Last year OnePlus, a company only a few months old at the time, released the OnePlus One – a phone which excited Android geeks across the globe. Just over a year later, the company has released the 2, a phone which was announced amid a blaze of hype and glory in the second quarter of 2015.
A key selling point, if not the key selling point, for the OnePlus One was its near cost price combined with high end specs. Fans will be pleased that OnePlus has stuck with the same strategy while pricing the 2, selling the 64GB variant of their second flagship at just £289. As you would expect from a phone branded “2016 flagship killer”, the 2 also ships with an incredibly strong specs sheet: 4GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 810 processor and fingerprint scanner making up just a few of the phone’s top notch features.
However, the issue with the OnePlus 2’s specs is that they look much better on paper than they really are in the flesh. This shortcoming is one which OnePlus brought upon itself through its #hype marketing campaign, a much criticised PR strategy involving slowly leaking the specs of 2 in order to drum up excitement and column inches.
The two most exciting “leaks” from OnePlus were a Snapdragon 810 processor and a USB type C charging port.
Sadly, though, these two features are actually among the most disappointing when you actually try the phone. The USB type C port is a great, attention grabbing feature on paper, however, in reality it isn’t much more than a gimmick. Nothing represents this more than the fact the charging cable is reversible, meaning you can charge with the cable either way up (not with either end), a nifty feature, but ultimately pointless – it’s not too hard to work out which way up a charging cable should go. The pointlessness of the Type C port is made more obvious through the fact that OnePlus haven’t taken advantage of the technology’s fast charging capability, with one of the biggest appeals of USB Type C technology being the speed at which it can charge devices and transfer data. Although the USB Type C future proofs the OnePlus 2, it is not a well executed feature – moreover, given very few people have Type C cables anyway, charging away from home could be an absolute nightmare.
The Snapdragon 810 is another big selling point of the OnePlus 2, although it is perhaps one of the more controversial specs, due to multiple reports of overheating. As a result of temperature concerns, OnePlus underclocked the processor to keep it cool, basically by hampering performance. Despite this precaution, daily use – in my experience – of the 2 still made the top half of the device heat up, something which happened worryingly regularly while on standby. The CPU also contributes to fairly poor battery performance from the OnePlus 2, which lasts less time than my One did on similar use. The biggest problem with the 3300 mAH battery is, again, its performance on standby, with the phone hitting less than 20% after 10 hours on and only 90 minutes of screentime. Of course the 2’s battery is by no means the worst in the business, it is just disappointing it isn’t an improvement on the One‘s or at least one par.
However, disappointments aside, there are many areas in which the 2 truly does excel – the design, for example.
When OnePlus launched the One, they made a phone with a fantastic inside, but a slightly underwhelming outside; it felt cheap, a little flimsy and basically didn’t have the body of a true flagship. With the 2, that has all been rectified, with the metal chassis – in particular – adding a sturdy feel to the phone, making it feel as premium as they come. The metallic sides also drastically improves the look of the device, with both the top (headphone jack) and bottom (speakers) standing out as design triumphs.
The placement of the camera unit on the (now removable and swappable) back of the OnePlus 2, is another small but brilliant piece of design. On the One, the camera sat too high up the back, making the device look too tall and cheap; on the 2 its placement grounds the look of the phone making everything look excellently proportioned.
These are just a couple of examples of the way in which the OnePlus 2 presents itself as a thoroughly attractive and well built device. It is clear that OnePlus’s design team learnt from all the mistakes and shortcomings of the One when it came to design and fixed them.
Yet it is the fact OnePlus have simply improved the One which is the problem with their new device – it is revolutionary and it isn’t especially exciting. Sure, elements such as the fingerprint scanner impress on a specs sheet (although there are real responsiveness issues with the home button/fingerprint scanner), the design is an improvement on the One and the price is excellent, but OnePlus is claiming this device is going to shake up the entire flagship market. Not just this year, but next year as well, with their marketing team branding the OnePlus 2 the “2016 flagship killer”. It’s simply not. Next year it will be forgotten as it doesn’t really impress against its predecessor and struggles against this year’s real flagships.
Ultimately, if you are looking for an affordable, high-end smartphone, the OnePlus 2 is definitely a fantastic option. Its positives include a wonderful design, bags of RAM and a useful fingerprint scanner; its negative points start at the glaring lack of NFC and go to a battery hungry and very warm Snapdragon 810. The 2 is still an impressive device and proves OnePlus remain capable of making an excellent phone, however, it doesn’t come close to living up to the #hype campaign run ahead of its release and if you have a OnePlus One, don’t be in any hurry to eBay your phone to get an elusive invite for the 2.
It’s worth its price tag to someone without a phone of the calibre of the OnePlus One, but it isn’t to anyone who already has something in a similar league. And, if you’ve got money to spend – if you’re simply looking for a flagship rather than an affordable flagship – stick with the market leaders: OnePlus’ new phone isn’t worrying the likes of Samsung or LG.