/OnePlus 6T review: Trivial changes hamper a great phone

OnePlus 6T review: Trivial changes hamper a great phone

Design-wise, both the OnePlus 6T and OnePlus 6 are clearly sibling devices. Save for the different color options, both models feature a similar frame and curved glass back to give that premium feel with a good grip — especially on the matte versions.

The 6T has a cleaner look, however. The rear fingerprint reader has been replaced by an in-display sensor, while the notch has been reshaped to a dewdrop, as I’ve already mentioned. And hey, what happened to the headphone jack?

OnePlus CEO Pete Lau told me that his team couldn’t find space for a headphone jack due to the larger battery and the in-display fingerprint reader. While I don’t mind using my Bluetooth cans with my phone, there have been times when I wanted to plug in other headphones quickly, only to realize that I left my USB-C adapter at home. The disappearance of the headphone jack from smartphones continues, but it’s still a let-down from a supposedly geek-friendly brand, especially one with the slogan “never settle.” I don’t buy Lau’s excuse. If Vivo could keep the headphone jack on its dual-screen phone with in-display fingerprint reader plus a reasonable 3,500mAh battery (just 200mAh shy of the 6T’s), then why not OnePlus?

OnePlus 6T

When it comes to notches, the smartphone world has reached a new level of minimalism. Alongside the punch-hole design, you can even go all-screen if you don’t mind switching to a pop-up front camera. In the 6T’s case, however, it’s gone for the dewdrop notch — and I’m still a sucker for it. It simply looks more natural than punching a hole in the corner of the screen.

This dewdrop is also a vast visual improvement over the wider notch on the OnePlus 6, and so far, I haven’t found any trade-offs in user experience — the new proximity sensor and earpiece work just fine. Both the body and the 1080p AMOLED screen are actually slightly longer — it wasn’t obvious until I placed both phones side by side. Likewise, the negligible bump in weight and thickness were hardly noticeable, which is a plus given the beneficial gain from the larger 3,700mAh battery — a 400mAh or 12-percent bump from the 6.

The battery easily lasts for roughly 13 hours, depending on how immersed I get in Pokémon Go and Facebook. When depleted, the bundled 20W fast charger gets you from zero to 50 percent in around half an hour, and it does so without significantly heating up the phone. There’s still no wireless charging here, but given the impressive charging speed over wire, I’m fine with that.

OnePlus 6T

As for the AMOLED screen, you get the usual vibrant colors, which may or may not suit your taste, though there is a DCI-P3 setting for a more natural picture — that’s what I’m using. The dewdrop notch here is achieved by repackaging the phone’s proximity sensor and reshaping the earpiece to a slit along the top edge, leaving just the front camera in the middle. This is actually a common setup among Chinese flagship phones, and phone calls sound just fine. On a related note, the bottom-firing speaker is actually a little louder than the one on the 6, and even though we’re still stuck with a mono speaker, it sounds great… for what it is.

If I must nitpick, I wish the 6T packed more powerful haptic vibrations (and yes, I’ve already set it to the strongest setting). I didn’t have this problem when I used my 6 naked, but ever since I switched to the 6T — and slapped on the official nylon bumper case — I have missed phone calls and ended up apologizing to my wife. Of course, I could simply ditch the case or get used to wearing a smartwatch, but I’d much rather have an upgraded haptic vibration for the sake of versatility, and I’m sure many of you would, too.

The OnePlus 6T shares the same computing specs as its predecessor, (a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset, 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage), so it’s no surprise that the Android Pie-based OxygenOS runs like a well-oiled engine here. I can swiftly jump between apps while enjoying the smooth scrolling throughout the system, and I have yet to encounter crashes or reboots.

OnePlus 6T

I won’t bore you again on how OnePlus rarely lets me down on the software side, especially in performance and UI design. The only notable new software feature on the 6T is Smart Boost, which is a RAM optimization feature to prioritize system resources for frequently used apps. It’s hard to do a direct comparison, but I have noticed that apps like Facebook and Twitter loaded a tad faster on my 6T than on my 6.

Many of the slick features that were first introduced on the 6 are still worth praising. I love the navigation gestures which replace the navigation bar at the bottom, which allow me to take full advantage of this longer screen. I’ve seen similar implementations from Xiaomi, Huawei and Honor, but OnePlus’s is by far the most intuitive. Gaming Mode has also been boosted with customizable notification styles for third-party instant-messaging apps — you can have them show up as small floating windows or just plain white text along the top, so you can play uninterrupted. Unless it’s important.

Sadly, despite all the goodness, there’s one new feature that disappoints: the in-display fingerprint reader. Coming from the OnePlus 6’s conventional rear fingerprint sensor, there’s no denying that the 6T’s supposedly more advanced offering is slower.

The new reader is fundamentally flawed: It doesn’t work well, if at all, under bright daylight or in total darkness. Having tried the feature on other smartphones, with similar results, I think it’s early days for in-display optical fingerprint readers.