OnePlus 6T review: Flagship phone, flagship price

OnePlus has gotten in the habit of releasing two phones each year with an iterative T model update that tries to perfect that year’s formula. This year we’re getting the OnePlus 6T that not only refines the notched design of the OnePlus 6 but also brings an in-display fingerprint scanner to the masses. And, as always, the phone is touted to be as fast as ever with specs to match phones twice its price.

But this is another device with an increased price tag from OnePlus, which raises the bar for what’s acceptable from a phone. Is it still worth a purchase, or is it finally too expensive to recommend? Let’s find out.

Design

At a glance OnePlus hasn’t really changed much with the overall design of the 6T. Both the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T have similar dimensions, all of the buttons are in the same position, the camera looks the same, and the screen size is virtually unchanged. OnePlus 6 cases even mostly fit the newer model. Seriously, you can check out our OnePlus 6 review to get a good feel for how this phone is going to feel and operate.

But it’s not all the same, and that comes down to two key differences.

When you turn the screen on you’re going to notice that new notch at the top of the display, which is now commonly referred to as a waterdrop notch. Instead of a cutout taking away the center 1/3rd of your notification bar, the newer notch looks like the camera sagging in on the top of the display. It takes up much less room, however, which might be preferable to anyone that dislikes notches.

The other change is the missing fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone underneath the camera, which has disappeared completely thanks to new in-display fingerprint scanning technology. Now the bottom section of the screen houses the fingerprint scanner so you don’t need any physical sensors anywhere. Pretty nifty.

One last notable mention is the lack of a headphone jack, unfortunately. It’s been replaced by a second set of speaker cutouts, which, like Apple’s iPhones, doesn’t actually have a speaker under the holes. It’s just for show. Unlike Apple’s speakers, the speakers OnePlus uses still suck, and yes, I’m always going to complain about that.

Hardware

AnnouncedOctober 29th
Released
SoftwareAndroid 9.0 Pie, OxygenOS
Display6.41-Inch AMOLED, FHD+ (2340 x 1080), Full Optic Screen, 19:5:9 aspect ratio, 402ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 6
NotchTeardrop design
ProcessorSnapdragon 845 Octa-core @ 2.8GHz, Adreno 630
RAM6GB/8GB
Storage128GB/256GB, UFS 2.1
Rear Cameras16MP (Sony IMX 519), F/1.7), 1.22μm, OIS, EIS + 20MP (Sony IMX 376K), F/1.7, 1.0μm, Dual LED Flash
Front Camera16MP (Sony IMX 371), EIS, F/2.0, 1.0 μm
Battery3,700mAh, Fast Charge (5V 4A), USB Type-C 2.0
Audio JackNo
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, Ambient Light Sensor,Electronic Compass, Sensor Hub
NetworkingDual Nano-SIM
BandsFDD LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/66/71
TDD LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41/46
TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39
UMTS(WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19
CDMA: BC0/BC1
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz + 5GHz), 4x4 MIMI Cat.16 LTE, NFC, aptX, aptX HD
IP Rating'Water-Resistant'
SecurityIn-display fingerprint sensor, Screen Unlock
Dimensions157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2mm
Weight185g
ColorsMirror Black (Glossy), Midnight Black (Matte)
Price6GB/128GB $549/€549/£499
8GB/128GB $579/€579/£529
8GB/256GB $629/€629/£579

Performance

OnePlus is often lauded for having extremely fast software paired with best-in-class hardware, and the OnePlus 6T is no exception to that rule. The Snapdragon 845 absolutely flies, and OnePlus does everything they can to keep animations fast and fluid on their devices. The completely overkill amount of RAM in all variants of the OnePlus 6T also means that you’ll be able to throw extremely demanding multitasking at the phone without any issues, and thankfully by this point OnePlus has managed to figure out memory management in the background.

The screen of the 6T is still not quite as nice as what you’ll find in something like a Galaxy S9, but without comparing it side-by-side it’s still very serviceable, excepting a weird quirk that I ran into it where the auto-brightness seemed to set the screen brightness way lower than it should. Hopefully that’s resolved in a future software update.

Regarding the non-4K screen resolution, VR might be the only weak point, in case you’re really into that. The teardrop notch also means that you don’t lose as much screen real estate compared to the previous iteration.

The speakers are still way, way below the kind of quality you should be getting for this price point. I’m going to keep harping on that every year until it gets fixed, too.

Battery

OnePlus managed to squeeze about 10% more battery capacity into the OnePlus 6T, which the headphone jack may or may not have been the casualty of. But wired headphones aside, that’s a really good thing for the phone, which not only has more battery than the previous model, but it’s also rocking a more efficient processor.

That extra juice does just enough to push the OnePlus from the good column to the great column, in my opinion, and I’m finally not reaching for the fast charger just before the end of the day, assuming I wasn’t making tons of phone calls or binging any games.

There’s still no wireless charging here, which I feel is a painful compromise considering the price of the OnePlus 6T. The fast charging’s still great, though.

