OnePlus One hands-on: first look at the $299 “flagship killer”

April 23, 2014

The highly anticipated OnePlus One is finally here, following months of an interesting teaser campaign in which the company itself revealed every key specification of the device. That definitely served to keep the hype surrounding this smartphone going, but was it all worth it in the end?

The self-proclaimed “2014 Flagship Killer” promised a lot and the expectations surrounding it are certainly very high. Is the OnePlus One¬†all that it was said to¬†be? We find out as we go hands-on. Here’s our first look at the OnePlus One!

Design

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At a first glance, the OnePlus One will definitely remind you of the Oppo Find 7, but with a few subtle differences.

The gorgeous “jet black” display is pretty much all you’ll see up front, with the screen slightly raised and surrounded by a discreet chrome ring. You do get capacitive buttons below the display, but you get the choice to switch between using them and on-screen keys, which will discuss in a little more detail below. When the capacitive keys are off, they become invisible, and¬†the bezel they are located¬†doesn’t throw the phone off balance.

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The minimalistic design language continues as you turn to the flat sides of the device, with only the power button and the volume rocker to the right and left respectively. Turning the device over, you see the 13 MP camera with a dual LED flash, the OnePlus logo at the center, and a CyanogenMod logo etched into the bottom of the smooth plastic back.

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The sleek and elegant lines make the OnePlus One very comfortable to hold, despite its size and relative heft, and though the device is 8.9 mm thick at its thickest point, a curved back results in a tapered edge of just 4.6 mm. The OnePlus One is definitely a big phone, but isn’t as wide as some other devices that fall in the phablet category. So, while the handling experience may fall just on the line of discomfort when it comes to one-handed use, the width does help. Even if you aren’t used to such large smartphones, it does get easier over time.

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What’s most striking about the OnePlus One was the weight distribution. While its¬†dimensions are very similar to the Oppo Find 7, the OnePlus¬†feels¬†nimbler in the hand, with a light feeling throughout, making the hand gymnastics that you may have to perform to get to different elements on the screen fairly easy, further helping¬†the handling experience.

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OnePlus promised that its first flagship smartphone would feature one of the best designs around. And, while design is entirely subjective, we have to admit that the OnePlus One is a great looking device.

Further enhancing the phone,¬†you will also get the option to¬†change¬†the OnePlus One’s back covers, called StyleSwap covers.¬†These covers will be¬†available in different material choices, including wood and denim, but you’ll have to hold out for a bit, as they¬†aren’t available right away at launch.

Display

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As far as the display is concerned, you get a large 5.5-inch screen with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of ¬†around 401 ppi. Made by Japan Display, the screen is an LTPS (low temperature polysilicone) LCD display that brings along TOL (Touch On Lens) technology. TOL¬†eliminates the layer¬†between the touch sensor and the display panel, improving viewing parameters and adding significantly to the screen’s resistance to mechanical shocks. Everything’s topped by a sheet of¬†Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which features improved scratch resistance compared to the previous generation.

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The OnePlus One screen delivers the sharpness you’d expect; colours are vivid and pop on the beautiful, large display, that should be great for watching videos, surfing the web, or playing games. Viewing angles are also fantastic.

Performance and hardware

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As mentioned by OnePlus as a part of its teaser campaign, the One features the best processing package currently available: a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, backed by the Adreno 330 GPU, and 3GB of RAM, which should make multi-tasking and general performance an absolute breeze.

CyanogenMod is also catered towards providing a smooth experience, and overall, the OnePlus One left nothing to be desired, even when comparing with the best Android flagships out there.

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There is no expandable storage via microSD card available; built-in storage options are 16GB or 64GB, so if you’re worried about storage, the latter is definitely the better choice. Keep in mind though that your pick of the storage option also determines which color version you’ll be getting, with the 16GB version available in Silk White, while the 64GB device comes in Sandstone Black.

You get the full range of connectivity options with the OnePlus One, including 4G LTE support, Wi-Fi, GPS, GLONASS, Bluetooth 4.1, and NFC.

