The OnePlus 6T is not a phone you want to think too hard about, because if you do, you’ll realize that it’s not the phone you thought it was.
On paper, the phone has everything going for it. You’re getting a 6.4-inch OLED display, the most powerful processor this side of Apple, oodles of RAM, plenty of storage, a notch, two rear cameras, face unlock and of course, the pièce de résistance, an in-display fingerprint scanner.
If you don’t think about it too hard, the OnePlus 6T is everything you’d want from a OnePlus smartphone. It’s gorgeous, it’s fast and it’s powerful. The software is great, the cameras are competent and dash charging is fantastic.
If you don’t think about it too hard, the OnePlus 6T is fantastic and a worthy successor to the OnePlus 6.
But only if you don’t think about it too hard.
If you do think about it, the OnePlus 6T is a step down from its predecessor. The performance is the same, the cameras are the same, the notch is smaller, yes, but the display is worse (more on that later).
If you do think about it, you’re missing a headphone jack, and that fancy new in-display fingerprint scanner, by OnePlus’ own admission, is slower and less reliable than the one it replaces.
If you do think about it, you could have the superlative Google Pixel 2 XL camera or the stunning Samsung Galaxy S8 for the same price.
If you really think about it, you have to wonder why this phone exists.
Then again, the OnePlus 6T is a great phone, it truly is. If you were to ask anyone for a fast, powerful, feature-packed Android phone under Rs 40,000, they would be hard-pressed to come up with a better option than this one, or the 6.
The week that I’ve spent with this phone has been fun and exciting. I’ve gone around taking a couple of hundred photos, watched hours of Netflix and sunk dozens more into PUBG. The OnePlus 6T was a staunch companion throughout and never let me down. Its battery life was great, the camera was excellent in daylight and performance was never a problem.
The problem is that whatever I say about the OnePlus 6T also applies to the OnePlus 6, and again, the OnePlus 6 still has a better display, a headphone jack, and a faster fingerprint scanner.
You expect a new phone to be better than the one it replaces, not worse, and that’s my biggest issue with the 6T. There’s nothing about it that feels like an upgrade.
And one more thing, why would anyone make a glass-backed phone in 2018 and not include wireless charging?
But that’s enough complaining. Let’s start with what’s good.
The OnePlus 6T comes with the same rear camera configuration as last year, which comprises a 16 MP f/1.7 + 20 MP f/1.7 (wide + tele) dual rear camera. The front camera is also the same 16 MP f/2.0 unit we saw a few months ago. By extension, the camera on the OnePlus 6T performs exactly as well as the camera on the OnePlus 6, with one or two exceptions.
Images captured on this camera, in broad daylight, can be quite spectacular. Images are sharp and contrasty and colours and dynamic range are usually spot on. It’s only in low light that the cracks begin to appear.
The moment the light levels fall below optimum, noise reduction algorithms kick in and work overtime with smoothing out textures and mucking up edges. In some portrait shots in indoor lighting, images looked like they were out of focus. Facial features also tended to blur out.
In really low light, the camera is passable. Images are noisy, lack sharpness and lights are smears. The brand new ultra-low light mode (Nightscape), which will be coming to the OnePlus 6 about a week after the launch of the 6T, doesn’t help matters any.
Check out the Flickr album below for a closer look at the images:
Nightscape basically takes a longer exposure than normal in an attempt to capture more light. It then tries to use OIS (optical image stabilisation) and EIS (electronic image stabilisation) to manage the shaking. In theory, this will result in images that are brighter and more vivid.
In practice, shots in night mode are worse than the regular shots. Textures are blurred out, lights get a weird halo around them and the camera just can’t do anything about shaky hands. The only decent shot you might get is if you stuck your phone on a tripod, though if you’re going that far, you might as well use manual mode and fine-tune the image to your liking.
I was pleasantly surprised at how subtle, understated and effective portrait mode was on the 6T. Edge detection was flawless, even with a subject as difficult to isolate as cat’s furry face. The quality of bokeh was also spot on, blurring out just enough of the background to make it less distracting, but not so much as to make the image seem artificial. Portrait in selfie mode also worked just as well.
