OnePlus got everyone’s attention with the OnePlus One because it was cheap and powerful. Each successive OnePlus phone is a little more spendy, but it also adopts whatever hot new features are popping up in more expensive phones. OnePlus has gotten on board with fingerprint sensors, dual cameras, 18:9 screens, and now the OnePlus 6 fully embraces the latest smartphone zeitgeist. This phone sports a glass chassis and a display notch. Inside, it still has the top-of-the-line hardware and a clean build of Android.
If you don’t like notches, this phone won’t convince you to like them. However, it’s the best notch implementation Android has seen thus far. Like past OnePlus phones, it’s fast, has excellent battery life, and impressive build quality. This is undeniably the most “premium” phone OnePlus has ever made, but price creep has left it in a weird place. At $530, you’re within spitting distance of the Pixel 2, and OnePlus still has an inferior camera and no real water-resistance. For some OP fans, this will be the perfect phone. For others, it’ll be a pass. I doubt it’s going to grow OP’s presence in the US.
|Display||6.28-inch OLED @ 2280×1080 (19:9 ratio)|
|Camera||16MP+20MP rear, 16MP front|
|Software||Oxygen OS (Android 8.1)|
|Colors||Mirror Black, Midnight (matte) Black, Silk White|
|Pricing||6GB/64GB $529, 8GB/ 128GB $579, 8GB/256GB $629|
|The notch||This is the best implementation of the screen notch yet on an Android phone. Ignore this point if you hate all notches.|
|Design||The OnePlus 6 looks and feels more expensive than it is. The glass back doesn’t get too smudged, and the buttons are solid.|
|Alert slider||This feature finally works the way it should: ring, vibrate, and silent.|
|Headphone jack||It still has one.|
|Fast charging||It’s really fast.|
|Camera||Main camera takes solid photos. It’s an improvement over the 5T and about what you’d expect for the price.|
|Battery life||It’ll last well over a day even with heavy usage.|
|Software||Oxygen OS is clean and fast. Based on Android 8.1.|
|Cases||The official OnePlus cases are so, so good.|
|Price||With another price bump, it’s getting hard to justify buying a OnePlus phone when better devices are just a little more expensive.|
|Launcher||The OnePlus Launcher could use some attention. Features like the Shelf and quick search aren’t working well.|
|Audio||The single bottom-firing speaker is middling at best.|
|Water-resistance||Still no IP rating.|
|Wireless||No support for Verizon (or Sprint).|
|Design again||The phone isn’t quite symmetrical on the front due to the small chin at the bottom.|
|Camera again||The secondary camera doesn’t do anything except portrait mode. Weak HDR and low-light performance.|
Our OnePlus 6 review is sponsored by dbrand, crafters of fine-lookin’ mobile skins. Read more about drand’s skins for the OnePlus 6 after the conclusion.
OnePlus has always made phones that feel nicer than the price would lead you to believe, and that’s still true with the higher prices of recent models. In the case of the OnePlus 6, the fit and finish is flagship level. OnePlus is up there with the likes of Samsung and Huawei. This is a big phone with its 6.28-inch display, so it’s somewhat hefty at 177g. It just seems right when you get it in your hand. There’s no detectable flex nor any gaps in the chassis. While this phone is still not IP water-resistant, OnePlus says it’s good for “everyday” usage. That means a splash or rain won’t kill it, but submersion is not recommended.
The front and back of this phone both have a sheet of Gorilla Glass 5—this is the first OnePlus flagship to sport a rear glass panel. I prefer metal phones because they aren’t as slippery, and fingerprints make glass phones look gross. The OnePlus 6 is certainly a slippery device (I have the glossy Mirror Black model), but it doesn’t seem to get as smeared with fingerprints as other phones. I’m not sure why, but I suspect they’re not as visible with OnePlus’ thin film layers. That’s what gives the phone its highly reflective look. The gently curved edges make the OP6 comfortable to hold, too.
