UPDATE 11/1/23: Have been using the phone for 4 days, and this device is very impressive! Surpasses my expectations in many areas, extremely happy with my purchase. I will be doing a follow up post with my impressions and revised opinions, and will link it back here. Also, check out this 10 part series that OnePlus posted about different engineering aspects of the Open. Very fascinating inside look at the effort and attention to detail they put into this device. Really impressive, especially the hinge and screen technology.
In my post on the current state of personal computation, I mentioned that I landed on OnePlus as my Android OEM of choice. Here is the flushed out reasons for this decision.
So after a short, and regrettable stint with iPhone in 2011-12, I switched back to Android (you can read about this journey in the aforementioned post), and immediately felt back at home. I had used Motorola, Samsung, LG and HTC phones (which also included some of the Google Nexus models) - (and briefly in 2017 the Essential phone) during a period of about 5 years. During this time, I heavily customized my OS’s and had fun doing it. However this came at a cost of stability. I was getting tired of the work it took to maintain and juggle all of the conflicts/instability that were introduced. Then 2016, the OnePlus 3T was launched. I had heard about 1+ but they were hard to get your hands on, and only worked on GSM carriers. Shortly after, T-Mobile launched in my area and I immediately grabbed a 3T.
I felt like this was the pinnacle of my smartphone experience, no exaggeration. Let me list some reasons why:
- The implementation of Android blew away every other skin. You had essentially none of the garbage bloatware introduced in the rest of the brands, primarily with Samsung, but not the totally stripped down (and not advanced enough for me) vanilla Android on the Nexus lines. OOS was a perfectly balanced set of customization IMO. Example would be the lock screen gestures, to toggle camera or flashlight. These gestures are muscle memory to use with the display off, and no other OEM has this. Yes, you could argue that I could just run some Xposed module or a ROM that had this baked in, but 1+ had put all of this in with no hassle or stability issues. I started to significantly reduce my hardcore modification.
- Sadly, most OEMs do not allow at all unlockable bootloaders. And even for the very few that do, it is a giant hassle, where you have to request unlock tokens, wait for the unlock, and then most of them says this voids your warranty. Absolutely stupid. OnePlus (if the unlocked model…not SIM unlocked mind you) does not have any of these barriers. You boot up, go to dev settings, toggle OEM unlock, and boom, you’re on your way to root access. Sidenote, a lot of people claim their is no reason to root. I strongly disagree, but I will have to write another post and link back to here about why I think that. Suffice to say, root access is a mandatory for me.
- The only Android, both then and now, that has a physical alert switch! I missed this one feature from the iPhone when I switched back, and I am still blown away no other Android OEM puts this on their phones. I use their alert slider ALL THE TIME!
- 1+ version of fast charging, or VOOC charging as it got renamed to. At the time, no other phone charged as fast as 1+. Even today, they’re in the very top tier of charging speed. I did not know how much I’d miss this until I briefly tried out a Pixel 6, which was incredibly slow (I returned it immediately, no soley just for the slow charging).
- They used AMOLED screens. Most Android OEMs during my “prior to 1+” stage, used LCD panels, as did Apple iPhones. LCD phone I had used up to this point felt like your finger was a mile away from the digitizer when interacting with content. However Samsung’s AMOLED panels were amazing, both for contrast of absolute blacks, and energy saving, but primarily for myself, you felt like you were touching the content displayed, not hovering overtop.
- This one is subjective, but I just find OnePlus phones more pleasant to hold than any other OEM. Their shape and size is perfect IMO.
- Due to their OxyegenOS and high specs, their phones have always been smooth and stable for me, no hitches or or oddities. YMMV
For a brief list of cons:
- Cameras have never been their strong suite
- Sometimes they leave features off of the phone that make you scratch your head (e.g. no wireless charging or removing alert slider for just one generation)
- Support is mediocre, outsourced with limited English language ability
- Repair centers are slow with turnarounds - took of 3 weeks to get a cracked screen replaced
The four above cons are tradeoffs I accept in light of the benefits that I prioritize. I understand they might not be for everyone. One note about their cameras though - they are pretty decent for my limited photography needs, just not iPhone or Samsung level.
So I just pre-ordered OnePlus’s first foldable phone, the Open. I have been waiting for 3 years to enter into the folding phone experience, and was tempted multiple times to leave OnePlus, primarily with the Microsoft Duo devices, but I held the line, hoping 1+ would join the foray. Last year, as the rumors started to leak, I knew I would most likely buy theirs, as long as they didn’t make a inferior product to the competition. And wow, did they deliver! Before I give my opinion about why I think their foldable will be the best on the market (and actually extremely innovative), here is my reasons against the alternatives, besides the above reasons I like OnePlus period for any Android phone.
We now have, at least in the US market, 4 options. The Galaxy Fold, the Pixel Fold, the Microsoft Duo, and now the OnePlus Open. I am not including other non-US brands as they usually have garbage UI’s (personal opinion, don’t hate me), and more importantly, they do not have all the necessary bands for US carriers.
- The Duo, as much as I liked the idea, is never going to go mainstream as long as they keep a screen off the front. Very few are going to use a device they have to open up just to reply quickly to a text. Foldables, IMO, should be easily usable for the normal front screen experience most of the time.
- Also, the Duo’s hinged design removes the ability to treat the inside displays as one giant screen like a true tablet alternative.
- The Galaxy is too narrow on the front display for normal usage IMO, especially typing, and the Pixel is too wide and short.
- The US released Galaxy’s are next to impossible to root, and the potentially rootable (not at all guaranteed) non-US models do not have all the necessary bands for US carriers.
