This year’s deluge of smartphone releases is slowly coming to a close. The OnePlus 6T is one of the very last so-called ‘flagships’ of the season having been announced at the very tail end of October. In short, you should take a look at this OnePlus phone for the same reasons you’ve considered its predecessors — it’s simply good value.
Yes, Apple did manage to bury the entire launch of the OnePlus 6T, which saw the brand take a massive U-turn and announce the device a day early — so thanks for that Apple. The announcement of new iPads and MacBooks would be enough to upstage even some of the best Android devices, but the OnePlus 6T probably deserves a few more headlines for what has been achieved.
Yes, there isn’t a massive amount new, so why the high praise? The main reason are the massive strides the Oppo-offshoot has made in its just 5 years since launch, and we’ll take a look at some of those in this review. That said, like any brand initially focused on the enthusiast market, OnePlus has had to shift here and there to reach a brand new target market.
No single feature is particularly groundbreaking or even device-selling alone on the OnePlus 6T. Instead, you get a culmination of years of incremental change for an exceptional experience and device feel at a great price.
Being hypercritical, the OnePlus 6T has some reasonably minor aesthetic changes over the OnePlus 6. If you have the OnePlus 6, then this new model is unlikely to be the hardware leap that you are looking for. The design remains relatively similar and true to the look we’ve come to know and love.
The two phones per year schedule doesn’t really allow for massive wholesale changes, but that’s not a bad thing as the OnePlus 6 was a great looking smartphone. OnePlus claims that they will only release a T device when they consider that their own technology has progressed enough to warrant a release. Although, oddly, that seems to have been the case since 2016.
This points us to the main criticism of this device we had before going hands-on: is there enough to justify a T model? In all honesty, you could argue either way. The internal hardware within the OnePlus 6T remains almost identical to the 6. So, you get the Snapdragon 845, 6GB or 8GB RAM, and 128GB or 256GB of non-expandable storage.
Now, the changes. The increased battery from 3300mAh to 3700mAh comes with a cost. OnePlus has told us directly that the removal of the headphone port has allowed for increased battery size and therefore a bigger capacity battery. This is the end of the headphone port on OnePlus devices, unfortunately. However, you will find a USB Type-C to headphone jack dongle in the box to aid the transition.
The lack of wireless charging is another minor sore point, as the OnePlus 6T still lacks the feature. With the now renamed Dash Charge still being one of the fastest charging methods on any device, you can sort of forgive the lack of wireless charge inclusion. I mean, when you can gain 50% battery in less than 30 minutes, I don’t think it matters all that much. But don’t confuse that with me being an apologist for OnePlus, wireless charging should really be added with the release of the OnePlus 7 for sure.
Yes, the physical fingerprint reader at the back has disappeared and we get an in-display fingerprint reader instead. I can deal with that as a compromise and the in-display reader is reasonably fast. My only experience with these was the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. This reader compares well with the Mate 20 Pro and even has a much nicer animation. Don’t expect it to be as fast as the reader on the OnePlus 6, but it’s very neat and tidy.
One of the only other major hardware changes is the decreased notch size. That does increase the screen-to-body ratio from 84% to 86%, which doesn’t seem like much, but it’s noticeable enough when jumping between the 6 to the 6T. Whilst the notch wasn’t exactly massive on the OnePlus 6, the teardrop on the OnePlus 6T feels like the best implementation of the hardware feature so far.
The notch just doesn’t eat into the 1080p OLED display very much, it simply becomes almost unnoticed when in use. As for the display itself, it doesn’t disappoint despite not being a Quad-HD panel. That isn’t a pass for OnePlus, we desperately want the company to include a higher resolution display. It’s something we have criticized Apple for with their flagship devices, but I find it much harder to argue when the OnePlus 6T costs under $550.
One area I am frustrated is the lack of HDR support on yet another OnePlus device, the colors are good though. The 6T does officially support the full DCI-P3 wide color gamut and should you wish, you’re able to choose from an array of color spaces including sRGB, a monochrome reading mode and night-style warm display color.
As with any AMOLED worth its salt, the inky blacks and solid contrast does make this display a joy to look at. Viewing angles are also more than acceptable, but one thing I did notice was that the OnePlus 6T does seem to get a tiny bit brighter at full brightness in the default calibration mode than the 6. I could only see this when viewing the devices directly side-by-side.
One annoyance, at least for me, is the removal of the notification LED. OnePlus has tried to say that the lift to wake (or ‘Lift up display’) feature should be more than adequate. I adore a notification LED, it pains me to see the function be removed from the OnePlus 6T. Being able to see and organize notifications by color is lost, meaning I now need to lift my phone every time it buzzes to see who, what and where it has come from.
Back to the notch though, don’t expect any 3D face scanning features. This is strictly a standard housing to a front-facing camera. That means you get the basic face unlocking feature, which is still really fast. It actually sometimes renders the in-display reader pointless when the phone unlocks using your face before your finger can be scanned. Either way, it blends into the aesthetic just that little bit more.
If you had questions over the quality of the OnePlus 6T’s hardware, then they are unfounded. The device is incredibly well put together, it has a reassuring chunky feel and that alone makes me prefer holding it over the OnePlus 6. The soft curves on the back plate feel just a little more pronounced and therefore more comfortable to hold.
