Today OnePlus announced their newest flagship phone, the OnePlus 3. The OnePlus 3 replaces the OnePlus 2, while the OnePlus X stays around as the less expensive OnePlus device with a smaller display. I reviewed the OnePlus 2 at the end of last year, and unfortunately I was forced to conclude that it actually represented a significant downgrade from its predecessor in many ways. Some of this was due to choices OnePlus had made with the product design, such as the very poor display calibration. Others were out of their control, like the throttling issues on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 808 and 810 SoCs. A combination of these factors led to a smartphone that just wasn't able to compete in an increasingly competitive market.

With the OnePlus 3 OnePlus has a chance to fix the issues with the OnePlus 2 and once again offer a compelling smartphone at a price lower than that of the flagship smartphones sold by the larger Android OEMs. To accomplish this, OnePlus has made very large changes on both the inside and the outside, making the OnePlus 3 the largest jump that a OnePlus smartphone has made to date. You can check out the specs of the OnePlus 3 compared to its predecessor in the table below.

  OnePlus 2 OnePlus 3
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
GPU Adreno 430 Adreno 530
RAM 2/4GB LPDDR4 6GB LPDDR4
Display 5.5" 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD 5.5" 1920 x 1080 PenTile AMOLED
Size / Mass 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.85mm, 175g 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35mm, 158g
Battery 3300 mAh 3000 mAh
Rear Camera 13MP 1.3 μm OmniVision OV13860 f/2.0 16MP 1.1 μm Sony IMX298, f/2.0, OIS
Front Camera 5MP 1.4 μm OmniVision OV5648, f/2.0 8MP 1.4 μm Sony IMX179, f/2.0
Storage 16/64GB eMMC 64GB UFS 2.0
I/O USB 2.0 Type-C connector, 3.5mm audio
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1
USB-C, GPS/GNSS
802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.2, USB-C
NFC, GPS/GNSS
Price $329 (3GB/16GB)
$389 (4GB/64GB)
$399 (6GB/64GB)

OnePlus advertises that the OnePlus 3 is 35% faster with CPU tasks and 40% faster with graphics tasks. We've seen that Snapdragon 820 provides significant improvements in performance over Snapdragon 810, especially with Snapdragon 810's throttling problems. In the case of the OnePlus 3, they're probably selling themselves short with these figures due to the OnePlus 2's power management mechanism which completely disables the A57 cores when web browsing, along with the fact that it used an underclocked Snapdragon 810 that didn't stand up well under any sort of prolonged load.

In addition to the SoC bump, OnePlus has gone all out with the RAM. The OnePlus 2 came in a 2GB and a 4GB version, although I mostly only saw the 4GB model for sale. With the OnePlus 3 they include 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM in every model, which is ahead of pretty much everything else in the smartphone market and probably more than you'll need on a phone for many years. As for storage, every model is 64GB now, and OnePlus is now using UFS 2.0 NAND instead of eMMC, which makes the remaining flagship vendors using eMMC look rather awkward in the market given that the OnePlus 3 comes in at under $400.

The display maintains its size and resolution, but OnePlus has moved to an AMOLED panel and is targeting the NTSC color gamut. Unfortunately, neither of these things seem like improvements, with the effective resolution of red and blue on the panel now being halved, and the color gamut not conforming to the sRGB standard as it should. I'll be putting the OnePlus 3 through our standard display workflow with the full review, and if you value an accurate display I would wait until that time before you make up your mind about buying the phone.

OnePlus has moved back to Sony sensors for the cameras on the OnePlus 3. What I find interesting but potentially concerning is that the sensor size has actually gone down, and although resolution has gone up the pixel size has decreased from 1.3 micron to 1.12 micron. However, differences in sensors can have various impacts on their characteristics, and the OnePlus 2 had some significant issues with image processing which means it's still very possible that the OnePlus 3 has improved with respect to image quality. However, it does seem like a concession made to reduce the camera hump on the relatively thin chassis, which some buyers may disagree with as a design choice.

