How do you follow up a home run? Well, you gotta hit another home run. Anything else would be a disappointment. Right?
So how did OnePlus fare at its 2nd at bat? Let’s find out.
OnePlus 2 Review
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, OnePlus made a hell of a phone last year. It’s price and performance were unmatched for the better part of the year. Despite a rocky launch (to put it lightly), OnePlus still managed to please most customers willing to put up with the long wait and a little bullshit here and there.
Fast forward one year and we have the successor to the OnePlus One, the OnePlus 2. Plagued by yet another rocky launch, and the use of questionable taglines, the “2016 Flagship Killer” has some very lofty expectations to live up to. Does OnePlus have another home run on their hands, can it possibly live up to the #HYPE, or should OnePlus just #GTFO? Join ETR as we destroy dive into one of the year’s most highly anticipated smartphones.
Speakers: Bottom-facing speaker
Microphones: Dual-microphone with noise cancellation
HARDWARE, BUILD QUALITY, & DESIGN SHIT
The OnePlus 2 is virtually identical in size to it’s little brother, the OnePlus One. Length and width (151.8 mm x 74.9 mm) wise, it’s just slightly smaller. However, it is significantly heavier (175g) and just a bit fatter (9.85 mm) than last years model (8.9 mm and 162g). Not necessarily a bad thing, but some people might find the weight off putting.
It’s not a small phone by any means, but it’s not unwieldyeither. It feels great in the hand, and just like last years model, I think it is the perfect overall size for a smartphone. But it may take a bit of getting used to if you are coming from a smaller phone.
Build Quality & Design
For the OnePlus 2, OnePlus chose to follow the trend of using high-end materials in the construction of the phone. Gone are the days of cheap ass plastic and shitty faux metal accents. To compete in this extremely competitive $400 smartphone segment, cheap materials are a no-go. It’s gotta look sexy, and it’s gotta be metal as fuck. It’s the just the way things are right now.
The design and construction of the OnePlus 2 are indeed far superior to the OnePlus One. The cheap plastic feeling is gone, it’s been replaced with a heavy duty, rock solid metal frame. OnePlus has also brought back its signature, sandpaper-esque, sandstone rear cover. At the time of the OnePlus One, I felt the sandstone cover was innovative and unique, but I feel like its novelty has worn off a bit. Despite my feelings for the cover, the sandstone texture does provide an excellent grip.
OnePlus is offering (for purchase) several “Style Swap” covers to replace the stock sandstone black cover. Style Swap covers were promised with the OnePlus One, but OnePlus ultimately failed to deliver on its promise. At least it’s an option this time around. Swapping covers is easy enough, just a fingernail and a bit of force will do it. Removal of the cover is required to access the dual SIM slot, which resides behind the rear cover.
On the backside of the OnePlus 2, you will also find the camera housing. The camera placement looks a bit out of place, but I can’t quite put my finger on exactly why. It’s like it slid down about a half inch further than it should have. There may be a great reason for its positioning, maybe so your hand is less likely to interfere with photos/videos, but its just opinion. The camera housing itself looks great, even if the camera lens and the flash should be swapped. Okay, I’ll shut up now.
OnePlus 2 fingerprint scanner
The front of the 2 is once again an covered in a black slab of Gorilla Glass 3. The bottom of the phone features an all-new fingerprint scanner. Even though the fingerprint scanner looks like a physical button, it’s isn’t. It doesn’t depress or click, but it does double as a capacitive home button.
My experience with the home button/fingerprint scanner has been mostly positive. I am running Oxygen OS version 2.0.2, my OnePlus 2 was was updated the day I opened the box, so I haven’t experienced any of the issues many other reviewers have noticed, such as an unresponsive scanner and/or home button. After recording my fingerprint, I had little trouble unlocking the 2 with a simple thumbprint. I would say it worked about 95% of the time, sometimes my finger was slightly off center and I had to re-scan. But for the most part, it works just like it should. It’s a welcome addition.
This section shouldn’t be in here, because it shouldn’t be a problem. But since it’s the subject of so much backlash, I feel like I must at least address the issue. Hopefully, you weren’t looking forward to using Android Pay with that fancy fingerprint scanner. Because it isn’t possible. OnePlus opted not to include NFC with the OnePlus 2, a glaring omission and the subject of a lot of controversy.
Regardless of what OnePlus has to say on the matter, or whether or not you ever use NFC, it was a flat-out mistake not to include it.
