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**OnePlus 2 is now available, invite-free!** In 2014, tech startup OnePlus released a smartphone that made us rethink the quality and specs we could get while spending only $299. The fledgling company was started by Oppo vice president Pete Lau and co-founder Carl Pei and, according to some reports, is actually primarily owned by Oppo, which is a Chinese mobile tech company that's not too well-known outside of China. However, the founders' dream was to build a smartphone that could compete with flagship devices from the likes of Samsung and HTC, but at a much lower price point. In short, they wanted to defy…

OnePlus 2 (64GB)

Design & Build Quality - 87%
Hardware - 79%
Display - 70%
Software - 89%
Camera - 89%
Performance - 96%
Battery Life - 86%
Value - 97%

87%

Great

The OnePlus One made us rethink what bang we could get for our buck. In many ways, the OnePlus 2 represents a refinement of the OnePlus One's design and hardware rather than a total revamp; however, it definitely improves on the former in most ways. The lack of NFC, absence of expandable storage, and a 1080p rather than a quad-HD display might be deal-breakers for some, but after spending a month with this device I can say with confidence that the OnePlus 2 truly lives up to the hype. At a sub-$400 price point, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better smartphone than the OnePlus 2 if you can forgive the frustrating invite-based retail system.

User Rating: 4.17 ( 3 votes)

**OnePlus 2 is now available, invite-free!**

In 2014, tech startup OnePlus released a smartphone that made us rethink the quality and specs we could get while spending only $299. The fledgling company was started by Oppo vice president Pete Lau and co-founder Carl Pei and, according to some reports, is actually primarily owned by Oppo, which is a Chinese mobile tech company that’s not too well-known outside of China. However, the founders’ dream was to build a smartphone that could compete with flagship devices from the likes of Samsung and HTC, but at a much lower price point. In short, they wanted to defy the smartphone market by creating a top-performing device at an entry level price.

Sub-$300 smartphones are actually a dime a dozen, especially with China pumping out one nameless device after another. Run a search on Amazon for Android smartphones, filter the results to show only those that cost $300 or less and you’ll see thousands and thousands of results, most of which are made by tech companies whose names aren’t familiar or can’t be pronounced. People who have bought one of these “bargain smartphones”  which often advertise flagship-level features yet actually deliver notoriously glitchy devices that are prone to defects and of terribly low build quality — end up frustrated and completely disappointed at having essentially wasted their money. Until now, such an experience was simply par for the course when you buy a non-flagship phone. Considering the number of so-called “power smartphone users” out there who are also budget-conscious, OnePlus wanted their device to stand out among as a budget device that could actually deliver.

The first smartphone the company created, which they christened the OnePlus One, was marketed as the “2014 flagship killer” and alternately the “Nexus killer,” targeting users who prefer a stock Android experience versus Samsung’s TouchWiz, HTC’s Sense 7, etc. It was unveiled on April 23 and was available for purchase internationally on June 6, 2014. However, despite alleging to offer a more stock Android experience, the operating system (OS) wasn’t completely stock as OnePlus had entered into a licensing agreement with Cyanogen, Inc., which meant that the OnePlus One shipped with a variant of the popular CyanogenMod custom ROM, derived from Android with a number of tweaks.

OnePlus logoCritical response to the OnePlus One was overwhelmingly positive, causing mass hype and a snowball effect in terms of demand. Unfortunately, the company wasn’t prepared to produce the device at a rate that could satisfy the growing demand. Additionally, the OnePlus One was notoriously difficult to purchase. To protect itself from producing excess inventory that couldn’t be sold — which caused Amazon to take a catastrophic loss on the Fire Phone amounting to half a billion dollars last in 2014 — OnePlus instituted an invite-based purchasing system. This ensured that OnePlus only produced devices that could be sold, preventing the accumulation of surplus inventory that OnePlus might’ve had to pay for out of pocket, which probably would have bankrupted the young company.