Software

OnePlus generally does a pretty good job of not adding too much fluff to their own spin on Android, called OxygenOS, and that trend continues with the OnePlus 6T. There are some additions, and OnePlus claims there are hundreds of tweaks to the software under the hood, but overall stock Android fans will be pretty happy here.

There’s no noticeable “skin” or any theming that you’ll find on the phone, outside of a few different app icons. OnePlus uses their own weather app, for example, but it’s pretty lightweight and fits in well with Google’s design language. The navigation keys are boring and normal (no Pixel-y animations, unfortunately) and your stock apps like the calendar and calculator are indistinguishable from AOSP flavors.

But the additions OnePlus does make are often very cool and easy to take advantage of, like the Shelf feature in the home launcher. When you swipe all the way to the leftmost screen you’ll find a list of widgets and information, kind of like Google’s feed but more customizable and without the recommendation algorithms. You can put any of your device’s widgets here, like calendars, search boxes, or music controls, but OnePlus offers their own toolbox shortcut bar, a widget for your membership cards, recent apps, a data usage dashboard, and a quick memo bar. And if you just absolutely hate the Shelf for any reason, you can turn all of it off in settings.

If you’re into customization, the launcher supports icon packs, notification dots, and configurable grids for different size layouts. You can tweak damn near everything else about the phone too, like which status bar icons will appear (great way to hide persistent icons like Bluetooth), change the order of the navigation keys for Samsung converts, and even toggle the notch on and off. There’s literally too much to list here, but trust me, if you need to tinker you’re going to have plenty to play with.

As far as new additions to the OnePlus software suite goes, the only major new difference is moving the fingerprint scanner to the front of the device underneath the screen. There’s a fingerprint icon on the bottom of the display to indicate that it needs your fingerprint to unlock, and a nifty green orb animation when your finger is on the screen. It looks really cool and futuristic, at least for the first dozen times. After that you start to notice how much slower the process is than other more advanced fingerprint scanners and even OnePlus’s own facial recognition unlock method.

Otherwise, you’re pretty much getting the same set of software as last year. It’s a T model, so remember, we’re talking incremental steps.

Camera

If there’s one area that OnePlus likes to hype up with each phone, it’s the camera. At this point they’ve made some decent strides to put a really good camera in their phones, but it’s still not at the point where it can compete with the really heavy hitters from Samsung, Google, and Apple, at least not without some post editing.

This year’s camera seems to be a very small improvement over the OnePlus 6, although OnePlus does have a Nightscape feature intended to compete with Google’s new Night Sight mode for extremely clear low-light photography. Google’s mode works really well, while OnePlus seems to have just barely missed.

The newer more aggressive HDR mode doesn’t appear to have really done anything meaningful to shots taken outdoors and in good lighting. The OnePlus 6 did well, and the OnePlus 6T does well, too.

The Nightscape mode sort of works in the sense that it brightens up dark images, especially at night. It also brightens up light sources to the point that they’re totally blown out, depending on the image. That’s really not what you want, so you have to be careful about when and how you’re using this mode.

Below you’ll find a couple examples with Nightscape off/on from left/right.

If the Galaxy S9 is a 10/10 camera and the Pixel 3 is an 11/10, the OnePlus 6T sits firmly at an 8/10.

Closing

OnePlus has more or less perfected this formula; release a flagship phone that’s slightly more expensive than last year while still undercutting other flagship phones, then iterate on it again halfway through the year with another price increase. It works, honestly. All of their phones, including this OnePlus 6T, offer some killer value for the money. It also works on Verizon for the first time ever, which might be enough of a reason to upgrade from the OnePlus 6.

The OnePlus 6T starts at $549. The Galaxy S9 has an MSRP of $719 that’s virtually never followed, and just last week it was on sale for $519. A few years ago when OnePlus had an undeniable pricing advantage this wasn’t as much of an issue, especially as flagship prices grew faster than OnePlus price tags did.

Should you have bought a OnePlus instead of a Galaxy S7 a few years ago? If you cared about getting the most value-focused on the market, yeah. No brainer. Should you spend $30 more than that Galaxy S9 to get the OnePlus 6T? Unless you just really care about the fingerprint scanner here, that’s a tough question, and for most people I’d lean towards no.

If for some reason you’ve got some serious loyalty to OnePlus or you just like some of their exclusive features or clean software (which are all totally valid reasons!) then this is still the phone to beat. But any price/value proposition that OnePlus had before has been all but officially erase. #NeverSettle?


About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.


  • Michael Murphy

    I personally went with the OnePlus 6T because I was offered twice the value of my LG G6.

  • ZBlade

    I personally never liked the end of year T series from OnePlus. It makes no sense to me to release 2 flagship devices in 1 year where essentially, the T is just a updated version of what was released at the start of the year. They will do much better if they released 2 phones aimed at different market. For example release a OnePlus X equivalent at the start of the year and a flagship at the end.

    If you are thinking Samsung releases multiple flagships a year, this is true but at least they are aimed at different markets (S series for your average Joe and Note for productivity).

    • Jared Peters

      Agreed. Especially when it just seems like OnePlus releases two models to up the price $30 each time.