The back of the phone has a fingerprint sensor in the customary spot below the camera module that juts up a few millimeters from the surface of the phone. The sensor is in a comfortable place, but it feels almost identical to the glass back. It can sometimes be difficult to know for sure if you’re touching the right spot back there. I’ve taken to sliding my finger across the phone to make sure I feel the lip around the fingerprint sensor. The speed and accuracy of this sensor are good, but I do get more rejected reads than I got back when OP used front-facing sensors. It’s still better than fingerprint unlock on Samsung phones, though.
A polished aluminum band encircles the phone. The left edge has the volume rocker, but the alert slider has relocated to the right edge this year. It’s just above the power button. I personally wish OnePlus had left the button where it was. In this arrangement, I find myself accidentally pressing the slider instead of the power button sometimes.
The buttons feel solid with good tactile feedback when pressed. The three-position alert slider finally works the way it should have all along. OnePlus isn’t bothering to tweak Android’s do-not-disturb feature anymore. The slider toggles between ring, vibrate, and silent modes.
On the bottom edge, you have a speaker, Type-C port, and a headphone jack. Good on OP for keeping the headphone jack alive. Audio output from OnePlus phones has never been the best, but I feel like it’s a little improved this year. It might just be my imagination, driven by warm fuzzies from being able to actually plug in some headphones without an adapter. The speaker is forgettable but okay as long as you don’t expect too much from it.
The display on this phone will no doubt turn some people off. OnePlus has hopped on the screen notch bandwagon with LG, Asus, and others. I don’t like the aesthetics of losing that chunk of screen, but the upshot is you can fit more display on the phone. Your status bar content shows up on either side of the notch (I’ll cover the specifics in the software section), so OP was able to push the ratio to 19:9. I might not love notches, but the taller screen is appreciated; you get more space without making the phone ungainly to hold. Consider, a 16:9 phone with a 6.3-inch display would be unpleasant to use because of the width. The notch makes room for the front-facing 16MP camera, earpiece, sensors, and notification LED. It takes up less than a third of the display’s width, so things could be worse if you’re generally opposed to notches.
Several Android OEMs have done the notch and completely screwed it up. Devices like the LG G7 have a chin at the bottom in addition to the screen notch, which defeats the purpose. If you’ve got a chin, why not move the screen down and make it symmetrical with small bezels? The OnePlus 6, much to my chagrin, does have a chin. However, it’s a pretty small chin. The G7 and Essential phone both look substantially less elegant with their comparatively giant bottom bezels. At the top of this phone, you’ve got about 3mm of bezel (in the non-notch area). At the bottom, there’s a maximum of 6mm of bezel. I say maximum because the phone isn’t flat on the top and bottom. It curves outward just a little, which helps hide the asymmetry.
The display itself is a 1080p OLED panel like all recent OnePlus phones. The resolution is 2280 x 1080 thanks to that fantastic 19:9 ratio. You might assume 1080p is lacking when the display is almost 6.3-inches, but the PPI isn’t that far off from past OnePlus phones. Both the OnePlus 5T and the OnePlus 6 are around 400PPI because the OP6 is the same width as the 5T with extra pixels at the top and bottom. You can see a little fuzziness from the pentile subpixels if you look closely, but this is not a problem for non-VR phones.
The OLED looks even at all brightness levels, so you don’t have to worry about any V30-style blotches. The colors are calibrated to be vibrant, but you can switch to a more natural look if you prefer. I don’t have any problem with OP’s default colors, but the greens do tend to look a bit oversaturated. The colors also don’t shift much at off-angles—it’s better than the Pixel 2 XL in that regard. The price of this phone becomes more evident when you try to use it outside or in a dark room. Even with the brightness maxed, this phone isn’t very legible on a sunny day. At the other end of the spectrum, it doesn’t get sufficiently dim in a dark room.