OnePlus One Flagship Killer
Photo courtesy of MasterHerald

It worked like this: Those who wanted to buy the OnePlus One had to sign up to be placed on the invite waitlist. Periodically, batches of invites would be sent out on a first-come-first-served basis, allowing those special few (typically a couple thousand at a time) to buy the coveted phone. Once in awhile, OnePlus would hold a contest on social media and a dozen or so people would get to jump the invite waitlist, but many users waited patiently for many months, trying to resist the other flagships they could buy without the need of an invite, before they could get a OnePlus device. This was quite frustrating as the phone was being hyped to a borderline-viral degree and the sluggish production couldn’t meet the demand. After a year of these invite-based sales, OnePlus had sold roughly 1.5 million OnePlus One handsets. That may sound like a lot, but Samsung sold about 45 million Galaxy S6 handsets within just a few months of its release and that was considered low by many standards. Additionally, Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6 units in only its first weekend, which set a record for the company.

In a sense, although the invite-based purchasing system might be frustrating to potential buyers, it gives the company a lot of control over its growth. And since people tend to want what they can’t have, this is likely a big part of the hype for the OnePlus One (and now the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X).

The OnePlus 2: Sophomore Smartphone

OnePlus 2
Photo courtesy of Android Pit

After the OnePlus One’s success, the company released a second edition of the popular device. Marketed at the “2015 Flagship Killer,” the OnePlus 2 was to get an updated design while retaining certain signature elements that many loved in OnePlus One, such as the sandstone-textured back cover. This time, however, the handset wouldn’t be shipping with a CyanogenMod ROM, but rather its own operating system developed by OnePlus and called OxygenOS. Considered very similar to Cyanogen’s custom ROMs, early reactions to OxygenOS were very positive and the quality of the OnePlus One was reassuring, resulting in the steady building-up of anticipation for the OnePlus 2.

How does a new company top the success of its inaugural device, which was already hailed as being pretty damn close to perfect? That’s exactly what I needed to know. After winning my own invite, I purchased a OnePlus 2 smartphone and took it for a test drive to see if the hype was warranted or misguided. The following is my unboxing and OnePlus 2 review.

Unboxing the OnePlus 2

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As the device is shipped from China, it’s been taking a bit of time for us Westerners to receive the OnePlus 2. However, I received my unit in about five days from the point of ordering, which I felt was pretty quick considering some of the horror stories I’d read. It arrived in a nondescript brown box with the device’s own box being the OnePlus signature red with white lettering.

Upon opening the box, you find the phone sitting there in all its glory right at the top with a film screen protector pre-installed. Beneath the white plastic tray on which the phone was sitting are the USB type-C charging cable, wall adapter, and a packet of literature and documentation. Like the box itself, the contents were also red and white — even the charging cable and wall adapter — which I neither loved nor hated. It actually reminded me of a candy cane.

Setting Up the OnePlus 2

Before using the OnePlus 2, you have to remove the back cover and install at least one active nano SIM card; however, the phone can accept up to two SIM cards if you’re inclined to use the device for two separate phone lines. And despite many reports to the contrary, the phone unfortunately does not have the capability to accept microSD cards to expand the device’s storage — a feature that has very nearly gone extinct among this year’s roster of new smartphones — so the built-in storage is all that you’ll ever have to work with. For more storage, you’ll have to use cloud-based services like Google Drive or Dropbox, but you’ll be limited in how you can use those storage services as you can’t save app data to cloud storage and smartphone media players can’t consolidate music that you store in the cloud. For those who need lots of storage for music, videos, pictures, or other files, it would definitely be worthwhile to pay the premium for a 64GB edition of the OnePlus 2, which is the version I bought and am reviewing.

