The OnePlus 2 launched on a sea of hype and to the trumpet call of “2016 Flagship Killer” but does the OnePlus 2 really deliver? Find out what we think in our full OnePlus 2 review.
If you cast your mind back to my OnePlus One review last year, you will know that I didn’t buy in to the hype and was overall disappointed with the device. Sure it was a good package, but with a lack luster camera, tall body and dodgy screen I felt much happier with the Vivo Xshot.
When the OnePlus marketing machine kicked off and started to promote the OnePlus 2 I didn’t get excited, the more I learned and saw the less interested I. So how do I feel now after a few weeks living with the OnePlus 2 as my daily driver?
OnePlus 2 Review: Design and build
When we saw the early TENAA leaks of the OnePlus 2 I think we all had similar feelings. You either thought the design was ugly and OnePlus had finally lost the plot, OR the designs were fake. We quickly learned that those leaks were the real deal and the OnePlus 2 really does look like that, but its not really bad in the flesh.
It’s hard to put my feelings down in to words about the design of the OnePlus 2. It s certainly growing on me, but I’m at a loss as to how to describe it.
The best I can come up with is that it looks very business like. To me it is almost like a high-tech briefcase in appearance. It has classic lines, and is made from the highest quality materials to the highest standards, but it’s still just a rectangle. It grabs peoples attention, no one ever says its a pretty, but it is very eye-catching.
Out of the box the OnePlus 2 comes with a sandstone black Style Swap cover with a rough, almost sandpaper like finish. I like the sandstone finish, it feels great (everyone says so) and it doesn’t slip and slide about. However as much as I like the Sandstone, it isn’t a patch on the carbon cover.
Switching to a carbon cover adds a little to the overall thickness of the phone, but at the same time it adds a beautiful feeling soft touch to the rear. I have to admit that with the carbon cover on I actually hold the OnePlus 2 a lot more than just sticking it in my pocket, simply because if feels gorgeous.
The rest of the materials are all top of the line too. The alloy chassis is engineered to a level that other Chinese phone makers haven’t yet reached and all the buttons and switches are just perfect. For example I never use the 3 position notification switch but the quality of the movement and knurled finish tempt me move it just to enjoy the movement and satisfying ‘click’.
Compared to the OnePlus One the OPT is a more compact phone, which in itself is a great feature and worthy upgrade over the original. The bezels are slim without being uber thin, and the overall length has been reduced too.
OnePlus 2 Review: external features
So now you have an idea of what the quality is like what about the features on the outside of the phone?
Well the front has a glass panel with 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 display taking up most of the area while a slightly indented ‘button’ area acts as the fingerprint scanner and home button. In the images it might look like a physical button (similar to iPhone or Meizu) but it is just a capacitive button set into the body. Either side of the home button are menu and back capacitive buttons. They aren’t visible when not pressed and only a simple line lights up when you do press them.
On the rear is the Style Swap cover that comes in carbon, bamboo and a few other options. It is removable to switch and to get to the dual nano SIM card tray.
Aftermarket Style Swap covers also feature a couple of connections which are meant to inform the OnePlus 2 which cover is applied and then change the system’s theme to match. This doesn’t work on my phone and I don’t really care, but what I do wonder is if those same connections can be used to add NFC to the OP2 in the future?
The rear also features that famous OnePlus logo, and just above that we have an alloy panel with the laser (for the laser focus), 13 mega-pixel OV camera and dual LED flash.
An alloy chassis makes up the center section of the phone. It has a grey or smoked finish to it that is very hard wearing. In the weeks that I have used my OnePlus 2 I have often placed it in the same place as loose change or keys and the chassis still look as good as new.
Taking a look around the chassis we find dual speakers in the base either side of a USB 2.0 Type C plug, a 3 position notification switch on the left side, power and volume rocker on the right and 3.5mm headphone jack at the top.
OnePlus 2 Review: Hardware
I think we are all quite aware of what hardware the OnePlus 2 has, and some people are quite vocal about what the phone lacks, but for now let’s focus on what it does have.