OnePlus has moved to an aluminum unibody design with the OnePlus 3, and it's pretty great. I was really not a fan of the sandstone finish on the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2, which I frankly thought felt cheap and didn't even add much in the way of grip because it wasn't coarse enough. The OnePlus 2 introduced a metal frame, but it didn't do much to improve the feel of the phone. Along with the move to a full aluminum unibody comes a dramatic reduction in thickness and mass, which makes it significantly more comfortable to use for long periods of time than the OnePlus 2. While I'll cover the design in more detail in my review, I can say for certain that I like the design very very much as both an improvement over the OnePlus 2 and a design that is just good in its own right.

My review of the OnePlus 3 is already well underway, and it will be going up next week. There's a lot more to the OnePlus 3 than what you see on a spec sheet, and some of the choices that OnePlus has made to balance aspects like thickness and mass against battery capacity and camera sensor size make for some interesting changes going from a previous OnePlus smartphone to the OnePlus 3. 

The last thing of note is that OnePlus has done away with the invite system. I personally thought the invite system was a ridiculous and terrible idea that only caused problems for people who wanted to buy the phone, and I think this is a big step forward for OnePlus as a company. After three generations they likely have a better idea of how many orders to expect, which may have been a contributing factor in deciding to do away with the invite process. Right now the OnePlus 3 comes in a graphite finish, and it will come in a gold finish soon after release. If you already know that you want the OnePlus 3 and want to buy it before anyone else, you can get it from OnePlus's online store for $399 USD.

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  • Eden-K121D - Sunday, June 19, 2016 - link

    Correct Samsung using their proprietary ISP Reply
  • Gunbuster - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Hope this sells well so the fall of handset prices back to earth accelerates. People spending thousands every two years on a phone has really hurt the rest of the industry (laptops, desktops, tablets) Reply
  • Maxpower2727 - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Who, exactly, is spending "thousands" of dollars on "a phone"? Reply
  • Gunbuster - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Many people, an iPhone 6s Plus is $750 for the anemic 16GB, 64GB is $850. Throw on a case, and insurance you are easily past $1000 Reply
  • shadarlo - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    A case is $5? Reply
  • Smudgeous - Wednesday, June 15, 2016 - link

    Per Apple's website, cases run $35-100. A screen protector is another $18. While I personally acknowledge that cases should be aquired for closer to $5 than $35, a lot of people buy the case directly from Apple at the time of the phone purchase.

    Looking at a real configuration the 128GB version of the 6S Plus is $949. Add to that the extras that many iPhone-using aquaintances of mine usually order at the same time (2 Years of AppleCare+ for $129, battery case for $100, screen protector for $18), and that single phone can crack $1300 in high-tax areas like NYC.
    Reply
  • syxbit - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    Strange. In the N5X and N6P reviews they defended the SD808 and SD810 chips..... And now they're back to saying how great SD820 is because it's better than the PoS chips of 2015. Why didn't you call a spade a spade. To quote the N5X review:

    "Snapdragon 808's heavy throttling means that for any task that taxes the CPU for over a couple of minutes you'd probably be better off with Snapdragon 801, and most certainly better off with 805. It's disappointing, but certainly forgivable when your device costs $379."

    Forgivable? The N5X is two years newer, and still slower than the N5. Oh, and the N5 launched at $349.

    But let's forget that. The SD820 is actually the great chip. We'll forget how we went easy on QC in 2015
    Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    1080p Pentile tragic design, assuming no microSD ,it's a poor release. Even 6GB of RAM won't be much of a selling point soon as even midrange will support that much RAM. Reply
  • lmc5b - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    I don't like pentile either but i had the impression that pretty much all OLED displays on phones were pentile to cut on cost. Reply
  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, June 14, 2016 - link

    But at that size, it's usually QHD, not FHD. :) Reply

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