OnePlus 2 dual SIM
Photo courtesy of the Next Web

With the SIM installed, simply power on the phone. While loading, you’ll see an animation of a square that spins and morphs into a triangle, which spins and morphs into a circle, and then it begins all over again with the square. It’s simpler than the loading animations of most other devices, but it runs very smoothly. Once the phone fully boots for the first time, you’ll be prompted to complete its setup wizard. This includes connecting to your WiFi network, signing into your Google account, and other such standards that you’d expect. You’re also given the choice to activate or deactivate certain of the phone’s features, such as the gesture controls. I really like the OnePlus 2’s gesture controls, one of which is the ability to quickly open the phone’s camera by tracing a circle on the phone’s screen, even when the screen is off and the phone is on standby. It’s worth noting here that the phone responds to the gesture controls very quickly. You’ll also get to choose whether you want on-screen navigation buttons like a Nexus smartphone or to use the capacitive buttons on either side of the home button/fingerprint sensor like on a Galaxy. I chose the latter, and since I was coming from a Galaxy device I opted to “switch” them in order to assign ‘Back’ to the right side and ‘Recent’ to the left; the default is the reverse with ‘Recent’ on the right and ‘Back’ on the left.

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The first thing I did once completing the setup process was to see if apps needing an update in the Google Play Store and there were a handful or so that did. I also downloaded some key apps that I use regularly as well as a few that would test out the OnePlus 2’s processing abilities. In particular, the apps I downloaded include: Google Docs, Google Sheets, Facebook, Twitter, Wunderlist, Amazon, eBay, Google Keep, LastPass, PayPal, Pinterest, Timely, Slice, Wikipedia Beta, Chrome Beta, Temple Run 2, Pushbullet, Monument Valley, Shazam, Google+, CCleaner, and Cal. I was very impressed to see how blazing fast these apps were downloaded and installed. It took between five and ten seconds for pretty much any app to be downloaded, installed, and ready to use, which I felt was extremely quick. Granted, the phone was being used for the first time at this point, but the OnePlus 2 was quick at downloading and installing apps even weeks into my trial month.

With most of my core apps installed, I went into the phone’s settings and checked to see if OxygenOS needed an update, which it did. Again, I was impressed at how quickly the update was downloaded and installed. It wasn’t a huge update by any means, but it still completed very quickly. The next step was to ensure that all my contacts were pulled from my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 onto the OnePlus 2. There are a couple ways this can be done, but I chose to save my contacts to a single file on my Note 4, upload it to my Google Drive, and then download that file from my Google Drive on the OnePlus 2. Contacts, check.

OnePlus 2 unboxing
Photo courtesy of Gizmo Advice

Once I’d connected to my Google account by signing in with my standard login, the Gmail app began notifying me of emails. I never used Gmail on my Galaxy phones because I’ve never particularly been fond of the app; however, on the OnePlus 2 the only other manufacturer- or Google-made alternative was Inbox, which doesn’t allow you to input non-Google emails such as Yahoo or Microsoft Outlook, so I begrudgingly decided I’d stick with Gmail.

Signing into all my other accounts — Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. — was pretty straightforward, accessible in the Settings of the phone as you would expect on an Android device. With my SIM card, WiFi, contacts, email, and other settings in place, the OnePlus 2 was pretty much all set up and ready to go. In order to get the most accurate, comprehensive impression of the phone for the purposes of my review, I decided to use the OnePlus 2 as my so-called “daily driver” for at least a week. However, I ended up using the OnePlus 2 as my main, primary phone for a month almost exactly, which gave me the opportunity to fully experience the OnePlus 2. At this point, I feel confident in saying that I am well-acquainted with the phone’s strengths and its weaknesses, which I will discuss below in my OnePlus 2 review.

OnePlus 2 Review: Design & Build Quality

OnePlus 2 flagship killer
Photo courtesy of Android Central

[quote_left]The OnePlus 2 is understated with a practical design and very high quality.[/quote_left]

In terms of the phone’s design, the OnePlus 2 is definitely understated and unimposing. It has the look of a device that would run stock-ish Android, which can be a good or bad thing depending on the quality of the build. Unfortunately, many such devices — I’m reminded of virtually every entry-level smartphone made by ZTE — are poorly made, but as soon as you pick up the OnePlus 2, you immediately feel that it’s on an entirely different level. The device has just the right amount of weight to it, giving it substance in the hand while certainly not being overly heavy like an HTC phone. It just simply feels sturdy and well-made; you don’t feel like you’re holding something overtly fragile, which is reassuring compared to many current devices with glass backs and more delicate construction.

