As this is essentially an updated version of the OnePlus 5, there are not too many changes to note. The phone is just as fast and smooth as the OnePlus 5 from earlier this year, which obviously makes sense since it has the same specs. It features some two big hardware design changes though, as well as some smaller ones and a handful of new software features.
Now consider this number: $390. That’s the difference in price between the 128GB OnePlus 5T and the Pixel 2 XL. For $559 you will get a phone that looks an awful lot like a Pixel 2 XL, with slim bezels, a rear fingerprint sensor, and an OS that’s very faithful to stock Android. And the entry-level model costs less than $500.
You don’t need to even pick up the OnePlus 5T to see how different it is. 5T’s screen has been expanded to 6-inches, and the bezels have been shrunk to keep the dimensions roughly the same.
The side bezels are skinnier than the Pixel 2 XL’s but not quite edge-to-edge. While they lack the dramatically curved corners of the Pixel 2 XL or iPhone X, they’re not completely square, either. There’s no more room for a home button, so the fingerprint sensor has been moved to the back, which is made of the same anodized aluminum as the OnePlus 5. That means it still doesn’t support wireless charging, but it’s just as good to hold as the Pixel 2 is.
As for the camera, OnePlus says it’s tweaked its algorithms for better low-light performance and portraits. While the megapixels on the camera are the same (16MP+20MP), the secondary lens is upgraded with an f/1.7 aperture. I’ll need a little more time with it to see how much it’s improved, but it’s good to see OnePlus addressing one of the 5’s biggest pain points.
But overall, the OnePlus 5T is all about the display. OnePlus tapped Samsung to make its new screen, and at a glance, the colors are much brighter and more vibrant than the Pixel 2 XL’s, and you won’t see nearly as much blue shifting or banding. It’s rare to see a phone maker go all-in on such a major change after just five months, and there will surely be some OnePlus 5 users that grumble.
But OnePlus brings up a good point: “If you had a great software update, you wouldn’t wait half a year to release it.” Most interesting is a feature it calls Parallel Apps, which lets you clone apps so you can run two different versions of it. That means if you have two Twitter accounts, you can have two versions of the Twitter app, each with its own login. It’s a neat idea that I could see Google adopting for a future version of Android.
There’s also a new face unlocking biometric that uses “over 100 identifiers” to learn your face. It works fast, but this isn’t Face ID-level scanning. It’s only using the regular camera, so there’s no 3D scanning, and OnePlus won’t let you use it for payments or logins (which is a good thing).
OnePlus 5T features specs that are almost perfectly in line with the Pixel 2 XL and a near-stock version of Android that many fans seem to love, but it costs just over half of what Google charges for its flagship phablet.
The OnePlus 5T is a wonderful alternative because it features a lovely design, affordable price, and some of the cleanest software this side of the Pixel. On the flip side of that, however, the Pixel receives regular updates and will likely outlive the OnePlus 5T with better support from Google.
To be fair, many of the issues the Pixel 2 XL has faced have been overblown. And even if the Pixel 2 XL’s display isn’t perfect, you still get a terrific experience with arguably the best mobile camera on the market.