Call it what you want — the Pixel phone India deserves or the closest to an iPhone like experience on Android, but the fact remains that OnePlus has successfully continued the trend of being the maker of the most user-friendly Android phones that one can buy right now. The OnePlus 8, the cheaper of the two new models, is fundamentally an iterative update with the addition of the latest Qualcomm processor but there are plenty of subtle tweaks around which make it a phone that I’ll recommend to most people agnostic of any Android vs iOS preferential bias. Alongside the iPhone SE, this becomes my pick for most people.
There is a very smart method to the OnePlus madness. It’s almost Apple-like. On paper, it wouldn’t seem that OnePlus has changed anything on the base OnePlus 7/7T formula — but the devil is in the details. Sure, you get the centrally placed camera array on the back which is basically reusing the 48-megapixel primary camera sensor as the OnePlus 7 series. Even on the front, the display is rocking a 90hz refresh rate and a full HD resolution but if you look closer, they’ve curved the edges very mildly in a tasteful way from the sides with the screen folding into the aluminium spine of the phone. This gives the phone the illusion of being broad almost like a Galaxy Note while retaining the innate OnePlus-ness of the gadget from the back.
Anyone who will hold this phone gets shocked at how light and well built, it is for a phone of its screen size — easily making it attractive to even users of the iPhone 11 Pro Max because of this trait. This is also doubled up with the fastest in-display fingerprint scanner I’ve used and supple haptic feedback which made typing this article fun.
They have figured out their formula. Now, people know an OnePlus phone from form, software, accessories to marketing. And this starts with the big red box, and the red cable and the fast 30-watt warp charger that enables one to top-up its 4,300mAh battery. And it’s a highly efficient top-up for a phone with things like a Snapdragon 865 chipset, 12GB RAM, 256GB storage, UFS 3.0 storage and a massive 6.55-inch panel. It gets done within 90 minutes with it reaching 50% in less than 30 minutes.
But the joy of using an OnePlus phone is actually all about the elegance, the nonchalance of Android through which a user can glide using the majesty of the massive screen. It’s so clean, so intuitive while having literally no aberration that can be classified as unneeded. The OnePlus experience over simplifies the meaning of smooth. Oxygen OS which is the underlying layer on top of Android 10 is also known to be updated at light speed with also incredible long term support. Recently, OnePlus updated the OnePlus 5 series with the latest build of Android which is unprecedented in the mad and chaotic world of Android.
When you add the fierce hardware capabilities of this device with its uncluttered and elegant software, you know you’re talking about a phone that’s fiendishly fast, yet very simple to use, for anyone — a gamer, your mother, grandfather, or even you, yourself.
The elegance of the interface also gets accentuated by the quality of the screen. It’s not the technical perfection that OnePlus has strived for with the OnePlus 8 Pro, but it’s functional — with wide colour support and a vivid mode. It’s got the high refresh rate stuff that OnePlus popularised in 2019 aside from generally being just stupendously good for everything. It’s better than the iPhone SE by a country mile if you happen to like big screens while perhaps not as bright as the one on the Mi 10, but definitely deeper with blacks and more usable because of a subtler curvature. In other words, it’s great.
Hardware-wise, it’s cameras aren’t going to set the stage of fire thanks to the older optics, but they will get the job done for most people. Software enhancements make this camera system quite capable. The 48-megapixel main sensor takes some nice photos when given good light and remains competent in low-light mostly due to the night-scape mode. The wide-angle lens is also neat but you’ll mostly want to use the main camera. The macro mode is also a neat fill to have. Portrait photography is highly improved but still not in the league as the iPhone SE or Google’s Pixel 3A.
OnePlus has done a good job of even improving the video on this phone — it takes highly competent 4K video with a dedicated super stable mode, 60 frames per second 4K and a 21:9 cinema shooting facility. While doing so, it captures above-average audio which can make it a decent camcorder.
But all this wouldn’t matter if you’ve been an OnePlus follower for a long time. You’ll want to download a Google Camera hack. OnePlus is amongst the few Android phone manufacturers that have a huge community tuning the Google camera APK which means that you can elevate the performance of the camera by a couple of notches by installing the hack. On OnePlus phones, including the OnePlus 8, this works in a very stable way, which makes it useful for long term use.
Everything isn’t perfect like in the case with any smartphone. To hit the Rs 41,000 mark, OnePlus doesn’t offer water and dust resistance. Its camera hardware is not groundbreaking while you’re mostly working with a souped-up OnePlus 7 Pro in terms of hardware and design. But it also is a delightful phone to use, which makes it my recommendation as to the Android phone for most people alongside the iPhone SE. Perhaps, the biggest challenge will be getting one as OnePlus is struggling to keep up with the demand.