As you look closer at the OnePlus 2, you begin to notice some of the details of its design and build. For instance, the magnesium-aluminum ring around the outer edge gives the phone a more luxurious look and feel. The back and front pieces are attached securely with no movement or space and feels very well-constructed. The drilled cut-outs for the speakers and the USB-C port are smooth and precise. It certainly doesn’t look like the OnePlus 2 was designed or made in haste. While being a conservative, practical design, by all appearances it’s of a very, very high quality.

Hardware

On the left-side, outer edge is one of the phone’s more unique features: a notification slider. Looking almost like a power button, the slider is actually reminiscent of a similar feature on the top of previous iPhones. With three different settings, you can choose to be alerted by all your notifications, by only “priority” notifications, or to silence your phone altogether. When you move the slider into one of its three positions, it gives a very satisfying, metallic click, which is a testament to the device’s build quality. After using the alert slider for the past month, I’m kind of bummed that this isn’t a standard feature of all smartphones. It’s incredibly useful to be able to put your phone on vibrate or take it off vibrate without having to actually unlock it, pull down the notification panel, and click the appropriate toggle or go jackhammer on the volume rocker. With the notification slider, I could even put it on vibrate while the phone was still in my pocket. This is definitely one of my favorite features of the OnePlus 2.

OnePlus 2 fingerprint sensor
Photo courtesy of Tablet123

There’s also a fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 2, which is a new addition since the OnePlus One. Coming from the slide-based sensor on the Galaxy Note 4, the fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 2 is very high-quality, allowing you to simply touch the sensor lightly in order to get a reading. I’ve only tried a handful of fingerprint sensors to date, but the sensor on the OnePlus 2 is blazing fast. It takes no time at all for the phone to spring to life after I’ve put my finger on the sensor. And best of all, it’s not picky about the angle of my finger; even when I touch the sensor at an angle or almost sideways, it always works. I really appreciate this as the slide-based sensor on my Note 4 would sometimes required two or more swipes before it would accept my fingerprint.

OnePlus 2 Specs
Photo courtesy of OnePlus

The OnePlus 2 comes in two different storage sizes: 16GB and 64GB. Unfortunately, there’s not a middle-of-the-line 32GB variant that would probably be an optimal capacity for the majority of users for whom 16GB would likely be too little and the 64GB version costs close to $400. However, in addition to the price different between these two storage sizes, there’s also a difference in RAM. The OnePlus 2 with 16GB comes with 3GB of RAM installed while the 64GB version comes with 4GB of RAM and is the version that I purchased. In both versions, the OnePlus 2 has an off-the-shelf Qualcomm octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor, which is also in the HTC One M9, the Sony Xperia Z4, the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Premium, the Motorola Droid Turbo 2, and the new Huawei Nexus 6P. Although this isn’t the absolute best chipset in the business, it’s certainly more than enough to offer users a snappy device.

Under the battery cover, the non-removable 3,300mAh battery is sealed and inaccessible, but users have access the tray that can hold two SIM cards. In a controversial move, the OnePlus 2 lacks NFC, which also happens to mean that it won’t be compatible with Android Pay. It also lacks wireless charging like the Nexus phones and new Galaxy flagships have. Otherwise, it still has Bluetooth, WiFi direct, and is compatible with 4G LTE networks. The WiFi itself appears to work very well; I connected it to my 5GHz wireless network and web browsing is always very fast.

OnePlus 2 profile
Photo courtesy of Engadget

On the bottom edge of the phone you’ll find the USB type-C charging port sandwiched between the phone’s two speakers. Like pretty much any smartphone, the speakers aren’t all that impressive, but they’re adequate. In my experience, they sounded the best and most accurate in the mid-volume range, but became very tinny and distorted when turned up to or near the max volume. Most audiophiles will be using their headphones and even the average user probably won’t use the built-in speakers for much more than the occasional YouTube video. Again, the OnePlus 2 speakers are pretty much what you’d expect from any smartphone. They do get pretty loud, but you probably won’t like the quality of audio at that volume so, as I said, my recommendation would be to keep the volume at roughly the midpoint on the volume slider.