- The Pixel also has a poorly implemented hinge that doesn’t lay flat and also shows a very large crease. The Galaxy has the latter issue as well, and additionally does not close completely tight, meaning their is a gap between the screens for dust and particles to enter.
- The Pixel’s Tensor chips are not great in my experience, as well as reviews. It is slower than the Snapdragons, and runs hotter. Most importantly for me, the radios in these devices are significantly worse when it comes to tower reception. When I briefly tried the Pixel 6, it would consistently get two less bars than my OnePlus 7T was getting, and that was same network, same location.
The 1+ Open does not share the above issues on the Galaxy and Pixel:
- It closes completely tight, and they even have small gaskets all the way around the screens.
- It lays completely flat.
- There is a drastically reduced crease compared to the two prior phones.
- And the hinge mechanism is not only rated for double the folds during it’s lifetime, it has a better implemented mechanism that pops open and closed with the right amount of force and at the right angle. Additional note about the hinge, is the amount of engineering that apparently went into it, with significantly reduced part count, and unique metal alloys and carbon fiber to reduce weight while increasing strength.
Other reasons I picked the 1+ implementation:
- 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB storage at $1700, so you could consider this $220 cheaper than the equivalently spec’d Galaxy Fold 5 and Pixel Fold. And both of those only have 12GB of RAM. So no contest here! Excellent move here by 1+. This will be a multi tasking beast, and I think all folds need this minimum level of specs considering how it’s meant to be used.
- Crazy bright and low/high refresh rate screens. Best in any current Android, and that includes the Galaxy and Pixel. Also, they have a matte guard on the interior, really increasing the readability compared to the other two.
- Triple speakers that appear to improve spatial audio, if not just better stereo and volume.
- Primary camera is a Sony Lytia sensor. The benefit, at least from the presentation, is the pixel stacked technology that allows better light absorption. Their slides explain this better than I can, but the 1+ cameras were already decent enough for me, so whatever magic they have in these new sensors should be amazing for someone like myself. Some camera YouTubers have put this device through the paces, and seem to be really impressed. Good enough for me.
- Better thermals. They’re calling it “Cross-channel thermal conductivity”, where the heat sink crosses the hinge and ensures both sides are cooled efficiently. Who knows if this is a gimmick or not, but from some reviewers, they say even after heavy gaming for an hour the phone is notably cooler than the competition foldables.
The cons (one big, three insignificant) are:
- No wireless charging. Huge bummer to me. And I don’t buy 1+ excuse not to include it due to sizing or weight. I think it was a terrible decision of theirs….the competitors have it at this price point. Bad move by 1+.
- Only IPX4, so rain or water splashes are ok. I am extremely careful with my devices, and I have never dropped my phone into water, so not a massive issue. Plus, the behind the scenes phone durability testing in the OnePlus labs show them spray high volumes of water at all angles and it still passes functionality tests. Good enough for me.
- No stylus support. This is a small bummer to me, as I would like the option to use a pen with a device like this, but I don’t do this with my current phones so I don’t really know what I am missing. Although the settings do have an empty placeholder, so maybe this will come in a future update.
- No Dex-like desktop feature. I honestly do not think the vast majority of people would buy a device like this just to plug it into a desk setup. It defeats the purpose to me. If I need to sit at a desk, I will be on a full computer. And even if I felt like I wanted to use a physical keyboard with a folding phone, I can do that without a desktop mode.
The foldable software implementation. They’re calling it “Open Canvas”. It totally sold me on the device. I have watched every main YouTubers review, and they all cover some aspect of this. But in short, you essentially have a virtual screen larger than the physical. This allows for up to three apps to be stacked either side to side in a row, or top and bottom in a split 2 to 1 one layout, with the third app primarily off screen but still easily switchable with a gesture. Videos and pictures would explain this better than I can in text, but also they allow you to pinch to zoom out to and overview state. This allows you to see all of the apps at once, and they’re all completely useable in this orientation, not just statically frozen like the current Android “recents” pop up. This is the game changer for me! Innovation that actually improves the mobile experience for power users like myself. When I saw this for the first time a smile came across my face, and my brain was thinking, “Yes, this is how modern multi-tasking should work!”
Throw on top of that their dock mechanism, with recent apps and files popup, and you a real mobile multi-tasking feature set. Also, with floating windows, you could have, say a spreadsheet as the primary app, and a floating calculator.
As mentioned above, it has 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB storage for $1700, so you could consider this $220 cheaper than the equivalently spec’d Galaxy Fold 5 and Pixel Fold. And both of those only have 12GB of RAM. So 1+ is already coming out ahead.
But throw in the discounts for pre-ordering and I will have gotten this device for about $900! Here’s the reasons:
- $200 period off the MSRP if you pre-order
- Up to $1k for trading in a device.
- I am trading in my 10 Pro (which I have been very happy with), and they’re giving me $400, which is above market value on Swappa right now
- I got a $50 coupon for subscribing to updates prior to the announcement update
- Free $180 1+ Buds Pro 2. So if I turn around and sell this for cheaper I could recoup some money.
- -$200 off pre order
- -$400 trade in
- -$50 coupon
- -$150 (rough estimate) to sell brand new buds on eBay or Swappa
That means the $1700 price tag minus the above $800 leaves me me with a $900 foldable that is not only just on par with the competition, but as I laid out, IMO significantly better!
There you have it, the reasons I think OnePlus really nailed it with this device! And I am really excited to get my hands on it. If anything changes, or I have updates to add, I will make another post and link it here.