OnePlus 6T Review

Even by the standards of OnePlus’s previous product refresh timelines, the OnePlus 6 ₹ 39,999 (Review) has had a very short life. Just five months after its launch, it’s already out of stock and effectively dead, making way for the predictably named OnePlus 6T. The company has told us in the past that it isn’t interested in sitting around and waiting for a predetermined amount of time if it has new technology to ship, and we take that to mean that it doesn’t ever want competitors’ products to seem newer and fresher. It’s an approach that has worked well so far, and no one’s expecting buyers to upgrade with every single release.

In the past, successive models have usually meant moving to a better processor, delivering improved cameras, or adopting new industry trends or standards. This time, it’s all about a new fingerprint sensor and a smaller notch – oh, and the company’s first ever partnership with a US carrier, which is probably the biggest reason to whip up a new model this soon. The OnePlus 6T ₹ 37,999 — with a new fingerprint reader and a smaller notch — is perhaps the company’s most minor refresh ever in terms of hardware, but it could be the most significant in terms of experimentation and strategy, and the evolution of OnePlus as a global player.

We’re also intrigued by how the company is handling the removal of features, some of which it has championed in the past. Does gaining a powerful new global player mean losing the scrappy startup that always put tech-savvy users first? We’ve got lots of questions, and we’re going to dig up the answers.

OnePlus 6T design

The OnePlus 6T does feel somewhat fresh in terms of keeping up with trends, but not much has changed over the past five months, so the differences between this phone and its predecessor are subtle. First of all, the chunky notch has been replaced with a slight ‘waterdrop’ dip for the front camera. It’s exactly like what we’ve seen on the Oppo F9 Pro ₹ 20,998 (Review), Vivo V11 Pro ₹ 23,299 (Review), and Realme 2 Pro ₹ 13,990 (Review), all from companies that are under the BBK Electronics umbrella, just like OnePlus. The earpiece is designed into the seam where the front glass meets the phone’s metal rim, and it’s not too small to cause discomfort.

The biggest downside of this notch design is the death of the popular multi-colour notification LED that’s been a OnePlus staple till now. The loss is somewhat offset by the Ambient Display feature that lets the OLED screen light up to show notification information, but that isn’t always on, so you can’t tell at a glance if there are alerts for you to check.

The screen is slightly larger than that of the OnePlus 6, at 6.41 inches compared to 6.2 inches before. If you place the two phones next to each other, you’ll notice that the new model’s bottom “chin” has been reduced, making the very slim border around the screen look almost uniform on all four sides. The corners have very wide curves, and unfortunately some UI elements and fullscreen apps look like they’ve been cut off awkwardly.

OnePlus will ship this phone with a pre-applied screen protector because it can’t guarantee that aftermarket ones will allow the in-display fingerprint sensor to work. We aren’t fans of this, because it isn’t shaped to perfectly match the curves of the screen and notch, and it really detracts from the slick look of this phone. We noticed a strange crosshatch pattern on the protective film when looked at from an angle, though this wasn’t distracting when looking at the screen head-on. It also picked up scratches and smudges way too easily for our liking.

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That brings us to biggest new feature of the OnePlus 6T — its in-display fingerprint sensor. OnePlus says that it has experimented with this technology for over a year, and had even developed prototypes of the OnePlus 5T with it, before ultimately deciding that it wasn’t yet good enough to ship then. We’ll have a lot more detail about how well this works later on in the review.

The base variant will be available only in Mirror Black and the top-end one will only be available in Midnight Black at the time of launch. You’ll have both options if you choose the middle variant. Silk White appears to have been dropped from the launch lineup. The textures are unchanged, so the Midnight Black finish still has a soft feel and iridescent S-shaped pattern when held under the light. Given the company’s history, we fully expect additional colours or special editions to be released over the lifetime of this device.

In addition to the loss of the notification LED, there’s no 3.5mm audio jack. This will be the most controversial feature (or lack thereof), given OnePlus’s vocal defence of the analogue standard and ribbing of its competitors in the recent past. According to the company, it was necessary in order to accommodate a larger battery and hardware for the in-display fingerprint sensor. There’s a grille in its place for symmetry, but it isn’t an actual speaker. This feels like a missed opportunity, considering that most premium phones today can deliver decent stereo sound.

