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The OnePlus Open is my favorite foldable yet
Once the underdog champion, it’s been years since OnePlus has delivered a stand-out hit. The transition under OPPO wasn’t too smooth, and OnePlus has struggled to regain the trust of its fans despite its posturing as the poster child of the value-Android-flagship movement. But something’s changed. Earlier this year, OnePlus announced it was getting into a new segment and taking on some of the best foldable phones. For a brand that has often failed to push out fully baked software on its flagships at launch, a foldable is a whole new beast to tackle, and we’ve understandably been skeptical of the company’s ability to achieve that.
The OnePlus Open isn't just the best OnePlus in years, it's also perhaps the best foldable on the market.
Well, it’s here, and the mad lads at OnePlus have done it. I’ve been using the OnePlus Open for the last few weeks, and this is hands down not just the best OnePlus phone in years but arguably one of the most polished foldables made so far.
OnePlus Open: Hot or not?
The OnePlus Open nails the essentials
The OnePlus Open is, at its core, a stunningly built device. An amalgamation of metal, beautifully inset glass, and a vegan leather back, the phone channels the ethos of industrial minimalism and sprinkles it with all the right moves to improve usability.
It’s not as if this is the first phone we’ve seen using a combination of metal and glass — far from it. But it’s all about the fit and finish. While most Android phones err towards symmetry, the OnePlus Open actively rejects it. Unlike Samsung’s softer approach to edges and curves, the OnePlus Open is going for a more defined silhouette. I haven’t seen the Emerald Green variant yet, but the Open’s black glass inset within the gunmetal grey shell is equal parts modern and a throwback to design classics like vintage rangefinder cameras.
The vegan leather, metal, and oversized camera come together to give the OnePlus Open a vintage rangefinder-like appeal.
Leaning further into that is the vegan leather at the back. Now, I’m a big fan of marrying leather and electronics. More so when it is intermixed with the starkness of metal. The vegan leather material on the Open does a fantastic job of softening the relative coldness of the hardware. But it serves one additional function: It balances out the design quirks of the oversized camera module — arguably one of the most polarising elements of the Open.
Love it or hate it, there’s no hiding the fact that the camera bump looks stark and massive in renders. In hand, it’s not quite as shocking. However, the vegan leather paneling works like the yin to the yang of the needlessly large module and makes it look even more like a vintage camera. Look, I’d have appreciated something a bit less in your face, but it’s hard to deny the effect in person. It’s very premium.
Taking it a step further, you can see that OnePlus has put a lot of care into its first foldable. The semi-floating camera lenses offer visual depth and seem more significant than they are. The gigantic module leaves nothing to the imagination, and the all-new OnePlus periscope lens makes a showing here. I’ll leave it to my colleague Ryan to dive deep into it, but spoiler alert: there’s a lot to like about the OnePlus Open cameras as well. Overall, the module might be playing some visual trickery, but I’m here for the retro-modern aesthetic, and any and all experimentation with smartphone design.
A foldable needs to be usable — both open and closed
That focus on looks and materials would be all for naught if the phone didn’t deliver on usability, and that’s where the OnePlus Open strides ahead of practically every foldable. Anyone who has ever used a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold would agree that using the outer display is anything but convenient. The tall 23.1:9 aspect ratio might make the phone comfortable to hold but it’s certainly not conducive to day-to-day texting, searching, and emailing. Meanwhile, the Pixel Fold takes a diametrically different approach with its squat form factor and compact 5.8-inch outer display. It’s certainly more comfortable to use, but now you’ve got a very different problem — you get a lot lower information density.
The OnePlus Open's aspect ratio is laser-focused on usability, and it trumps the Galaxy Z Fold 5 by a wide margin.
The OnePlus Open offers the best of both worlds. The 6.31-inch outer screen with a 20.1:9 aspect ratio is exactly what we’re used to on most slab-style phones. The size is spot on and strikes that sweet balance between being big enough to allow for productivity and small enough not to require odd finger gymnastics.
The result? A phone that is perfectly usable when closed. Playing games, texting, scrolling Twitter (I refuse to call it X), or Instagram feels perfectly natural and proportionate. I’d go as far as saying that a non-foldable OnePlus phone in that size would be a very welcome addition to the lineup. Regardless, OnePlus has nailed the outer dimensions of the OnePlus Open.