OnePlus has once again outfitted its new phone with a dual camera setup, but it feels like a waste of space and expense. The main 16MP camera is joined by a secondary 20MP shooter that doesn’t do much of anything. The only thing that secondary camera can do is support the main sensor in portrait mode. This is such a throwaway feature that I’m surprised OnePlus even bothered. Portrait mode is good enough on this phone, but adding a whole sensor just for that? The best version of OP’s dual camera setup is still the OnePlus 5, which had a zoom camera. At least that had some real utility.
So, the secondary camera is a wash, but how about that main sensor? The OnePlus 6 takes the best photos of any OnePlus phone yet, but it’s still lacking compared to more expensive phones like the Pixel, Galaxy S9, and P20 Pro.
Some of the outdoor shots I’ve gotten with the OnePlus 6 are genuinely lovely and on par with photos from those more expensive phones. The phone pulls in a lot of detail, and overall scene exposure and colors seem accurate. The camera does still over-sharpen edges, and there’s a “painted” effect if you look closely in busy areas. Check out the grass and tree bark in the sample photos for an example.
Even with generally accurate exposure, this phone gets tripped up in more challenging lighting conditions. For instance, bright areas tend to get blown out. Likewise, darker areas lose definition. The OnePlus 6 has an auto-HDR mode, but it doesn’t work miracles. This isn’t surprising when you look at the way OP tuned the camera. In good light, the phone sticks with very low ISO and a quick shutter. When there are darker areas, the shutter doesn’t stay open longer to gather more detail. I find this a little confusing because the phone does have optical stabilization. It should tolerate slightly longer exposures to pick up detail, but the HDR processing probably can’t keep up.
Indoor shots taken with the OP6 are still better than previous OnePlus phones. There isn’t too much noise, and the white balance looks better than I expected. The shutter can be a bit longer here, likely thanks to the inclusion of OIS. The watercolor processing effect is still present, though. As light drops further, the OP6 aggressively ramps up the ISO, which introduces noise. The shutter gets longer to help limit that, but you tend to get lots of low-light photos with both longer shutter and high ISO—they’re grainy and still not very bright. Phones like the Pixel and GS9 don’t have to crank the ISO as hard. At a certain point, the OnePlus 6 just can’t get enough light to take a usable photo, and that point comes sooner than it does on a more expensive phone.
With the OnePlus 6, you get what you pay for when it comes to the camera. It’s clearly better than the camera on budget phones like the Moto G series. However, it’s just as obviously inferior to a Pixel or Galaxy S9.
Performance and battery
My day-to-day experience using the OnePlus 6 has been a joy. This phone is fast—like Pixel-fast. Apps remain in memory for ages, and switching back to them is almost instant. Loading heavy web pages in Chrome is snappy, and the phone even continues to work well when installing apps in the background. The OP6 is sometimes in too much of a hurry to get things done, though. The animations can feel rushed and not as smooth as they are on a Pixel. Admittedly, this is a minor issue.
When you wake up the OnePlus 6, you have the option of using face unlock instead of the fingerprint sensor or a passcode. This feature debuted on the OnePlus 5T, and it’s mostly unchanged here. The setup process is a little prettier, but it’s still impressively fast. Often, you won’t even see the lock screen because face unlock is so fast. However, it’s just using the front-facing camera. There’s no magical IR dot projector on this phone like the iPhone X. Thus, the face unlock starts to slow down dramatically when there’s less ambient light. In a dark room, it probably won’t work at all.
Battery life is notoriously difficult to measure because everyone uses their phones differently. Still, I’m going to try. I used the OnePlus 6 as my primary phone during testing. I used it for a lot of messaging and email management, browsing the web, some light gaming, taking photos, and a few phone calls. I had three Google accounts syncing to the phone at all times as well. The 3,300mAh battery in the OP6 was enough to eke out around 6 hours of screen time over about a day and a half. I think you could easily manage two days of usage from this phone if you don’t use it as heavily.
This phone’s battery life is a modest improvement over the OnePlus 5T, which was itself a slight improvement over the OnePlus 5. Battery size has remained consistent, but newer, more efficient ARM chips and Android optimizations appear to be helping.
