OnePlus 6T Review: No Brainer

OnePlus has been in the smartphone business for five years at this point, releasing phone after phone that promised a flagship experience at a much more affordable price. This year, the company released the OnePlus 6 which cost just $499 and came with all the same specs you’d find in a phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and LG G7. As has been the case for the past few years, OnePlus also released the OnePlus 6T a few months down the road which I got to see unveiled in-person.

Don’t get it twisted, the OnePlus 6 and 6T are very similar phones and you’d be stupid to upgrade from the former to the latter. OnePlus simply added a few finishing touches to the 6T and bumped up the price to $549. But no matter how you look at the 6T, you can’t deny it’s an amazing phone, and not just for the money you spend. In fact, I’d be fine with spending $700 on this device. It’s just that good and, in my honest opinion, a no-brainer if you’re in the smartphone market.

While I was at the event, I got to hold both the Midnight Black and Mirror Black finishes available with the OnePlus 6T. Therefore, I was able to get a feel for which build I liked more. Admittedly, I didn’t get a lot of time with either model due to my fascination with seeing YouTubers I admire standing right in front of me, but I did draw a pretty quick conclusion when one of my buddies asked which color I like more: Midnight Black.

Thankfully, I was sent the Midnight Black 6T to review, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. The Midnight Black 6T offers a frosted, soft-touch glass backplate with a sturdy aluminum frame and amazing engineering. Anyone who has held the 6T will tell you the same thing: this phone is extremely well-built. It feels sturdy, hefty, and premium which is amazing to see from a phone that costs half of what others are charging. The Mirror Black felt just as nice, but I’m not a fan of glossy finishes since they collect fingerprints.

Speaking of which, that’s another advantage to owning the Midnight Black 6T. Thanks to its frosted finish, it doesn’t pick up your phalanges’ grease as easily which leaves you with a clean look without having to wipe it on your shirt first. Admittedly, the finish makes the device slightly slipperier, but if you want something with grip, you have to buy the Mirror Black and suffer with an oily, crusty phone. It’s kind of a pick-your-poison situation, and my poison comes in the form of Midnight Black.

I’d also like to mention the 6T comes with super satisfying buttons and one of the most convenient hardware features I’ve ever come across. That feature is the infamous alert slider up at the top-right of the phone. Apple has a similar feature on the iPhone, but with OnePlus phones, you can choose between silent, vibrate, and ring. It’s a small addition, sure, but it’ll change the way you use your phone for good. In other words, you’ll miss it if you move over to a device that doesn’t have it.

An interesting design choice OnePlus made with the 6T was omit the headphone jack. After taunting other companies for getting rid of the port on their devices for years, it’s a bit of a shame OnePlus has met the same fate. The company has stated over and over again it was a hard decision to make, but they had to make extra room for the upgraded internals which we’ll get to later.

How you feel about the headphone jack will depend on what type of user you are. If you still use 3.5mm wired headphones, you’ll feel stupid using the included dongle in the box. But if you’ve transitioned to Bluetooth headphones as I have (thanks to OnePlus’ Bullets Wireless, ironic enough), you won’t think twice about the omission.

To help ease your transition away from the headphone jack, OnePlus is selling $30 wired Bullets with a USB-C connector at the bottom. I was given a pair with my reviewer’s kit and, yep, you should buy them if you buy the 6T. They offer great sound quality for the price and will be extremely convenient to have if you just want a pair of USB-C earbuds you can throw in your bag. They work with all other USB-C devices, too, like laptops, tablets, and other smartphones. Basically, the headphones are a no-brainer themselves if you’ve been livin’ that #donglelife.

Then again, so are the Bullets Wireless if you feel like spending an extra $40.

Getting off the topic of personal audio listening, you’re probably wondering what the speaker situation on the 6T is. Unfortunately, it isn’t that great. OnePlus didn’t bother to implement its earpiece as a secondary stereo speaker to pair with the bottom-firing grille that sits next to the USB-C port. Therefore, you’re getting so-so audio quality out of the speaker. Admittedly, it’s one of the better bottom-firing speakers I’ve heard (it even packs a little bass and gets really loud), but it’s still a bottom-firing speaker that’s easy to block and DOESN’T FIRE AT YOU, THE LISTENER.

Luckily, what does face you (obviously) is the screen, and OnePlus doesn’t disappoint in this department. The 6T comes with a large 6.41-inch Optic AMOLED display with a resolution of 2340×1080 and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. The screen quality is great with good color reproduction, contrasts, and viewing angles. I do wish it were a bit brighter, though, since it’s a bit tricky to see outdoors.

