But also, the OnePlus 6T goes against what its own community wants: it does away with the fingerprint scanner that more than 90% of OnePlus’ polled users approve of. And frankly, this year, the 6T does not feel like that big of an improvement over the OnePlus 6.
So… should you buy it? And can the OnePlus 6T still provide that spark that lights up the fire for Android enthusiasts? Also, is the OnePlus 6T still the best value-for-money offer around? Yours truly was curious as ever to find out, but first, take a look at…
What’s inside the box:
The release of the OnePlus 6 a few months ago was a big step forward for the company in terms of design. It was truly a thing of beauty and style, with a glass construction, elegant curves, and the unique mute switch on the side that differentiated it from other Android phones. And the 6T is much the same, with just a few differences worth mentioning: first, the smaller, teardrop notch that looks a lot better and somehow… organic; second, the bigger screen and even tinier bezels, so you get a lot less of that unsightly “chin”; and thirdly, the fingerprint scanner, of course, which is now inside the screen (more on it in a second).
The new OnePlus 6T comes in the same two colors as the 6: a “Midnight Black” model with a matte look and a smooth, soft touch feel, and a “Mirror Black” glossy model that is shiny, but also a fingerprint magnet. You also have a new, third color option with the bold and beautiful “Thunder Purple” model that features a very nice color gradient on the back.
Here we should mention the excellent OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones. Sold separately at a price of just $70, these headphones are half the price of Apple’s AirPods. They pair easily via Bluetooth, they cleverly snap to each other, and last a whopping 8 hours on a single charge. One more cool detail: they are sweat and water resistant, so we definitely recommend them if you want to transition to wireless audio on the OnePlus 6T.
The biggest new feature in the 6T is without a doubt the new in-screen fingerprint scanner.
What OnePlus uses in the 6T is actually called optical fingerprint scanning technology. It boils down to having a small fingerprint sensor located under the screen that reads the specific shapes and ridges of your finger. But it needs plenty of light to get a good reading, and you can easily notice how the underside of your finger is brightly illuminated for every fingerprint scan attempt at night. It gets annoying when you use your phone in the dark since the whole thing lights up in your face. We are also not fond of the cheesy electrical thunderstorm animation with every scan (admittedly, you can pick between three different animations).
One important thing to note here is that you should definitely be careful when you register your fingerprint the very first time. Make sure you are holding the phone in a natural way and press firmly to get a good reading. This will improve fingerprint accuracy a great deal. The first time we registered our fingerprint, we did it in a rush and the fingerprint scanner worked infuriatingly bad, but once we went over the setup one more time, accuracy did improve.
Overall, we got used to this new fingerprint scanner as much as to not count it as a show-stopper, but there is definitely room for improvement.
While you could be angry about the OnePlus 6T killing the headphone jack, you will appreciate the bigger screen and the even tinier bezels on this phone. The 6T features a 6.4” AMOLED screen, a bit larger than its predecessor thanks to the freed up space around the notch and the tinier chin.
Colors on this screen also look lively and vibrant, just as you’d expect from a quality AMOLED panel. By default, the screen is set to show punchy, slightly oversaturated colors, but you can also tone things down in display settings.
What we are worried about, though, is the automatic brightness setting failing to do its job properly. This has been a persisting problem with OnePlus phones and it boils down to automatic brightness setting the phone’s display to appear too dark and dim in regular use. We have also experienced strange brightness flickering with the phone randomly going brighter and dimmer. Of course, it’s not too hard to set the brightness higher yourself, but it still feels like a weird issue to have on a 2018 phone.
The OnePlus 6T comes with the familiar OnePlus OxygenOS interface that stands out with its clean, clutter-free philosophy, so you have no bloatware apps and no distractions.Most importantly, OxygenOS is fast. OnePlus has revealed that it has a separate team of engineers that work tirelessly to shave milliseconds of lag and stutter, and the result is indeed visible as the OnePlus 6T runs as smoothly as a Google Pixel phone (or sometimes, it even feels smoother).
OnePlus introduced its own gesture navigation system earlier in 2018 with the OnePlus 6 and now that we have spent some time with it, we have a better view on how it performs. The gestures all start with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen: swipe from the center to go to the home screen, swipe and pause to enter multitasking mode, and swipe from either edge to go back a step. You do get used to these gestures after a while, but they never quite feel natural, especially the swipe up from the bottom edge to go back a step in the interface. Another strange omission is that there is no way to start the Google Assistant in this gesture interface. We definitely wish OnePlus reconsiders the gesture navigation and optimize it via an update in the future. Of course, you also have the traditional Android three-button navigation as an option in the menu, which may work better for some people.
There are quite a few useful added features in OnePlus’s interface: the gaming mode, for example, activates when you start playing a game and it prevents notifications from disrupting your gaming session, while important calls still go through. The 6T also optimizes performance in games so you get a very solid frame rate and a nice experience.
Other familiar features from earlier OnePlus phones are also on board here: you have the Night Mode that filters out blue light, Reading mode that turns your screen grayscale and makes it easier on the eyes, Dark Mode for night owls and for better battery conservation, and so on.
OnePlus has maintained a reputation for delivering the top hardware in a phone that costs a lot less than similarly equipped rivals. This tradition continues in the OnePlus 6T which still features the Snapdragon 845 chip with up to 8GB of RAM.
We have already mentioned the numerous little things that OnePlus does to ensure performance is buttery smooth on the 6T, and this is indeed something you do notice when you compare a OnePlus phone to most other Android rivals out there. There is a sense of refinement and smoothness in the interface that make it a breeze to use the phone.