Specifications include a 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 display, 13 mega-pixel OV camera with laser autofocus, USB Type C, dual nano sim, 64GB memory, 4GB RAM, Snapdragon 810 chipset, fingerprint scanner, RGB Notification LED, 3300mAh battery and LTE. There is also another option available that has just 3GB RAM and 16GB memory, but if I were you I would go for the larger memory as there is no SD card support.
My model is the Chinese version of the phone which according to OnePlus has different LTE bands to the International model. The general feeling in the OnePlus community is that the hardware on both phones is exactly the same and only the OS changes what bands and frequencies the phone uses. The good news is that it is very easy to install the international ROM on the Chinese phone (see the video below).
According to OnePlus the Chinese version of the phone won’t have full support for LTE around the world and that you will have issues with dual SIMs as it only comes with one EMEI number. In my time with the phone LTE has worked flawlessly in Spain, UK and China, and dual SIM’s have worked without issue also.
Looking at each part in a little more detail I can tell you that the 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 display of the OnePlus 2 is really one of the best 1080p panels I have used.
I have found that some panels are difficult to see when wearing polarised sunglasses on sunny days, but this isn’t the case with the OP2, and I can easily see the panel even if the brightness is on lower than normal. I’m also happy to report that the OP2 hasn’t had any ghost touch issues so far (a problem that some OnePlus owners reported having). There are also no yellow marks on the panel either.
I’m sure you are all wondering if the Snapdragon 810 overheats well, I can confirm it does get warm. Even simply taking photos can generate some heat from the phone. OnePlus have tried to keep overheating to a minimum by under clocking the CPU to only 1.8GHz and have designed the chassis to absorb and move heat quickly. So yes the OnePlus 2 does get warm but it also cools very quickly. I’ve never had it get so hot that I have been concerned about it though.
Before the release of the phone, someone at OnePlus was quoted as saying that the OP2 would feature a “better than touchID fingerprint scanner”. I’ve not had a lot of experience with the iPhone fingerprint system, but if the OnePlus 2 is better then it means the iPhone version is far from perfect.
When it is feeling cooperative, which is about 95% of the time, the fingerprint scanner is fast. A brief touch of your print is enough to wake and unlock the OnePlus 2. It takes a fraction of a second, almost as if there were no security protocol in place. The other 5% of the time it just doesn’t respond, and the only way to get it running is to first wake the screen (either by a double screen tap, or pressing the power button) which then wakes the scanner. So far the OP2 has had only one OTA, and I am hoping future updates with fix the issue.
OnePlus 2 Review: Camera
When we learned the OP2 would have ‘just’ a 13 mega-pixel sensor on the rear many people were not that happy. Personally though I am happy that they stuck to 13 mega-pixels.
While it would have been nice to see a 16 mega-pixel or 21 mega-pixel camera, I believe the 13 mega-pixel would still be the better option. Having tried phones with bigger sensors I know how difficult it is for companies to optimise them for consistent use. For example the 20.7 MP camera on the Meizu MX4 takes some great photos, but only if you take the time to get your settings correct and even then you aren’t guranteed a great shot.
In my opinion a good mobile phone camera should be one that you can open and snap away in normal/auto mode regardless of the conditions and get a good photo. Smartphone cameras are meant to be convenient so you can get a picture when the opportunity arrises, if you need to take a few minutes to set up the camera before getting the perfect shot you may as well carry a DSLR.
OnePlus have done a great job with the OnePlus 2 camera. You can take your phone out in the middle of the day or the middle of the night and get great photos without changing settings or even using the flash.
Even if you wanted to use more advanced settings you wouldn’t be able to. The only options you have are Normal, HDR, Clear Image, and Beauty. But that’s all you need.
OnePlus 2 Camera Samples
OnePlus 2 Review: Audio
The OnePlus 2 ships with Maxxaudio, this plus a Snapdragon chipset usually means pretty good audio, but I’m not blown away in this department.