Other than those things, the OnePlus 6T looks identical to the OnePlus 6. The pill-shaped bump for the dual rear cameras is exactly the same, down to the slightly rough edges that we criticised last time. The power and volume buttons, alert slider, and dual Nano-SIM tray are also unchanged, and there’s nothing wrong with them.

The OnePlus 6T feels very well built. We had a Mirror Black review unit and it wasn’t too slippery. This phone looks great other than the smudges it picks up.

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OnePlus 6T specifications

Coming so soon after the launch of the OnePlus 6, it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are no major changes to the specifications. We still have the same octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor running at up to 2.8GHz with integrated Adreno 630 graphics. The base variant now has 128GB of storage with 6GB of RAM, the next step up gets you 8GB of RAM with no increase in storage, and the top-end variant has the same 8GB of RAM with 256GB of storage.

The increase in screen size is mainly along the vertical axis, taking the resolution up from 1080×2280 to 1080×2340. Less of that area is now impinged upon by the notch, but you can still mask it with black bands on either side if you like. Battery capacity is also up, from 3300mAh to 3700mAh. That’s always good, but it comes at the cost of a slight weight increase from 177g to 185g.

There are no changes at all to the camera hardware. OnePlus lists the megapixel counts, apertures, sensor sizes and even the specific model numbers of the sensors it purchases from Sony, and they’re all the same as those of the OnePlus 6. Also unaffected is the connectivity, with dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5 with aptX and aptX HD, NFC, GPS, and GLONASS, and LTE with VoLTE and carrier aggregation (though more 4G bands are now supported). The sensors include a hall sensor, gyroscope, e-compass, accelerometer, proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor.

There’s Gorilla Glass 6 for physical protection, but OnePlus doesn’t claim any dust- or water-resistance rating. There’s still no wireless charging as the company believes “it’s too slow”, which is slightly disappointing. One very minor niggle is that you get only USB 2.0 transfer speed through the Type-C port. Another long-running OnePlus quirk is its refusal to offer a microSD card slot, though with a minimum of 128GB onboard, this might not be a problem anymore.

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OnePlus now refers to its Dash Charge feature simply as Fast Charge, thanks to legal disputes over the name. The charger in our review unit’s box still had the Dash Charge logo on it and it’s just as bulky as it has been for a few generations now. You get a translucent plastic case with your phone, plus the screen protector pre-applied to the phone. The only new thing to see in the OnePlus 6T’s box is a USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle, in the company’s signature red.

The OnePlus 6T will ship with Android 9.0 Pie underpinning OnePlus’s OxygenOS 9 UI. The security patch at the time of reviewing was the November 2018 release. OnePlus is very proud of the many customisations that go into OxygenOS, including the five screen calibration modes, reading mode, gesture shortcuts, UI customisation options, and performance tweaks. There are systemwide Android navigation gestures if you want to completely free up all screen real estate, or you can have Google’s stock Android-style swipeable Home button if you prefer. More tweaks and improvements such as UI animations are promised for future updates.

The Ambient Display screen shows a clock, a custom message if you want one, and your notifications. Other features include Parallel Apps to run two instances of some apps, a blue light filter called Night Mode, and your choice of themes and accent colours. There’s an App Locker setting that lets you protect any app with a PIN, and a seemingly redundant Hidden Space within the app drawer itself that lets you tuck some app icons out of sight – but only as long as people don’t know this feature exists.

The improved Game Mode now allows incoming messages to appear unobtrusively so as not to disrupt games. As before, you can prioritise network bandwidth and system resources to make games run better, while suppressing interruptions. There’s also a new Smart Boost feature that keeps apps permanently in the phone’s RAM so they load quicker than they would from storage. This is currently an early implementation and only works for games. It’s on by default and you can turn if off from within the OnePlus Labs section of the Settings app, but there are no other controls and you can’t decide which apps to boost, for now at least, so it’s hard to tell how effective it is.

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