OnePlus 6T won’t have wireless charging, is water resistant but doesn’t have IP rating
The OnePlus 6T will launch this month. By now, we already know quite a lot about OnePlus’ latest smartphone, thanks to 3D renders, marketing renders, and information revealed by OnePlus itself. The phone will be the first OnePlus phone to have an in-display fingerprint sensor and a waterdrop notch. It may also officially launch on T-Mobile. It will also be the first OnePlus phone to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack. Now, CNET has interviewed OnePlus CEO Pete Lau. Mr. Lau revealed several pieces of information about the OnePlus 6T, which we will go into below.
First of all, the phone won’t have wireless charging. It will have a greater degree of water resistance than its predecessors, but it still won’t have an IP rating.
Removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack
Starting off with the headphone jack, Mr. Lau stated that “this has been one of the most difficult decisions for [the company] to make,” and “the most difficult task in the day-to-day is… finding a balance in what’s ultimately going to be part of the end product and what has to be said ‘No’ to.” The trend to remove the headphone jack in smartphones was started by Apple.
Part of the company’s rationale for removing the headphone jack is “to make room” for the in-display fingerprint sensor, which is branded as Screen Unlock by OnePlus. This is because replacing the back-mounted fingerprint sensor in favor of an in-display fingerprint sensor results in essential space being taken up inside near the bottom of the phone. (It’s worth noting that Vivo phones such as the Vivo NEX and the Vivo X23 do retain the 3.5mm headphone jack while having in-display fingerprint sensors.)
The company is also relying on widespread consumer adoption of Bluetooth headphones. OnePlus states that after conducting a user survey, it found that 59% of respondents already used wireless headphones. Another point in the company’s factor is that for the first time since June 2016, sales of Bluetooth headphones overtook non-Bluetooth headphones in the US, according to analyst firm NPD. OnePlus also released its own Bluetooth earphones (named the Bullets Wireless) earlier this year to set the background for the OnePlus 6T’s removal of the headphone jack. The Bullets Wireless was only available for a limited time in markets like India.
Mr. Lau knows that the move will be controversial because there are many plus points of wired headphones: choice, affordability, less connectivity issues, and the advantage of not having to be charged. CNET also points out that Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, conducted polls on Twitter asking whether they would prefer to keep the headphone jack. In one poll, 88% of respondents preferred to keep it.
However, according to Mr. Lau, the trade-offs are worth it. He stated that users experiencing Screen Unlock would like it, as they would realize that it’s the experience which they wanted.
Screen Unlock – OnePlus’ name for the in-display fingerprint sensor
Moving on to the in-display fingerprint sensor, it’s important to note that Vivo has already adopted in-display fingerprint sensors in many of its phones (Vivo X20 Plus UD, Vivo X21, Vivo NEX, Vivo X23, and Vivo V11 Pro). OPPO has also adopted them in the OPPO R17/R17 Pro. The Xiaomi Mi 8 Explorer Edition and the Mi 8 Pro have pressure sensitive in-display fingerprint sensors, and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro will also have an in-display fingerprint sensor.
In-display fingerprint sensors (also known as FOD or fingerprint-on-display) haven’t been adopted by Samsung yet, which means that OnePlus will beat it in doing so. The adoption of the in-display fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 6T has the positive benefit of eliminating the need for users to pick up the phone to unlock it.
A OnePlus engineer told CNET in a prior interview that Screen Unlock reduces the number of steps to complete the action of unlocking the phone, which is usually performed multiple times a day. This feature will be included as an addition to other unlock options such as Face Unlock, providing users more choice.
CNET notes that despite being known as in-screen fingerprint sensors, the technology is embedded underneath displays. The whole workflow works like this: a user taps the designated area of the display with their finger, a sensor array turns on the display to light the user’s finger, the fingerprint is then read by an optical image sensor and an AI processor, and if the fingerprint matches, the phone is unlocked.
OnePlus revealed that originally, 2017’s OnePlus 5T was supposed to have an in-display fingerprint sensor. However, it didn’t work as fast or as efficiently as OnePlus wanted, and therefore, it was delayed until the OnePlus 6T. Mr. Lau believes that the phone industry will continue in the direction of such sensors, similar to the display notch.
Screen Unlock will come at a cost, however. OnePlus supposedly removed the headphone jack because of it, and it also made the phone 0.45mm thicker. It also “bumped up” the overall cost of the phone. According to earlier reports, the OnePlus 6T may cost $550 in the US. Mr. Lau stated that Screen Unlock technology was very new and it was “not cheap.” According to him, it requires a definite cost.
Lack of wireless charging
With respect to wireless charging, OnePlus has consistently stated that it will not add wireless charging until various pain points are resolved. Mr. Lau reiterated much of the same in the CNET interview. As the prices of its flagship phones increase each generation, OnePlus has to consider adding features that have traditionally been restricted to flagship phones.
OnePlus’ competitors Apple and Samsung have wireless charging in their flagship phones. OnePlus, however, relies on its own proprietary wired fast charging protocol known as Dash Charging. It’s a popular feature, and it works well.
According to Mr. Lau, for OnePlus to release a phone with fast charging, the phone would have to charge as quickly as what users accustomed to with Dash Charging. This means that it would have to be thicker, and it would also conduct a lot of heat. He stated: “We’re working hard on this. When we get to the day that the wireless charging can get up to speed without the implication of heat that we expect, then I believe we can integrate the technology.”
The next factor is water resistance. Many flagship Android phones now have an IP rating for certified water resistance. The OnePlus 6 notably did not have an IP rating, even though it was splash resistant. According to Mr. Lau, the OnePlus 6T is more water resistant than any of its predecessors, and it can survive an accidental drop in the sink or a splash during a rainstorm. However, it won’t have an IP rating because the cost to go through official IP certification is not worth it for OnePlus.
Mr. Lau stated that apart from few users, most users don’t use their phone in contexts like swimming. Asking other consumers to pay $30 more as an example for the sake of an IP rating to accommodate the few is unreasonable, according to him.
Finally, the OnePlus co-founder arrived to the pricing part. Mr. Lau is aware of the fact that OnePlus would degrade its reputation as a vendor of affordable flagship phones if the company’s pricing was on par with its competitors. On the other hand, adding new features will increase the price of the product. The CNET report concluded by stating that a possible $550 price tag would still make it cheaper than phones such as the Apple iPhone XS, Samsung Galaxy Note 9, and the Google Pixel 2. (On the other hand, OnePlus is being under-cut by the likes of Xiaomi with the Pocophone F1 in several markets.)
CNET noted that Mr. Lau doesn’t appear to be “too worried” about any outcry over the OnePlus 6T’s price. He’s more concerned about user reaction to the in-display fingerprint sensor.
It’s fair to expect OnePlus to officially announce the launch date for the OnePlus 6T any day now.