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With headphones, the OnePlus 2 audio experience is much more noteworthy. The built-in equalizer and audio settings make a clear difference, especially in a side-by-side comparison with an iPod or another smartphone. Audio quality is usually an afterthought for most companies besides Apple, but OnePlus does a really good job of making music sound great — and exceptionally loud with MaxxAudio enabled so be careful — when you’re listening with headphones. I can’t confirm this at the moment, but I believe this is likely so that users might be more inclined to buy the headphones the company has been developing and recently released, the OnePlus Icons that retail for $49.99 (on sale for $44.99 at the time of writing).

The OnePlus 2 Display

Much like its older brother the OnePlus One, the OnePlus 2 ships with a 5.5″ 1080p IPS LCD display with the same 401 ppi (pixels per inch). Many were disappointed that the OnePlus 2 didn’t come with an upgraded quad-HD display like many other flagships seem to have this year, but the decision to stick with 1080p was likely to give the OnePlus 2 better battery life as QHD displays are much harder on a device’s battery. In reality, the 1080p display is probably sufficient for most people save for the videophiles who require the bleeding edge in their devices.

OnePlus 2 display
Photo courtesy of PC Advisor

Having come from the Note 4’s vibrant screen, the OnePlus 2 admittedly did look a little washed out to me for the first few days; however, that’s less a poor reflection on the part of OnePlus and more the snobbishly high standards one gets in terms of smartphone displays after using a Samsung phone. With the screen’s brightness turned up I eventually adjusted and began to notice that it’s still a very crisp, respectable display. It’s certainly no slouch. Does it have the vibrance of a Samsung flagship’s AMOLED display? No. Does it still look great? Definitely. Again, the OnePlus 2’s display will be more than sufficient for most people. Additionally, the screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 4, meaning that the device is built to withstand mild to moderate drops, but I would obviously still avoid dropping the phone if at all possible.

OxygenOS & OnePlus 2 Software

[quote_right]The OnePlus 2 operating system is very clean with virtually no bloatware, offering several functional Android tweaks that really improve and enhance the user experience.[/quote_right]

Instead of the same CyanogenMod ROM that was used for the OnePlus One, the OnePlus 2 debuts the company’s first original operating system, which is actually very similar to CyanogenMod. Out of the box, my 64GB OnePlus 2 had roughly 52GB of usable storage left, meaning that roughly a dozen gigs were being utilized by the device’s operating system and pre-installed software. However, I must say that compared to most other flagships, the OnePlus 2 is about as close to a stock version of Android as is possible without actually being stock Android. OxygenOS is very clean with virtually no bloatware, but it introduces a handful of useful Android tweaks that are meant to improve the user experience (UX). For instance, most Android users have to wait until they finally get Android 6.0 Marshmallow to have total control of app permissions; however, this is something that OnePlus 2 users have right now as a feature that’s built into OxygenOS, which operates on Android 5.1.1.

Another of the Android tweaks that OxygenOS offers is the option to make the menu system dark rather than the blinding light menus that are an Android standard. It’s small, but certainly a welcome feature that is much easier on the eyes and apparently the battery, too. I also really like the gestures that OxygenOS offers; my favorites are the ability to trace a O or a V on the screen when it’s in standby to fire up the camera app or turn on the camera’s flash as a flashlight, respectively. These simple gestures make both the camera and the flashlight features even more accessible and, like the notification slider, I would love for these gestures to be incorporated into the stock Android OS. The double-tap feature is another useful pseudo-gesture as tapping twice quickly with the tip of your finger will make the phone spring to life from its standby state.

