Preview: OnePlus 3

OnePlus is a company that not everyone will have heard of, but the Chinese company appears to be trying very hard to change that. Ever since the original OnePlus 1, launched back in 2014 now, the small firm has been trying their best to - perhaps a little too hard - be noticed. The company has been doing this through means of controversial contests, the infamous invite system, and by offering devices that punch well about their weight. Especially when we consider how much these devices cost. Last year's OnePlus 2 was undeniably a success for the firm, as it offered similar specs to devices that cost a hell of a lot more, as well as a software experience that many were happy with overall. Since then however, OnePlus has taken a hell of a lot longer than anyone else to issue software updates and there are constant reports of poor customer service from the company. This year, the firm is hoping that the OnePlus 3 - now free of the annoying invite system - will take them to new heights. Here, we're going to see just how OnePlus might be doing that and what the OnePlus 3 could be all about.

Specifications

Considering that OnePlus is most popular for packing in some of the best specs available into a device without the associated price tag, it's no surprise that the OnePlus 3 is all set to pack some serious specs under-the-hood. Those familiar with devices released in China will recognize the above picture, and it's the TENAA listing that has given us much of the information on the OnePlus 3. As its beating heart, the OnePlus 3 is poised to use a Snapdragon 820, the same quad-core 64-bit CPU that's at the heart of the LG G5 and the Galaxy S7, including the Adreno 530 GPU that delivers some pretty impressive graphics. Elsewhere, a 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display has been rumored - as well as seen in TENAA listings - which doesn't sound all that premium in the long run. The original OnePlus One was a 1080p machine, as was the OnePlus 2, so isn't it about time for OnePlus to beef up their display resolution? This is even more bizarre when we consider that virtual reality is taking off in a big way now, and a Quad HD display is considered a minimum for a quality experience in that regard. 4GB of RAM is to be standard with the OnePlus 3, but a 6GB version has been rumored as well as certified, but whether or not this is released at the same time as the standard variant is unclear. On top of this, different variants will ship with different amounts of storage and be priced differently, too. Storage wise, the OnePlus 3 is set to ship with 32 or 64GB of storage, just like the OnePlus 2 did, but the 6GB version could take things even further to a whopping 128GB of storage. Keeping all of this running is said to be a 3,000 mAh battery, which is fairly average these days, but should deliver some decent battery life overall. Charging this - as well as syncing data with a computer - will be done through the USB Type-C port, which previous OnePlus 2 users should no doubt be familiar with by now.

The camera inside of the OnePlus 3 seems to be a big improvement over last year's OnePlus 2, and thanks to some recent samples from Pete Lau himself, as well as many more shared by the official Twitter account. A 16-megapixel rear-facing camera, complete with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera are rumored to be launching with the OnePlus 3. These are decent specs, and will no doubt help OnePlus trade blows with other big brands, but just what sort of features it offers remain unclear. With devices like the iPhone as well as the LG G5 offering motion photos as well as wide-angle lenses, OnePlus will no doubt have a few tricks up their sleeves, for sure.

Software

Ever since the deal between Cyanogen and OnePlus went sour, the Chinese firm has been developing their own software, and in two different variants; Oxygen OS and Hydrogen OS. Most of our readers will be using a device with Oxygen OS running on it, which is OnePlus' version of stock Android, whereas the Hydrogen OS is a more stylized version of Android, similar to other colorful Chinese software skins. Oxygen OS - which only just recently got updated to version 3.0.2 - is essentially a version of stock Android, as in a version of Android without the sort of special source you'd find from HTC or Samsung, for instance. It offers users a software experience that many who have used a Nexus device will find familiar, and doesn't try to throw too much at its users. The only real notable inclusions have been a dark mode, an extra launcher pane with pertinent information and widgets, as well as gesture support from the lockscreen to launch certain apps. Many will find this approach to software a little boring, but it's this exact approach that has scored them so many followers the world over.

The OnePlus 3 is likely to launch in both Oxygen OS as well as Hydrogen OS flavors, and as the latest version of OxygenOS has just launched on the OnePlus 2 it is unlikely that the OnePlus 3 will launch with anything spectacularly new. This is probably down to the fact that - in order to keep handset costs down - the OnePlus team is still a small one, and with the OnePlus 3's hardware taking up much of their time, software will likely have taken a backseat. This minimal approach to software will probably score them more points than it will go against them, and the OnePlus 3 is unlikely to break their tradition of offering simple software that works well.