When you get low on juice, there’s Dash Charge. Except, maybe it won’t be called Dash Charge much longer. OnePlus doesn’t seem to know what it’s going to do, but the accessories still say “Dash” on them. Whatever it’s called, the OnePlus charging is crazy fast at about 20W. It can also remain fast longer because most of the hardware is in the plug rather than the phone, which means lower temperatures. However, Dash Charge (or whatever) isn’t a widely supported standard like USB-PD or Quick Charge. You can only get Dash hardware from OnePlus, and it’s expensive. The phone also does not support fast charging on other standards. If you plug in a PD or QC cable, it’ll only charge at around 8-10W.
Oxygen OS was launched on the OnePlus 2 after the company’s partnership with Cyanogen Inc fell apart. That didn’t turn out well for Cyanogen, but the first version of Oxygen OS was pretty rough. It has improved since then, and it’s now one of the better OEM builds of Android. It’s mostly free of clutter, well optimized, and includes some cool extra features. Still, OnePlus has clung to some features that don’t work for far too long, and a couple of new additions to Oxygen OS aren’t very polished.
The OnePlus launcher has a lot going for it including customizable layouts, icon pack support, and notification dots. However, there are also a handful of clunky or annoying features that keep me from using it full time. For example, the Shelf UI is just a waste. That’s what OnePlus calls the extra widget screen to the left of your main home screen panel. It’s a vertically scrollable list of custom widgets for contacts, system stats, and so on. There’s no reason this needs to be a separate page on the home screen—you can have other widgets anyplace. The Google Feed should occupy this space, but it’s not supported. You can, however, turn off the Shelf.
Then there’s the app drawer’s “quick search” option, and it’s anything but quick. If you enable this (and you should not), swiping up to open the app drawer gets you a blank search UI. You can type to find apps, but this is tedious when there’s a whole empty screen below the search bar that could be showing you apps right away. This is the same thing that appears if you tap the search option at the top of the app drawer, but I can’t imagine why you’d want it to appear every time you open the app drawer. Apps you haven’t launched yet also have a blue dot next to the name in the app drawer and home screen, which looks messy.
The settings are mostly stock, but OP has added a couple menus for its custom features. I like that there’s a dark UI mode with configurable accent colors. That hides the notch in the settings, but you can fiddle with a different setting if you want to hide it all the time. You have two options: show and hide. If you choose to hide the notch, your status icons remain at the top of the screen, but apps can’t expand into it. It’s nice to have this as an option as I know some people are viscerally opposed to notches. However, this won’t make the phone entirely symmetrical in appearance. The chin is smaller than the top “bezel” in hidden notch mode.
OnePlus lets you customize the icons that appear in the status bar, and that’s something you might want to do. As you can imagine, the notch takes up the entire middle section of the status bar. That means you only get three notification icons on the left next to the clock. Over on the right, you get signal, battery, and a few more icons before they overflow. To see the other icons, you have to pull down the notification shade. That shows the full list of status icons on the right side of the screen below the notch. This is clunky, but I’ll admit I don’t have a better idea. I went through and deactivated several icons I don’t need to make the UI look less cluttered. OnePlus made the rather bizarre choice to prevent you from displaying the battery percentage in the status bar. It only appears when you’ve got the notifications open.
The OnePlus 6 includes gesture navigation, which came to the 5T in an update. You can swipe up from the bottom to go home, swipe up and pause for multitasking, and swipe up from the left or right bottom edge for back. The gestures seem more responsive on the OP6, and I almost like using them. It still feels unfinished, though. For example, the home/overview animation doesn’t always display depending on where you are in the OS. The swipe up gesture also triggers content at the bottom of the screen. Something as simple as hitting back to close the keyboard is needlessly awkward. I also can’t find any easy way to launch Assistant in this mode, so that alone is a deal breaker for me.