Five viewing modes are available if you visit the settings app, including the default out-of-box experience, sRGB, DCI-P3, adaptive, and manual. I kept the default setting enabled during my review period and I was satisfied with the results.

Of course, when it comes to a Full HD+ display on a smartphone trying to compete with top-tier flagships, phone enthusiasts will be skeptical. But to be honest, I have absolutely no problems with this resolution. I personally can’t tell the difference between the 6T’s Full HD+ panel and the Quad HD+ screen on my LG V40. Both look incredibly sharp and are excellent for playing games, watching videos, and more. OnePlus has been doing the Full HD resolution thing ever since its inception, and they’ve had five years to perfect their craft. I have to say, the 6T definitely gets the job done.

Personally, I don’t feel the need to address notches on smartphones nowadays unless something stands out. This makes talking about the OnePlus 6T’s notch a bit difficult. While it does adopt a new form factor and makes it worth talking about, it doesn’t stand out on the device since it blends in with the rest of the experience. I mean, honestly, this is probably the the quickest notch to fade into the UI I’ve ever tried. It’s just so small and unintrusive that the only time I ever look at it is when I’m about to take a selfie. That’s great.

Notch on!
Notch off!

Luckily, OnePlus knows not everyone is a fan of notches (even if this is the best notch ever on a smartphone). In the phone’s settings, you can turn on a feature that lets you hide the notch and still display notifications and status icons in the top corners. This blacks out the notch and makes it feel like part of the bezel. To be honest, I never used the phone with the notch disabled since I like the full-screen experience having the notch enabled gives you, but if you want to hide it, the option’s there.

Speaking of bezels, can I just say these are some of the thinnest bezels I’ve ever seen on a smartphone? Because they are. This is a $549 smartphone ($579 in my case which I’ll explain later). I’ve tried devices $300-$400 more than this and they still have chunky bezels surrounding their displays. Honestly, I have no idea how OnePlus achieved this without resorting to, like, Apple’s ways of engineering since they’re the only other company I’ve seen with consistently slim bezels around its phone screens.

OnePlus’ engineering efforts don’t stop there, however. So long as we’re on the topic of the screen, the 6T also has one of the coolest phone features I’ve ever used: the in-display fingerprint reader. We’ve been hearing about this technology for years at this point but to no avail. Now, though, it seems to finally be ready for consumer-level smartphones, and the 6T is the first one to ship globally and to the North American market.

For the most part, OnePlus’ Screen Unlock (as they call it) works as advertised. By pressing your finger on the illuminated portion of your screen, you can unlock your device without the use of a typical fingerprint scanner. In my usage, I’d say it’s worked around 70 percent of the time which isn’t great. I’ll give the company a break here, however, since this is one of the firs times anyone has ever implemented an in-display fingerprint reader in a mass-market smartphone.

Still though, a 70 percent success rate is by no means perfect. You have to make sure your entire fingerprint is covering the reader when you go to unlock your device. Otherwise, it’ll fail to read and you’ll have more problems than you do solutions. Luckily, so long as you use your entire fingerprint, you’ll be into your phone relatively quickly. It isn’t the fastest experience by any means, but it’s usable when it works.

When using the scanner, OnePlus provides a little animation to go along with the unlocking experience. There are three to choose from in the settings app if you don’t like the out-of-box animation, but I kind of do so I left the setting as-is.

Notably, you can’t use the fingerprint reader while the display is off. To make up for this, OnePlus lets you use the sensor from its ambient display which can be activated either by picking up the 6T or by simply double-tapping the inactive screen. I only have one of these settings turned on, and that’s the pick-up motion. The double-tap, I found, would accidentally activate while in my pocket and, in response, would result in false fingerprint reads. Therefore, to avoid this issue as much as you can, turn off the double-tap to wake feature. You’ll thank me later.

As you use the sensor more and more, OnePlus says it’ll get better at reading your print by identifying different parts of your fingerprint it may’ve not picked up on during setup. The scanner can also be improved with software updates which, I’m sure, will be plentiful since this is a OnePlus phone.

