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OnePlus 2 hands-on and first impressions

Hands on with the newly-announced OnePlus 2, the phone with future proofed specs (including 4GB RAM) that claims to be the 2016 Flagship Killer.

Published onJuly 27, 2015

One of last year’s break-out devices was the OnePlus One, created by newcomer OnePlus. The handset offered a credible challenge to the status quo with impressive specs at an even more impressive price tag, and although it had a few faults, it was one of the most impressive devices of the year.

One year on, after months of teasers, leaks and announcements, OnePlus has unveiled the successor in the form of the OnePlus 2. The handset continues the philosophy of the OnePlus One but introduces several refinements to the original formula. But will it have the same effect as its predecessor? Here are our first impressions of the new OnePlus 2.

At first glance, the OnePlus 2 does bear some similarities to the OPO, mainly in the shape but also somewhat in its size. After all this is a 5.5-inch display returning once again, but the overall footprint is smaller than the OnePlus One and makes handling that much better. Looking on the front side of the phone you’ll instantly notice one of the biggest design changes with the OnePlus 2. There is now a home button under the display that is somewhat similar to what is found on Samsung devices, this houses the device’s fingerprint scanner. The button doesn’t quite have the tactile press that you’d get from a device like the Galaxy S6, however, as it is actually a small divet in the screen panel that is flanked on each side by back and recent apps keys that are designated by small lines.

Moving around the metal frame, you’ll find the power button is now on the right side of the phone, directly below the volume rocker. On the left side is a new button called the Alert Slider, which lets you quickly toggle between your notification settings (none, priority, and all), without needing to unlock your phone.

On top you’ll find the standard 3.5mm head phone jack, and on the bottom is the new USB Type-C port, making the OP2 one of the first phones to adopt the next-generation USB standard.

While many were hoping to see the OnePlus 2 embrace QHD, the 5.5-inch panel is only of the Full HD variety. Of course, this is kind of understandable when you consider the price of the phone, and the good news is that the display is still quite attractive and visibly brighter with better saturation when compared to the OP2’s predecessor. Bottom-line, the display might not be as impressive when compared to the higher-resolution screens found on Samsung and LG products, but is on similar ground to what HTCand Sony are offering in their current flagships.

In terms of build materials, the OnePlus 2 features metal chamfered edges with a Sandstone Black rear cover. For those looking for something a bit different, OnePlus will also offer actual wood Bamboo, Black Apricot, Rosewood, and even Kevlar through its SwapStyle line. Unlike the original SwapStyle covers, this time around OnePlus promises that removing and switching covers will be a painless process with no tools required. Additonally, the SwapStyle covers will be made available from day one, something that OnePlus failed to do with its original covers.

On the back of the phone is the 13MP rear camera, which has the same megapixel count as the original handset with improvements in processing and features. To improve the overall pictures, OnePlus has upgraded its new phone with laser auto-focus and a f/2.0 aperture lens, which should result in faster and better shots. Also on board is Optical Image Stabilization, which should help ensure better low light camera performance as well as software and algorithm improvements and 4K Ultra HD video recording. The front camera is a 5MP snapper that can capture Full HD video.

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The improvements in this year’s OnePlus handset don’t stop there, as the Chinese manufacturer has also made major changes under the hood of its latest handset. The OnePlus 2 is powered by an octa-core 64-bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor and an Adreno 430 GPU. As part of its future-proofing claims, OnePlus is offering 4GB LPDDR4 RAM in the OnePlus 2 which is coupled with 64GB internal storage that cannot be expanded. There will also be a cheaper model with 16GB storage and 3GB RAM.

Another interesting change in the hardware department is the decision to make all models of the OnePlus 2 dual-SIM compatible. While this may be less common in the west, there are still circumstances where such a feature could come in handy, such as while traveling or if you keep seperate numbers for work and personal.

The OnePlus 2 sports a non-removable 3300 mAh battery which OnePlus claims should last a full day but with so many next-generation specs, the jury is out until we review the handset. Like any flagship, the OnePlus has a plethora of connectivity options that include Wi-Fi 802.11 n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth v4.1, GPS and FM Radio. As previously mentioned, the USB Type C port at the bottom of the handset is the next generation in USB standards and opens doors to a whole new set of capabilities, including support for universal accessories, a reversible connector and a lot more.

6 problems with the OnePlus 2 and how to fix them

In the year since its inception, OnePlus has made the news for a variety of reasons and while some have been positive, its very public and messy falling out with Cyanogen was not so. When the OnePlus One was launched, the handset ran on CyanogenMod – a forked version of Android with lots of customization options – but its fallout with Cyanogen resulted in OnePlus launching its Oxygen OS earlier this year.

The latest version of OxygenOS is based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop – which OnePlus said would also be coming to the OnePlus after the OnePlus 2 launch today – and brings the same clean user interface that’s akin to pure Android. That said, there are a few standout features that go beyond stock, including an expanded app permissions manager, an app for custom LED notifications, a dark/night reading mode, and a variety of special gestures tailored to make the OP2 experience as convenient as possible. The new software version is also introducing Shelf (beta), a new space to “keep, organize, and discover things you care about”. You’ll get frequent apps and other apps you’d use the most, and OnePlus says this feature will continue to evolve in the months to come as it marches out of beta.

It is also worth noting that OnePlus says it worked very closely with Qualcomm to optimize its software for the Snapdragon 810 and it shows as the phone gave us no trouble when it came to speed and lag was a non-issue in our time with the handset.

The OnePlus 2 will be launching in the coming weeks and, like the OnePlus One, it will be available via an invite system that OnePlus claims has been heavily improved since last year’s handset. There will be 30 to 50 times’ more inventory of the OnePlus 2 (compared to the OnePlus One) at launch and invites will be more readily available as well. The company has launched public registrations for OnePlus 2 invites and at the time of writing, it has over 300,000 registrations.

The OnePlus 2 definitely delivers an impressive specs list on paper and from our first hands-on, it seems that OnePlus is onto another winner. While the first handset’s specs now seem somewhat outdated, the second handset is a sign of the future with several features ensuring that the handset will still be current for the next year.

The first handset was dubbed the 2014 flagship killer, but it’s quite telling that OnePlus is referring to the OnePlus 2 as the 2016 flagship killer; rather than being reactive to other handsets this year, the OnePlus 2 is designed to offer superior specs not only to the OnePlus One but to most current handsets launched this year and into the next. In fact, companies may be scrambling to make modifications to their product portfolio, especially when you consider that the OnePlus 2 will cost just $329 for the base model.

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