Why I Chose the OnePlus 3 as my Daily Driver: A Nexus 6P Lover’s Excuse

Why I Chose the OnePlus 3 as my Daily Driver: A Nexus 6P Lover’s Excuse

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After writing the final word of my extensive OnePlus 3 review, I was met with the same choice I find myself debating after every XDA review. Do I want to keep daily driving this device, or do I want to go back to my older phone?

Many times this has meant putting my self-bought unit on Swappa, to make back the money I spent on the phone in order to review it. Ever since I bought a Nexus 6P, I haven’t had the itch to upgrade or otherwise switch away from it, even after reviewing powerhouse devices like the HTC 10, which was also shipped away to a (hopefully) happier customer, I went back to the Nexus 6P, and the Android N preview made me feel like there wouldn’t be any devices replacing it anytime soon. To my surprise, I was wrong; the OnePlus 3 – the successor to one of the phones I disliked most in 2015 and that I quickly put away after the review period – has stayed in my pocket for the past two weeks, with no apparent reasons to leave yet.

The OnePlus 3 has some regressions from the Nexus 6P I adored and still cherish. The speakers, for example, simply can’t compare to the loud front-facing goodness Huawei achieved. The fingerprint scanner placement, too is something I prefer on the 6P, although the scanner on the OnePlus 3 is more than adequate. Perhaps the biggest loss I faced with the switch was leaving Android N developer previews behind, as well as the promise of a quick-and-painless update to the official Nougat version once it comes out (and official support in general). That being said, the OnePlus 3 has been one of the most pleasing devices I’ve used and modified in recent memory.

If you want a Snapdragon 820 device with a Stock-like look and feel, the OnePlus 3 is currently the best option

That second word is a key part of why I like the OnePlus 3. As opposed to devices like the Galaxy S7 Edge or the LG G5, the OnePlus 3 is a breeze to unlock, root, flash on and ultimately play with. There’s nothing complicated about unlocking its bootloader, a simple fastboot command will set it free without the need for special codes or jumping through forum hoops.

Once you do that, you are free to flash TWRP and get started on your custom ROM or Xposed adventure. And that’s just what I did: in my review, I noted that the OnePlus 3 is a great device for the spec-hungry tinkerer. This comment was well-understood by XDA users, but a few readers on social media and other platforms like Reddit called the claim into question, focusing on the tinkering aspect — what a tinkerer is, and why such person would like the OnePlus 3.

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Something worth noting about the OnePlus 3 is the combination of close-to-Stock firmware and its very developer-friendly and tinkerer-oriented bootloader and warranty policies. OxygenOS is simply excellent for those that like Stock Android and don’t mind a few additional features that they can fully ignore anyway. In fact, those looking to upgrade to a Snapdragon 820 device will find no competing device running such close-to-stock software out of the box (here’s a list for the curious). This is significant when you consider that many enthusiasts upgrade to devices with newer processors, or at least prefer to spend their (usually yearly) upgrade on a phone that has a newer (or the newest) processing package. For those looking for a Snapdragon 820 device that’s close to Stock, the OnePlus 3 is their best bet as of yet. Having OxygenOS be this way makes it really easy, for example, to customize its UI elements using Xposed modules like GravityBox and N-ify, with very few issues arising (with N-ify, the recents menu is the only thing I found problematic, but the rest works very well).

This alone makes the OnePlus 3 a more attractive choice to the Stock Android fan than devices like the LG G5 or the Galaxy S7 Edge, as these come with modified user interfaces that don’t resemble Google’s vision in the slightest.  Devices like the Sony Xperia X Performance and the HTC 10 do come closer to Stock in look and feel, but we still find many inconsistencies and clashing design changes throughout. What’s more, flashing a Stock Android ROM on LG or Samsung phones in particular has become extremely difficult due to locked bootloaders across many of the variants available, something we ranted about. The OnePlus 3 already has plenty of custom ROM choices available however — a clear consequence of great hardware backed up by developer-friendly company policies.

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Due to the ease of root of the OnePlus 3, I could very quickly solve the few annoyances I encountered, and ultimately tweak the device to my liking. I documented some of my favorite OnePlus 3 mods in an XDA TV video last week, but I’ll summarize the positive changes for those without the minutes to spare. First, I was able to solve the lackluster vibration motor through the Vibration Tuner Xposed module, which allowed me to strengthen the vibration of system feedback. I was also able to get a brighter screen through a neat root app by flar2, and found better ways to make use of the AMOLED display by theming apps through Layers. I’ve also cut down the amount of wakelocks I get by using Amplify, and made doze more aggressive. All of this coupled with the fixes OnePlus introduced with their latest software, including the sRGB color profile, have made my OnePlus 3 a truly worthy daily driver.

And the canvas I painted on is what makes the experience so enjoyable: this phone is fast like no other, being able to sustain performance through long periods of time and also charge fast without impairing the user experience. Even “exclusive” hardware features like the alert slider can be modified, although we wish OnePlus would have included a way to do this on Oxygen OS without leaving us searching for ways to accomplish it through Tasker or modifications. But the point is that even if OnePlus hasn’t included all the things we’d want, they make it very easy for us to implement those features and changes ourselves, through the collective intelligence and talent of the developer community and the ever-curious enthusiasts and tinkerers at XDA.

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The OnePlus 2 rotundly failed to live up to its “2016 flagship killer” promise.

This device is also a clear contrast to the compromises of 2015’s devices. Some of you might recall that I wrote a severely critical capitulation of the Year of Compromises, as I called it, using the OnePlus 2 in particular as a reference, as this OnePlus device had managed to leave all the right boxes unticked. The OnePlus 3 has clearly learned from that mistake, and instead it leaves the user with very few complaints.  You don’t have to restrain yourself due to the device’s constraints; you don’t have to look for a charger or wait while it tops up, you don’t have to put the device away because it gets uncomfortably warm, you don’t need to fiddle with the camera and take multiple shots for a decent result,  and you don’t need a skin on the back to make it less slippery or cover oily fingerprints, You just use the phone, with no particularly annoying compromises that make you adapt to the purchase rather than the other way around.

It’s simply a very good package all around, and it improved upon every important aspect of the OnePlus 2, bringing it up to par with devices twice as expensive. It fulfills any need you have without “buts”, sometimes without glory but never with fault. Coupled with the excellent processing power and the affordable price tag, it manages to deliver an experience that just about every user will appreciate, but that enthusiasts can take to greater heights, and that’s precisely what personally excites me about this phone.

The OnePlus 3 might have its flaws and I have no doubt that the upcoming wave of devices will give consumers plenty of competing choices. As I noted in my review, I am most concerned about its future official support from OnePlus, given the company’s lousy update track record. It’s very likely that by the time Android Nougat comes, I’ll go back to the Nexus line — even if briefly, or until the OnePlus 3 itself gets Nougat one way or another. But as of today, the OnePlus 3 is excellent for those wanting or willing to tweak to their heart’s content and enjoy close-to-Stock ROMs on the latest hardware. I know many would argue that “a device shouldn’t need tweaks” in order to be good, and I agree with them. The OnePlus 3 is a good device as-is, but tweaking is what we do at XDA, it’s our hobby, and it happens to make good things even better. My OnePlus 3 keeps getting better as I find new optimizations or features that I can easily implement, and to me that’s one of the things that give it such a good value.

Check Out XDA’s OnePlus 3 Forum >>