OnePlus 2 Shelf
The OnePlus 2 ‘Shelf’ via NeuroGadget

[quote_right]Shelf is a prime example of the type of Android enhancements Oxygen offers. An understated take on a feature that’s functionally familiar, Shelf feels more like a seamless stock-Android feature than unnecessary bloatware.[/quote_right]

OxygenOS also has what’s called Shelf, which is similar to the My Magazine and Flipboard Briefing features implemented into the home screens of some of the more recent Galaxy phones. Located to the left of the main home screen where you’d expect to find Briefing or My Magazine, Shelf greets you with the local weather and provides fast access to your most-used contacts and most-used apps as well as some extra space for widgets. It’s a neat and novel feature that could be really useful, but for some reason I’ve actually only used once or twice. Shelf is an understated take on a feature that feels functionally familiar to someone who has used other flagships, but Shelf feels much more like a lightweight, stock-Android feature than unnecessary bloatware. And each time I opened it, Shelf was readily available without pause or hiccup. Importantly, Shelf also illustrates how OxygenOS tries to enhance or even improve the user experience as well as Android’s countless customization and personalization options, which OxygenOS does without putting a distracting skin over the entire OS.

Generally speaking, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot running in the background while you’re using the OnePlus 2. I say “generally” because this probably has a lot to do with the current apps you have open and your typical usage, but as I used the OnePlus 2 and switched from app to app, it never stuttered or froze or got stuck or crashed. My overall user experience (UX) was always silky smooth and very peppy. Apps seemed to run as they were supposed to, everything loaded quickly, and even the games I tried out — Monument Valley (the most beautiful Android game I think I’ve ever seen) and Temple Run 2 — ran like a dream. In terms of the performance of the OnePlus 2 and its software, I’m really, truly impressed. This is probably my favorite aspect of the OnePlus 2 and makes me glad to have the 64GB version as it comes with 4GB of RAM. Conversely, I wonder if the 16GB/3GB RAM version runs quite this smooth, but power users would definitely be pleased with the higher RAM version.

Customizing the OnePlus 2
Customizing the OnePlus 2 via Guiding Tech

While much of OxygenOS will be familiar to Android users, occasionally I’d come across something that felt completely foreign and had a bit of a learning curve. Some features and settings you’d expect to be accessible are surprisingly buried and difficult to find, like the ability to use downloadable icon packs. This was nowhere to be found in the primary Settings menu, not even in the Display options; instead, you hold down a finger on the home screen and it’s under Settings in there — and nowhere else, which was really odd to me. I feel like being compatible with downloadable icon packs could be a selling point for people who like to customize the look of their phones; it would be beneficial to make this feature really accessible instead of burying it in the phone’s weirdly detached and separate menus.

OnePlus 2 dialer OxygenOS
OnePlus 2 dialer via OnePlus

Another OxygenOS difference I struggled with was the dialer, which was really odd to use at first. When you open it, you don’t immediately see how to access the dialpad so that you can dial a number that’s not in your contacts. It seems that the OxygenOS dialer was designed access to most-used contacts in mind, but I was temporarily stumped when trying to dial a number manually. I’m more used to the dialer or recent calls being the main dialer screen rather than my contacts, and usually you’d find the buttons to navigate different dialer features at the top instead of the bottom. However, I eventually got used to looking for the dialpad icon at the bottom of the screen. Fortunately, I don’t make calls all that often, so this was more a nuisance than a deal-breaker. It’s also something most people could probably adapt to fairly easily, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

Camera

Most users felt the OnePlus One’s camera was pretty lackluster and unimpressive, which is why it got a pretty significant overhaul in the OnePlus 2. With a 13MP OmniVision image sensor, the OnePlus 2 offers optical image stabilization, laser autofocus, a dual-tone LED flash, and can record video in up to 4K quality as well as slow-motion video at 720p. The OnePlus 2’s camera was compared to the cameras of other flagship phones including the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4 — both of which have 16MP cameras — with critics noting that the OnePlus 2’s 13MP camera captured larger pixels than the 16MP cameras of competing flagships, allowing the OnePlus 2 to capture more light per pixel while its images suffer from much less noise and grain. Specifically, the OnePlus 2 camera’s pixels are 1.3 microns each, making it especially great for taking photos in low-light conditions.