The selfie camera is just as impressive as it was last year. Selfies are sharp and clear and the portrait mode works just as well here as it does on the rear camera.
Video performance is inconsistent but acceptable. For some reason, the phone only stabilises the video properly at 1080p 60 fps and 4K 60 fps (5 minutes max). Why it can’t do that at 30 fps is beyond me. Regardless of that, the videos shot are surprisingly decent and, again, in daylight, they’re sharp and look amazing.
The mode I had the most fun in was slo-mo. The phone can shoot slo-mo video at 720p 480 fps (1 minute) and 1080p 240 fps. The 240 fps mode is sharper, but the 480 fps mode is more fun. The 480 fps mode just opens up a world of possibilities that you’d never have considered before. For instance, did you know that sparrows can hover?
A couple of caveats here are that 480 fps video is limited in length to 1 minute of real-time recording and that the phone gets extremely hot when recording video in this mode.
To add to this, the heat slows the phone down. Video gets choppy and even playback suffers. It’s like you get one chance every few minutes to record a 480 fps video.
Similarly, the phone also heats up rapidly when simply shooting photos, with the device getting noticeably warm after a 10-minute photo session.
The camera itself is very responsive. As expected from a OnePlus phone, access to the camera app is near instantaneous, and focus is instant in just about any lighting. The app is also packed with features and included a fully fleshed out manual mode (called Pro Mode) that even supports RAW output. If you’re mad enough to want to shoot RAW from a smartphone, you couldn’t ask for better control over the image.
My one gripe here is when accessing the app from the lock screen. The slooow fingerprint reader means you have to wait half a second to access your app, and the only way to access the camera from the lock screen is by enabling an option in the settings menu that gets you access the camera from the lock screen by drawing on ‘O’ on the screen. It’s odd and not very convenient.
As with everything about this phone, what you don’t want to do is look too closely at the photos or think too hard about what you’re getting. I reiterate, it’s only in broad daylight that the images look great. Zoom in even slightly into a photo taken in sub-optimal conditions and you’ll immediately notice the lack of details. Ditto video quality.
As far as the camera is concerned, the bigger issue is that at Rs 40,000, you can get the Pixel 2 XL or the Samsung Galaxy S8. Both these phones feature stunning low light cameras and image quality that even iPhone users can only dream about. In low-light, the 6T is nothing more than a wannabe.
You can’t have a OnePlus phone and not expect it to be packed to the brim with features. It’s something of a OnePlus trademark by now.
Powering the phone is the same hardware that was powering the 6 before it. You get the same awesome Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, a choice of either 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM and either 128 or 256 GB of storage. There’s no expandable memory, but 128 GB is plenty for most users.
Cameras include a 16 MP + 20 MP f/1.7 unit on the rear, a 16 MP f/2.0 on the front. The rear cameras can shoot video from 720p @ 480 fps to 4K @ 60 fps. The rear cameras feature OIS and EIS.
You lose the headphone jack but gain an additional 400 mAh of battery life, which means that the 6T now packs in a monster 3,700 mAh battery with Dash Charge support. I still don’t think that trade-off is worth it, but as with the notch, it’s something we just have to learn to live with.
Sadly, there’s no wireless charging.
The display has gone up from 6.28 inches to 6.41 inches and now features a resolution of 2304×1080. It’s still an OLED, though the notch is smaller.
Other than that, you get an in-display fingerprint scanner (which sucks), a single bottom-firing speaker, USB-C connectivity and dual-SIM LTE support (nanoSIM).
It’s certainly not a bad feature-set, but I did expect more from a phone that is meant to supersede what has been the best budget flagship of the year, the OnePlus 6.
The OnePlus 6T is running a Snapdragon 845 and comes with either 6 or 8 GB of RAM. Of course it’s fast.
Apps open and close very quickly, the UI is buttery smooth for the most part and games perform flawlessly. I don’t normally play PUBG, but I decided that the OnePlus 6T would be the device with which I’d pop my proverbial PUBG cherry. And it was totally worth it.
The game ran at max settings (HDR and Ultra) and the phone didn’t stutter even once. It did get a bit warm near the top after a round or two, but not frustratingly so.
