Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
As the OG of community-led brands, OnePlus might’ve had renegade origins and lofty ideals to change the smartphone status quo. However, the OnePlus of 2023 is a whole different beast. While value positioning is still a core aspect of the company’s market strategy, it isn’t all that OnePlus is about anymore. Today, the brand has a smorgasbord of options across price segments. It ranges from phones like the affordable Nord series and affordable look-alikes of flagships with the R-series to a true-blue flagship foldable.
Ten years later, OnePlus isn’t just about affordable performance anymore, but value remains at the heart of its product lineup.
As a day-one OnePlus fan, I’ve tried out practically every phone the company made. Along the way, I’ve had experiences, good and bad, of devices that genuinely changed the smartphone industry, innovated with pop-up cameras and incredible design, and, ever so often, missed the mark with lacking software. Ten years later, these three OnePlus phones stand out as my favorites.
What’s your favorite OnePlus phone?
OnePlus 3T: The start of a more polished lineup
The first OnePlus One was remarkable for its balance of power, price, and the community-first Cyanogen Mod-based Android operating system. It also wasn’t a particularly polished device. If the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 were a peek into the company’s plans to change the smartphone landscape and marketing, the OnePlus 3 series was the culmination of all that effort. The OnePlus 3 and, even more so, the OnePlus 3T built upon an excellent base and delivered a spectacular smartphone that could’ve taken on most other flagships when it launched in 2016.
While the phone eschewed the beloved sandstone finish, everything else about the OnePlus 3T was an upgrade. The metal construction, sapphire glass on the camera, and stunningly slim profile made it stand out amidst the competition.
The Oneplus 3T excelled with its polished experience, improved hardware, and stellar design.
Introduced as a mid-cycle refresh, the OnePlus 3T smoothed over some of the foibles of the OnePlus 3 by bumping up the base storage to 128GB and going for a Snapdragon 821 processor. The latter proved to be a very significant upgrade as far as efficiency was concerned. Performance, too, improved, but Qualcomm’s efforts to enhance the phone’s day-to-day longevity paid dividends.
But while an upgraded chipset was excellent, the most noticeable improvements came through software refinement. Remember, these were the early days of Oxygen OS, and the software was still mostly stock Android. And more importantly, the competition was still shipping supremely bloated software. I fondly remember the OnePlus 3T as one of the fastest devices in day-to-day usability. In fact, when I reviewed it back in the day, I went as far as saying that the OnePlus 3T was so good it made other phones feel unusable to me.
OnePlus 7 Pro: A look towards innovation
Staunch OnePlus supporters might sound off at me for dismissing the stellar OnePlus 5T or even the 7T, but hear me out. The OnePlus 7 Pro was where the company took a gamble towards establishing leadership.
The phone was no longer just a piece of excellent hardware at a very good price. With the 7 Pro, OnePlus stretched itself and delivered a stellar display with no cutouts. It achieved this feat using a pop-up selfie camera — a trend I sorely miss.
The first OnePlus phone with a ‘Pro’ moniker, the OnePlus 7 Pro was a capable flagship with a unique twist to it.
The company’s first phone with a Pro moniker, the OnePlus 7 Pro, had all the bells and whistles like a flagship processor, ultrafast charging by 2019 standards, and cameras that were perfectly good, albeit not the best in the business.
In his long-term review, Android Authority’s C.Scott pointed out that the OnePlus 7 Pro was his all-time favorite Android phone. I concur. As a reviewer and tech enthusiast, I rarely use a phone for over a few months, but the OnePlus 7 Pro was unique. It’s the rare smartphone I held onto for almost three years because of its unmatched, uninterrupted display and superbly polished software. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I genuinely believe it’s still one of the best-looking smartphones ever made.
OnePlus Open: A true flagship foldable
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority
When OnePlus announced its plans to launch a foldable smartphone, it was expected that the company would shake up the segment with an affordable, high-performance foldable. OnePlus didn’t do that.
Instead, OnePlus built a statement piece. The OnePlus Open competes in the same price bracket as Samsung’s foldables but comes equipped with the best hardware yet on a foldable phone. Bringing out the big guns, OnePlus took a kitchen sink approach and tossed full-specced cameras, ultra-fast charging, and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset at the phone. Heck, it even includes an IR blaster — a rarity in conventional flagships, let alone foldables.
The first foldable from OnePlus hits a home run with its well thought-out hardware, excellent software integration, and rather good cameras.
However, the choice of aspect ratio sealed the deal for me. I’ve used all the Samsung foldables, and the tall aspect ratio never really clicked. The OnePlus Open, on the other hand, is wider, both closed and open. This lends itself to conventional smartphone-style one-handed use. When open, the larger screen is effectively two smartphone displays placed next to each other — perfect for multitasking.
Add to that possibly the best software integration for running multiple apps simultaneously, and you’ve got the makings of what I think is the first foldable smartphone that genuinely enhances productivity and encourages you to multitask. Sure, it’s expensive, but OnePlus has managed to sneak in a bit of its trademark value proposition by doubling the amount of storage offered out of the box and providing better hardware all around. It’s not quite a steal, but value can be found here.
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
OnePlus is amongst the rare breed of smartphone brands that still evokes a rollercoaster of emotions amongst its fan following. Despite the tremendous outroar about the brand losing its identity over the years, it still manages to evoke interest and intrigue by offering stellar hardware for the money. Has OnePlus settled? For some fans, perhaps. But by becoming the beast it tried to vanquish, OnePlus is now a solid alternative to Samsung’s near monopoly in the Android world.
Having used practically every OnePlus flagship made over the last 10 years, I believe the company’s current course is the natural trajectory for any self-sustaining, successful business. Nowhere is the brand’s growth visible than in the transition from the OnePlus 3T to the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OnePlus Open. These three phones best represent the brand coming of age, trying to be innovative, and delivering a true-blue flagship. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years at OnePlus look like.