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OnePlus 3 review

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OnePlus 3 review
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • High-quality build
  • Very good heat handling
  • Excellent value
  • Solid camera

Cons

  • Inconsistent battery life doesn't impress day-to-day
  • Innaccurate display colours

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Key Features

  • 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED screen
  • 6GB dual-channel DDR4 RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • Android 6.0.1
  • OxygenUI
  • Snadragon 820 CPU
  • Manufacturer: OnePlus
  • Review Price: £329.00

OnePlus 3 long-term review

UPDATE: OnePlus has replaced its OnePlus 3 with the 3T, a souped up model with a faster CPU and an updated selfie camera. Read our OnePlus 3T review for the full lowdown

Long-term review by Michael Passingham

I`ve been using the OnePlus 3 as my main phone for three months now, and while the original review below discusses some of the finer points of the OnePlus, my thoughts here reflect long-term, daily use.

The first thing I did with the OnePlus 3 was stick it in a case: I didn’t want a repeat of the mess I made of the metal-backed HTC One M8, which ended its life on eBay as a scratched-up mess with a cracked secondary camera lens. The OnePlus-made carbon-fibre-style case was my preferred choice, since it looks superb and adds hardly any weight or bulk.OnePlus 3 7

The best thing about the OnePlus, for me, is the camera. It’s fast and takes lovely photos both of faces and panoramas. After my primary camera broke on the first day of a two-week holiday, the OnePlus became my go-to snapper and took some truly excellent shots, particularly in HDR mode.

It was on holiday where I also discovered some serious problems with battery life management. Since the majority of my holiday was spent away from Wi-Fi networks, and I didn’t have any need to use mobile data, I set the OnePlus to Airplane Mode. For whatever reason, this set in motion a serious system resources problem that caused the phone to heat up and the battery to drain at a ridiculous rate.

I never got to the bottom of the issue, but what I do know is that isn’t something that’s unique to my device. There were some reports of a similar problem with the OnePlus 2. It didn’t happen every time the phone went into Airplane Mode, but it was frequent enough to be a serious problem.

When not burning itself out, I’ve found the OnePlus 3’s battery to be a little disappointing. If I use it for my hour-long commute, I’ll definitely need to charge it at work – or risk it running flat before the end of the day. If I use it more lightly, checking it only periodically throughout the workday and using it more heavily at home, it is possible to get to the end of the day without issue. Either way, this is a phone I have to charge at least once per day. This is somewhat made up for by the fact that it charges super-fast.

Elsewhere, I’ve been impressed by the phone’s overall performance, and while its 6GB of RAM never seems to be full, I did find I could keep more apps open at a time without them being killed by Android.

The OnePlus 3 is the best phone I’ve used in years, especially if you consider the price. My biggest bugbear is battery life, but I can just about live with it.

Read our original review below

What is the OnePlus 3?

After two previous iterations that were decent but not quite good enough, OnePlus has hit the bigtime with its third iteration. The OnePlus 3 is pretty amazing – a jaw-dropping phone in almost every way that takes the game to the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and even the iPhone 6S.

Previous OnePlus devices offered a slightly compromised experience that, while commendable, wasn't good enough to convince us they were genuine flagship beaters. As you'll see from this review, this is no longer the case.

Since my initial review, the OnePlus 3 has risen in price by £20, from £309 up to £329, apparently thanks to Britain voting to leave the EU. Still, even at this price, it does make you think twice before buying an iPhone 7 outright. It's also had a couple of updates, including a new gold model and the ability to set the screen to a slightly more subdued sRGB colour mode. It's not a huge deal, but it gives buyers more choice on how their phone looks, both front and back.

Previous OnePlus devices compromised, but the OnePlus 3 doesn’t. It has a lovely design, fast-charging, NFC for mobile payments and you don’t need a silly invite to actually buy one.

If you want an Android phone off-contract, this might just be the perfect choice.

Video: OnePlus 3 review

OnePlus 3 – Design

Each OnePlus phone to date has offered a marked improvement on what has gone before. The original OnePlus One was an all-plastic affair, with a somewhat strange "sandstone" finish. The OnePlus 2 enhanced the body with metal sides, but retained the plastic rear.

The OnePlus 3 offers an upgrade once again, this time by way of a metal and glass design. It's available in "Graphite" – a muted grey – and its 7.4mm-thick aluminium frame makes this handset a delight to both look at and hold.

A 5.5-inch phone may still not be for everyone, but the OnePlus 3 is among the more manageable phones with such a screen size. The finish is excellent too: the aluminium rear is anodised sports the same type of non-shiny look you’ll find on an iPhone.

Related: 12 Best Smartphones

I’ve always been a fan of the quirky, instantly recognisable design of the previous OnePlus phones, but have met plenty of folk who weren't. Those people will be happy to discover that the OnePlus 3 has a far more conventional appearance.

The OnePlus 3 is plainer and prettier than its predecessors, but its quirks remain; they've just been relocated. It's possible to buy super-skinny rear covers with the classic OnePlus sandstone finish, a few different wood finishes or one with a carbon-fibre look. These aren’t ultra-rugged cases, but will protect the aluminium frame from scratches, without adding bulk to the phone.

