OnePlus 3/3T Retrospective: Why I Can’t Put Down the Most Popular Device on XDA Right Now
It’s no secret that XDA users are fond of the OnePlus 3 and 3T, in particular their hardware and tinkering potential. The excitement goes beyond the image of the company that provides it, as OnePlus has been (often rightly) caught under fire by the community multiple times due to questionable decisions.
These aren’t few either, and as Editor in Chief of the XDA Portal, I’ve made sure our news and analysis went through each of them. We’ve been the first to publicly report on a number of these, including how OnePlus was leaking IMEIs through their OTA checker, as well as bootloader vulnerabilities both old and new. I also personally wrote up a small discovery on why their RAM management was so pitiful at release, how their lack of compliance with the GPLv2 was a big problem, and very recently I found that the company had introduced a cheating mechanism for benchmarks. All of these events happened in the past six months, and if you look back further than that, there’s a lot more that the company has been criticized for, dating back to their original OnePlus One and their ruthless (and often shameless) online marketing strategy. In short, the company behind the OnePlus 3 might have messed up many times, but I’ve also seen them take action to address many of these pitfalls (some relatively quickly at that). When I think of the OnePlus 3, though, I hardly think of OnePlus, and that’s a good thing.
In terms of forum activity, the OnePlus 3 & 3T have assumed the Nexus mantle
To understand why that is, I must first bring up that despite that I led the analysis and writing of many of the above-mentioned articles, I have also written very positively about the phone itself — if you follow my articles, you probably already know that. Indeed, it wasn’t too long after my review that I wrote an editorial where I said that the OnePlus 3 was the one device that finally kicked the Nexus 6P off my pocket. That’s not the only way in which the OnePlus 3 has replaced the Nexus 6P — if we look at the top three most visited and active device subforums on XDA, the OnePlus 3 is found alongside the Redmi Note 3 and below the Galaxy S7 Edge. Our analytics tells it like it is — the OnePlus 3 is massively popular among our users, so much so that when we combine the stats for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, the result is the most active community (or most visited forum) on XDA, surpassing Samsung’s mass-selling Galaxy S7 Edge. The OnePlus 3 surpassed the Nexus 6P in this metric many months ago, and that’s perhaps why so many users are quick to call the phone a Nexus of sorts too. While I wouldn’t go that far that quickly, there’s certainly some truth to it — if we define a Nexus phone by its development community, as many enthusiasts do, then the OnePlus 3 and 3T have assumed that mantle.
My Phone, My Rules
When I boot up my 3T and check out whatever bootanimation greets me that week, I am first and foremost reminded of this fact, and of the XDA community and not OnePlus. That’s because the OnePlus 3T has become a playground of sorts for me, as it is for many other XDA users. I’ve been flashing custom ROMs on it for a while, trying out new things and finding out which modifications best complement the hardware, and generally enjoying the device by making it my own. Not only do I have many options available for fine-tuning my experience, but the forums have also been really helpful and I find myself browsing for new ROMs or general discussion at least once a day through Labs. As I wrote in an editorial last year, this is the kind of experience I got out of my Nexus devices, which also had me browsing the forums late into the night trying a new setup.
The hardware, too, has held up really well. I alternate between carrying the device naked and running a “karbon” case, and while I found the design of the phone a tad boring and safe (and still do) I have come to appreciate its solid build, slim profile and thin bezels. It’s a sleek device, for sure, but what I am mostly interested in is the hardware inside. As frequent readers likely know by now, I am sort of a performance fiend when it comes to my phones. That’s why I go to great lengths to measure how my devices actually perform, and to figure out what makes them tick — lately, I’ve been going even deeper thanks to the help of many XDA members like sultanxda and Mostafa Wael (shoutout!). The hardware of the OnePlus 3T is strong enough to carry me into 2017 without compromises, in a sort of unexpected twist given the way in which OnePlus used to advertise their phones as flagship killers (yet rotundly failed with the OnePlus 2). The extra RAM, well-implemented Snapdragon 821 and UFS 2.0 storage are certainly components I appreciate and enable me to enjoy a phone with such smooth performance, almost invariably across every ROM and kernel combination I’ve tried.
Battery life has yet to fail me — I still routinely get 5 hours of usage out of my OnePlus 3T, and I can still hit six and slightly more if I manage to stick on Wi-Fi for a majority of the day. I am quite a power user, so I certainly appreciate the battery capacity increase that the revised OnePlus 3T brought to the table, but I also never had any issues with the battery life of the OnePlus 3 proper. Dash Charging remains one of the best features of the device and is still the overall fastest and most useful charging standard around. We have an objective and data driven charging protocol comparison in the works that better explains its relative standing, but I’ve also done thorough testing of some of its better properties including how it allows for unthrottled charging regardless of what you are doing on your phone — including heavy 3D games. I don’t fly too often (certainly not as often as I could due to classes), but when I do I find Dash Charging extremely satisfying because of this fact.
Finally, while the OnePlus 3T’s Marshmallow stock ROM was in many ways a total reversal of what made OxygenOS so great in the first place, the Nougat update managed to further clean up the interface and provide a better user experience. There are few stock ROMs I would gladly pick over CyanogenMod/LineageOS and AOSP ROMs in general, and OxygenOS certainly meets that refined criteria. In fact, I would like the ROM to adopt its beta features faster, as some of the things OnePlus has been introducing every couple of weeks (barring holidays) has been either tactful, useful, or completely unobtrusive — the way things should be.
Overall, I can’t say I am yet tired of the OnePlus 3T, and I can’t see myself putting the device down until a 2017 release offers the same degree of flexibility and a smoother UX. I’ve enjoyed a few months without any big releases to test either, so I am personally really excited to contrast this device with the new round of uber flagships coming our way at MWC and beyond. There are smartphones that are currently better in many ways — including various hardware components that OnePlus hasn’t been able to futureproof as much as the processing package. An example I got to thoroughly examine recently is the Meizu Pro 6 Plus (yes, the cheating one), which looks quite a bit like the OnePlus 3T externally, yet ultimately accomplishes a much better design (in terms of overall grip, handling and bezels) with a better camera and a much richer screen, for a similar price. However, the combination of great hardware, relative affordability and excellent development community is what makes the phone for me, and why I choose to put it in my pocket every day. In my OnePlus 3 review, now over six months ago, I called the phone “a perfect canvas for spec-hungry tinkerers” and I think that was more of a prediction than an assessment back then — time eventually proved that evaluation to be correct, and the phone stood strong and built a healthy developer community as well, solidifying its niche among enthusiasts.
I have a lot to criticize OnePlus for, and that likely won’t end soon — but as much as I might disagree with the company’s decisions in recent times, I do appreciate their willingness to iterate and implement feedback. Ultimately, though, the OnePlus 3T is a badass phone regardless of who builds it, and I am not one to let my opinion on a manufacturer change my opinion of their product. I hope the OnePlus 4 (T?) is even better in every way, as it looks to have some fierce competition ahead of it. Regardless of whether OnePlus pulls a 2 on us and screws up their flagship, though, I have a strong feeling the OnePlus 3 will live on at XDA for quite a while, dare I say even beyond the legacy of the OnePlus One.Check out the best ROMs, kernels and mods for the OnePlus 3!