Oxygen OS is still one of the very best OEM skins to grace the Android space. That is all thanks to a series of ultra lightweight changes and enough additions to differentiate Oxygen OS from Stock Android. I’d argue that there is no bloat to speak of with the fork of Android 9.0 Pie on the OnePlus 6T.
Whilst the gesture style navigations are nothing new, they do feel a little smoother than in the previous Android Pie beta downloads on the OnePlus 6. You can revert to the pre-Pie navigation bar if you wish, which isn’t possible on the Pixel 3 devices. Props to OnePlus for allowing you to do this, as, for some, the on-screen navbar is much better in day-to-day usage. It’s another little tweak that makes all the difference over Stock Android to those that prefer the older navigation method.
One pretty big tweak to the way Oxygen OS operates is the new Smart Boost mode and is one of the few reasons beyond device longevity why I would recommend picking up the 8GB RAM variant. Smart Boost uses device memory to improve boot times, which in turn is supposed to result in faster app launch times. The device does feel fast, but I can’t hand on heart say that I noticed if Smart Boost was really providing major benefits to my recently launched applications.
For the notch, if you’re not a fan you can even disable it and have a darkened notification area reserved for notification icon reminders. It does eat into your display, but at least the option is still there. That said, the notch isn’t very intrusive for the most part, so I’m not sure why anyone would bother reducing overall display real estate in favor of hiding the teardrop notch.
Those familiar with Oxygen OS or Stock Android will feel right at home, I do love the ability to have darkened menus and change menu accents. It might not seem like much, but it’s a powerful personalization tool that helps you really make OnePlus devices your own.
I think that it’s a testament to the software that I normally don’t bother using a third-party launcher when using a OnePlus device, such is the quality of Oxygen OS right out of the box.
I honestly hate making any major statements on battery life, part of that is due to the sheer number of variations that can affect battery on a day-to-day basis. I noticed the battery was slightly better on the 6T over the 6 with essentially the exact same setup, apps installed and usage. I wouldn’t read into that too much though, as my 6 model has a beta build of Android 9.0 Pie and Oxygen OS.
Now for an accurate screen on time, I saw anywhere from 5 to 7 hours. Often if I am working I don’t check my phone all too much. That results in a battery I don’t need to charge as often, but it has kept up with my ‘busy’ days no problem.
Can I give you a ballpark figure? Well, I’d confidently state that you can expect at least a minimum of 4 to 5 hours of screen on time with standard usage. In this instance, I’d call streaming YouTube, music and plenty of social media browsing more or less ‘standard usage’ in 2018.
There really isn’t much to reveal about the camera capabilities, mainly as the setup remains identical to that found on the OnePlus 6. Software tweaks and refinements seem to be more the aim of OnePlus’ game with the 6T model this time around.
Most notable of these software tweaks is the addition of the long exposure Nightscape mode, which helps you take better nighttime photos. It’s a pretty mixed bag for the most part and having already had some hands-on time with the feature thanks to the Android Pie beta program on the OnePlus 6, there isn’t much new here to shout about.
Beyond Nightscape, you will also find a Studio Lighting, which is present within the camera app as standard. You can’t turn the feature on or off, instead it’s just part of the camera experience. Does it make any discernible difference? Well, I’m not even sure. I cannot tell any difference and with no point of reference, it’s difficult to even tell that anything even changes from the previous camera experience.
Overall, the camera application and the hardware can help you take some decent photos given the right conditions. I’ve found the telephoto lens is one I’ve begun to use more and more, but with relatively mixed results. That’s a little harsh, but I’ve never really been one to pick up a OnePlus phone and expect top-tier camera performance.
Even with some light criticism of the OnePlus 6T camera, I do really like the colors and the controls made available within the inbuilt camera app. You won’t get lost within the camera application trying to find or tweak a setting.
Prices of smartphones have come a long way, at one time you could pick up the original “2014 flagship killer” OnePlus One for under $300 ($299 to be precise). That device came with quite a few compromises, 16GB of storage, no NFC and a commercial variation on the popular Cyanogen Mod in the form of Cyanogen OS. Buying the phone also required an invite. Whilst that generated hype and a sense of exclusivity, that model simply won’t work in 2018 and beyond.
OnePlus as a company has come a long way in a short space of time. With the OnePlus 6T there are quite a few compromises that do veer away from the Never Settle ethos that has brought the company millions of hardcore fans globally. If the removal of the headphone port is a bitter pill to swallow, then stick with or get the OnePlus 6. The removal of the fingerprint reader is a little bit hard to be massively frustrated by, as the in-display reader is more than adequate enough to offset the loss of the rear-placed reader.
Removing the fingerprint reader from the back of the phone really refines the look and feel of the back of the OnePlus 6T, but it isn’t a huge departure from past devices. It helps the overall aesthetic for a sleeker look even if it is to the detriment of the hardware feature set. You’ll be impressed with the accuracy and speed of the in-display fingerprint reader. Although it isn’t as consistent as I’d like it to be.
Overall, OnePlus might not have reinvented the wheel with the OnePlus 6T, but a slew of refinements, minor hardware improvements and major notch reductions means that the 6T has to be considered to be one of the very best sub-$600 devices on the market.
Pricing starts at $549 for the 6GB RAM / 128GB storage variant with options up to $629 for 8GB RAM / 256GB storage.