OnePlus 6T Review: Top-Notch Specs, Unmatched Price
OnePlus phones have always had one core selling point: they’re as powerful as the latest flagship Android phones, yet cost hundreds of dollars less. That winning combination made the OnePlus 6 and 5T two of our top recommended phones of the past year. The new OnePlus 6T mostly continues that trend, but this time it’s bringing some cutting-edge innovation with it.
Wait, the Fingerprint Sensor Is Where?!
Instead of putting your finger on a fingerprint button or pad on the back or edge of the phone (or maybe under the screen), the OnePlus 6T has a biometric scanner built right into the bottom third of its display. A fingerprint icon pops up if you move the phone, you place your thumb on it, the logo lights up under said thumb, then the screen unlocks and you’re in. It’s ever so slightly slower than a standard Touch ID-style fingerprint sensor, like the ones on older iPhones (and every other Android phone).
It does take a little practice. At first, unlocking my 6T was a nightmare. I scanned my two thumbs, and it was taking me close to two full seconds to unlock the phone. I didn’t understand why. After a day or so, I decided to rescan my thumbs, but keep them at the same angle (from the side) the entire time. After that adjustment, unlocking has been incredibly speedy.
I chalk my early troubles up to the new kind of sensor. Instead of using capacitive touch, like a regular fingerprint reader, OnePlus stuck an optical fingerprint reader under the AMOLED screen. It’s invisible to the naked eye, but since it’s a visual reader, it’s possible that me scanning my thumbs from varying angles had a negative impact on my unlock speed.
I did have to adapt to the tech a bit, and the instructions offered by OnePlus could be more clear, but once it gets your prints, the 6T is convenient and easy to unlock. So far, I prefer the location of the sensor to most every other location I’ve used on a phone. It also seems to be holding up despite swiping and tapping around the screen—though OnePlus reps did say it works best if you keep the nearly-invisible screen protector intact.
Comfortable and Classy
The new fingerprint sensor sits under a mighty nice HD AMOLED display. OnePlus has found a way to stretch it 6.4 inches with a bezel that’s almost as consistently thin as the ones on Apple’s X-series iPhones, all the way around. There is a notch at the top, but it’s so small, it’s more of a pimple. It hasn’t bugged me much at all.
Like every OnePlus phone, the design of the 6T is an amalgamation of the hottest smartphone trends. The frame is made of metal and feels durable—except the back, which is made of glass. I usually hate glass backs, though I have liked the soft, brushed feel of the midnight black version ($30 extra), which has a matte coating on the glass that repels fingerprints. Not that I get to enjoy it all that often. Usually it’s locked inside the rubbery case that comes with every OnePlus 6T. It’s not the greatest case, but like a bike helmet, it will save you at some point. Wear it!
Sadly, the new fingerprint sensor takes up so much space inside the phone that OnePlus had to say goodby to its beloved 3.5mm headphone jack (if you don’t already own wireless headphones, it’s time to think about it). As a consolation, you get a USB-C-to-3.5mm adapter dongle in the box (along with a fast charger, though the phone does not have wireless charging capabilities). The helpful ring/vibrate/silent toggle on OnePlus phones also survived this latest redesign. Despite having fewer ports, the 6T doesn’t have an official waterproof rating, though OnePlus claims it’s somewhat splash resistant.
The software got a subtle facelift as well, thanks to OnePlus’s impressively timely update to Android 9 (Pie). Almost no Android phones outside Google’s Pixels have software this up-to-date, but in the few weeks I’ve had the 6T, it’s gotten two security updates. Reps told me OnePlus upgraded many of its devices to Android Pie within 45 days of the OS’s release, and is committed to keeping its phones updated with bi-monthly security and software updates. Older OnePlus phones all the way back to the 3 and 3T (both from 2016) will get the Android Pie update shortly, if they haven’t already.
The power optimization features in Pie have helped me extend the battery life of the 6T. By giving less power to apps I don’t use much, I’ve been able to make the phone last beyond a full day before needing a charge. OnePlus’s reachability gestures are helpful, too. You can swipe down from anywhere on the homescreen to open the notifications menu, or swipe up from anywhere to bring up your full roster of installed apps. These are just two of many custom gestures you can use. I’m honestly not sure why every Android manufacturer doesn’t copy them.
Under the hood, the OnePlus 6T has a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM—or 8 GB if you get the midnight black version of the handset. There’s no MicroSD slot, but it does come with 128 GB of storage. The power, along with OnePlus’s dedicated gaming mode, makes it an excellent phone for more robust 3-D games.
OnePlus phones usually struggles in the camera department. The 6T’s 16-megapixel primary rear camera still isn’t as cutting-edge as the ones in the new iPhone XS or Galaxy S9, but it’s capable and useful. I took it on trips to New York City and San Francisco in the past few weeks, and it performed its touristy duties admirably.
It sometimes struggles to deliver a crystal clear shot if you shoot quickly. The camera also shallows out its depth of field too much on a macro shot, but colors are accurate and on par with shots taken by many phones that cost hundreds of dollars more. The 20-megapixel telephoto lens also adds 2x optical zooming—helpful if you want to get a little closer to your subject without using your feet. The onboard optical image stabilization also comes in handy when you’re snapping photos while walking.
The selfie camera does sometimes outshine the competition. Many phones still have 7-megapixel front cams. The 6T has a 16-megapixel sensor on the front, and that level of detail really helps. It’s a competitive camera.
Now on Verizon
If you want a top-of-the-line phone, but don’t want to pay $800-$1,000 for it, the OnePlus 6T is every bit as powerful and starts at $549. In fact, it’s likely far more up-to-date on security patches and probably more comfortable to use thanks to its innovative in-display fingerprint sensor and array of nice touch gestures.
If you’re on T-Mobile or AT&T, you should consider this phone. For the first time, Verizon users can also pop their Nano SIM cards into it. You’re best off buying it directly from OnePlus.com, though T-Mobile now sells it directly, as well.
The OnePlus 6T is the best Android phone you can buy for under $550, and one of the best phones you can buy, period. Unless you’re on Sprint, try it out.