While all OnePlus 6T versions come with the same Snapdragon 845 chip inside, there are differences when it comes to RAM and amount of native storage. You have a:
Also worth pointing out is that traditionally you don’t get microSD card support on OnePlus phones and the 6T is no exception: the built-in storage cannot be expanded, so what you buy is what you get.
The big news about the OnePlus 6T, however, might not be about the specs, the design or the in-screen fingerprint scanner at all. It might simply be about the fact that for the first time, a OnePlus phone is officially available in the United States. The 6T is sold in T-Mobile stores. You can also get it unlocked and bring it to AT&T or Verizon Wireless, and it will work fine on those two carriers as well, with proper support for 4G LTE.
Speaking of LTE, you get LTE Advanced connectivity with a Category 16 LTE compatible modem, meaning that theoretically, the OnePlus 6T supports download speeds of up to 1Gbps.
In terms of other connectivity options, you also have dual-channel Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC support.
On the OnePlus 6T you have a dual camera on the back: a 16-megapixel main shooter with an f/1.7 lens, a 25mm focal distance and optical image stabilization (OIS), as well as a secondary, 20-megapixel camera with a slightly smaller sensor. In the camera interface you have a 2x button that allows you to take pictures at 2x zoom with just a tap. Unfortunately, the OnePlus 6T does not have a dedicated telephoto lens for those shots, so it relies on software instead to take them.
What is the use for that secondary camera then? OnePlus says that it uses this secondary sensor to gather depth information that it uses to create better background blur in portrait shots. At the same time, we have other companies like Google pull out portrait shots with just a single camera, so we’re left wondering whether OnePlus couldn’t replace the current setup with something like a telephoto or a wide-angle camera that could have been of better use.
Technicalities aside, let’s look at the actual photos, shall we?
The OnePlus 6T does a fine job during the day as it captures images with a good amount of detail, a wide dynamic range and lively colors. We are quite happy with these shots.
You have a 16-megapixel camera up front for your selfies and you can shoot selfies with a Portrait mode to get the background blurred. The quality of selfies is good, but they lack a bit in terms of detail and dynamic range compared to the best phones out there.
There is a new Nightscape mode on the OnePlus 6T, which works best for cityscapes, but it’s more of a gimmick rather than something that many people would use often. What Nightscape boils down to is a long-exposure shot that requires that you hold your phone steady for a couple of seconds, so you get more light at night. The results really require a steady hand or a tripod, and in our testing Nightscape shots turned blurry and left us wanting more.
Taking pictures with the LED flash does not yield great results: you get a distinct red-eye effect with people and the strength of the flash often overpowers the photo, resulting in a photo with a color shift and burned highlights.
The OnePlus 6T does support 4K video recording at 60 or 30 fps, with the latter being the one that offers proper video stabilization. Keep in mind that in both these modes, there is significant cropping in, so you get a tighter view. If you don’t pay too much attention to that, though, quality is pretty good when you have good lighting.
You have a single bottom-firing loudspeaker on the OnePlus 6T and the sound coming through it is impressive. It gets surprisingly loud and boomy and sounds very clear at that.
Still, as inconvenient as the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack may be, we don’t think it’s a dealbreaker. You do get a dongle in the box, and OnePlus has made some very good-sounding $20 USB-C headphones that work great with the 6T. Of course, you can use wireless headphones here as well.
When it comes to call quality, we’ve had no issues with the OnePlus 6T. Voices sound loud and clear, with a natural ring to them and the mic also produces a clear and crisp sound for your callers on the other end of the line.
In our experience with the phone, we could easily get through even the longest days and with moderate use, we could stretch this all the way to a full two days off the charger.
We have run our proprietary battery test on the OnePlus 6T and with a score of nearly 10 hours, it confirms that the phone has stepped things up significantly as it is one of the top battery performers of 2018.
And then you have the company’s fast charging solution (previously known as Dash Charge). It is a proprietary technology that requires OnePlus’ own charger AND cable in order to work, but you get them in the box for free, so no complaints here. Other chargers will also work with the 6T, of course, but will not charge it at full speed.
With its stock charger, it took the OnePlus 6T just an hour and 25 minutes to reach a full charge, meaning that instead of charging the phone overnight, you can plug it in for half an hour during your lunch break and you will still get more than enough juice to get through the day.
We are, however, disappointed to see that the OnePlus 6T still does not support wireless charging. This is one little convenience that more and more phones support these days. Not having it is not a deal breaker, especially with the fast charging that OnePlus supports, but we still miss this feature.
OnePlus has been slowly but surely increasing prices for its phones and the new OnePlus 6T costs slightly more than the 6.
Right below you can see a brief history of how OnePlus phone pricing changed throughout the years:
Despite the continuous growth of OnePlus phone prices, other phones have grown in cost even quicker, so the 6T is still an excellent value when compared to other phones of similar performance. Rivals like the Pixel 3 and Note 9 command prices north of $800 these days, but early 2018 models like the Galaxy S9 can be found for a price similar to that of the 6T. Those rivals may or may not flaunt better cameras, but when compared in terms of performance and battery life, the OnePlus 6T is at least on par.
It is among the fastest and best-performing phones on the market and it has excellent battery life. It feels much more reliable and future-proof than many higher-priced phones. Yet, the 6T undeniably falls short of the best when it comes to the camera. As cool as the new finger scanner looks, it is definitely not as fast or as accurate as the rear-positioned fingerprint reader that was in the 6. And the removal of the headphone jack shows that despite its community rhetoric, OnePlus is ready to do what IT thinks is right rather than comply with what its customers want.
At the end of the day, the OnePlus 6T is not the single best phone that you can buy in 2018, but it doesn’t really need to be. At its $550 price, it’s still head and shoulders ahead of similarly priced rivals.
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