In order to do this, OnePlus has never decided what’s best for its customers, instead it had made a name for itself by being the phone manufacturer that lets its customers decide what they need and then makes a phone based on their feedback.
Of course as its popularity has grown so too have the expectations. While still ‘reasonably’ priced, the phone designed to beat the S8 and iPhone now has a lot riding on its shoulders.
Inevitably when the pressure mounts, cracks start to show. The question we’re here to find out is if that first crack is the One Plus 5.
OnePlus 5 Design
Now in its fifth iteration, the OnePlus 5 boasts a major redesign over previous models.
It’s considerably slimmer than previous models with a gently curved back travelling down either side to meet the phone’s ‘Horizon Line’ design at the edges. OnePlus’ design language might have significance to the company but it’s really not a feature that feels like it’ll become iconic over time.
Overall though it feels really nice to hold. It’s light, well-balanced and we had absolutely no issue using it one-handed on the train.
Now there has been considerable talk about the design similarities between the phone and Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. In this regard we can see where they’re coming from.
The dual camera and position of the flash are unmistakably similar, while both feature an almost identical antenna design. It is subtle but not so subtle that if you lie the two of them next to each other you wouldn’t notice.
Thankfully this is where the similarities end. On the front you’ll find an almost borderless (on the sides) 5.5-inch AMOLED display, fingerprint sensor, two soft keys and a 16MP front-facing camera.
The design isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s quietly stylish and is easily the best-looking smartphone OnePlus has ever made.
OnePlus 5 Display
So what’s it like to use? The display is, as always for OnePlus, superb. It’s a bright, vibrant AMOLED display that works great in sunlight and boasts really low reflectivity.
It’s a shame that it’s still only a Full-HD display but OnePlus claims that what it lacks in pixels it gives back to you in battery life.
It would also have been nice to see a completely bezel-less display but it’s at this point that it’s important to remind ourselves that OnePlus are still a tiny company compared to Samsung and Apple. They simply don’t have the R&D budget to develop that technology and still keep the price down.
OnePlus 5 Software
OnePlus’ OxygenOS software continues to be an excellent interpretation of Google’s Android operating system. It shares the same ethos of being simple, yet improves on Android by adding new features such as a Reading Mode for long-form web articles or Do Not Disturb specifically for when you’re gaming and you want to avoid accidental button presses.
The addition of a pin-protected Secure Box lets you store files, card details, private documents or passwords all within your phone without having to buy into a password or secure file manager. It’s a premium feature that OnePlus didn’t need to add but we’re glad that it did.
All added together it’s a really neatly compacted interface to use and one that feels like a small but meaningful evolution over previous versions.
Powering the OnePlus 5 is absurdly powerful Snapdragon 835 along with either 6 or 8GB of RAM. In modern smartphones 6GB of RAM is more than enough, in fact many computers run happily on less.
The end result of all this is that whether you’re into your specs or not the OnePlus 5 is never going to slow down nor did it ever in our time using it.
OnePlus 5 Camera
Next up is the camera. OnePlus have gone with the trend here and chosen a dual-camera setup. This allows for a longer zoom and lets you take those rather nice bokeh-effect images that keep a central object in focus while blurring the background.
Has it paid off? The short answer is yes, this is quite clearly a better camera than the previous OnePlus. Whether or not it’s a better camera than say the one on the iPhone 7 Plus or the Google Pixel is another matter.
Clarity and low-light performance were excellent however we did find that the camera had a tendency to over-emphasise colours, especially reds and greens.
Where the OnePlus 5 redeems itself though is with its excellent Pro Mode. Essentially it gives you a halfway house between the kind of professional settings you’d expect on a SLR camera and the simple automation that’s perfect for pictures on a smartphone.
While you can almost certainly download an app that’ll do the same, OnePlus have nailed the balance here. A leveller helps you perfectly line up your shot while a proper histogram helps you accurately control your lighting.
It’s so good in fact that we would almost always end up switching over to Pro Mode rather than taking shots straight away.
OnePlus 5 Battery
The OnePlus 5′s battery is smaller than its predecessor clocking in at 3300mAh, yet despite that we’ve still been able to get a full day’s charge.
OnePlus’ Dash charging technology also means that just 30mins is enough to give you a full day. It’s hard to not sound like an advert for the company but in truth it really does work.
Ultimately the OnePlus 5 is a very worthy successor, and for many that will be enough. It’s powerful, great-looking and at under £500 still just within that price bracket of being premium yet ‘affordable’.
As innovation in the smartphone arena starts to pick up pace again though it’ll become harder and harder for the company to truly rival the likes of Samsung, HTC and LG without their sickeningly large R&D budgets.
With Samsung, LG and reportedly Apple all creating bezel-less smartphones the pressure will be on OnePlus to both appease the forums yet keep its smartphones feeling cutting edge.
Thankfully while the OnePlus 5 lacks in some areas (design and display), its excellent camera, software and battery performance help keep it feeling current and refreshing.
Who Should Buy The OnePlus 5?
If you’re looking for a flagship smartphone that will become your trusty sidekick then look no further. It’s not flashy, but the OnePlus 5 is blazing fast, has a battery that lasts all day and boasts a camera that if used properly can take some truly amazing pictures.
Who Shouldn’t Buy The OnePlus 5?
If you’re looking for bells and whistles and don’t mind paying a monthly premium then the OnePlus 5 probably isn’t for you. It’s powerful but it lacks the ‘WOW’ factor that Samsung is able to offer with its stunning, bezel-less Galaxy S8.
The OnePlus 5 is available now for £449 (64GB storage) or £499 (128GB storage).