OnePlus surprised us all this year by kinda sorta refreshing the OnePlus 3 with the OnePlus 3T. What does that T stand for? Who knows.
What we do know is that it’s a OnePlus 3 body with some juiced up hardware. The good news is that all of your old cases and accessories will still work, and if you were in the market for a OnePlus 3, you’re basically getting some free hardware upgrades. Unfortunately, with such a minor upgrade/refresh, it can be hard to get excited about a phone that we’ve basically already seen, but let’s find out how OnePlus managed to do.
The OnePlus 3T is quite literally exactly like the OnePlus 3. It has the same cool aluminum finish, the same HTC One (M8) inspired design, and all the ports, buttons, and cameras are in the same place.
I did get to review a gunmetal color this time around instead of silver, so it’s nice to see the subtle difference between the two. Otherwise, completely identical. There’s a USB Type-C port on the bottom in between a 3.5mm headphone jack and a speaker, and you’ll find the power button and SIM tray on the right side of the device, opposite the volume rocker and notification toggle on the left side.
OnePlus dropped in a handful of better specs with the OnePlus 3T, including a Snapdragon 821 instead of the Snapdragon 820, but there’s still 6GB of RAM (which is plenty, don’t worry) and a bigger battery. The difference between the Snapdragon 820 and Snapdragon 821? Pretty negligible.
Flipping through apps is a breeze, and it takes a ton of work to make the Snapdragon 821 break a sweat. And since OnePlus has worked out the kinks with their insane amount of RAM, you’ll pretty much never need to worry about apps closing and needing to be reopened. It does happen, but in normal usage it’s never going to come up.
The fingerprint scanner is still incredibly fast with the OnePlus 3T. It’s always active and extremely accurate, so you can launch right into the home screen within a second after picking your phone up. I’m also a huge fan of fingerprint sensors on the front of the device as opposed to the back, so I really like OnePlus’ front-facing implementation.
This might be a sticking point for some, but OnePlus stuck with a 1080p screen again. The standard for flagship devices seems to be 1440p in 2016, but OnePlus has sacrificed a few pixels for better performance and battery life. It’s a worthwhile trade-off if you’re not interested in uber high-resolution screens.
Battery life on the original OnePlus 3 was okay. Not great, not bad. Just sufficient. OnePlus bumped up the battery capacity to 3400mAh from 3,000mAh from the OnePlus 3, and that roughly 10% improvement seems to correlate into about 10% better battery life. It’s still not a powerhouse that will last two to three days on a single charge, but it’s sufficient for getting through an entire day without needing to find a wall outlet. And when you do need to charge, the Dash charging still charges the phone insanely fast. It’s the same speed as the original OnePlus 3, but that’s still about 60% battery in half an hour. Hard to complain about anything there.
This is the biggest area where that 1080p display shines, although it’d be nice to see some software optimization squeeze a bit of extra life out of the battery capacity. The Galaxy S7 Edge has a similar battery but tends to last longer, so there’s definitely still work that could be done on OnePlus’s part.
OnePlus flipped the industry on its head when they released an exclusive, highly modified skin for the OnePlus 3T, loaded with tons of features and home-grown apps.
I’m kidding, it’s also almost exactly like the OnePlus 3, except one version behind. Yep, the OnePlus 3 is on the verge of seeing Android 7.0 Nougat and the OnePlus 3T is launching with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. Seriously, what.
Regardless, OnePlus doesn’t usually go overboard with their software enhancements, and the OnePlus 3T is no exception. It’s a relatively lightly skinned version of Android that relies on many stock Google apps to make sure you have a very Google-y experience.
There are a few tiny little tweaks that are thrown in with OnePlus 3T, however, including a different design for the far left “Shelf” section of the home screen. Instead of a dark background, the new Shelf just uses a dimmed version of your current wallpaper. It’s a purely aesthetic change, since everything else works identically, but some users will probably welcome the more subtle design. They’ve also added a “clear all” button to the notification shade at the bottom center of your notification to quickly clear everything, and there’s a new OnePlus Community app that comes pre-installed. I’ve also noticed an advanced entry in the settings menu with a few things like a scheduled power off/power on cycle.
The camera in the OnePlus 3T saw a few improvements, but nothing drastically different from what we got in the OnePlus 3. It’s a pretty standard 16-megapixel shooter that takes great shots relative to its price tag, just like the OnePlus 3. It won’t dethrone the some of the top-rated shooters currently on the market, but it doesn’t cost as much, either.
There’s no point in comparing the OnePlus 3T to the OnePlus 3 since the 3 is effectively discontinued and all new purchases will be the OnePlus 3T. With that being said, if you’re currently using a OnePlus 3, you probably don’t need to spend money upgrading to the OnePlus 3T. If you’re in the market for a phone, you really can’t go wrong with the OnePlus 3T for the price.
OnePlus made improvements across the board, including processor, battery life, and camera quality, all of which make this an even more compelling flagship alternative. At $399 you’ll get a better CPU than the Galaxy S7 and an equivalent processor to the Google Pixel while saving a couple hundred dollars, if not more. Battery life is easily on par with the other devices, and camera quality is close enough to satisfy most users.
Like its predecessor, the OnePlus 3T is an incredibly well-rounded, solid device that competes well above its price range. It makes compromises, but should definitely be worth a look for anyone trying to pinch some pennies on a new high-end phone.