OnePlus 3 review: Soon to be outpaced by the OnePlus 5

Price when reviewed

The OnePlus 3 is only 19-months old, and it has already been superceded three times. The OnePlus 3T stole its thunder just five months after release before the OnePlus 5 and 5T appeared to truly bury it. The OnePlus 3 would still be worth buying today at the right price – but it’s something of a moot point given nobody sells it anymore.

You could buy one pre-owned of course, but there’s not too much point when it’s been improved upon in every way by its most recent successor the OnePlus 5T. You can read our full review here, but suffice it to say that not only is the 5T a lot faster, it’s also quite the looker with its edge-to-edge display. Still no expandable storage, mind, and it’s also considerably more expensive, coming in at £450 – a steep £121 increase on the 3T. To be frank, that’s kind of the way all smartphones have gone in the last year, and even at that price, the OnePlus 5T is our pick of the mid-to-high end phones.

Jon’s original review continues below.

The OnePlus 3: At a glance

Not sure if the OnePlus 3 is the right phone for you? Then here’s a quick summary of all the OnePlus 3’s key features, and the major things to look out for. You’ll find Alphr’s full in-depth review below, and if you have any burning questions that aren’t answered in the review, then let us know in the Disqus comments at the bottom of the page. 

  • The OnePlus 3 is a smartphone with a flagship specification, but only costs £329.
  • It’s powered by the same core hardware as many, far pricier high-end phones – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820.
  • The high-end hardware means apps and games are super-responsive, but battery life is also amazing. Only the Samsung Galaxy S7 is better.
  • The 5.5in Full HD screen uses AMOLED tech, but isn’t quite as bright or colour-accurate as other flagship rivals.
  • The 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera are up with the best.

OnePlus 3 review: In full

The OnePlus 3 is one of the most highly anticipated smartphones of 2016 so far, and it has a lot to live up to. Its predecessor, the OnePlus 2, has been my pick of the sub-£300 smartphones ever since it launched last year, and is still on sale at £249. The new model is £60 more expensive, so is the OnePlus 3 worth the price hike?

Immediate impressions are positive. Although the phone has the same 5.5in-sized screen as the OnePlus 2, elsewhere, it’s all change. The headline specifications see the new phone move to the faster, more efficient Snapdragon 820 processor, with twice the amount of RAM. The OnePlus 3 has NFC in addition to a front-mounted fingerprint reader, allowing it to be used for contactless payments via Android Pay. Although the screen is the same size, OnePlus now employs AMOLED tech where its predecessor had an IPS display. And the camera sees an upgrade in resolution and features.

I wasn’t quite as bowled over with the design when I first clapped eyes on it. It looks bland from a distance; a design that’s indistinct, that looks eerily like the long-lost love child of the HTC One M9 and Honor 5X, that simply doesn’t make a statement.

OnePlus 3 camera

Get it in your hand, however, and it’s a different story. The OnePlus feels robust and refined in all the right ways. In fact, you know what? It’s great. Really great. Forget about the bland looks – the OnePlus 3 is fabulous value.

In fact, if you gave this to me and blanked out the logo, I’d guess it was a far more expensive handset, closer to £600 than £329. It’s lighter and slimmer than the OnePlus 2, shaving 17g off that phone’s weight and 1.5mm off its thickness, despite having the same-sized screen, and it’s packed with lovely little details. The edges of the screen are slightly rounded, the buttons have a solid, positive click, and the do-not-disturb slider on the left edge has a lovely mechanical snick to it.

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That slider was one of my favourite features on the OnePlus 2, and it’s great to see it here as well. Being able to put the phone into silent mode at the flick of a switch is so useful you have to wonder why more Android manufacturers haven’t done it.


And it’s combined here with other practical features. The fingerprint reader sits below the screen in the middle, and it’s as responsive and reliable as you’d hope it to be. There’s also a dual-SIM slot on the left-hand edge, although you don’t get a microSD slot to expand the phone’s 64GB of internal storage.

One thing that fans of the OnePlus 2 might bemoan is the fact you can no longer remove the backplate and replace it with a finish of your choosing. OnePlus’ selection of official cases makes up for this, however, with a choice of five different options, and a mixture of natural and man-made materials to choose from.


The “black apricot” wood case is my favourite (pictured above on the far left), but if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can have bamboo, black “sandstone”, carbon fibre and rosewood as well. The cases cost £20 each and you can order them on the OnePlus website.

If one of them takes your fancy at all, it’s well worth ordering when you buy your phone, as OnePlus doesn’t offer free shipping below £60. Alternatively, there’s already a good selection of third-party cases you can buy through retailers such as Amazon.

Buy OnePlus 3 cases now from Amazon

OnePlus 3 official case - rose wood

^ Rosewood

OnePlus 3 official case - carbon fibre

^ Carbon Fibre

OnePlus 3 official case - black apricot wood

^ Black apricot

OnePlus 3 official case - bamboo

^ Bamboo

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