No one expected, nor really wanted/needed USB-C, but I do think we were all expecting a feature as basic as NFC to be included. It’s a step back from the previous generation, and that’s not good.
Notification Slider & Buttons
OnePlus 2 notification slider
Turning our attention to the sides of the phone, we are greeted with another new feature. On the left-hand side, you will find the new notification slider. Slide all the way down to allow all notifications. Slide toward the middle to restrict to priority interruptions only. Slide all the way to the top to disable all notifications, with the exception of alarms. It’s an uncommon and unique addition that I am sure will be welcomed by many.
On the right side of the phone, we find your typical volume and power buttons. The buttons look and feel excellent. They are nearly flush with the surface and feel very tight, in a good way. They have a very satisfying ‘click when depressed. Although, I do wish that the volume and power button were swapped, it just feels a bit strange, but it’s not a big deal, just personal preference.
OnePlus 2 Volume and power buttons
On the bottom of the device, you can find yet another OnePlus first. The OnePlus 2 is one of the first Android devices to include a USB Type-C port instead of a typical Micro-USB port. Sounds great, who doesn’t love new technologies being incorporated into their device? Being the technology enthusiast that I am, I am all for the incorporation of new technologies, but it’s gotta make sense.
I don’t think the inclusion of a USB-C port makes sense, right now. Other than having bragging rights, I can really only see one benefit. Ready for this? You can insert the plug in any direction. Big. Fucking. Deal. You can’t transfer data any faster than standard Micro-USB, and I doubt the OnePlus 2 can support HDMI output via USB-C. So it’s inclusion was strictly for convenience sake. It’s like a disguised Micro-USB port.
Sure, USB-C is the future, but not the way OnePlus implemented it into the 2. You can’t convenience me the trade off was worth the benefit. One of the trade-offs being, no quick charging. That’s bad enough by itself. But it’s not the only trade off. 99% of the population probably has about 100 Micro-USB cables lying around their house, car, or workplace. They are fucking everywhere, they are basically free. You know what absolutely no one has? A USB-C cable. If you purchase a OnePlus 2, you might want to think about carrying its USB-C cable with you at all times. Being the first to adopt new tech is not always a good thing. The world is built for Micro-USB, it’s going to take awhile to adopt the new Type-C standard.
Yet, another section that just shouldn’t be in this review. Who the fuck ever brings up the vibration motor? Well, when said motor is shit, then you bring it up. Probably my least favorite part of the device as a whole. I’ll be as blunt as possible, the motor is a fucking piece of shit. If Walmart sold a “Great Value” brand of vibration motor, that’s what I would imagine they put into the OnePlus 2.
It feels terrible, and it sounds terrible. It just feels cheap (hard to describe), not at all tight and powerful like most other phones, it’s almost like the vibration lags. When a vibration occurs, it sounds like there is sand inside of the phone, or something has come loose. I keep my phone on vibrate basically every hour of the day, so having a shitty vibration motor is a problem. I missed several calls due to not being able to feel the vibration in my pocket. As you can probably tell, I am not a big fan OnePlus’ part selection here.
As a whole, the design and build quality are a big improvement. It’s much higher quality than the One, but it still feels a bit underwhelming. It’s super solid and very well build, but I feel like it could be a bit more refined. The choice of a different material on the rear cover would have been a great start, something new by default with a sandstone option. Perhaps just an option to chose a different cover when ordering the phone. Considering you have to remove the cover before you can use your phone as a phone, they could have just left the cover off and given us an option at checkout, but I digress, it could certainly be worse.
Performance & Software
Packing a Snapdragon 810 processor, 4GB DDR4 RAM, and 64GB of internal storage. The OnePlus 2 is great for bragging rights, performance arguments, and benchmark crowns. But all that shit really doesn’t matter if can’t perform well in the real world. If you place great emphasis on benchmark scores, then I guess it’s an important factor when deciding which phone to purchase. But benchmark performance is not always a good indicator real world performance.
For those that care. OnePlus 2 AnTuTu benchmark results.
At times, the OnePlus 2 can really fly, but it can also suffer from a random slowdown here and there. For no expected reason really. The home button can be quite sluggish, there is often a noticeable delay when pressing the home button and waiting for the software to respond. Be it a software or hardware issue, it’s not something you expect from one of the highest end processors on the market.
