OnePlus 2 review: A great phone that will be sorely missed
OnePlus 2 review: Software and speed
Performance, as you’d imagine, is perfectly fine. The OnePlus delivers benchmark results in line with most other Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 smartphones: that is to say, it’s very, very fast. In fact, it’s faster than you’re likely to need, even if you’re a mobile gaming fanatic.
In the benchmarks, it achieved single- and multi-core Geekbench results of 1,206 and 4,508, and an average frame rate in the GFXBench T-Rex HD test of 43fps – those results indicate that very little will be beyond this smartphone’s capabilities. It’s significantly faster than the OnePlus One and even OnePlus’ newest handset, the OnePlus X, and the only worry is that the top half of the phone gets very hot with extended gaming.
Otherwise, though, there’s little to complain about, and since there’s little in the way of bloatware and extra services running on the phone, it feels incredible slick. Although OnePlus has ditched Cyanogen OS for this edition of its smartphone, its replacement – OnePlus’ own Oxygen UI – retains the “mostly pure” Android ethos of the first phone. It runs on a base of Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop), and its Android modifications are few and far between.
You get a recent apps/contacts screen – called the “Shelf” – accessible with a right-swipe from the homescreen, plus a series of gestures you can draw on the screen when the phone is in standby to launch the torch, camera or pause/play/skip music tracks, but apart from that it’s squeaky clean.
Transitions from homescreen to app drawer, and from notifications pulldown to settings menus are accompanied by a satisfying snap of animation, rather an unsatisfactory slug of delay. The fingerprint reader recognises your prints quickly and accurately, and can be used to unlock the phone in around a second.
The one exception to this is the camera app. Despite its laser autofocus system, which locks onto subjects with unerring accuracy and uncanny speed, there’s always a momentary pause between hitting the shutter button and capture. You simply don’t get that on an iPhone, a Samsung Galaxy S6 or an LG G4, and it could mean the difference between capturing an important moment and missing it entirely.
The good news is you can switch out the camera app for the default Google camera app – simple, but effective – or one that allows you to take more control. I recommend you give Camera MX a go. It doesn’t give you manual controls, but it’s quick and its live effects are excellent.
OnePlus 2 review: Camera quality and battery life
Still, when you do manage to grab the shot you want, it’s likely to look pretty good. The OnePlus 2’s rear 13-megapixel does a largely excellent job of choosing the correct exposure for each scene, and even when it doesn’t, there’s an on-screen exposure compensation control to help you get it just right.
Photos generally look sharp and punchy, undoubtedly helped by the camera’s optical image stabilisation (OIS) system and wide, f/2 aperture. As always, when examined closely, some flaws become apparent, and the principal one here is that the OnePlus 2’s photos have a tendency to look blotchy, which can gives your subjects and scenes a rather strange, unnatural look – but it’s only visible in certain shots. OnePlus’ image processing algorithm also beefs up contrast a little too much for my liking, resulting in dramatic, but occasionally over-dark, images.
Slightly more serious is that the OnePlus 2’s low-light performance can’t match its image quality in good light, with a good deal of noise obscuring detail indoors – and the fact that the aforementioned blotchiness tends to get worse as the light dims. Still, the dual-LED flash does at least ensure that flash-lit subjects don’t look too ghostly if you have to resort to artificial illumination.
The only other thing I take serious issue with is that the camera app lacks a proper manual mode, although the OnePlus 2’s next update, which is expected to roll out to users from September 22, is set to add the feature.
That’s good news because there’s currently no way of quickly tweaking the ISO, shutter speed or white balance. All you get is control over resolution, plus a number of novelty modes, including panorama, timelapse, slow-motion, HDR, beauty and “clear image”.
The final aspect of performance to comment upon, aside from call quality, with which I had absolutely no problem whatsoever, is battery life. Alas, it isn’t the best. Despite its large 3,300mAh lithium-polymer battery, the OnePlus 2 lags behind rivals, consuming battery capacity at a rate of 4.9% per hour while streaming audio over 4G (with the screen off), and 8.8% per hour while playing video in flight mode and the screen set to 120cd/m². It isn’t disastrous – the OnePlus 2 will get you through a day no problem – but it’s beaten by the Nexus 6, the Motorola Moto G (2015), and numerous other handsets.
OnePlus 2 review: Verdict
The OnePlus 2 is not quite a flagship killer in the strictest sense of the phrase. It has weaknesses, not least its battery life. However, its flaws must be viewed in the appropriate context.
I’m judging it here against the strictest criteria, the most expensive smartphones on the market, with the most features, the biggest marketing budgets and multinational companies behind them prepared to spend millions developing their products. Once you take that into account, this sub-£300 begins to look like an unbeatable bargain.
This is not a phone that will ever be mass-market. Even though OnePlus has now suspended the invitation system in favour of a permanently open sale, the fact that you can’t buy one on contract will ensure most people won’t encounter it when they venture down to their local mobile phone store. That’s a shame, because OnePlus 2 is the biggest bargain in the smartphone sector right now.
OnePlus 2 review: Price
OnePlus 2 specifications
|1.8GHz/1.6GHz Octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 810|
1,080 x 1,920, 401ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)
13MP (laser autofocus, OIS)
Memory card slot (supplied)
4G, Cat9 and Cat6 (up to 450Mbits/sec download)
75.8 x 6.9 x 154.4mm
Android 5.1 Lollipop with Oxygen UI