And by extension, this has a profound impact on the inner dimensions of the phone. The 20.1:9 aspect ratio, with some space to spare, translates beautifully to the internal display when doubled up. Every book-style foldable lets you run two full apps simultaneously, no surprises. But the Open’s aspect ratio does it better by avoiding scaling and keeping both apps proportionate. I’ve been enjoying using the app pair functionality built into the phone. I’ve paired up Spotify and my go-to workout app to launch simultaneously with an even split, and the combo is always available ready to go within the multitasking screen.
The phone has no issues blowing up apps and webpages across the entire 7.8-inch screen for a tablet-like experience, but you wouldn’t expect any less.
Details matter and OnePlus thought of many
By now, it should be obvious that I like the OnePlus Open, but there’s one more addition here that is an absolute no-brainer and more than welcome. The OnePlus Open ships with a matte screen guard installed out of the box and I’m surprised nobody has considered implementing this before.
Using a matte screen protector was a genius move to protect against fingerprints and glare.
Now, as lovely as Ultra Thin Glass is, the fact remains that the Galaxy Z Fold 5’s inner screen feels very plasticky and attracts a godawful amount of fingerprints. It’s part of the reason why I rarely used the internal display on the Z Fold 5. Between lint, dust, fingerprints, and glare, the screen just wasn’t handy in a lot of situations. I don’t want to carry a microfiber cloth with me wherever I go to baby my phone’s display. The OnePlus Open has a straightforward, obvious solution to the problem: a matte screen guard.
Okay, it’s not entirely matte; I’d rate the gradation somewhere between matte and gloss, but the solution works, doesn’t make the screen appear dim, and can dramatically reduce fingerprint and smudge build-up on the screen, improve outdoor visibility by reducing glare and even help hide the central crease that is the bane of any foldable’s existence. That’s a lot of helpful functionality for such a simple solution.
Not that you can see or observe much of the crease. I have no qualms with OnePlus cribbing OPPO’s Flexion Hinge tech for the Open. In fact, instead of crying out about OnePlus selling its soul to OPPO, I’m glad that the company chose not to reinvent the wheel and opted for its parent company’s tried and tested hinge solution.
In the case of the OnePlus Open, the most common gripe of foldable phones is largely resolved. The crease can barely be felt unless you look for it, is rarely visible head-on, and the hinge can be held up at most angles. I’ve kept the phone in laptop mode on planes, tripod-style at the gym, and in a range of odd configurations while shooting photos. The hinge holds up just fine. No complaints at all.
The OnePlus Open is noticeably lighter than the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and its crease is nearly invisible.
Tying all these form factor improvements is a lighter and slimmer profile too. The Open is about 2mm thinner than the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 and 14 grams lighter. The 239g weight is also about the same as the iPhone 14 Pro Max. It might not seem like much on paper, but the difference is noticeable in hand. Not bad at all for a foldable.
Paper specs aside, I can vouch that those 2 millimeters make a drastic difference in our perception of the phone. I’ve had trusted friends comment on how slimmer the Open feels than any previous foldable, even though the on-paper difference isn’t dramatic.
The Open is a dramatic about-turn for OnePlus
As someone who has time and time again been jaded by OnePlus’ tall claims and lackluster implementations, I was downright skeptical when I got access to the Open a couple of weeks back. Weeks later, I can’t claim it’s perfect — no phone is. The camera housing ensures you can’t keep the phone down straight, and it’ll rock if you leave it unfolded on a table. Perhaps it’s a form factor limitation, but I found the alert slider, volume rocker, and power button to be placed too close for comfort too.
OnePlus finally understood the assignment, and built the device its fans have been clamoring for.
But these are minor complaints in light of OnePlus’ overall achievement. I expected OnePlus to put in the effort for its first foldable phone, but even as a recently disappointed OnePlus fan, I didn’t expect the company to solve so many foldable issues on its first attempt. And that’s before we talk about the top-tier hardware specs and excellent software optimization out of the box. Perhaps we’ll leave that for our review, ha!
Regardless, the OnePlus Open has easily won my heart as my favorite foldable yet and perhaps even my favorite phone of 2023. Of course, how many buyers will be comfortable spending north of $1,500 on a OnePlus phone? But rest assured, the OnePlus Open will be a helluva act to follow, at least as far as hardware goes.