Interestingly, the notch remains hidden by default when gaming. Since it’s not as wide as the notch on the Pixel 3 XL, you won’t even notice its absence, and it’s not like you’re losing much real estate.
Other games I tried, Asphalt 9 and my favourite mobile game of all time, SuperHexagon, ran just as well as could be expected from a flagship product.
OnePlus claims to have worked some magic to improve app load time by 20 percent and whatnot, but I couldn’t tell load times apart when using the OnePlus 6. It’s already a fast phone.
Audio quality continues to suffer on the OnePlus 6T. As far as I can tell, the speakers on both, the OnePlus 6 and the 6T, are identical. Actually, that’s speaker, singular. At a time when all flagships are going dual speaker, OnePlus is sticking to the old-school single speaker design. And unlike the LG G7, the 6T’s speaker isn’t nearly as loud. It’s passable, but only really suited for quiet rooms.
The fact that the speaker is still placed on the left of the USB port is also a minor source of irritation. A normal person will cover up the speaker when holding the device in landscape mode (when gaming). I can’t tell you how many PUBG sessions I’ve spent virtually on mute because part of my palm was covering the speaker grille.
For everything else, the speaker is tolerable.
Headphones are not bundled so you have to make do with what you have and the bundled dongle. We did get the USB-C OnePlus Bullets with our review unit of the device, but it’s not included with the retail packaging. As a throw-around set, the Bullets are perfect. They’re reasonably priced (at around Rs 1,400) and perform at par for their price. They’re not bad, but not particularly good either. They’re also in-ears so isolation is decent. The fact that they’re not that expensive also means that you won’t worry too much about the set.
Since the Bullets also include a DAC, you can plug them into pretty much any USB-C port and get audio output.
Call quality was great. I was a bit worried by the placement of the earpiece speaker above the notch, but it turns out that I had nothing to fear. Signal strength and call quality were always good.
By far the worst feature of the phone is its star feature, the in-display fingerprint scanner. It’s slow and unreliable and no fun to use. It’s flashy, and you might enjoy showing it off to friends and family the first couple of days, but then the frustrations kick in.
First, it’s an optical scanner, which means it basically takes a photo of your finger and compares it to one in its database. The design necessitates a clean image of your finger. For this to happen, the finger has to be placed precisely on the scanner. Since the scanner is under the glass, and the sensor happens to be rather small, there’s no way to tell if your finger is in the right place without looking at the phone while unlocking. And even then, slightly dirty fingers or a bit of water will result in a rejection.
Secondly, the scanner has this really bright and tacky animation when it’s scanning. The animation is for visual feedback, but the brightness is essential. You can’t take a photograph without light, can you? I understand the logic behind the design, but I certainly don’t appreciate being momentarily blinded by a bright green light just inches from my face just when I’m trying to sleep.
The scanner’s biggest crime is that it turns a natural, instinctive process into a slow, premeditated one. You have to think about unlocking your phone, about where to place your finger, and prepare for the time it’ll take to unlock the device.
If anything, this is a step back from the blisteringly quick fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 6.
Thankfully, face unlock is insanely fast and if you’re looking at the phone, the camera will unlock your phone before the fingerprint scanner even knows that there’s a finger.
Too bad it’s not secure.
Build and design: 8.5/10
The design is the least interesting part of the phone and hasn’t changed much since the OnePlus 6. The phone is slightly taller, the notch smaller and the bezels less prominent, but from the back, it’s nearly identical. Also, this phone is not going to turn heads in a public place.
The unit I received for testing is the midnight black version, which is basically a glass back with a shiny finish. It looks lovely, if not very different from the original. In fact, I’m disappointed that colour options are limited to a matte or a shiny black finish. What happened to the white and red finishes we saw on the 6?
As with all shiny finishes, the glass back is a fingerprint magnet and gets dirty within seconds. OnePlus has bundled a microfibre cloth (not a very good one) that you’ll never want to leave home without. Unless of course you opt for a case, which is what everyone is going to do anyway.
The button layout is the same as it’s always been. There’s a volume rocker on the left, a power button and alert slider on the right, a dual SIM tray on the right as well and a USB-C port at the bottom. Gracing the USB-C port are a pair of speaker grills, only one of which actually hides a speaker.