If you don’t like the in-display fingerprint reader or find it too inaccurate, OnePlus includes its amazing Face Unlock technology with the 6T. No, this isn’t an alternative to Face ID since there isn’t any proprietary hardware on board (it’s just using the selfie shooter and some special software), but by God is it good. If you hold the phone up to your face, you can unlock it simply by pressing the power button. You’ll whiz by the lock screen so fast, you won’t have time to check your notifications. This goes for even if you’re holding the device at an awkward angle.

Admittedly, this isn’t the most secure method of unlocking your phone. OnePlus warms users it isn’t that secure and they don’t let you use it to authenticate payments. Still, it’s a bit more advanced than you might think since you can’t trick it with a picture of your face and you have to have your eyes open in order for it to work. That way, your partner (or siblings, in my case) can’t get into your phone while you’re asleep. At the end of the day, Face Unlock is one of my favorite features of the device.

One of the biggest advantages to using a OnePlus phone is the performance. Both the optimizations and the flagship-level hardware the company packs under the hood make for an incredibly smooth and fluid experience. I’m happy to report the 6T is no exception.

Of course, we’ve come to expect this from OnePlus. The company always goes beyond what’s necessary for a good phone in a particular year. For 2018, the 6T comes with a Snapdragon 845 processor, 6 or 8GB of RAM, 128 or 256GB of storage, and Adreno 630 graphics. I was sent the 8GB RAM/128GB storage configuration which retails for $579, but even the baseline 6GB RAM/128GB storage tier would be sufficient for virtually anyone.

During my usage, I’ve had nothing short of fantastic performance from the 6T. Apps open quickly, games rarely ever drop frames, and app management is on point thanks to the 8GB of memory on board, allowing for literally dozens of apps to be open in the background without any performance hits. OnePlus is even doing something special with the 6T: it’s using some of the available RAM as ROM to store information about apps so they open quicker the next time you launch them. That’s smart and it’s led to an overall pleasant experience day in and day out. It sounds outlandish, but this is the best-performing phone I’ve ever used. Not just this year. Of all time.

Like I said, we have two things to thank for the 6T’s amazing performance: the flagship-level specs and OnePlus’ optimizations. Most of those optimizations lie in the software which, for this generation, is OxygenOS based on Android 9 Pie. Much like the performance, OnePlus is also known for an incredibly clean software experience, and the 6T doesn’t disappoint.

OxygenOS, for those of you unfamiliar, is OnePlus’ special version of near-stock Android. It doesn’t apply a heavy skin like other manufacturers, but it does come packed to the brim with welcome features to make your experience better. Little touches like a light and dark mode for the UI, customizable accent color, a customizable status bar, a black-and-white reading mode, customizable fonts, quick gestures, and more all aid in making the experience extremely pleasurable to use.

Overall, I’m a huge fan of OnePlus’ software. It’s clean, concise, and isn’t bogged down by unnecessary features or gimmicks. Everything’s smooth, fluid, and sensible. Plus, the company has a good track record for releasing timely software updates so you can expect security patches and major OS upgrades sooner than when other manufacturers issue them. Right next to the software on the Pixel, OxygenOS is definitely my favorite fork of Android.

With the 6T, OnePlus is introducing new navigation gestures that resemble the iPhone. Out of the box, you get the standard three-button navigation system we’ve all used to at this point, and you have the option of turning on Android Pie’s navigation system if you wish. But during my testing, I’ve been trying out OnePlus’ new gestures that, to me, hit the nail on the head.

If you’ve ever used an iPhone X or later, you know what you’re getting yourself into. A swipe up will take you home and a swipe up and hold will get you to recent apps. unique to the 6T are two additional swipes along the left and right sides of the bottom of the screen which will take you back to the previous page. You can also swipe up and to the right to switch between apps.

In my opinion, these are the most cohesive and sensible gestures you can use on a smartphone. They feel fluid and don’t take very long to get used to. The animations are also silky smooth, making the gestures satisfying to watch. And in case you’re wondering, yes, you can use them with third-party launchers.

Another strength OnePlus has when it comes to making smartphones is battery life. Thanks to the software, the Full HD+ AMOLED display, and the company’s own optimizations, the 6T has incredible battery life. I haven’t had a phone last me as long as the 6T can since I used the Moto Z Play back in 2016. The device’s 3,700mAh battery is more than enough power to last me a 16-17 hour day with heavy use. I regularly end days with as much as 40 percent left in the tank which can take me well into a second day all while never plugging it in.

