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OnePlus 2 review: A flagship smartphone for half the price, but will it kill all others?

By Liu Hongzuo - 31 Aug 2015
Launch SRP: S$538

Overview, Design & Features

Overview

Last year, OnePlus made a name for itself with its high performance, low price OnePlus One smartphone, a flagship-level device sold at mid-range level prices. Unfortunately, thanks to OnePlus' 'invite only' buying system, it was incredibly frustrating actually getting your hands on one. 

A year on, and OnePlus is back and more confident than ever, proclaiming its latest smartphone as the "2016 Flagship Killer". That's not a typo by the way, OnePlus really is that enthusiastic.

Priced at S$538 for the 64GB model (a 16GB model will also be available after the initial launch but pricing is currently unknown), and scheduled for release in Q4 this year, the OnePlus 2 boasts a new premium design, a fingerprint scanner, Qualcomm's latest flagship octa-core processor, and an improved rear camera with OIS.

Can the OnePlus 2 improve on the solid start made by the OnePlus One? Will it really be the killer of next year's flagship phones? And more importantly, can you actually buy one this time round? Let's find out.

OnePlus devices compared
  OnePlus 2 OnePlus One
  OnePlus 2 OnePlus One
Launch SRP
  • From S$538
Operating system
  • Android 5.1.1 Lollipop with Oxygen OS 2.0
  • Cyanogenmod 11S, based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat
Processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 octa-core (quad-core 1.5GHz Cortex-A53 & quad-core 2GHz Cortex-A57) processor
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core 2.5GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 3GB (16GB) / 4GB (64GB)
  • 3GB RAM
Display
  • 5.5-inch / 1920 x 1080 pixels (403 ppi) / IPS LCD
  • 5.5-inch / 1,920 x 1,080 pixels / LTPS
Camera
  • Rear: 13-megapixel, f/2.0, laser autofocus, optical image stabilization, dual LED flash
  • Front: 5-megapixel
  • Rear: 13 Megapixel Sony Exmor IMX214, f/2.0 aperture, RAW (DNG format) support
  • Front: 5-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture, 80-degrees wide angle lens
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5GHz), Micro-USB Type-C, 4G LTE
  • LTE Cat4, Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 and 5GHz), NFC, Micro-USB 2.0
Storage Type
  • 16 GB / 64 GB Internal Storage
  • 64GB Internal Storage
Battery
  • 3,300mAh
  • 3,100mAh
Dimensions
  • 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.9 mm
  • 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight
  • 175g
  • 162g

 

Design

Unlike the mostly-plastic OnePlus One, the 2 boasts a new frame made from a magnesium/aluminum alloy. It looks and feels a lot more premium than last year's model, although it is about 1mm thicker, and at 175g, it's also a bit heavier. The default finish for the rear of the phone is Sandstone Black, a gritty, textured finish with a surface that could almost double as a skin exfoliator. The high friction finish is quite understated, but it's grippy and easy to hold on to. If you're after something a little flashier, OnePlus is also selling alternate covers at US$27 (~S$38) a pop. You have your choice of Rosewood, Bamboo, Black Apricot and Kevlar, each one designed to express your inner charisma (or something).

OnePlus 2's StyleSwap covers. Sandstone Black (left), Black Apricot, Kevlar, Bamboo. Rosewood is not pictured.

On each rear cover, the OnePlus logo is visible yet discrete.

On the right side of the phone, you'll find both the power button and volume rocker. 

The volume rocker has moved from the left to the right.

On the left, you'll find the Alert Slider, a little 3-way switch that works like the iPhone's hard-silence button. It toggles between three modes - all alerts, only important notifications, and no notifications. The switch feels really solid, so reassuringly, there's almost no chance you'll accidentally flick it to the wrong position and end up missing an important call, or having a surprise full-volume ringtone blast in the middle of a meeting or movie.

The Alert Slider is a unique feature...at least among Android phones.

Just below the display, the home button doubles up as a fingerprint scanner. Like the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6, you just press your finger over the button - no swiping required. Setting it up is a simple process of letting the phone scan the same finger multiple times. You can have five prints on record. Just one thing – you’ll need to remember to enable fingerprint unlocking by going into your Security settings found within the Settings app after saving those fingerprints.

Setting up the OnePlus 2's fingerprint sensor.