If you do care about it, the notch is smaller and a tad more elegant than the one on the OnePlus 6, but it’s an insignificant difference in the grand scheme of things.
The 6.41-inch display is larger and of a slightly higher resolution, but the pixel-density remains the same, so there’s nothing new on that front.
Speaking of display, this is, for me personally, the biggest disappointment. I don’t know what OnePlus has done, but they’ve somehow succeeded in making this 6.41-inch, 2304×1080 display worse than it was on the OnePlus 6.
The maximum brightness is a bit lower than I’d like, but it’s exactly the same as it was on the OnePlus 6. At maximum brightness, the 6T’s screen does showcase a more natural colour tone (the 6’s display looks a bit yellow). At maximum brightness, the screen appears punchy and full of life, if a little less accurate than I’d like.
Reduce the brightness, however, and things slowly start to unravel. For some reason, the display seems to get more and more desaturated the lower you go. Things get so bad around 50 percent that details in photos and video, for example, simply disappear. This is NOT an issue on the OnePlus 6 and is NOT an issue on any premium handset I’ve ever used.
To be honest, I do believe I’m nit-picking here because I don’t think the average person will notice the difference. It’s only really apparent in side-by-side comparisons, but in such comparisons, it is easily noticeable. Blind tests with friends and relatives proved as much. Everyone went for the OnePlus 6.
Hopefully, this is some sort of software issue that will get sorted in a couple of updates.
Other than that, the refresh rate is good and games and movies alike look amazing on the display (but only at max brightness).
Sunlight legibility, as on the OnePlus 6, is still an issue.
Notch-haters can hide the notch from within the settings menu without needing to unlock developer mode.
I’m unashamedly an iOS fan boy when it comes to UI design. Apple has nailed the gesture interface and Android’s inchoate attempts at replicating it are laughable. That being said, I’d say that the OnePlus 6T has the most tolerable Android UI I’ve ever used. It’s fast and responsive, if not particularly logical (You swipe up to hide a keyboard that goes down when it’s dismissed?), and OnePlus also gives you the option to switch back to the more traditional, 3-button Android UI.
Running OxygenOS 9.0.4 atop Android 9 Pie, the OnePlus 6T is one among a handful of devices running the latest version of Android. It’s not entirely bloat free and comes with some unnecessary apps, but they can all be uninstalled and they will never get in your way.
The near stock experience that OxygenOS offers is fast and responsive. There’s nary a stutter or missed frame to be seen in the UI and it always feels like the phone is on its toes, waiting to do your bidding.
The new OS, which is yet to arrive on the OnePlus 6, also features some nice new transparency affects and smoother animation that I really did appreciate. It added to the experience and made the device feel that little bit smoother.
Battery life: 9.5/10
Coming from an iPhone 8 (with its measly 1,800 mAh battery), the OnePlus 6T’s battery life was more than impressive. I’m a very heavy user. I have a 3-hour daily commute, which is spent exclusively watching videos or listening to music. The rest of the day is spent answering dozens of calls and responding to literally hundreds of messages and email. To top it off, I also use the hotspot for several hours a day. To wind down, I’ll either listen to a podcast or spend a few minutes in PUBG or some other game.
With this much usage, the 6T still managed to get me through a work-day and then some. There were days I easily managed 11 hrs, and on nights that I’d forget to charge my phone, I’d still have enough juice to get me to work without missing out on that unmissable episode of Better Call Saul.
If this wasn’t awesome enough, the bundled Dash Charger takes the phone from 0-100 in just 60 minutes.
In contrast, I’d have to charge my iPhone 8 three times a day and spend 2 hrs waiting for the indicator to reach 100.
As mentioned in the beginning, my only frustration is that OnePlus didn’t include support for wireless charging.
Verdict and price in India
The OnePlus 6T is a truly amazing phone, but so was the OnePlus 6. The real rub here is that everything that the 6T can do, the 6 does better. The only edge the 6T has is in the battery life department, but even that comes at the cost of the headphone jack, a trade-off I still can’t fully get behind.
More troubling is the pricing of this phone. At Rs 41,999 (which can go to Rs 45,999), the OnePlus 6T is no longer in that comfortable niche it had carved for itself with its previous phones.