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Although I was able to spend only a short time testing out the speakers, my initial impressions were that the speaker is somewhat lacking in volume and sound fidelity, but I’ll definitely go¬†into this a little deeper during our¬†more comprehensive review.

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As far as the battery is concerned, you get a large non-removable 3,100 mAh unit, which,¬†coupled with the more energy efficient display and a processing package that’s comparatively¬†frugal, we reckon you¬†should get a full day of comfortable use out of the OnePlus One.

While the OnePlus One may not offer all the bells and whistles that are available with some of the other flagships out there, you get a lot of power and fantastic performance, and the company certainly hasn’t skimped on what is absolutely essential.

Camera

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I don’t want to¬†keep making the comparison, but, for the sake of clarity, the camera hardware package is identical to what is available with the Oppo Find 7.

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The¬†13MP Sony ExmorRS IMX214 camera with f/2.0 aperture and dual-toned LED flash promises to deliver amazing shots, made more distortion-free and detailed by the six physical lenses. If selfies are your thing, the 5MP distortion-free front-facing camera with a lens that allows for 80 degree capture should work wonderfully for you. The rear camera also comes with the ability to shoot slow motion 720p 120 fps video, which we’re very excited to try out.

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Working with the CyanogenMod camera app showed a number of different modes and applications of the camera optics, and, in initial testing, it worked well to get shot after shot. Of course, we’ll save picture quality judgement for when we’re able to really run the OnePlus One¬†through its paces, during a more in-depth review or camera shootout feature focus.

Software

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The other big news with regards to the OnePlus One is its software, the CyanogenMod 11S OS based on Android 4.4 KitKat. CM 11S is a special version¬†of CyanogenMod that’s specifically designed to take advantage of all the features of this smartphone.

A clean, minimalistic look helps keep the software experience fast. Once again, “keep it simple, keep it fast,” is the mantra to follow. Of course, as is expected with CyanogenMod, many customization options are¬†available with the new theme engine and store, though¬†you can always switch back to a more stock-like experience if that’s your cup of tea.

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CyanogenMod staples such as SMS encryption and Privacy Guard are available, and you also get advanced camera and gallery apps to help you get the most out this smartphone. Other useful software features are the Voice Commands that let you wake the device, and the ability to draw gestures on the sleeping screen to wake up the device and jump to apps like the camera or the flashlight. Simply draw a circle, for example, and the phone will wake up in the camera app, ready for action.

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As I mentioned above, you can choose between on-screen and capacitive keys to suit your preference. Opinions are starkly divided on which option is better, so being able to cater the experience to your liking is definitely a big plus.

CyanogenMod brings an¬†optimized¬†experience made entirely for the OnePlus One. Cyanogen’s OS¬†not only feels right at home on this stylish device, but also brings with it some unique functionality that further differentiates the OnePlus One.

Pricing and availability

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Considering the specifications and hardware, you’d expect the OnePlus One to be priced upwards of $600, but this is where this smartphone gets incredible. Considering that the phone features a beautiful 5.5-inch display, a great Sony camera, top of the line hardware, and a smooth software experience with CyanogenMod, it is absolutely amazing¬†that the OnePlus One is priced at¬†$299 for the 16GB version and just¬†$349 for the 64GB version. At this price, the OnePlus One¬†is only rivalled by the Nexus 5, and is an absolute steal in the flagship class.

The OnePlus One will initially be available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States in 16GB Silk White and in 64GB Sandstone Black.

The big caveat here is that the OnePlus One will be offered through an invite system. This means that each buyer will receive a number of invites that they can send over to friends, while more invites will be made available through contests and giveaways. Considering the low price of the device, we fully expect high demand for it, so you may have to be patient for a time.

As if the price wasn’t low enough, a hundred¬†lucky applicants will get the opportunity to pick the the OnePlus for $1 by offering to smash their current smartphone, via the OnePlus Smash program that begins on April 25.

