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OnePlus One review - a follow up

The final production unit is now available, and we find out what has changed since our comprehensive review. Here's a second look at the OnePlus One!
July 21, 2014

Aiming to shake up the Android smartphone industry, the OnePlus One has been making waves since its official launch. Not all of it has been good though, and people have certainly been vocal about their frustration with being able to actually get the phone. That said, the interest behind the “2014 flagship killer” is still understandably very high, and things are starting to look up.

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We were able to review the OnePlus One immediately after its launch, but I’ve been looking forward to doing a follow up for two particular reasons. Firstly, the software is now its final version, taking care of a lot of the kinks that plagued the pre-release review unit, and second, the device I bought is the 64 GB Sandstone Black, that features identical specifications, but comes with a lot more internal storage, and a different build material. So what changes, if any, are found in the final production version of the device ? We find out, in this follow up review of the OnePlus One!

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As mentioned, the full review of the 16 GB “Babyskin” white version of the device is already available, so this time around, it’ll be a somewhat unstructured look at what has changed from that pre-release version. In the earlier review, we did notice a few quirks and kinks, mostly with regards to the software experience, but I still found the device to be one the best I’ve reviewed, if only because of its still impressive price point of $299.

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For the follow up review, I was able to pick up the 64 GB Sandstone Black version of the OnePlus One, available for just $349. As far as the handling experience goes, it is very different, as an issue that I found with the soft touch plastic of the “Babyskin” white version was that it was quite slippery. That is not the case with the 64 GB edition, as the material on the back feels almost like sandpaper, obviously without being as coarse. It does have a soft touch to it, but is very textured, which definitely makes a big difference with regards to grip. Looking around the device, I did find the overall build quality to be a lot more refined this time around as well.

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When it comes to the display, you get the same 5.5-inch screen with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. The display performed admirably during the comprehensive review, and continues to do so with the final release version of the device. You get nice, vibrant colours, and the display also works quite well if you’re out and about in broad daylight. It has to be mentioned though that the screen does have sensitivity issues.

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This has nothing to do with touch sensitivity while using the phone, but rather, to do with the screen-off gestures. As you know, you are able to wake the device, quickly open the camera, play music, and turn on the flashlight easily, using a number of different gestures. To turn on the flashlight, you need to a draw a “V” on the screen, and what happens with this gesture is that there have been plenty of times where the torch turns on, even while the phone is in the pocket. It is something you have to be careful about, or you could choose to disable that particular gesture instead.

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The processing package, that includes a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, clocked at 2.5 GHz, and the Adreno 330 GPU, is still the best currently available in the market, and as such, there are no issues with the OnePlus One in terms of performance. A contributing factor to the performance aspect is also the software, CyanogenMod 11S, which was built specifically for this smartphone. The software features improvements across the board, not just in subtle aesthetic looks, but in relation to crashes I faced in the review unit earlier. For example, VSCO Cam would not open on the previous device no matter what I tried, but is an issue that I don’t face anymore.

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Things remain unchanged with the hardware, but one thing to worth mentioning here is that the two speakers, placed at the bottom of the device, are not stereo speakers, but are, in fact, two single speakers. These speakers work in tandem, that allows for it to get really loud, but doesn’t provide a left and right experience. One of the big problems I had with the review unit was the fact that the call volume was really low. At the time, I was assured that it was a software bug that would be addressed in a future update, and it looks like that fix has been done. Call volume is no longer an issue with the full retail version of the device.

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Without microSD expansion available, the bump in internal storage from 16 GB to 64 GB makes a world of difference. Being able to store a lot of things in this phone has allowed me to make this device my media powerhouse. Not only does it save all my music and podcasts, but also gives me the opportunity to game crazy with this device. Even with large games requiring a maximum of 2 or 3 GB, I get to download a lot of them without having to worry about running out of space.

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There is a lot of customization available with the “Themes Showcase” application, allowing you to completely change the look of the user interface. There were only a few options available at the beginning, but that list has certainly grown exponentially since, packed with both free and paid themes. The AudioFX app features a more updated look which is a lot flatter. The app, of course, gives you complete control of the equalizer, whether its through the headphone jack, or via the external speakers, and works really well.

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That rounds up my experience so far with the final production version of the OnePlus One. When it comes the current crop of flagship devices, the OnePlus One has been a great surprise. Whether it stands true to its self-proclaimed titled of “flagship killer” depends on you and your requirements. The OnePlus One has a lot to offer, but misses out on expandable storage and a removable battery, features that may be important to you. Of course, the biggest selling point of the OnePlus One is its price point, and there are only a handful of smartphones that will prove to worthy competition for this device at this price range.

Stay tuned as we continue to bring you more great OnePlus One coverage, including an upcoming comparison with another fantastic device competing at this price range, the Google Nexus 5. You also have the chance to pick up the OnePlus One, by participating in our latest OnePlus One International Giveaway!