OnePlus 3 13

As is the case with an iPhone, it almost seems a shame to cover up the OnePlus 3’s bare metal. The OnePlus 3 is similar to HTC’s One-series phones but slimmer and no less attractive.

Like the OnePlus 2, this phone has no memory card slot. This time round, however, it isn’t a ploy to make the expensive versions of the phone more attractive. The OnePlus 2 model was available in 16GB and 64GB versions; there's only one OnePlus 3 and it has 64GB of storage.

For some context, the 32GB Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge costs £639 SIM-free, and the iPhone 6S Plus will set you back £699. The OnePlus 3 is half the price of these phones and, as we’ll see, the hardware is directly comparable in several areas.

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The OnePlus range is also more accessible than ever before. The OnePlus 3 can simply be ordered online at the OnePlus website – stock allowing – where in the past you had to wait for an invite to buy. In addition, unlike the OnePlus 2, the OnePlus 3 features NFC technology.

Buy Now: OnePlus 3 at Amazon.com from $516

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This was omitted from the spec in the past, seen as not important enough to warrant the additional cost. However, with the launch of Android Pay, OnePlus has relented. And the move doesn't appear to have significantly impacted the price.

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The OnePlus 3 also has a great fingerprint scanner, which is located in the same position as it is on the OnePlus 2. It’s a non-clicky pad that sits below the screen.

It works whether or not the display is on, and is super-fast. It's possible to use it as a "Home" soft key, either on-screen or via the physical ones below the screen. The hardware back and "apps" soft keys are marked with tiny white LED dots, rather than full-on icons. This is because you can flip them around too.

A bargain price has always been the main draw of OnePlus handsets, but there's plenty of customisation on offer as well.

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El

June 24, 2016, 8:09 am

Please don't just do speaker quality test only when you are doing an audio review. Tell us how the audio from the headphones are. A lot of people listening to music only does that using headphones, as music sounds stupid without the stereo effect.

Riddlemethis

June 24, 2016, 10:42 pm

let this company and phone just d i e please.

Those who [manage] to buy these devices likely live at home. And if they are lucky, they live in their parent's basement otherwise they spend all their free time on the internet in their bedroom.

for the rest of us of the world, we don't care about these alpha and beta devices.

Carlos

June 25, 2016, 1:04 am

lol you don't even know what you're mad about.

Mark Armitage

June 27, 2016, 6:32 am

Fair review but I disagree about battery life. I'm a heavy user and it has never failed to get me through the day, often with 30 - 40 % left at 10 p.m. It seems actually better than the S7 Edge, my previous phone.

ocube

June 27, 2016, 3:32 pm

Can I ask why did you ditch the S7 Edge for the OnePlus3? I am considering S7 (not Edge) and OnePlus3, although leaning towards the cheaper one.

Mark Armitage

June 27, 2016, 7:02 pm

S7 Edge is massively more expensive and doesn't clearly perform any better than the OnePlus 3. The screen may be ever so slightly better and possibly the camera, though it's not an obvious thing at all. Apart from the much lower price I prefer the Oxygen OS to the Samsung bloatware which even extends to Microsoft Office which cannot be uninstalled. Although subjective the metal body of the OnePlus 3 has a premium look and feel, which the glass of the Samsung does not. The memory is also twice the size at 64 Gb vs 32 Gb, although I concede that there is no SD card slot. However, with 64 Gb it is not really necessary and it is much simpler to have all the memory in one place. The battery life of the OnePlus seems better in practice, easily lasting a day of heavy use, whereas the 7 Edge would generally need recharging by the end of the afternoon. Dash charging is awesome, definitely better than the Samsung fast charging. The only clearly superior feature of the S7 Edge is that it is waterproof whereas the OnePlus is not, but I have read reports that the OnePlus 3 is quite water resistant in practice. In any case is it worth paying twice the price for that feature? You can buy a waterproof case on eBay for a fiver.

ocube

June 28, 2016, 7:07 am

Thanks for the reply Mark, really appreciate it. I have asked myself many times if the benefits of the S7 is worth twice the price of the OnpePlus 3. From your reply i think I will go with the OnePlus. Thanks again.

Mark Armitage

June 28, 2016, 8:40 am

Good choice. You won't regret it.

Brad Pitt

June 29, 2016, 10:42 am

I'm a heavy user of android phone. OnePlus 3 is best ever android smartphone I used ever.

ag2

July 1, 2016, 7:07 am

OnePlus 3 is decent phone for that price, but calling it "the best Android smartphone" is stretching it way too much. Or you probably did not have enough experience yet. Try more ;-) ...
PS: I am with Android starting from ver. 1.5 ;-)

Subrahmanyam

July 4, 2016, 4:48 pm

This one+3 mobile is getting restarting on its own while in a Skype. It's getting heavily heating. Is this the mobile problem?

