Hands-on with the OnePlus 6: An all-glass, notched smartphone for $529

OnePlus is back with its new flagship smartphone for 2018, the OnePlus 6. OnePlus has big changes in store this year, not all of which I would call positive. OnePlus’ stand-out metal phone design—which has existed from the OnePlus One all the way to the OnePlus 5T—is dead. The company is switching to an all-glass design and a notched display.

As a result, the OnePlus 6 looks and feels like a million other Android smartphones released this year.

Like the iPhone X and several other new Android phones, the display has a cutout at the top housing the front-facing camera, earpiece, and other sensors. This at least seems to be a well-executed version of a notched phone. The bottom bezel isn’t nonexistent, but it is pretty small. The notch is small enough to fit inside a normal-height status bar, which means you don’t have a tall, stretched-out status bar like the Essential Phone. The display is a 6.28-inch 2280×1080 Samsung AMOLED with a 19:9 aspect ratio. Thanks to the notched design, the OnePlus 6 fits more screen in a body about the same size as the OnePlus 5T.

I was a huge fan of OnePlus’ metal back over the years, and along with the Pixel line, it was the only flagship smartphone that hadn’t given in to the glass smartphone trend. Glass backs are fragile fingerprint magnets, with the only benefit being wireless charging. The OnePlus 6 doesn’t support wireless charging, though, so this is just a straight downgrade over last year’s metal back.

The best feature of any OnePlus phone is the price, and it’s a feature OnePlus makes a little worse every year. This year the price has jumped another $29 to start at $529 (€519, £469). For that $529 you get a Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3300mAh battery. The front camera is 16MP, and along the back you’ll find a dual camera setup with a 16MP RGB camera and 20MP secondary camera for bokeh effects. Video records in 4K/60FPS, 1080p/240FPS, or 720p/480FPS.

If you’re looking for more RAM or storage, you can upgrade to 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $579 (€569, £519). There’s also a phone with 8GB RAM/256GB storage for $629 (€619, £569). There are three colors—white, black, and black—and each color is limited to certain spec combinations and price points. I photographed the “Mirror black” version, which comes in the 6GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB loadouts. “Midnight Black” is supposedly a matte black (but still glass) version and comes in 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB versions, and a “Silk white” (white and gold) version only comes in 8GB/128GB.

As much as I feel like the OnePlus 6 could be better with a metal back, for $529 it is still a hard phone to beat. It’s the cheapest Snapdragon 845 device you can buy, and that will always make it worth considering.

Software is good and not so good

Another great OnePlus feature is the software package. While I wouldn’t call it “Stock Android,” it’s a version that doesn’t go out of its way to reskin every little piece of Android so it looks like a completely different operating system. OnePlus adds extra features, but overall, the UI follows Google’s Material Design language and fits in well with Google’s apps and the third-party app ecosystem.

The bad part of the software package is still here, too: OnePlus doesn’t have a concrete update commitment, only pointing to its past behavior as evidence of what kind of support the OnePlus 6 can expect. In the past, the company has been good about delivering monthly security updates for supported devices, but the length of support is a total crap shoot. If the OnePlus phone you buy ends up being unpopular with the masses, OnePlus could drop support early. This happened with the OnePlus 2, which got less than one year of major update support from OnePlus.

The rest of the phone is much like past OnePlus devices. There’s still a USB-C port on the bottom with 5V, 4A “Dash” quick charging. There’s still a headphone jack and rear fingerprint sensor. There’s still a three-position physical volume switch. OnePlus says the phone is “water resistant for everyday occasions, such as rain or an accidental drop in a puddle,” but there’s still no official ingress protection rating.

As usual, a low price does a great job of muting any complaints we might have about the OnePlus 6. You could probably do better than the OnePlus 6, but not at this price point. We might not like the switch to all-glass, and we wish OnePlus would put a concrete update system in place, but as always, it’s hard to argue with this much power for $529. The OnePlus 6 launches May 22.

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