value.
Not many other things are different about the OnePlus 6. The signature OnePlus alert slider moves from one side of the phone to the other, which the company tells me was a simple matter of space considerations with the new phone’s layout. The headphone jack remains in place, though, and OnePlus says it has no plans to remove it anytime soon. I would have liked to see OnePlus add wireless charging with its shift to a glass back, but that hasn’t happened, and neither has the addition of waterproof certification. OnePlus argues that the 6 has comparable water resistance to most modern flagships, and it was tested extensively for that, but I’d still feel more reassured by having it adhere to the same universal standard as everyone else.
Marketed under the slogan of “the speed you need,” the OnePlus 6 comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor, Adreno 630 graphics, and up to 8GB of RAM and a maximum of 256GB of UFS 2.1 storage. On one hand, it’s great that OnePlus can cram the latest and best specs inside a phone that retains a distinct midrange price (by 2018 standards). On the other hand, I’m not convinced that OnePlus can actually use that fact to make its device stand out. The comparably priced Honor 10 also has a flagship processor inside, Huawei’s Kirin 970, and it also offers a smooth and responsive experience. The rest of the OnePlus 6 specs are fairly predictable: 2280 x 1080 resolution, Corning Gorilla Glass 5 up front, 3,300mAh battery, Bluetooth 5, support for two nano-SIM cards, and Dash Charge fast charging.
The one trend that OnePlus isn’t entertaining with its new flagship (at least not yet) is offering a diversity of color options. You’ll be able to buy the OnePlus 6 in either a glossy or matte black or a shimmery white variant. These colors correspond to particular specs: the mirror (i.e., glossy) black covers the $529 6GB / 64GB and $579 8GB / 128GB OnePlus 6, the silk white and the so-called midnight black will be at the $579 price point and spec, and there’ll be a $629 8GB / 256GB midnight black model as well.
All variants of the OnePlus 6 go on sale May 22nd directly from OnePlus’ online store in North America, India, and across Europe. The European and UK pricing is less attractive than the US’s, with prices starting at €519 / £469 for 64GB of storage, going through €569 / £519 for 128GB, and maxing out at €619 / £569 for 256GB.
Correction May 17th, 5:40AM ET: Optical image stabilization has been added to only the main camera on the rear, not both, as had been previously indicated.