Reviewing OnePlus 3T : The best mid-price phone with Nougat sweetness

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What do you do when you have an already-great smartphone and access to parts that can improve it? If you’re a traditional smartphone maker, you’ll more than likely wait about one year before putting those upgraded parts into a slightly newer chassis.

If you’re not and you like to think a little differently to the mainstream manufacturers, then you use them to make a great smartphone even better. Which is exactly what OnePlus has done with the OnePlus 3T – the slightly pricier, yet even more awesome, mid-price phone that’s good enough to take on the flagships.

How is the OnePlus 3T different to the OnePlus 3?
New Gunmetal grey colour
Camera is now protected by sapphire glass
From an aesthetic standpoint, there are no visual changes to the styling and design of the phone: the OnePlus 3T looks identical to the OnePlus 3.

OnePlus’ smartphone is carved from a single piece of high-end aluminium alloy.  It feels both solid and comfortable in the hand, just as the OnePlus 3 does.Its back has a comfortable and purposeful curved finish, with gently rounded edges to match.

We now have sapphire glass, which is harder and far better at resisting scratches.While the main body’s build and materials are identical, the glass covering the camera has been upgraded.

The textured notification priority slider sits on the left edge, near the top, about a thumb’s width above the slim volume rocker. On the opposite side, the power button is joined by the dual SIM tray which, sadly, still doesn’t have the option of slipping in a microSD card to expand the storage.

One thing that must be applauded is the attention to how these buttons feel when they’re pressed. They have a solid click, giving great feedback in use.

There’s a Type-C port, speaker grille, microphone and 3.5mm jack all in a row on the bottom edge, while the top edge is completely port-free.

While the phone looks exactly the same as the OnePlus 3, the company did create a new Gunmetal Grey finish – which is noticeably darker than the OnePlus 3 in Graphite finish.

How large is the OnePlus 3T?
5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display
Covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4
On the front is a 5.5-inch 1080p full HD display, providing a window to all your games, videos and apps. Like its lesser-powered sibling, it’s OnePlus’ Optic AMOLED display. That means you get the same vibrant colours and really deep blacks.

To really see the strength of this AMOLED panel, it’s worth using the system-wide dark theme which changes the settings menu’s background to be completely black, offset with contrasting colours which are more pastel than the highlighter-neon found in the older software. It’ll probably help the battery life too.

Being Full HD (1920 x 1080) rather than Quad HD (1440 x 2560) does mean you don’t quite get the same level of detail as you would on some other flagship phones, like the Pixel XL. From arm’s length, everything on the 3T looks sharp and clear enough though.

Bringing it a little closer to your face reveals that rounded icon edges and curves in fine text aren’t quite as smooth as you’d find on a higher-resolution screen, of course. Still, things are smooth enough when using the phone normally, not pressed right up against your nose.

Being Optic AMOLED, the 3T also has the same dual polarising layers built in to help make it more visible in daylight. For the most part, this works well. The screen is relatively easy to see in most lighting conditions.

All this means that, for the average day made up of video watching, mobile gaming and watching all your friends doing the mannequin challenge on Snapchat, the screen holds up well. It’s a great canvas for all kinds of media, especially if what you’re viewing is colourful.

  • OxygenOS based on Android 7.0 Marshmallow
  • Enhanced Doze mode for better battery life
  • New Shelf is cleaner and more refined

OxygenOS is back yet again in a version of the software which OnePlus says is more refined. Building on the success of previous iterations, it retains its lightweight and fluid properties while maintaining the customisation choices.

The 3T initially launched running a version based on Android Marshmallow, but was updated to Nougat right at the beginning of 2017. While it retains what makes OxygenOS great, it also brings on board many of the Nougat features we like.

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Android Nougat brings the redesigned settings app, complete with the ability to change icons and font sizes, and with the main menu sidebar for quick access to the main sections. It also has the updated notifications with quick reply and – for the first time on a OnePlus phone – split screen multitasking.

The Shelf – OnePlus’ screen used to give you handy access to your favourite contacts, apps and widgets – has been updated with a cleaner look. The font at the top of the screen has been tidied up, and the cards showing various widgets are now all white for a more uniform look. You can still add all your most used apps and widgets here as you could before, it just looks a little tidier.

Other changes include the ability to customise which quick-access icons you want in your drop-down quick settings shade. You can also setup some apps to be private and only accessible by password or fingerprint scan – which is particularly useful if you don’t like kids checking through your personal messages, or if your work emails and calendar need to be kept private.

In an upcoming software update, OnePlus is going to include the ability to take longer screenshots. Just like some of Samsung’s latest phones, you’ll be able to snap a screenshot and then keep scrolling to get as much of an image, web page or text as you need. There are also updates to the voice over and weather apps.