Specifications

Display5.5-inch LTPS IPS with TOL display, 1080p (1920 x 1080), 401 ppi.
Processor2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801
Adreno 330
RAM3 GB
Storage16/64 GB, no expansion
Camera13 MP rear LED flash, Sony Exmor RS sensor, 6p lens, f 2.0, 4K, HDR
5MP front, f 2.0, 80 degrees field of view
Battery3,100 mAh
ConnectivityGPS, GLONASS, microUSB 2.0, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
NetworksGSM/WCDMA/FDD-LTE/TD-LTE
SoftwareCyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4 Kitkat
Dimensions152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
162 grams
ColorsSilk White/Sandstone Black

Gallery

Conclusions at a glance

OnePlus made a lot of lofty promises for¬†its flagship smartphone, and the company has definitely delivered. Just the amazing price point of the device is more than enough to forgive any of its shortcomings, but luckily, there aren’t any major flaws with the OnePlus One, at least based on our first impressions. You get a fantastic design, albeit very similar to that of the Oppo Find 7, a beautiful, large display, a great camera package, the absolute best in hardware, and a software experience that should be smooth, fast, and quite interesting to play around with.

So there you have it, our first look and hands-on with the OnePlus One. What are your thoughts? Does the OnePlus One meet your expectations? Let us know in the comments section below!

What do you think of the new OnePlus One?

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Comments

  • shlk7

    Wow looks like a steal at that price. I’d even overlook a couple of quirks for that! (Ex. ITS TALL!)

  • AndroidIsLaggy

    So what if it’s cheap. Like I could ever get my hands on it. Ever.

  • Luka Mlinar

    They messed up just about everything except the phone. They made a wonderful forum and then killed it by promoting people to spam the sh*t out of it. They started a solid media campaign and then turned it sour by asking people to destroy their old phones. Risk their phones battery blowing up in their face. Best of all made the phone available trough a system where only a privileged few can get it with 0 respect to equality amongst all their costumers.

    • MasterMuffin

      Their marketing was stupid, which made me hate the phone before it was launched. And this isn’t a “never settle” phone, though this is nice. An Oppo Find 7 CM edition ;)

      Edit. DAT PRICE DOE

    • Boonlumsion Piyapon

      marketing marketing marketing …
      nope : it’s more demand / supply management than marketing

      There production line is not able to handle huge demand yet. so they used invite system.

      OnePlus Smash program is one of invite distribution that include marketing.

      When there production line is able to handle demand it’s will open for everyone.

    • Anekin007

      Invites will probably go to sites and phone reviewers so that they can hype up the phone even more .

      • Luka Mlinar

        Possibly. I send a msg. both to OP and AA saying it would be in both sites interest. Mostly in AA’s. The OnePlus fans would hate them even more :D

  • RobNeil

    With that spec, 64gb only at $350? I’ll take One please. No, I’ll take 2 of this One.

    • Guest123

      the price brings it home. if CM runs well on it I’ll be able to recommend this to everyone I know using an unlocked phone.

    • Voinescu Paul-Octavian

      I guess I’ll take One plus One (=2) as well :)

  • GandangaTororo

    NEVER SETTLE on anything that does not have expandable memory, for now!

  • Fauzan Adhi Rachman

    A laggy snapdragon 801 2,5 gigz even my moto x with 400 1,7 gigz is so smoothzzz

  • systemupdate

    Invite system! wtf… That is how Samsung wins, make a lot and don’t make people wait… I can hear the foot steps of people walking away…

    • Anonymousfella

      Samsung has extremely deep pockets.One Plus is a startup company; they explained that was a chance of them going bankrupt if they invested a lot of capital(to make more phones in the first batch) and people didn’t buy their phones in their forum post.
      The invite system,however, is total WTF.

      • balcobomber25

        It has been revealed that Oneplus is actually a wholly owned subsidiary of Oppo which itself is a subsidiary of BKK one of the largest electronics companies in the world. If they wanted the availability to be there it could have been. This was more about a marketing campaign that was intended to make their device the next ultra exclusive, ultra hyped phone. It has been backfiring in their faces.

