The past two years have brought some rocky launches to the Chinese startup OnePlus, a company that focused on high spec devices with low prices from the beginning. This year marks the third flagship phone from OnePlus, and it certainly feels like the third time's a charm from our initial impressions. OnePlus blew everyone away when the OnePlus One launched two years ago, pushing the spec boundaries and sporting a truly interesting and rather unique design, particularly the material used on the back. While the OnePlus 3 doesn't sport the same unique design, in fact it looks rather like a mashup between an HTC and a Meizu phone, it certainly delivers on the spec to price ratio.
For $399 the OnePlus 3 delivers a 5.5-inch 1080p Super AMOLED panel, Snapdragon 820 processor, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, a 16-megapixel camera and plenty more. It's an incredible value for the money and one that OnePlus is hoping will catch your eye. First impressions are of course everything, and this one certainly doesn't disappoint in that regard. From a visual standpoint the hardware seems a bit bland at first, and could easily be mistaken for any modern Android phone on the market. It features those telltale antenna lines that almost every metal-clad phone has nowadays, along with a capacitive touch home button/fingerprint scanner combo button on the front. This capacitive combo button was first introduced with last year's OnePlus 2, and is a rather interesting compromise for those who don't care for physical buttons but like their fingerprint scanners on the front.
It's an incredibly responsive scanner too, easily the fastest I've ever seen with absolutely zero delay in recognizing a fingerprint and unlocking the phone. Grabbing the device and watching it nearly instantly unlock feels like a single fluid motion; there's no pausing needed to wait for the fingerprint scanner to find your print, even for just a few milliseconds, it just feels absolutely instantaneous. The other really unique hardware feature that OnePlus has been pushing for the last year on its phones is the priority slider on the left side. This goes hand in hand with the priority modes in Android, and is a 3-step slider representing all, priority and no notifications. This is a great way to silence the phone without having to wake it up, and it's handled completely different from an iPhone's toggle switch thanks to Android's notification system.
The hardware itself feels incredible in the hand. It's ultra solid all-metal construction is thoughtfully heavy, although not annoyingly so, and feels incredibly strong and durable. The screen this time around is a Super AMOLED panel, taking cues from the OnePlus X at the end of last year. Thus far it's a gorgeous panel and everything I would have hoped for in a modern smartphone display, including those gorgeous black levels and color saturation. OnePlus is touting that this is an "Optical Super AMOLED" display; fancy jargon for one that's been color corrected and gamma enhanced. Like many modern AMOLED panels this one is also easy to see in the sunlight, and there's even a night mode available to turn the screen a considerably warmer hue that's easier on the eyes in the dark.
OxygenOS 3.0 is here, built atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and sports the gorgeous darker look that shines so well on AMOLED panels. This dark theme isn't enabled by default but can be toggled in the settings, as well as tons and tons of other options too. OnePlus seems to have boosted the feature set once again on OxygenOS 3.0, as the name would hopefully imply, but time will tell if they're able to get that update schedule rectified from last time, as it took an extremely long time to get the OnePlus 2 updated to Marshmallow, and the OnePlus X is still on Lollipop to this day.
Even the camera seems spot on this time, one area that didn't seem to improve too much on the OnePlus 2 over its predecessor. The camera software has also received some pretty significant tweaks, and not only switches modes faster than ever but also seems to have finally solved the weird rotation issues that have plagued the OnePlus camera software for the last year. Quality is astounding too, sporting the latest 16-megapixel Sony imaging sensor with PDAF auto focus as well as advanced HDR capabilities. OnePlus Clear Image mode is here as well, although it's been renamed to "HD" mode instead, a term that might help make the auto mode sound a little less fuzzy. Overall this seems like one seriously solid phone and we can't wait to put it through the full paces of the review process. Stick with us for more content over the next week, and don't forget to enter our International OnePlus Giveaway for the OnePlus 3!