When you do need to plug in, OnePlus includes its fast charging technology thanks to its proprietary cable and power adapter. The company’s slogan, “A day’s power in half an hour,” means you can get a 50 percent charge in as little as 30 minutes. This is very true. Charging the 6T takes little to no time at all and is the fastest I’ve ever seen. So when you need to top up during the day, you won’t have to wait very long whatsoever.

Onto the cameras. This is an area where OnePlus has been struggling in recent years as they try to catch up to the big dogs like Samsung, Apple, and Google. For the 6T, the company is sticking with the same hardware as the OnePlus 6 and adding some additional software tweaks to improve photography.

That hardware is as follows: a 16MP main sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, a secondary 20MP telephoto sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, and a 16MP f/2.0 selfie camera on the front. Meanwhile, OnePlus says it’s improving HDR, sharpness, and color on the software side for the 6T.

In general, photos taken with the 6T tend to come out pretty good. There’s good color reproduction and decent dynamic range thanks to the increased HDR effects. I do wish images were a bit sharper, though.

Nightscape off
Nightscape on

At night, this is where things get interesting, New with the 6T is Nightscape, OnePlus’ dedicated night mode for its smartphones. The mode works by leaving the shutter open for a longer period of time in order to capture additional light and detail, all while boosting shadows and trying not to blow everything out of proportion.

Unfortunately, the mode doesn’t work as well as I was hoping. I’ve actually found myself taking one photo using Nightscape and one photo without it because I can’t trust Nightscape to take the best photo possible using the 6T’s hardware. Therefore, I only ever used Nightscape a few times in low-light conditions to try things out. Otherwise, I just stuck with auto mode which has been sufficient enough for me.

As far as video goes, it’s pretty decent. You get smooth results and the same color/sharpness/contrast combination as regular photos. The cameras come equipped with options to shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second and slow-mo at 720p/480 fps which is always handy to have. Overall, I’ve been pretty pleased with the camcorder capabilities of the 6T.

Finally, selfies taken with the front-facing camera are also okay. Again, sharpness could be better, but colors are fine and you’ll be overall pleased with the results (y’know, if you keep still like I didn’t).

I hear a lot of reviewers bashing the OnePlus 6T’s cameras as “mediocre” and “disappointing” all while saying you have to consider the price you pay for the device. During my review period, I tried to pretend the 6T was a $700-$800 phone and not the “flagship killer” it really is. And surprisingly, I’ve found I’d be okay with spend around $750 for the shooting experience I got. By no means are the cameras mediocre or disappointing. They’re best in their price range, no doubt about that, but they can also compete with some of the bigger companies’ offerings, especially LG who really has to fix their post-processing.

No, the 6T’s cameras aren’t as good as the Pixel 3, iPhone XS, or Galaxy Note 9. Then again, they aren’t supposed to be. They’re just good cameras you can depend on for a good photo. And thanks to that, I’m a fan of what OnePlus is doing, even though they’re not the best in the game.

Finally, I’d like to mention the snazzy cases OnePlus threw in my reviewer’s kit to coincide with the 6T. There’s the Nylon Bumper, the Silicone Protector, the Sandstone Protective, and the free TPU case that comes in the box of every OnePlus 6T. I’m personally a huge fan of the Nylon Bumper thanks to its grippy texture and premium feel, but each case is expertly crafted, easy on the eyes, and definitely worth picking up. Right next to Apple and their iPhone cases, OnePlus is probably the best at making in-house cases for its devices.

The OnePlus 6T is an incredible package, but that doesn’t mean the company didn’t skimp out on any features. In other words, the 6T costs $549 for a reason. There’s no wireless charging despite there being a glass back, there’s no official IP rating (OnePlus says it can survive a coffee spill or a rinse under the sink, but you don’t wanna go swimming with it), and there’s the LED notification light due to the smaller notch. And let’s not bring up the headphone jack again, because that’s gone, too.

Still, while the OnePlus 6T has its share of shortcomings, the overall experience you get for the money you pay is astonishing. You get a great screen, clean software, cool technology like the in-display fingerprint reader, amazing battery life, the fastest charging currently in a phone, and timely updates. And sure, the camera isn’t the greatest out there, but it can still compete with some of the bigger players in the smartphone space.

Overall, I love the OnePlus 6T. It checks so many boxes that it’s hard not to recommend it to anyone in the market for a new phone. Plus, it can fit into the lives of more people thanks to T-Mobile and Verizon support, with the former even selling the device in its stores.

If you’re looking for a new phone, consider the 6T. You get a flagship-level experience for half the price of the competition.

Rating: 8.5/10