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21st of May 2018

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The OnePlus 6 already looks like the best Android value of 2018

The OnePlus 6 is the company's hottest and most powerful phone to date.The OnePlus 6 is the company's hottest and most powerful phone to date.Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE2017%2f10%2f24%2f21%2fraymondwong3profile.34d72By Raymond Wong2018-05-16 17:00:00 UTC

I always get giddy like a kid whenever OnePlus tells me they’ve got a new phone to show me.

This explosion of uncontainable excitement now happens twice a year. And this time the new phone that has me looking like the emoji with two hearts for eyes 😍: the OnePlus 6.

It always feels like it’s too soon for a new OnePlus phone, but that’s also the company’s smart strategy for bringing devices to market: Expect the unexpected and deliver the best product as soon as it’s good to go.

Since the original OnePlus One, the Chinese startup’s phones have followed a linear design evolution over the years. Placed next to each other, you can see the shared DNA each one possesses.

The evolution of OnePlus' phones.

The evolution of OnePlus' phones.

Image: Raymond wong/mashable

The OnePlus 6 builds on the company’s "single horizon line" design philosophy, but thanks to the new glass back, notched screen, and re-arranged and improved dual cameras, the design feels like the freshest iteration in years.

Value like no other

The OnePlus 6 still has a fingerprint reader.

The OnePlus 6 still has a fingerprint reader.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

There are plenty of positive things to say about the OnePlus 6, which I’ll get to in a sec, so I’ll cut to the chase on pricing because, honestly, it's arguably one of the best reasons to buy a OnePlus phone in the first place. 

If you’ve been following OnePlus over the years, you’d know that each new phone has come with a small price jump. This time around, the OnePlus 6 starts at $30 more than the now discontinued OnePlus 5T. Pricing is as follows:

$529 for 64GB of storage + 6GB of RAM

$579 for 128GB of storage + 8GB of RAM

$629 for 256GB of storage + 8GB of RAM

As always, the pricing is all the more attractive when you consider all the features the phone offers.

All glammed and souped up

Unoriginal or not, it was perhaps inevitable OnePlus would shift to the now ubiquitous "glass sandwich" design. 

Gone is the unibody aluminum design (the frame is still the same material) and replacing it is a Gorilla Glass 5 glass back. It looks and feels fantastic giving the phone an unquestionably high-end feel.

OnePlus' global head of marketing Kyle Kiang says they didn’t just slap on a glass back, colorize it, and call it a day. Each glass goes through a 40-step polishing process to achieve a ceramic-like finish. 

Take your pick of three colors.

Take your pick of three colors.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

At launch, the OnePlus 6 will come in two colors: Mirror Black and Midnight Black. A Silk White with rose gold aluminum frame will be available later. Mirror Black is a complete fingerprint magnet (like on any glossy glass phone), but it’s the Midnight Black and Silk White that are most interesting visually; the back glass resembles matte frosted glass and creates an S-shaped shimmer line when viewed at a certain angle. Under the right light, the black looks navy-ish; it's a sleek effect for sure.

The rest of the OnePlus 6 is pretty predictable and that’s fine by me. The phone is about the same size as the 5T, but it has a larger 6.28-inch screen (19.9:9 aspect ratio) as a result of the slimmer bezels and notch. Like all Android phones with a notch, there’s still a “chin” below the screen.

The display is still a 1080p AMOLED display (2,280 x 1,080 resolution to be exact), but only the biggest pixel peepers will complain about the resolution. My two cents: The screen is still very bright and sharp enough that sticking to a 1080p panel isn't an issue — especially if that means longer battery life.

Of course, there's a notch.

Of course, there's a notch.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Besides having good looks, the OnePlus 6 is — not surprisingly — powerful. It’s packing all the greatest for a 2018 flagship:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip

64, 128, or 256GB (first time for a OnePlus phone) of storage

6GB or 8GB of RAM

3,300 mAh battery with Dash Charging

Dual SIM card slots (both supporting LTE)

Android 8.1.0 with Oxygen 5.1.2 skin (basically near-stock Android)

The main camera in the dual-camera setup finally has optical image stabilization.

The main camera in the dual-camera setup finally has optical image stabilization.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The dual cameras are also improved. Notably, the image sensor is 19 percent larger than the one in the 5T, so it should shoot better low-light photos with less image noise.

16-megapixel main camera with f/1.7 aperture with OIS (optical image stabilization)

20-megapixel second camera with f/1.7 aperture

Main back camera records slow-motion video at up to 480 fps at up to a minute in length

OIS stabilizes 4K video at up to 60 fps

16-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.0 aperture

The dual cameras still shoot portrait-style shots with a blurred out background and the front camera will get the same feature in a future software update.

Some things I’m happy to see haven’t been removed: 

Headphone jack (still alive and well!)

Fingerprint reader on the rear

Headphone jack's still alive and well on the OnePlus 6.

Headphone jack's still alive and well on the OnePlus 6.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The phone is also the first OnePlus phone with "gigabit" LTE download speeds, though whether or not your wireless carrier can provide it is a whole other question. 

However, there are some features, now common (if not expected) on flagship smartphones, that OnePlus 6 is missing:

Wireless charging

IP-rated water and dust resistance (the phone's splash-proof)

New software tricks

One of my favorite things about OnePlus is how it approaches software. Like previous phones, the OnePlus 6 runs the company's own take on Android called OxygenOS based on Android 8.1 Oreo. It's virtually stock Android with a bunch of extra OnePlus-only customizations and zero bloatware. 

You can keep the virtual navigation buttons or change them to gestures.

You can keep the virtual navigation buttons or change them to gestures.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

For the OnePlus 6, the company has renamed the old "Gaming Do Not Disturb Mode" to simply "Gaming Mode." As its name implies, the mode supercharges performance for gaming by reducing the amount of data accessed by other apps running to ensure latency is at an absolute minimum. Kiang says they've manually tested the mode to boost performance for the top 50 games in the Google Play Store.

The most dramatic new addition to OxygenOS is the gesture navigation. By default, the phone ships with Android's traditional Back, Home, and Recent Apps button layout. But you can turn on gesture navigation, which removes these virtual buttons for swipes.

The new gestures are very iPhone X-like.

The new gestures are very iPhone X-like.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Swipe up quickly from the bottom bezel to return to the home screen. Swipe up and hold to bring up the Recent Apps. And swipe up from the lower left or right corner to go back to previous screen.  

Hot stuff

Along with the OnePlus 6, the companyis also selling a new pair of wireless neckbuds called the Bullets Wireless. The $70 Bluetooth earbuds aren't quite Apple AirPods competitors, but they're really cheap and offer up to 8 hours of music playback. They can also be juiced up in 10 minutes to get up to 5 hours of playback. 

The Bullets Wireless come with an in-line remote and is sweat- and water-resistant. One handy feature is the magnetic clasp. Clip the buds together and your music automatically pauses (this only works for the OnePlus 5, 5T, and 6). The Bullets won't launch till June, though

The Bullets Wireless have more in common with BeatsX wireless neckbuds than AirPods.

The Bullets Wireless have more in common with BeatsX wireless neckbuds than AirPods.

Image: oneplus

An hour of play time is hardly enough to put the OnePlus 6 through its paces. We'll have a complete review soon, so stay tuned for that. But so far it looks like the company has checked off all the right boxes for the OnePlus 6. The price is still a fraction of the cost of other premium flagship phones, and the specs compete and even exceed some of the best. In an era of $1,000 smartphones, the OnePlus 6 promises to be the hero we deserve.

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