The OnePlus One has been one of the most hyped smartphones of 2014. There's really not much else to be said, as OnePlus' marketing has been quite noticeable amongst Android enthusiasts. The OnePlus One seems to come from nowhere, although there is a noticeable resemblance to the Oppo Find 7A which is produced in the same factory. The OnePlus One is said to be a flagship killer, as its high-end specs come with a mid-range price. The 16GB version starts at 299 USD and the 64GB version starts at 349 USD. With a 5.5" 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 SoC, and plenty of other bits and pieces to go around, the specs are certainly enough to make it into a flagship phone. Of course, the real question is whether it really is. After all, while specs provide the foundation, what makes a phone bad, good, or great has to do with the entire phone, not just the spec sheet. At any rate, I've attached this spec sheet below to give an idea of what to expect from the phone.

  Oppo Find 7a OnePlus One
SoC MSM8974ABv3 2.3 GHz
Snapdragon 801
MSM8974ACv3 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM/NAND 2 GB LPDDR3, 16GB NAND + microSD 3GB LPDDR3, 16/64GB NAND
Display 5.5” 1080p IPS LCD (JDI) 5.5” 1080p IPS LCD (JDI)
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 152.6 x 75 x 9.2 mm, 170 grams 152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 162 grams
Camera 13MP (4128 x 3096) Rear Facing, 1/3.06" CMOS size (Sony IMX214), F/2.0, 5MP FFC w/ F/2.0 aperture 13MP (4128 x 3096) Rear Facing, 1/3.06" CMOS size (Sony IMX214), F/2.0, 5MP FFC w/ F/2.0 aperture
Battery 2800 mAh (10.64 Whr) 3100 mAh (11.78 Whr)
OS Android 4.3 with ColorOS Android 4.4.4 with CyanogenMod 11S
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, DLNA, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM MicroSIM

Needless to say, the OnePlus One is a close cousin of the Find 7a, and its specs are top notch. There's a great foundation, so we'll move on with some initial hardware impressions.

Of course, the first part to look at is industrial and material design, along with any other immediate observations about the phone. From the front, the phone is almost a pure expanse of black glass. There are outlines for the capacitive keys, but these are quite faint most of the time. The contrast of the silver plastic ring only emphasizes this, and the lack of logos helps to make the design stand out by virtue of its minimalism. Picking it up, the feel of the sandstone black finish is incredibly unique and unlike anything I've ever felt. The finish has been described as soft sandpaper, and that's a description I'd agree with. It makes the phone feel much grippier than one might expect. The back cover is also strong, with no real give and no flex. Other than a few logos, the only significant design elements on the back are the camera, dual LED flash, and a hole for the microphone. The front of the phone has surprisingly great attention to detail as well. The silver plastic piece on the front of the phone makes the finger smoothly roll off of the display when swiping around, and the imperceptible feel of the earpiece helps to contribute to the sense that this is a single, well-built phone.

On the sides, the minimalistic theme continues. There's only a power button on the right side, a headphone jack and microphone port on the top, and a volume rocker on the left side. The SIM tray is also on the left side, and on the bottom of the phone we see two speakers, a USB port, and a microphone hole. In general, the feel of the power and volume buttons are great, with no slack and a clean, if subdued click upon activation.

Needless to say, OnePlus has done a fantastic job. However, there are a few issues to talk about. First, the size is definitely too much to handle. If the LG G3 was at the very edge between a phone and phablet, the OnePlus One firmly steps into phablet territory. At some point a line in the sand has to be drawn, and it only makes sense to do so here. The angular corners of the OnePlus One combined with its larger footprint makes for a phone that is almost impossible to comfortably use with one hand. I can't help but feel that this would've been a far more impressive phone if shrunk to a 5" display size, as in my experience it takes two hands to comfortably use this phone. The other issue is much more subtle though. For some reason or another, the glass lens covering the display of the phone feels as if it has noticeably higher friction than other phones I've used. It almost feels as if the oleophobic treatment of the glass is either missing or thinner than most. Of course, overall the phone is great from a basic design perspective. The size seems to be a matter of OnePlus' start-up position and the need to share parts with the Find 7a, although the feel of the glass is unlikely to be an issue for most.

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  • max1001 - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    Totally agree, it's a good phone but def lack polish. I have been using one since launch.
    The most disappointing part was the camera because the hardware is class leading but the software is seriously holding it back.
    Reply
  • Stochastic - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    I just got my OnePlus One about a week ago. This is actually my first smartphone (yeah, I held out that long) so I have no real reference point to go by, although I have used iPhones, a 2013 Moto X, a Galaxy S5, and the LG G3 briefly. Since I’m not used to the smaller sized devices that were popular in 2007-2013, the OPO doesn’t feel gargantuan to me. In fact, after hearing so much about how massive the device is, I was a little surprised at how reasonably sized it is. I would say I have average sized hands and I can still use the device one-handed for some functions if I cradle it right, although obviously it’s far more ergonomic/efficient to use with two hands. Again, since this is my first smartphone, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

    Battery life is very good in my experience. Granted, I use airplane mode most of the time and have tweaked the auto brightness curve so that the display is very dim, but so far I’ve been reasonably impressed with how long it can last on a charge. To me this is more important than being able to use the phone one-handed.