Located at the bottom of the phone is a USB Type-C port. The successor to micro-USB, this port's main benefit is that its reversible. It's worth noting that it's only really the socket that's changed, the port itself follows the USB 2.0 spec in terms of transfer rate, so don't expect USB 3.1 speeds. There's also the downside that you won't be able to use any of those old USB cables you've got lying around, and if you lose the cable, replacing it could be a pain right now as it's a fairly new standard. 

One of the first to feature the new reversible USB Type-C port.

Like many China-made phones, the OnePlus 2 is dual-SIM, with two nano-SIM cards neatly fitting into one tray. Both SIM slots are 4G LTE compatible. Unfortunately, unlike some dual-SIM phones, you can't switch out one of the SIM cards for a microSD card. In fact, you won't find a microSD slot anywhere on the phone, so you're stuck with internal storage only. 

Two 4G LTE nano-SIM slots in one tray, but no microSD card functionality.

 

Display

The OnePlus 2 uses a 5.5-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels resolution) IPS LCD display, giving it a screen pixel density of 401ppi. That's not as good as as the QHD displays found on the LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy Note 5, but it's still plenty sharp. Up close - and at this size - you can just about make out a difference, but its minor and for the most part, you'll be hard-pressed to see any difference in clarity between the devices. The screen is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 4.

Color reproduction is vibrant and bright, although as expected with an LCD display, contrast isn't as good as an AMOLED display.

 

Audio

Audio on the OnePlus 2 comes from a single mono-speaker located on the bottom edge, although slightly misleadingly, two rows of sound holes flank the USB port. Audio quality is decent enough, but pales in comparison to front-facing stereo speaker setups like the HTC One M9. Like the iPhone and all other phones with bottom edge speakers, you'll also run into a problem if you're holding the phone in landscape orientation, as it's very easy to block the speaker with your hand.

If you're not satisfied with the default audio, the OnePlus 2 comes with built-in Waves MaxxAudio Soundaudio enhancement software, which automatically pops up when you adjust the volume while listening to music, watching a movie or playing a game. Turning this enhancement on gives a little more character to the audio, but at the cost of battery life.

Waves MaxxAudio enhancement is easy to access - simply press the volume button during a video,song, or game to bring up the menu.

 

Software Features

OxygenOS on the OnePlus 2. Home button customizing for OnePlus 2, among other tweak-ready options.

Unlike the OnePlus One, which ran on CyanogenMod, the 2 runs on OnePlus' own OxygenOS, which is a skin of Android Lollipop 5.1. Despite being a custom skin, OxygenOS is actually very close to stock Android, and takes almost no time to get used to. Having said that, you do get a few custom additions that you won't find on stock Android such as double-tap to wake up, customizable app icons and gesture drawing on the screen to quick launch the camera or flashlight when the phone is asleep.

Shelf

Shelf is a feature unique to OxygenOS that is essentially OnePlus' version of Google Now. Currently in Beta, you can access Shelf by swiping right on the OnePlus 2 from the main display. It features an interchangeable image at the top, along with your location and the local weather, and a list of your most frequent contacts and most frequent apps. The most frequent list will refresh every six hours, but you can also populate the list manually to suit your liking.

Shelf is like OxygenOS' version of Google Now.

App Permission Settings

App-by-app permission settings grants us control to a pretty detailed level of customization.

Manipulating your privacy app by app is not a new concept, but the way the OnePlus 2 does it makes the process feel more controllable than stock Android OS. You can access all permission tweaks for each individual app within Settings, and simply flick the node to enable or disable certain features that affects how your information is shared and your phone’s physical state. Of course, knowing what to flick is different issue, since some apps are built around information gathering and you may accidentally knock an app out of practical use.

Dark Mode

Dark mode for the OnePlus 2.

If you’re not a fan of the bright interface, the OnePlus 2 has an option for you to switch your phone entirely over to the dark side. What it does is flips the black text to white, and the background to a darker tone for contrast and text visibility. Could be useful if you like to use your phone in the dark without running the risk of blinding yourself with a bright display.

8.5
  • Design 8
  • Features 8.5
  • User-Friendliness 8
  • Performance 8
  • Value 9.5
The Good
Premium aluminum/magnesium alloy build
Smooth UI
Reversible USB Type-C Port
Fingerprint scanner
Great value
The Bad
Invite-only purchase system
A bit thick and heavy
No expandable storage
Camera performance could be better
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