My first issue with audio on the OnePlus 2 is that MaxxAudio doesn’t seem to be 100% compatible with all earphones. First of all I tried to use my Xiaomi Piston 3 in the OP2. MaxxAudio can be turned on, but there is no enhanced sound. Unplugging the headphones and plugging them back in get’s it working again, but when a new track plays MaxxAudio is off again.
Using OnePlus Silver Bullets or a pair of Bluetooth headphones has the system working without issue, but the audio produced isn’t as good as say the LeTV or Xiaomi Mi Note. With those other two phones I feel drawn in to the sound and enjoying every ounce of a track, even hearing notes I hadn’t noticed before. With the OnePlus 2 I am constantly playing with the equalizer to balance the sound, but it almost alwasys sounds better with MaxxAudio off, and then its pretty average.
OnePlus 2 Review: Battery
Screen on time for me with the 3300mAh battery is about 3 1/2 hours. I’m running Oxygen OS with the latest OTA and have seen a slight improvement when compared to the first Oxygen release.
Now 3 1/2 hours can been very different things. If its 3 1/2 hours of gaming or movie then wow, but that’s not the case for me. My average usage is a lot of photos, social media, web browsing, a few minutes of online video, WeChat and as usual LTE, WIFI and GPS on all the time.
In terms of how long the battery lasts, well I can get to the end of the day and into bed with about 30% left on some days, but on others (today for example) I hit 30% by mid day and was out of juice buy the evening. That’s with no change in my usage habit either.
It’s still early days with Oxygen OS, and as time moves on and updates arrive I am hoping we are going to see longer battery life and more stable power consumption figures.
OnePlus 2 Review: Oxygen OS
Oxygen OS is the international ROM for the OnePlus 2 and it’s the ROM I suggest you use if you buy the Chinese version of the phone. Basically the OnePlus development team have simply taken a stock Android Lollipop install and just add a few of their own features on top.
Some features include support for gestures like double tap to wake, draw a circle to open the camera etc, app permissions so you can only allow apps the access they need rather than grant them everything they require by default and there is also “Shelf”.
“Shelf” is a feature that is still in beta but you can turn it on from the screen settings options. In it’s current form it basically keeps track of the people you contact most and apps you frequently use and lists them in a fast to access slide panel (slide from the left of the screen). Shelf will also tell you the weather in the current location.
As Oxygen OS is basically stock everything works out of the box. All Google apps work without issue, and of all the Chinese phones I have used Oxygen OS is the most stable with Android Wear and also with keeping a connection with your watch.
Oxygen OS isn’t perfect though, it does simply slow down to a stop for no apparent reason at times, and apps sometimes hang too. It is very rare that these issues crop up but they are there from time to time.
OnePlus Oxygen OS Vs Hydrogen OS
How to install Oxygen OS on the Chinese OnePlus 2
OnePlus 2 Review: Conclusion
When the OnePlus 2 marketing began I ignored the hype and reminded myself of how much I didn’t get along with the original OnePlus. When the specs were revealed and the phone finally announced I felt that it wasn’t much of an upgrade over the OnePlus One.
But I’ve had the phone as my daily driver now for a few weeks, and (I kind of hate to say this) I don’t think I can go back to any of my other current phones.
The OnePlus 2 is not a perfect phone. The audio is average, battery life hit and miss, fingerprint scanner can be fussy and Oxygen OS still needs a little work, but when it all works (and it does about 98% of the time) it is an amazing experience.
It might sound strange that I point out so many issues, but really they only happen now and then (except for audio) and in all honesty the reliability is about the same as any other high-end with well optimised operating system.
No matter how much I like the phone, and I will continue to like and use if for sometime to come unless something else comes out, I’m still not buying in to the hype. There are phones with better specs, the OP2 still lacks NFC and Quick Charge and the invite system is a pain in the arse, but when all said and done there are few phones on the market that offer the same level of quality user experience.