OnePlus is killing the OnePlus 3, the most popular phone it's ever made, not even six months after it came out. But it’s not the end of the line for the company. On the contrary, today it is announcing the OnePlus 3T, a replacement for the OnePlus 3. The 3T is very similar to the prior model — it has the same design and dimensions, for example — but it comes with a faster processor, bigger battery, and better front-facing camera.
The new model comes in two colors — the attractive "soft gold" of the 3 and a new "gunmetal" dark gray — and has an option for 128GB of storage in addition to 64GB (128GB is exclusive to the gunmetal color). It will be available for purchase in the US starting on November 22nd and in Europe starting on November 28th. The other difference is the 3T’s price: it starts at $439 for the 64GB version and goes to $479 for the 128GB model, an increase of $40 to $80 over the outgoing OnePlus 3.
Replacing a phone just six months after its release is an unorthodox thing to do in the mobile industry, which usually sees 12 months between phone generations, but it’s fair to say that OnePlus isn’t exactly an orthodox company. Head of marketing Kyle Kiang tells me that the reason OnePlus is making this move is simply because it felt it could provide a better experience to its customers with the updated model and it didn’t want to wait a full year to do so. Kiang insists that the company isn’t killing the OnePlus 3 because of any particular supply shortages or component issues (though the company has had trouble keeping the popular phone in stock and had to suspend sales in Europe and Hong Kong for a month earlier this year), but it merely saw an opportunity to make a better phone and took it.
Existing owners of the OnePlus 3 have reviewed the device very highly, but they will likely still have a little bit of jealousy over the 3T arriving so soon after launch. (As for what the "T" stands for, OnePlus says "We went with ‘T’ because a lot of other companies go with ‘S,’ and since we are OnePlus we decided to go with the next letter, read one more.") The new model has the same shape, design, 6GB of RAM, and 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display as the 3, but it comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor (a faster, 2.35GHz version than found in Google’s Pixel or the LeEco LePro3) instead of the 820 and a 3,400mAh battery in place of the 3’s 3,000mAh unit. OnePlus says the larger battery is a direct response to customer feedback and provides 13 percent more stamina, yet doesn’t make the phone any heavier or thicker than before. It still supports the company’s proprietary Dash Charge fast charging system that is designed to stay cooler than other fast charging technologies.
The 3T’s rear camera is the same 16-megapixel, optically stabilized unit as found on the 3, but it has been given a more scratch-resistant sapphire lens cover and improved electronic image stabilization when shooting video. The front camera has been bumped from 8 megapixels to 16 and features improved low-light performance.
The rest of the changes are found in software, as the 3T is coming with an updated version of OnePlus’ OxygenOS, a lightly customized version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The software includes a handful of design refinements and apps, but largely maintains the appearance of "stock" Android. The company says it will deliver the software to the OnePlus 3 soon, and that both phones will be updated at the same time going forward. That includes an update to Android 7.0 Nougat arriving before the end of this year.
A slightly better version of one of the best phones of 2016
OnePlus will certainly catch some flak for releasing what portends to be a noticeably better version of the phone it launched just a few months ago, but Kiang promises that it doesn’t plan for this to be the norm going forward. The other thing it will likely face heat for is the higher price — one of the most attractive things about the OnePlus 3 was how much bang for the buck it offered, often outpacing phones that cost twice as much. But Kiang says that the improvements to performance and battery life justify the cost increase and notes that the 3T still provides a great value relative to other phones on the market.
Whether or not the 3T proves to be as popular as the 3 remains to be seen, but it will likely still be a favorite among Android enthusiasts looking to get the most for their money this holiday season.