OnePlus 2
Image Courtesy OnePlus

Don’t believe the hype, the OnePlus 2 is no ‘flagship killer’

Aug 19, 2015

OnePlus recently launched its latest smartphone, the OnePlus 2, which the company is dubbing the “2016 flagship killer.” This loaded term means not only does the company believe the OnePlus2 is better than any smartphone on the market today, but that it trumps any smartphone set to be released next year. Hubris, is what Fortune’s Andrew Nusca called it. And after a week of use, you know what? He was right.

The OnePlus 2 is an affordable (under $400) Android-powered smartphone with a spec sheet one would normally find with any of Samsung’s Galaxy devices or Google’s Nexus lineup. Only the OnePlus 2 is missing a few key features: NFC (near field communication), quick-charging, and wireless charging.

A short time ago it was all too easy to look at those features as mere conveniences, and in all fairness some might argue that NFC and wireless charging still are. Quick-charging, on the other hand, is becoming a must-have due to its ability to quickly boost a device’s battery by 25% in just 15 minutes. It’s a feature every device should have, not just smartphones.

The exclusion of NFC (which is primarily used for mobile payments) is understandable since it has yet to become a universally accepted service. However, with the launch of Android Pay right around the corner (not to mention the rising popularity of Apple Pay) it would have been nice for consumers to have at least been given the option of paying for goods and service with their mobile device.

Missing features aside, the OnePlus 2 still has a lot to offer. The $329 model is equipped with 5.5-inch screen (powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor), 3,300 mAh battery, fingerprint reader, a minimum of 3 gigabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of storage, and a 13 megapixel camera on the back. For $389, OnePlus increases the RAM and storage to 4 GB and 64GB respectively.

The OnePlus 2 also features a USB type-C port on the bottom for changing and transferring data. Eventually USB type-C ports will become more commonplace, but right now there’s no true advantage to having it; not to mention those who do have it are once again forced to buy new cables.

The screen size puts the OnePlus 2 in the ever-growing “phablet” category. As such, one-handed use can be difficult and awkward. Thankfully, the back cover of the OnePlus 2 is similar in texture to fine sandpaper, just gritty enough to provide for a reliable grip. Users can order replacement back covers made of materials ranging from bamboo to Kevlar to customize the look of the device.

Camera performance on the OnePlus 2 is reliable and gets the job done, though the camera often left most photos overexposed. OnePlus representatives told me a future software update will create a new manual camera mode on the device, which should help in fine-tuning photos taken.

Consumers interested in the device are required to sign up for an invite in order to purchase the phone. The process is slow, and can lead to bouts of frustration for potential buyers used to simply buying a new device outright from major carriers. From the company’s point of view, however, invites make it possible to slowdown production and correct any issues that arise.

Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder, recently took to the OnePlus forums to apologize for slower than anticipated invite rollouts, laying blame on issues discovered with the device's charging cable and improvements being made to OxygenOS, the company’s customized version of Google’s Android OS.

Software just so happens to be the cause of most of my issues with the OnePlus 2. On some occasions the home button flat-out quits responding, other times it responds instantly. The fingerprint sensor is fast—sometimes beating the iPhone’s Touch ID in my unscientific speed tests—but often refuses to recognize my fingerprint. The clock on my review unit had to be manually set, instead of relying on the carrier connection to set times because of a bug in the OS.

When I asked OnePlus about my experience I was told the company is “continuing to update OxygenOS which will improve many aspects of the OnePlus 2.”

And, I guess that’s the good news, right? The most annoying issues with the device are all software related, and software is fixable. Potential buyers shouldn’t let my issues dampen their interest, since the silver lining here is the invite system. Thanks to the (now) slowed down rollout of invites, it’s entirely possible you’ll never experience the same issues I have.

At the end of the day, the OnePlus 2 is no where close to being a “flagship killer” in 2015, let alone 2016. Flagship devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung are far more polished at launch, but that’s also something that comes with being a large company with more resources than the scrappy underdog OnePlus.

Issues and lack of forward-looking features aside, I still consider the OnePlus 2 one of the best Android devices you can buy right now. Well, not right now, but you get the point.

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