OnePlus could probably stand to focus a little more attention on the useful extras hiding in Oxygen OS. For example, you can use parallel apps to clone your messaging apps so you can use multiple accounts. Then there are the screen-off gestures, which make it a snap (or swipe, actually) to open the camera or control media. The app locker feature lets you block access to sensitive content and access it only with your lock code or fingerprint. This stuff is all great, but you’d never know it’s there unless you dig around in the settings.
The highest praise I can give Oxygen OS is that it remains nimble and free of junk software. It would be easy for OnePlus to integrate junk into the ROM to earn a little cash on the back end, but it doesn’t do that. A fresh OP6 has Google apps, a handful of OnePlus apps, and that’s it. I wish more OEMs would follow OnePlus’ lead here.
We’re (probably) not going to do a full review of the new OnePlus Bullets Wireless because we’ve come to a consensus among AP staff that they’re just not very interesting or good. The market is trending toward completely wireless earbuds, but these have a cable between the buds. It’s not just any cable—it’s a giant, heavy cable with bulging batteries.
Bonus: This photo was taken with the OnePlus 6.
The Bullets Wireless promise eight hours of battery life, which is a lot. I’d much prefer something less bulky that only had half the battery life, though. This headset has two heavy bulges lower on the cord, one of which has a power button. Then there’s a remote higher up on the left side. The cable portion resting on your neck is also quite thick, and I didn’t like how it felt when I used the Bullets at the gym. They do charge over Type-C, which is my favorite aspect of the Bullets Wireless.
As for the audio experience, they sound good for $70 Bluetooth earbuds. There’s also no detectable audio/video lag. If you don’t mind the clunky cable, you might be perfectly happy with the Bullets Wireless. I’m not a fan, though.
Value and conclusion
So you don’t like screen notches? That’s fine—I get it. The fact of the matter is screen notches are something we’re going to have to live with for a while. Maybe we’ll look back on this era with disdain, but without the benefit of hindsight, I think the OnePlus 6 looks nice. The notch is on the small side and doesn’t require an obnoxiously tall status bar. The chin is there, but it’s much smaller than on some phones. I also appreciate how the shape of this phone helps hide the chin-notch asymmetry.
The move to a glass frame will also irk many OP fans, but this is a pretty nice glass back. It doesn’t seem to show fingerprints as much as many phones, and there’s that neat Midnight Black model with the textured glass panel. Don’t like the glass? No problem—OnePlus makes fantastic cases for its phones. They look and feel almost like part of the device.
The camera has improved slightly on this phone compared to the 5T, but the gulf between OP and the market leaders is still evident. The camera does fine in most outdoor settings and even inside with good light. However, the HDR is weak and low-light performance is just okay. OP’s image processing still results in over-sharpening and a “watercolor” effect in some photos as well. I also question the decision to include a second camera module that only operates in portrait mode. The camera is a case of “you get what you pay for.”
One of the primary selling points for this phone is the flagship-level hardware along with clean, responsive software. The OnePlus 6 is fast, and you won’t have to spend an hour removing bloatware. There are a lot of useful features in Oxygen OS like app locking, gestures, and incredibly quick face unlock. OnePlus also finally fixed that damn alert slider. The home screen could use some more attention, though.
This is not a perfect phone, but it’s one that is worth the $530 asking price. That’s just the 64GB/6GB model. The one with 128GB of storage and 8GB of RAM will run you $580. A 256GB version available in some markets will push the price to $630. The problem is that the OnePlus 6 does not exist in a vacuum. There are better phones that don’t cost much more, and you have to buy the OP6 for full price up front. The Pixel 2 starts at just $650, and there’s a payment plan. You can also walk into a US carrier store and get a Galaxy S9 for around $700, and the monthly payment plans make the cost even easier to justify.
So, should you buy a OnePlus 6? Maybe. In some places, buying a phone at full price is the norm. For those people, this is a very good value. If you count on payment plans and carrier deals for new phones, the OnePlus 6 is less attractive as it creeps up on $600.
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