    The 5.5 inch display is well suited to web browsing and article reading, which are my primary uses for the device. To be honest I wouldn’t mind an even larger display—I’d like to try the Nexus 6 at some point. Reading this review I’m really surprised by the quality of the screen calibration. Subjectively, I can confirm that the display looks quite good, although I’d like my next device to have an OLED for inky blacks and lower power draw. The few videos I’ve watched so far looked about as good as they do on my Dell U2412M. At 401 PPI, the display appears laser sharp to me. Then again I don’t have 20/20 vision, so even a ~250 PPI display would probably appear sufficiently resolving to my eyes. To be honest, I’d trade resolution for even better battery life and performance in a heartbeat.

    The bottom mounted speakers leave something to be desired, but I find that to be the case for all smartphones save perhaps the HTC One M8. If you care about sound quality you’ll use headphones. The OPO does a good job of driving my ATH-M50s (and hopefully the Fidelio X2s I have coming in), so it should work well as a DAP without the need to resort to a portable amp.

    Regarding Cyanogenmod and the overall polish of the software: obviously this device isn’t going to be on par with iOS or Android Lollipop in that regard, but I haven’t encountered any show stopping bugs so far on the 44S firmware. I’ve also been reasonably happy with the touch sensitivity, although I can’t really assess this as I’m using a .24 mm Orzly screen protector. I look forward to the CM12 update that we should receive early next year and hope that polish will improve with time.
    Reply
  • Stochastic - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    I just read over my post and realized that I'm perhaps gushing a bit too much. So here are some gripes:

    The battery isn't user replaceable. Personally, I find this to be the OPO's biggest shortcoming.

    As examined in detail in the review, the camera is decidedly lackluster. This doesn't personally bother me as I'll just use a DSLR if I really care about image quality, and the camera is still serviceable in a pinch, but digital shutterbugs should steer clear.

    UI performance is overall very good in my opinion, but there still is some minor stuttering/hitching with certain apps. It's not a big deal but it's definitely not as smooth as iOS.

    While the OPO doesn't have any deal-breaking issues unlike most Android phones (poor battery life, subpar display, limited storage capacity, middle-of-the-road performance, etc.), it also doesn't have too much to set it apart except for maybe the customizability offered by Cyanogenmod. This can easily be forgiven given the $350 price point, but I still envy the features found in the Moto X.

    The OPO is only supported by GSM networks. Definitely a con.

    Availability is still limited, and from what I've heard, customer support is pretty terrible. Caveat emptor. Going forward this needs to be OnePlus' top priority.
    Reply
  • DanD85 - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    Thanks for reviewing the OnePlus One! It's one of the best phone of this year, combine with the spectacular price and you have a clear winner. Reply
  • webdoctors - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    There's a MIUI ROM out for One Plus One. Could the reviewer please also try that? I've found MIUI to give a pretty polished experience. Sorry as I realize installing a custom ROM on a $300 phone shouldn't be necessary, but considering the great HW, seems a shame to be let down by CM...(but that same argument could be given for all the great Android phones crippled by crappy Android vs iOS) Reply
  • Munna2002 - Friday, November 21, 2014 - link

    I'm curious - how does one get this and are there reviews of MIUI doing a comparison with CyanogenMod? Reply
  • Midwayman - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    Its a phone for enthusiasts it seems. Thing is all the options and development was done for people who are able to root and install a ROM on their own. No surprise that Cyanogen has some rough edges for a mass market. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    After basically losing interest in this phone due to the incredibly slow market roll-out/invite process, I find it more interesting again now that the Nexus 5 is out of stock in every configuration. The Nexus 6 being so underwhelming in the review here is also helping. Reply
  • Shlong - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    You should also mention that it comes with an additional nano sim card tray so it'll fit both nano and micro sim. It's a very good phone and for the price it can't be beat (unlocked to boot) but the camera is just crap. Luckily, I have an iphone 6 plus as well but for those without an extra phone and love taking pictures, you will be disappointed. Everything else is excellent however. Reply
  • augiem - Wednesday, November 19, 2014 - link

    I actually ordered one of these last week, but ended up cancelling the order. Go scour the OnePlus forums and you'll find there is an unusually high number of reports of extremely buggy software and hardware. One recent forum poll showed 25% of phones had problems. Even people who are extremely happy with the phone consistently live with problems always expecting them to be fixed in the next patch. This goes on for months and months and months. Some of the problems people have had are very serious such as earpiece failures, touch screen lockups, loss of LTE signal, random reboots, sudden data loss, battery drain, yellow banding on the screen, constant app crashes, etc. Die hard fans always blow these issues off. Their solution? Telling everyone to root their devices and load alternate roms or start running the dailies from Cyanogen. Okay... Sounds like a solution to me. To make matters worse, customer support is nonexistent at the company with many reports of receiving no response to support contact for a month or more. People have frequently been forced to file claims with PayPal to get their money back. None of this is mentioned in all the glowing reviews of this device around the web. Word of advice: DO YOUR RESEARCH before you jump in and buy this phone. Even for techies, the cost of ownership is very high in the time you'll likely have to invest to get the phone running properly. Reply

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