First Impressions of the OnePlus One, Give Us Your Questions and We’ll Answer!

June 20, 2014 - Written By Nick Sutrich

Ah the venerable OnePlus One, in some circles at least.  Some people are just so mad at OnePlus’s release schedule for the phone that they’ve completely written it off at this point and are going to get another flagship this year.  Regardless I’ve been lucky enough to receive an invite to buy one of the most exciting phones of the year, and now that I’ve had it for a full 24 hours I think now’s a good time to start posting what I feel about the device.  First off as you’ll see in our upcoming unboxing video the packaging is absolutely top notch.  Usually smartphones just come in a small box big enough to fit the phone itself, a charger and a few manuals in it and nothing more.  Not so with the OnePlus One, which features elegant and interesting packaging that makes you salivate the moment you begin opening it.

This quickly escalated when I actually reached the phone, which surprised me with its elegant lines, and most of all the rough textured back of the phone.  I wasn’t prepared for just how awesome this texture was, and immediately understood why the color of the phone is “sandstone black,” as it really does feel like a pumice stone or some similar texture, and gives the phone a superior grip.  The phone itself is so well built too, and is right up there with the likes of the HTC One and the iPhone in terms of sheer solid feel and quality.  You’d never know this was a $350 phone just by holding it.  It’s easily the lightest phone I’ve ever held, which is something to say given how solid the build feels.  It’s also extremely well balanced and sits in the hand evenly, making it super comfortable to hold.  Yes this device is large with a 5.5-inch screen, and feels about the same size the Galaxy Note 2 or 3 is.

Moving onto software remember that the OnePlus One international version comes with CyanogenMod 11S built in, which means a custom version of the most popular custom ROM solution out there.  The interface is what you’d expect with a few interesting little tweaks and the added bonus of all the features working properly since it’s built specifically for this phone.  The device is chock full of options, but the two sets of options I found myself using the most right away were the music equalizer and the gestures while the screen was off.  This is the first time I feel like an equalizer built into a phone not only works right, but it actually does a better job than the expensive head unit I have in my truck.  It couldn’t be easier to change modes either, as there’s a quick EQ launch button right in the quick toggles section of the notification bar while music is playing.

When the screen is off you can perform a number of gestures on the screen to activate features of the phone.  The first of which will be very familiar to owners of an LG G2 or G Pro 2, as you double tap the screen to wake up or make the phone sleep.  While the keys of the phone aren’t on the back of the OnePlus One as they are on LG’s phones now, this feature is incredibly simple and was easy to use coming from a G2.  Drawing a circle on the screen while it’s asleep launches the camera in about 3 seconds, and drawing a V on the screen while it’s off toggles the flashlight on and off.  Last but not least is the music control, which I found myself doing accidentally too many times and ended shutting off.  You draw two vertical lines with your fingers to play/pause, and draw left and right arrows to skip to the previous or next song.

The theming engine is absolutely boss and is incredibly powerful and simple to use, and you don’t even need to root your phone to do it.  You can change out entire systems icons with icon packs you get from either the Google Play Store or from full CyanogenMod themes as well.  This doesn’t just change your launcher icons, it completely rethemes the entire operating system, meaning even the icons within apps are now different from the stock ones.  Cyanogen, Inc.’s new built-in theme Hexo is beautiful but doesn’t have enough icons for my liking so I ended up picking one of the many icon packs I own instead.  This is the future of phone customization for sure, we just need to see it implemented in more phones now.

Last but certainly not least, especially for me, is the camera.  One of the biggest reasons I sold my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was because the camera was too inconsistent with its results.  If I was in the sunlight it could take mind-blowing pictures, worthy of any canvas or another printable material, but not even all the time.  Samsung’s over-aggressive anti-noise processing made things muddy and blurry when trying to blow the image up, and things only got worse when the light got lower.  While there’s always going to be some sort of noise with any camera, it’s exaggerated on smartphones because the sensor is so physically small.  OnePlus uses Sony’s latest Exmor IMX214 sensor that delivers 13 megapixels of resolution along with up to 4K video recording and even 720P 120FPS slow-mo recording.  Right off the bat I noticed a significant increase in quality over my Galaxy Note 3, and a lot of it seems to have to do with white balancing, which the OnePlus One seems to nail whereas a lot of my Note 3 shots were over-exposed.  It takes macro shots even better than my LG G2, which I was already head over heels with before I received the One, and the video quality is right up there with the Note 3’s as well (which actually was incredible at taking video).

Low light shots were one of the most important things to me, and this is where my Note 3 constantly failed.  My son is only 4 months old now but he’s moving fast, and unless my camera can handle that I don’t even want to bother using it.  So far the OnePlus One’s shutter speed is blazing fast, and the focus might be even faster.  Pointing and shooting is extremely easy and effortless, and I only found myself touching the screen most of the time to change the light metering rather than trying to focus on something.  Cyanogen, Inc. has done an amazing job with this camera software, and it’s an absolutely significant improvement from previous CyanogenMod cameras of the past.

While I’m using it over the next week or so and preparing my review, I’d like to hear from you!  Leave a question or comment below or on any one of your favorite social networking sites and I’ll do my best to answer them.