OnePlus 2 camera
Photo courtesy of OnePlus

As such, photos taken with the OnePlus 2 are definitely above average for a smartphone. Color reproduction is, more or less, true to life. However, even more impressive is the detail that the camera can capture. Whether taken from close up or far away, the OnePlus 2 camera offers a very crispy photo-taking experience. I didn’t like the camera’s HDR mode as there was quite a bit of lag between the two photos, which makes the composite composite seem blurry; however, there’s also a Clear Image setting that functions similarly to HDR mode and yields better results. Fortunately, the phone takes such high quality photos most of the time that I didn’t ever really need to use any of the special camera modes, but it’s nice to know they’re available.

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Asparagus photo OnePlus 2
Sample photo taken with OnePlus 2

Performance

I touched on this before, but I wanted to give special attention to the OnePlus 2’s performance. The result of the phone’s very respectable, flagship-level specs and a very well-designed operating system is a smartphone experience that would be impressive even at a higher price point. When you take into account that you’re getting this phone at roughly half the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of flagships made by Apple, LG, and Samsung, it’s borderline astounding.

[quote_left]Performance and user experience are areas in which the OnePlus 2 truly shines with its snappy fingerprint sensor to the silky-smooth and responsive OS navigation to the remarkably peppy web browsing.[/quote_left]

In the month of using the OnePlus 2 as my daily driver, the device never once froze and no apps ever crashed. That alone is quite a feat because I’ve experienced crashes even in high-end flagship devices that cost twice as much as this phone. I can’t say that a Snapdragon 810 is exactly future-proof — kind of a futile concept anyway although it’s worth noting that the octa-core Snapdragon 810 is the same chipset that’s in the new Nexus 6P made by Huawei — but for a smartphone user’s current needs, it’s more than efficient, probably even the power users among us. In fact, I consider myself somewhat of a power user; I do a lot of different tasks on my phone throughout the day and expect my device to keep up with me, which the OnePlus 2 did admirably. Performance and overall user experience are areas in which the OnePlus 2 truly shines, from the snappy fingerprint sensor to the silky-smooth and responsive OS navigation to the remarkably peppy web browsing.

With the OnePlus 2 being first and foremost a smart-phone, I felt it was important to check the device’s call quality. In my experience, I could hear people exceptionally clearly and was also heard clearly by my callers. They never sounded tinny, muffled, or distorted at all. The one issue that I seemed to have was with volume; even with it turned all the way up, I found that sometimes I had to readjust the phone’s position against my ear or even put some pressure behind it to get slightly better volume. It wasn’t that the volume was really low, but rather that it just wasn’t all that loud. The reception always seems to be very good, equal to or better than what I get with my Note 4.

Battery Life

With it’s large 3,300mAh battery and a 1080p display rather than quad-HD, you’d expect the OnePlus 2 to have exceptional battery life. While it’s definitely above average, it’s definitely not industry-leading. According to benchmark tests, the OnePlus 2’s battery life is just ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge with 9 hours of continuous usage. With my moderate-to-high usage I could get through an entire day on a single change, which is the most important thing in terms of battery life. In fact, I could get through the night as well and not have to charge until the next morning. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 2 lacks quick-charge technology as well as wireless charging, so a full charge will take longer than other flagships and will require being tethered to the wall. It didn’t really seem to take that long for the OnePlus 2 to charge, at least not in my experience. It took about an hour or so to get to about 50 percent, which is certainly longer than my Note 4 with quick-charge, but I wouldn’t say it was deal-breakingly slow by any means.

Compared to the Flagships

With contract-subsidized smartphones becoming less and less common — in fact, it’s rumored this is being phased out altogether — we’re unfortunately entering an era in which buying a phone for less than its full retail price will be a rare luxury. Soon-to-be-gone are the days of being able to renew your contract with your mobile provider and get the newest smartphone without breaking the bank, which means that people are going to be looking for smartphones that give them top-notch specs at a reasonable cost. In the era of subsidized smartphones, the market was dominated by the likes of Apple, Samsung, and LG, manufacturers who could charge a premium for high-quality devices because no other manufacturers could offer that level of specs for a lower cost. However, if the OnePlus 2 is any indication, the tides are changing and hope is not yet lost.

