OnePlus 2 Review - design
The OnePlus 2 promises premium performance but at a budget price but can it match up to the likes of the iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6IBTimes UK

OnePlus 2 Specs

  • 5.5in display (1920 x 1080)
  • Snapdragon 810/4GB RAM
  • 9.85mm/175g
  • USB-C port
  • OxygenOS (based on Android 5.1)
  • 13MP/5MP cameras
  • Dual SIM
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Price: £239

OnePlus made a big splash in 2014 when it launched the OnePlus One, a smartphone that promised a premium experience at a budget price. It has sold 1.5 million units to date, and while that may seem insignificant in a market that sold over 1 billion smartphones, there is a huge amount of interest for the company's follow up smartphone, the OnePlus 2.

The device not only promises to match the flagship models of 2015, but even those that will be launched in 2016 - at a price which its less than half that of the smartphones from Apple and Samsung. Surely it can't live up to these claims?

OnePlus 2: Design

The first thing you notice when you pick up the OnePlus 2 is the heft. At 9.85mm thick and weighing 175g, this phone is certainly not sleek when compared to the iPhone 6 or the Galaxy S6, but there is a certain reassurance in its bulk.

Add to this the metal frame and great build quality and you certainly don't get the sense this is a (relatively) cheap phone. During my testing the OnePlus 2 fell on several occasions yet it was robust enough to survive without a scratch, which is not something you could expect from some of the thinner smartphones on the market.

With a large 5.5in screen the phone is not easily pocketable, and unlike the flagships from Apple and Samsung, it doesn't have nice rounded corners and so sticking it in the front pocket of your jeans can be a little tricky.

OnePlus 2 Review - Screen
The OnePlus 2 features a rear cover which is akin to a fine sandpaper, but for those who don't like it, there are others availableIBTimes UK

The company has decided to continue with the sandstone finish on the rear cover as standard - which is akin to a fine sandpaper - and while I like it, the design won't please everyone. Thankfully, OnePlus is offering several alternative finishes, including a wood-effect and Kevlar.

The other design choice of note is the inclusion of a physical notification slider on the left-hand edge of the phone, allowing you quickly switch between receiving all alerts, priority alerts or no alerts. While I found it handy for meetings, I didn't use the switch all that often - though I imagine some people may do so.

OnePlus 2: Screen

The 5.5in screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, giving it a pixel density of 400 pixels per inch (ppi) and while this doesn't match up to the sharpest screens on the market, it is the same as the iPhone 6 Plus and trumps the iPhone 6.

To produce a phone that costs £239, there has to be compromise. While some will see the screen resolution as one, I certainly don't. The display is sharp, bight and well-balanced and while some may want many more pixels, I certainly don't miss them.

OnePlus 2: Performance

One of the big concerns ahead of testing the OnePlus 2 was the Snapdragon 810 chip powering it. The last time I used a phone powered by this Qualcomm chip was the Xperia Z3+ and that didn't end well.

OnePlus told me it had worked closely with Qualcomm to tweak the processor significantly to work with the OnePlus 2 to avoid the overheating issues. It seems to have worked. While you will feel some slight warmth on the rear of the phone, it is nothing you won't experience from any high-end smartphone.

OnePlus 2 Review - Notification slider
The notification slider allows you to easily change what alerts come through to your phoneIBTimes UK

There are two versions of the OnePlus 2 available. The 16GB version with 3GB of RAM and the 64GB version with 4GB of RAM (which I tested). Performance-wise, the OnePlus 2 was as fast and responsive as you would expect a top-of-the-line smartphone to be.

OnePlus 2: OxygenOS

Part of the reason for the smooth performance is OnePlus's own OxygenOS skin, which has been applied on top of Android 5.1. Unlike other Android skins, Oxygen OS is lightweight and adds a slew of significant features which are genuinely useful.

These include being able to change app permissions on a granular level (something available on iOS but not stock Android) and quickly rearrange the settings.

OxygenOS
OxygenOS is a lightweight Android skins that adds real valueOnePlus

One of the best features of OxygenOS is the ability to launch applications simply by drawing symbols on the screen - even when its locked and turned off. Draw a circle and the camera will launch. Draw a V and the torch is switched on. Draw an arrow and you can skip forward to the next music track. The only problem is that you cannot customise the symbols - but that could be something OnePlus will include in a future software update.

OnePlus 2: Battery life and hardware

The OnePlus 2 features a pretty big 3300mAh battery, but while it got me through most of the day, I found that on several occasions I was having to plug it in before I went to bed at night. While admittedly I was putting the phone through its paces, the OnePlus 2 battery life just doesn't match up to that of the iPhone 6 Plus, which I found to last well into a second day.