Jonesblake

July 6, 2016, 10:15 am

The Oneplus 3 is a rather good device with high performance. But when the price is concerned, I will prefer the budget smartphone, like Bluboo Maya with Android 6.0 os, 2GB RAM and 13MP camera but only at $69.99.

radixe

July 7, 2016, 10:59 am

Well... Oneplus one was and is the best android device i've ever used, oneplus two is not that great. Cyanogen mod is the difference that makes it great. Prompt updates, plenty of features and options, and not so much bloatware.

ChrisTofu

July 7, 2016, 12:45 pm

Right off the bat when I read the Pros and Cons at the top, I knew that this review was pretty inaccurate. Solid camera as a pro? No, camera is where this phone compromises to achieve the low price. Inaccurate display colors? Lol what? Not to mention you spelled "inaccurate" wrong. And battery is not the biggest compared to other flagships but it definitely gets you through the day.

Sere83

July 7, 2016, 3:31 pm

lol you been on the smoke? The onplus 3 has had rave reviews and is widely available, anyone can buy it. Even XDA developers reviewed it favorably. No alpha or beta about it you clown.

Andrii Gr

July 7, 2016, 3:44 pm

Well, OnePlus One runs Cyanogen OS, and it is not the same as CyanogenMod which in fact could be installed on huge number of different phones. Personally I like PA ;-), and again it is not what on OnePlus 2 or 3. It is Oxygen OS and it is just OK. Try some Nexus, try high-end Moto, or Xiaomi, or even OPPO - you will get an idea.And about good support - I wish it would be true ( I mean Support from OnePlus). Did you hear about latest updated re-call? And it happened before. QA on software as well as hardware still a big question OnePlus need to adrrss. Just my 2cc

Farhan Ahmad

July 14, 2016, 1:26 am

Sound like for long term not good :-
"Inconsistent battery life doesn't impress day-to-day"

Pratishtha Rastogi

July 26, 2016, 5:00 pm

I bought oneplus 3 phone 10 days back and 2 times I have taken this to service center. One of the WORST phone I have ever seen/used.
You give notification to update the software and after updating volume of Phone dies.
You give 6GB RAM, after every 15 min it hangs and gives notification Oneplus launcher isn't responding.
While I am working on phone something important, suddenly the phone switches OFF and doesn't respond till 5 min, it goes black out.
This phone isn't worth 28 thousand. Again this is the WORST Phone ever.
Highly Disappointing.

Frank Lanagan

July 27, 2016, 1:38 am

I bought this phone last week. Slide off my leg while I was sitting on the ground. Screen cracked, which was ridiculous. Obviously I can't prove this to one plus, which is fine. What annoys me is that I can't pay for them to fix the screen, then have them refund me the remainder of my money. If the phone is that fragile, I don't want it. There are no stores, there is no one to complain to.

Anybody want a OnePlus 3?

Minakshi Sharma

July 27, 2016, 6:07 am

I want to buy Oneplus 3 and after reading your review I am in doubt. Could you tell me what is the specific problem you are facing in oneplus 3. In online comparision this phone looks quite updated from the recent versions of other company like samsung and Xiaomi for that matter... please suggest

Vojtěch Bartoš

July 27, 2016, 8:58 pm

Does anyone have any experience with Oneplus' On-Guard insurence service?
I am wondering I should go for it?

Jordan

August 1, 2016, 9:29 pm

^ This.

Baba Wethu

August 2, 2016, 11:57 am

So the video playback is like the highest you've ever tested. Okay. The phone would last 4.5h of gaming. How are those numbers bad when the iPhone 6 plus got praised for its 3.75h? In both tests the Oneplus 3 beat the iPhone 6 plus, yet the iPhone gets a 9/10 battery whereas the Oneplus only gets 7/10.

Aditya Misra

August 9, 2016, 4:43 am

Error in reporting the RAM specs for the Op2 and the S6 in the comparison. They both have 'dual channel' LPDDR4 memory, but clocked slightly slower than the SD 820. Rated bandwidth is around 25 GB/s for both.

Pretty much all upper-mid to high end chipsets have dual channel RAM, either DDR3 or DDR4. The Snapdragon 650/652 (Dual channel 32 bit LPDDR3 933) has dual channel DDR3 RAM rated at aroun 16 GB/s. The Helio X20 and X10 are the same with 933mhz ddr3 dual.

On the other hand, the likes of Snapdragon 615/616/617/410,42, Mt 675X and all other mid/low end chipsets have only single channel memory, which can become a bottleneck with doing memory intensive things such as high res gaming.

dontbefooledagain

August 18, 2016, 3:55 pm

Plain and simple, these guys suck big time. I have had the phone a little over the month. Spent more than 12 hours with customer support trying to fix my issue (I get a European dial tone). Wiped the OS clean three times. They now want me to send the phone back and be without a phone for 2+ weeks while they try to fix it. Their "policy" is no replacement after 15 days.

I work for an Internet company. What am I supposed to do to communicate while they "fix" my phone? Send smoke signals?

My advice: look elsewhere.

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