OnePlus 2 Samsung Galaxy S6
OnePlus 2 & Samsung Galaxy S6 via Android Central

[quote_left]The OnePlus 2 offers 401 pixels per inch and the same processor that’s in Google’s latest phablet, the Nexus 6P at almost $150 more.[/quote_left]

When you consider everything but the screen, the OnePlus 2 is as powerful as most major flagship smartphones with a price that’s twice as much. Unfortunately, a side-by-side comparison of the screen is where the OnePlus 2 is weakest as it just doesn’t quite have the same richness or vibrance as the flagships. Even so, it still offers 401 pixels per inch, which while not being near the highest quality screen on the smartphone market. The OnePlus 2’s 3GB or 4GB of RAM is respectable considering the flagships are shipping with the same. In terms of the processor, there are definitely newer and stronger chipsets than the off-the-shelf Snapdragon 810, but until very recently it was a favorite among tech journalists and critics. In fact, it’s the same processor that’s in the new Nexus 6P (which is almost $150 more in) and many of the OnePlus 2’s other mainstream competitors.

OnePlus 2: Bottom Line

In many ways, the OnePlus 2 is more a refinement of the OnePlus One’s design and hardware rather than a total revamp. However, when you consider that OnePlus is a newcomer to the smartphone game, it’s impressive that the company has now released three devices that have each been critically acclaimed and praised in its brief two years of existence.

The OnePlus One made us rethink what bang we could get for our buck and foreshadows a time in the not-so-distant future when Apple, Samsung, and other well-knowns will be forced to reconsider their high price tags on devices that don’t have to cost so much. The OnePlus 2 is a worthy successor for the company whose slogan is “Never Settle,” illustrating their commitment to low-cost devices that can still be top performers. And in fact, with the perfect combination of specs and value, it’s no surprise the OnePlus 2 is fifth on Time Magazine’s top ten gadgets of 2015.

OnePlus 2 unboxing
Photo courtesy of Indian Express

My previous experience with low-cost, low-end Android phones didn’t make me very confident in the OnePlus 2. However, having used the device for the past month, I’ve had a change in perspective regarding the current smartphone industry and where it’s heading. With pro-rated, contract-subsidized smartphones on the way out, I figured manufacturers would start increasing their smartphones’ MSRPs since consumers would have no choice but to pay them. If OnePlus and other manufacturers continue with this trend, I wouldn’t be surprised if consumers start giving Apple and other flagship makers the stink-eye for prices that are often barely less than a thousand dollars.

Now for the most important question: Having used the OnePlus 2 for a month and been impressed by its quality and performance, will I continue using the OnePlus 2 as my daily driver?

I’ve been back and forth on this for the past week or so. On the one hand, I feel that the OnePlus 2 performed slightly better than my Note 4 in terms of processing power and speed. Additionally, I loved the fingerprint sensor and found it much better than the swipe-based fingerprint sensor on the Note 4. However, I’ve become quite fond of Samsung’s Galaxy line. I still believe that they’re grossly overpriced just like Apple, LG, HTC, and others; however, I love having a quad-HD 5.7″ display, the RF blaster to control my TV and other electronics, and I still prefer the design of Samsung’s smartphones, although that last part is more of a marginal preference than I would have expected.

OnePlus 2 flagship killer
Photo courtesy of PC Advisor

In short, while I may not continue using the OnePlus 2 as my daily driver, I really do enjoy and applaud the device. It impressed me immensely, commanding my respect for OnePlus as they continue to make smartphones that compete with — and may one day even kill — the ever-popular, overpriced flagships.

Additionally, prospective buyers of the OnePlus 2 will be happy to know that the entire OnePlus lineup will be getting Android Marshmallow with the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X getting Android 6-based OxygenOS by March 2016. Since the OnePlus One runs the CyanogenMod ROM, Android Marshmallow could come to that device sooner.

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About the author

My name is Dane. I'm a writer at Android Authority as well as a tech journalist in general. As well, I'm a marketing guru, designer, and a budding web developer. My passions include portmanteaus, artisanal coffees, jackets, and the smell of fresh technology in the morning.