The Snapdragon 810 is world renowned for its ability to produce heat. The OnePlus 2 will probably never get hot enough to physically burn you, but it does get noticeably hot near the top of the device and on the top outer metal edges. It’s nothing to be really concerned with (might negatively affect the battery, as in energy consumption) but the heat might make it slightly uncomfortable to hold.
The OnePlus One came loaded with what might be my favorite Android OS of all time, Cyanogenmod 11S Android 4.4 KitKat. Though far from perfect at first, it evolved into a beautiful, highly customizable Android experience, still one of the better operating systems today.
The OnePlus 2 sports it’s own, in-house, custom operating system known as Oxygen OS, Android Lollipop 5.1.1. Though bloatware free, unfortunately, the OS has taken a big step backward. It’d make for a fine custom ROM, but a CyanogenMod replacement it is certainly not. Granted, Oxygen OS is still relatively new and still needs to mature a bit, but it is utterly featureless compared to Cyanogenmod. I am reviewing the OS as it stands today, not what it will be in a years time. This time next year, or in 6 months, it may be a refined beast, but today it’s just “meh”. It’s a slightly buggy, laggy, and mostly stock Android experience. The software experience of the OG OnePlus One is far superior.
Oxygen OS allows for several customization’s beyond stock Android. It is possible to lightly customize the OS (dark or light), but it’s a far cry from the themes, customization, and control of Cyanogenmod. Gesture support returns for the most part. Double tap to wake is back (but you can’t double tap the status bar to turn off screen), you can wake up and unlock the device via fingerprint scanner, you can also draw simple shapes on the screen to launch the flashlight, camera, or music player while the phone is off. Great features, even if you get the occasional flashlight turning on in your pocket (only happened once or twice).
Examples of dark and light color schemes. Accent colors, like the red color above, are customizable.
Oxygen also supports a new feature OnePlus calls “Shelf”. Swipe right from the home screen (much like Google Now) and you are presented with the weather, recent apps, and contacts. You can customize this area with custom photos (background) and widgets of your choice. Some may find it useful, but I did not. But it’s a good attempt at trying to do something new and unique.
OnePlus 2 Oxygen OS Shelf
Luckily, if you don’t like the stock experience of your OnePlus 2, you can easily unlock the bootloader, and install a custom ROM of your choice. This will NOT void your warranty. OnePlus does a great job supporting community development and customizations, a huge plus in my book. But not everyone is comfortable messing with their precious smartphone, and must rely upon the stock OS and OTA updates to fix any issues plaguing their device.
The OnePlus 2 features a 5.5″ 1080P LCD display, which is identical to least year’s spec. OnePlus was heavily criticized last year for incorporating what many would consider to be a “sub-par” display. Luckily, the yellowing issues that plagued the OnePlus One’s display are gone. Though the display is not QHD (2,560 x 1,440), a display that has become synonymous with today’s flagship devices, most folks were willing to give OnePlus a pass in this regard. But better battery life would certainly be expected with a non-QHD display, since that seems to be most peoples complaint when devices use such a high-resolution display. More on the battery later.
The addition of a free screen protector pre-installed on each device is certainly welcome, it has a very precise fit and is mostly unnoticeable. But if you’re like me and much prefer the feel of glass, you can simply just take it off.
For the most part, the display on the OnePlus 2 is acceptable. Details are crisp, and colors look pretty good. That being said, blacks and viewing angles are a concern. Though less noticeable during the day, or in a well-lit room, get your OnePlus 2 in the dark and its screen defects really stand out. Try viewing the 2 just a few degrees off center, and blacks & colors start to get really washed out. The display seems a bit sub-standard for an otherwise highly spec’d out device. After using several devices with highly superior QHD displays, the display on the OnePlus 2 left me feeling a bit disappointed.
The OnePlus 2 packs the same megapixel count as last year’s One (13 megapixels), but overall the camera is much improved and several high-end features have been added to make your photos that much better. New for 2015 are the inclusions of laser auto-focus, and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization). Photos taken with the OnePlus 2 came out exceptionally well. Especially in well-lit conditions. Have a look at the samples below. Details are crisp, and colors are accurate. The OnePlus 2 is certainly capable of snapping some great outdoor photos.