However on a positive note, the battery does charge pretty quickly, going from zero to 100% in just over two hours, which is down to the use of a USB-C charger. OnePlus's decision to use USB-C over micro USB is a big step by the company, and while this time next year it will likely be the standard on most premium phones, the problem today is that if you leave the OnePlus 2 charger at home, you're unlikely to find a replacement easily.

OnePlus 2 Review - USB-C
The OnePlus 2 uses the USB-C standard which is pretty forward-thinking but also means finding a spare charger could be a challengeIBTimes UK

The OnePlus 2 also features a fingerprint reader integrated into the home button. The company boasted that it was faster than the TouchID sensor on the iPhone and, when it works, it certainly lived up to that claim. However, it didn't always work the first time, especially when I was trying to use it to unlock the phone while the screen was off it was pretty flaky.

The device also omits NFC, which means it's not going to be supporting Android Pay when that eventually launches. This is probably only a minor downside to consumers interested in the OnePlus 2 right now.

The OnePlus 2 supports a dual-SIM card setup, but has no microSD card slot, meaning some buyers may opt for the spacious 64GB model which costs £289. It strikes me that it would have been a better use of space if OnePlus had followed Huawei's lead and included the option of putting a microSD card in the second SIM slot if so desired.

OnePlus 2: Camera

The OnePlus 2 features a 13 megapixel sensor on the rear paired with a laser-autofocus system and dual LED flash. You also get optical image stabilisation (OIS), 4K video recording (30fps), as well as fast-forward and slow-motion video capture.

While the megapixel count is the same as the original, the company has replaced the Sony sensor with one from OmniVision which features 35% larger pixels. Together with a bright f/2.0 aperture this promises to make low light performance much better.

OnePlus 2 Review - Camera
The 13 megapixel sensor on the OnePlus 2 is a huge improvement on the original producing great imagesIBTimes UK

The changes have made a big difference to the camera with overall image quality being excellent. Low light performance is great, while the new sensor produces well-balanced images. I found the laser autofocus system wasn't as fast as that on the LG G4, and the time it took to process images meant that I sometimes missed out on grabbing other pictures.

There is no physical shutter button and the only setting you can change manually is the exposure, but for most people the simple point-and-shoot nature of the camera will be a benefit rather than a drawback. Don't get me wrong, the camera on the OnePlus 2 is not on the same level as the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 Plus, but it is a huge step up from the original and matches the quality from smartphones that cost significantly more.

OnePlus 2: Invite only

The final oddity about the OnePlus 2 is the invite-only system the company operates for those looking to purchase one. While there are some websites offering the OnePlus without invites, these typically are based in Asia and/or charge a significant premium.

The reason for the invite system is to manage expectations around how long it will take to get a OnePlus 2 as the company continues to ramp up production. While getting your hands on a OnePlus 2 in the next couple of months might be difficult, things should improve later in the year and eventually the phone will be available without an invite like the OnePlus One.

OnePlus 2: Value

At £239, the 16GB version of the OnePlus is incredible value. Simply put it is the best value smartphone on the market today - if you are willing to overlook a couple of omissions.

Calling the OnePlus 2 a 2016 flagship killer is a big mistake in my opinion. This phone is not better than the iPhone 6 Plus or the Galaxy S6 - but it is as good as, or better than, pretty much all other smartphones on the market. And this is what OnePlus should be crowing about, not trying to use the "flagship killer" gimmick.

OnePlus 2 Review - Size
The OnePlus 2 has a large 5.5in screen and while it is thicker and heavier than the iPhone 6 Plus, it is easier to use one handedIBTimes UK
Our verdict
OnePlus 2 Review

The OnePlus 2 features great build quality, a large and bright screen, intuitive software, good performance, and a decent camera. You get all of that for £300 less than you would pay for an iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6. What's not to like?

Scores

  • Screen: 8/10 - Large, bright and balanced, the 5.5in screen is great.
  • Design: 8/10 - Bulky and chunky, but a metallic frame and unique finish offers something different.
  • Build quality: 9/10 - Survived several drops unscathed and feels like a premium smartphone.
  • Software: 9/10 - Samsung, HTC and LG take note, OxygenOS is how you do an Android skin.
  • Performance: 8/10 - While the Snapdragon 810 kinks have been ironed out, battery life is not the best.
  • Camera: 8/10 - A huge improvement over last year's model, but not quite matching the best-in-class.
  • Overall: 10/10 - At £239, this is simply the best value smartphone on the market today.

The Good:

  • Incredible value.
  • Great build quality.
  • Intuitive software.
  • Snappy performance.

The Bad:

  • Limited availability through invite system.
  • Battery life not stellar.
  • Fingerprint reader not flawless.