  • Valeriu Steel Rod Crainic

    Whoever answered Disappointing or Lacking should really reconsider their lives, this phone might not be made by mainstream Android phone builders like HTC, Sony or Samsung, but it’s a complete steal for this price when you compare it to similarly-spec’d flasghips out on the market now: HTC One M8, Note 3 and S5 that cost more than double than this phone.

    • http://www.1singur.deviantart.com/ Stefan Dumitrache

      Just apples being apples, don’t mind them

    • Guest123

      It isn’t perfect in any way however, at that price point it certainly is a deal when compared to what else is available.

      I’ll probably give my LG OGP away and buy one :)

  • BenGezarit

    Nice price for a piece of China tech. Only time will tell if that whity is durable. That’s more important for me right now. And after 3 months I’ll buy it for 100 bucks haha

  • http://www.friendlyphotozone.com/ Friendly Photo Zone

    I was looking forward to replacing my un-rootable AT&T Note 3 with this phone. But with an invite system involved, I guess I’ll be stuck with my locked bootloader after all.

    Never buying another AT&T Samsung device…

    • rspkt

      I’ll go one further… I’m never buying another AT&T device, period.

      • http://www.friendlyphotozone.com/ Friendly Photo Zone

        I dunno about that. I just swapped my AT&T Note 3 for my wife’s AT&T HTC One M8 (because I’m THAT sick of the inability to root). The first thing I did is a conversion to the Google Play Edition OS. So now I have a full GPe device that’s financed under AT&T’s Next plan. No AT&T bloatware, no AT&T restrictions on tethering or GWallet payments, no AT&T branding in the software, just the real Android experience as it was meant to be. It’s refreshing and liberating. And I didn’t have to shell out $700 for it.

        Not all AT&T devices suck. It’s just what AT&T does to them that sucks. But on HTC devices, that can be remedied. Since One Plus won’t make it easy for me to buy one of their devices, I found an acceptable alternative.

  • silver_arrow

    Two questions.
    1) Does it have the 50mp pictures that the Find 7 does
    2) Double tap to wake?

    • redrumurder

      It has tap to wake and it doesn’t take 50mp shots.

  • KillEmAllx

    SWEDEN. YES. This might be my next phone. Dem specs. Dat price.

    • a guy

      It’s just invitation at the start. They are a brand new company with a brand new product. They need to make sure people want it. And that the phone doesn’t melt into a puddle after people pay that awesome price for dem specs. I’m sure that if it isn’t all hype, it doesn’t melt into a puddle, and they keep the price, they will be selling this just like a normal phone. If they can keep up with demand that is…

  • George Av

    The price is the thing that will tempt me.. but then i saw that it had no micro sd card support.. and that’s a deal breaker for me. Just another nexus guys.

    • Tjaldid

      64GB OPTION FOR $349!!!

  • Blowntoaster

    Good Price, Great hardware, nothing really different to the current flagship lineup.
    nothing that really makes it stand out.

  • Allanitomwesh

    Buying one will be hell.

  • Blowntoaster

    what some of us want is a Nexus GS5. removable battery, AMOLED 1080p screen and the new ISOCELL camera. keep the 4k recording and some of the extra camera features. and not some US only/ limited availability GPE edition.

  • 3rd World Techie

    two problems

    - invite system
    - 5.5″ is a lil too big for me

    • balcobomber25

      I agree with the 5.5 being too big. 5 is about the max I want my phone to be. Any bigger than that and I might as well just carry my Nexus 7 around.

  • Tom Constantineau

    Damn, I was wanting to get a smaller phone than my note 2…but with that price… I can sell my note 2 and pretty much pay for the One…. Oi! All this is assuming that they drop the invite system after a couple months…. Invite… Really?

  • David

    Hi!!!

    Will the 64 gb version have all its storage amount (the whole 64 gb – OS and others = 60 gb aprox.) available for the user to use it as he wants (like Nexus devices) or will this storage come splited and setting restrictions (55 gb for multimedia and the rest for apps, for instance)???

    Thanks in advance for your help!!!

    Best regards!!!