Sunlight late afternoon, Click photo to view full resolution
Sunlight late afternoon, Click photo to view full resolution
Interior ambient light, Click photo to view full resolution
Early morning overcast, Click photo to view full resolution
Direct sunlight, macro detail. HDR. Click photo to view full resolution
Sunlight late afternoon, HDR. Click photo to view full resolution
Video shot with the OnePlus 2 is kind of a mixed bag. Under controlled conditions or consistent lighting, I think the camera might have some decent performance. But as you can see in the video below, under strong direct sunlight and shadow, the recording really looks like shit. Take it for what you will. I’ll try and post a few more samples when I get some time.
OnePlus 2 potato quality video sample
Camera Interface & Controls
OnePlus 2 camera interface
The camera interface is rather bland and basic. It’s capable of great pictures, but it looks like a stock camera app if that makes any sense. Navigation is simple and intuitive, and taking a shot is easy enough. It’s not the fastest camera on the block, taking a picture can take a couple of seconds, especially when using the HDR setting. But considering it has laser autofocus, I was expecting some really quick photos, with little to no hesitation. Launching the camera is all that fast either, it’s pretty much standard. Despite the great photo quality, everything else about the camera is just about par for the course. The camera’s built-in gallery app isn’t that great either. It’s slow, unresponsive, and difficult to use.
SOUND & CALL QUALITY
OnePlus 2 Speaker Grille and USB Type-C Port
The OnePlus 2 may look like it sports dual stereo speakers at the bottom of the phone, but don’t be fooled. It’s a single mono speaker. The sound is quite loud for a single speaker setup, but still pails in comparison to some of the better sounding devices on the market. The speaker location is another issue. If you owned the OnePlus One, or any other phone with a bottom facing speaker, you know how easy it is to block the sound with your hand. If you are watching media without headphones, you will need to cup your hand when holding the bottom of the phone, otherwise you will block the sound from coming through. Annoying, but expected.
Call quality is just okay. It’s fully capable of making calls, but I’ve had much better experiences elsewhere. The speakerphone is kind of muffled, but good enough to get the job done. Signal quality on T-Mobile has been perfectly acceptable, perhaps ever better than the OnePlus One. I haven’t had a single issue with dropped calls and/or poor LTE signals.
BATTERY LIFE & CHARGING
Boasting a rather large non-removable 3,300mAh, I expected much more. Battery life in the OnePlus One was nothing short of astounding when it first launched. Battery life dipped a bit after its update to Lollipop, but it was still a strong contender. The OnePlus 2 could be described as the exact opposite. Though we don’t know what improvements we can expect via software updates, we do know that the battery kinda sucks right now, and that’s when this review is taking place.
Considering it’s 3,300mAh battery, a mostly stock version of Android, and an average 1080P LCD screen, you would expect this son of a bitch to last a bit longer than it does. I can get through what I consider to be a typical day of usage, light use throughout the day, moderate usage after work, but plugging in at night is certainly a requirement.
Above. Typical daily battery consumption. Wi-Fi left on all day.
Above. Typical daily battery consumption. Wi-Fi on half day.
Possibly due to the inclusion of its USB Type-C port, the OnePlus 2 lacks quick charging abilities. Another step back from the previous generation. Compared to the competition, Samsung, Motorola, and LG, the OnePlus 2 lags far behind. Sometimes taking an hour longer than the competition to complete a full charge. TomsGuide did an excellent analysis of several battery charging cycles for various phones, including the OnePlus 2. It’s far more scientific and detailed than anything I am currently capable of testing, but overall, my experience concurs with their findings.
Image courtesy of Toms Guide
I really wanted to like this phone, believe me, I did. But all things considered, despite being well over a year older, the OnePlus One is probably the better phone. I wish I could say IF YOU GET AN INVITE, BUY THE FUCKING THING ALREADY! But I can’t, personally I would give the OnePlus 2 a pass and hope the third times the charm. If there is a third time. But I fully expect there will be. OnePlus has a stronger than average community, and enough fanatics, fanboys, and brand loyalists to keep it alive for the time being. But if indeed there is a OnePlus 3, you can bet your ass I’ll be reviewing it. Time for a beer.
2015 Flagship Underachiever
Build Quality & Design
Software and Performance
Sound & Call Quality
Despite some lofty expectations, the OnePlus 2 falls short of it's potential.
Excellent build quality
Takes great looking photos
Excellent fingerprint scanner
Unique notification slider
Not So Good
Video quality is hit or miss
Mediocre battery life and slow charging
Lacks several features found in other mid to high end phones
Software takes a step back from previous generation