The Launch

Since OnePlus first appeared drip feeding us information about the upcoming OnePlus One back in 2014, it became obvious that they knew how to put on a show, even on a budget. While the original OnePlus One was announced in China and livestreamed all over the world, the OnePlus 2 was announced in Virtual Reality, which is just what they're doing for the OnePlus 3 this year as well. They did give away free AntVR headsets to 30,000 of their fans, and in the long run this VR headset seems to be just a Cardboard headset with a little better construction and some decent padding, too. The launch is going to take place in the "Loop", OnePlus's fictional space station floating above the Earth. It's an interesting concept, and one that probably saved the company a lot of money not needing to hire a physical venue. Users can download the OnePlus 3 launch app from the Play Store no matter what device they're using and there's a video of the Loop down below.

Design

What is likely to be one of the biggest sticking points with the OnePlus 3 is how it looks. Despite the similarities between recent - as well as older - devices like the iPhone and HTC One series here in the West, the OnePlus 3 looks similar to a lot of the Chinese competition. Huawei, Honor, Meizu and ZTE all ship devices that look similar to the OnePlus 3, and while this might not be a problem for some, it's likely to hurt them, rather than help them. Of course, design is subjective, and many will find this metallic, minimal and modern look to be pleasing and more in line with what they expect from a device in 2016. At 5.5-inches, with thinner bezels and a thinner frame, the OnePlus 3 will feel similar to previous OnePlus devices, so its form factor won't change much, even the placement of the camera and its flash are fairly similar to last year's device. In that regard, there is at least some continuity throughout the different OnePlus flagships, and the TENAA listings suggest a device that measures 152.6 x 74.6 x 7.3mm and weighs 160g, which makes the OnePlus 3 a fairly thin device, all the while managing to pack in a 3,000 mAh battery.

The above is what appears to be an import listing detailing samples of OnePlus 3 cases entering India for "exhibition" purposes. These cases are named "Bamboo", "Black Apricot", "Karbon" and "Sandstone". Aside from the Karbon mention, that we assume to be the Carbon Fiber/Kevlar case from last year, these names sound awfully familiar. That's because these are the same cases that the OnePlus 2 had, but this time around they're rumored to be covers, as they were with the OnePlus X. This will disappoint some, as the replaceable back covers on the OnePlus 2 were a real high point for many users, but at least it looks like OnePlus is once again going with some sort of consistency throughout their different flagships. Some clear cases recently leaked out to show us a little more of the OnePlus 3 design, and it sure looks as though the Chinese firm is going to go with a more mainstream metallic look and feel. Whether or not this is something people will forever be against or end up warming up to, only time will tell.

Pricing and Availability

OnePlus has been known for both offering devices that are very competitively-priced, but also ones that are a lot more difficult to get hold of than other devices out there. Starting with availability, OnePlus fans can breathe a sigh of relief this year as the OnePlus 3 has already been confirmed to be launching without an invite system. However, this doesn't mean OnePlus is going to stop offering flash sales and it could still be a long time from when people order to when they actually get their device, especially closer to the launch. Speaking of which, the device is poised to go on sale as soon as it's launched on June 14th, but just how many devices OnePlus have to offer will be unclear (although a figure of 1 Million has been whispered) and there's no concrete sign that all the different variants are going to be on sale right away, either. On to just how much the OnePlus 3 is going to cost and there are figures starting at $349 going all way up to $425, these prices will be different in your region of course - such as India, where Amazon appears to be set to carry it starting June 15th. These different prices appear to be for the different variants that OnePlus could be launching, including the $349 version with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and $379 for a device still with 4GB of RAM but 64GB of storage. Rumored 6GB variants are to be $409 for 6GB of RAM and 32GB of storage and $429 for 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. An Oppomart listing also appeared with a price of $369.99, but this wasn't for a specific variant, so there's no telling just which variant this was a placeholder listing for.

Wrap-Up

OnePlus is a firm that's been around for some time now, and while they will continue to split opinion massively, there's no escaping their meteoric rise. From nobody to somebody in the space of two years is no mean feat, and with the level of polish that the OnePlus 3 should bring to the table, they should be able to go even further. If the $349 price tag for a device with 4GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 820 and 32GB of storage and a great build comes true, then OnePlus will have a real winner on their hands. With no invite system this year, OnePlus now have the potential to reach the major leagues, but only time will tell how the firm changes their customer service for the better as well as up their game when it comes to software updates. The launch of the OnePlus 3 is just around the corner, and there's no doubt that OnePlus fans will be counting down the days, and everyone else will be paying a little more attention than they did last year.

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About the Author
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Tom Dawson

Former Editor-in-Chief
For years now I've had a heavy interest in technology, growing up with 8-bit computers and gaming consoles has fed into an addiction to everything that beeps. Android saved me from the boredom of iOS years ago and I love watching the platform grow. As an avid reader and writer nothing pleases me more than to write about the exciting world of Android, Google and mobile technology as a whole.
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