  • Ruz

    You cant ask for more at this price.. definitely worth it

  • Android Lover

    Invite? I’ve never heard of such marketing schemes before for smartphones. Avons anyone? Also, you can open the cover, but you can’t replace the battery or insert SD card? Then why do you need to open the cover in the first place? And, how do you upgrade the OS? Do you need to depend on a bunch of volunteers and amateurs posting their Androids on cyanogen? Are you kidding? This phone is generating too many questions without enough answers. No thanks. If it sounds too good to be true(with pricing), well you know the drill.

  • alex

    Only 300 USD for great flagship… WoW!

  • Fuchsritter

    Thanks for the First Look. Please write something about the notification led and show some pictures of it and the software options for the notification led. Its rumoured that its in the speaker on bottom. Really???!!!

  • [A]dri[A]n

    Well, the Nexus 5 is now the second best deal you can get :P

  • Jonathan TAM

    Absolutely wonderful. But it’s a shame to see a battery that could so easily be removed marked as ‘non-removable’. And it looks like the Xperia S, which came out 2 years ago.

  • davidvella

    I don’t get the sdcard fetish some have. I haven’t used and sdcard since my original HTC incredible. Everything syncs with the cloud.

    • Mawardi Hashary

      not everyone live in country where internet are stable and or so fast. Plus, how fast you can upload 1 gb data to your cloud compare to copy it with sd card to your PC ?

      • davidvella

        Good point. Although even with syncing via usb directly to the phone, 16 gb should be plenty for a lot of people.

  • Daniel Walsh

    AWESOME

  • lalala

    how do you update the phone?

  • Moustique

    Could you confirm if OPO has Super Zoom or Ultra HD photo feature which allows to take 50 megapixels pics like what Find 7 does? Thanks a lot.

  • 00deee000

    Why do people even beg for invites? they are already there!
    http://bit.ly/OnePlusOneInvite

  • Gavin

    A top end piece of tech, affordable, great spec and without having to be tied to a contract, maybe other brands will take note that we, the buying public, are tired of being ripped off.

  • Phawn nguyen

    I am seriously stumped on how to buy the 64gb version. I’ve been on its website all day and tried clicking on the 64gb version. Seriously how do you even buy one?!?!?

  • Jonathan

    If anyone wants some shirt swag to go with their motto “Never Settle” check it out: http://teespring.com/neversettle1

    • http://webdkr.com/ Devin Rajaram

      Totally got one!

  • fredphoesh

    I am disappointed in this Lacking device because OnePlus LACKS integrity. Their #smashthepast campaign is disgusting. I really hope they fail as a venture. Encouraging people to WASTE perfectly good, working phones, in this day and age when there are so many people who lack basics of life, food, shelter etc… is repulsive. Only selfish idiots with too much money would do that… so I am very disappointed in OnePlus and they are seriously lacking in a conscience. TWO THUMBS DOWN.

  • AnandWHY

    how to get invite please let me know.. i want to buy this wonderful and amazing mobile… PLEASE PLEASE HELP ME :(

  • pjcamp

    No SD on what is essentially a phone for geeks is just weird. I have my choice of buttons but not my choice of storage?

  • –ź–Ĺ–ī—Ä–Ķ–Ļ –ú–ź–õ–ź–•–ě–í
  • hi

    16G will never be enough for android user in general……I am so regret about the M7 that I bought is 32G….not enough space!!i just want to store more video. music. and apps and picetures !

  • Tommy

    Its flaws are small things, details that fail by matters of degrees rather than huge margins, and for a smartphone that costs less than half of many of its competitors, that’s nothing short of amazing. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.

    http://9cases.com/2014/06/best-and-cheap-oneplus-one-cases-2014/

  • Tommy

    OnePlus is a brand-new phone maker with zero track record, although it was founded by a guy from Oppo, which is known for quality electronics. If OnePlus can build sufficient units, keep product quality up, and squash all the bugs, this phone could be a real game changer. And if you have decided to become a proud owner of this device, perhaps you’re in the market for a solid and beautiful protection case as well.

    http://9cases.com/2014/06/best-and-cheap-oneplus-one-cases-2014/