Although a handset is sold globally, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is only one version of that device that is distributed to all regions. Sometimes, there can be differences when it comes to the hardware like the use of different processors and cellular antennas, other times it can be something as simple as having a different OS. While you might not think about this when purchasing from third-party retailers, it's something to be aware of, as it might not be all that easy to return the device or get it working how you want to.
During the recent unboxing of the OnePlus 5T, it came as a bit of surprise that the device was running a specialized version of Android made for the Chinese market. At first glance, things look about the same, but on closer inspection, it could be seen that generally found standard apps like the Google Play Store were nowhere to be found. By checking the in the settings menu, it was discovered that the handset was loaded with HydrogenOS, which is a version that is specifically made for the Chinese market. The OS has its own set of apps but is devoid of anything associated with Google. As a user of many Google services, it was important to have access to these, a quick search revealed that this was possible, but would require some extra work.
There was the option of keeping things simple, as a few forums detailed how the native app store on HydrogenOS could be used to download the Google Play Store app. From there, it would be possible to load different Google apps and services. While this seemed like an okay solution, it was more important to have everything complete, and in order to accomplish this, the OS would have to be replaced. Luckily, OnePlus also offers a version of its handsets that come with OxygenOS, packing all the goodness of Google and its various services. By doing a little more research, it looked like it was relatively easy to replace HydrogenOS with OxygenOS. Although there were plenty of forum posts on how to accomplish this on previous OnePlus handsets, the instructions and feedback for the OnePlus 5T were somewhat varied.
Now, before procedures of this kind, it's always important to back up your data, otherwise if the device is brand new you won't have to worry about this. While it doesn't say that you can switch from HydrogenOS to OxygenOS on its website, OnePlus does give users instructions on how to load a new OS using recovery mode. By following these directions, you should be able to replace your existing OS with the stock one from the manufacturer. It probably doesn't need to be said, but by performing these steps to install an OS onto your handset, you are doing so at your own risk. That means that if something goes wrong, you'll probably be frantically sifting through various forums for help through weeping eyes.
The first part of the process is to make sure you find the proper OS you want to load on your device. At the time of writing, OxygenOS version 4.7.4 is available from the support website, along with instructions on how to get things loaded onto the OnePlus 5T. You'll want to download the OS, which comes in at around 1.5GB, and copy the ZIP file to your handset. If you are using a PC, it is simply a matter of plugging in the unit and copying the file over to its storage. If using a Mac, you'll need a program called Android File Transfer. This will allow your Mac to see your phone as a storage device and transfer the file over. Once this is complete, you'll want to shut down the phone and power it up again while holding the volume down and power button simultaneously.
At this point, you'll be met with a screen that allows you to select your preferred language and also progress to the screen that will allow you to install the previously loaded OS file from internal storage. Once this is process is started, it should only take a few moments to complete. As a small tip, it might be wise to clear out the cache and any existing data when inside the recovery mode menu.
In our experience, while the OS loaded without issue, trying to load Google apps that required a login did not work the first time around, clearing the data resolved this problem.
After completing the steps above, you should have a fully converted OnePlus 5T. Again, this is just one experience and yours may differ. If you want to take a look at the directions from OnePlus on how to load an OS, you can do so on its support website. It doesn't state that you can swap from HydrogenOS to OxygenOS, but this is indeed possible and is remarkably simple.
Now, some may be asking why even bother with this and why not just purchase the proper handset for your region. You are absolutely correct, but if you don't have that option and you must purchase through a third party, it's good to know that changing the OS isn't that big of a deal and can be done in a matter of minutes.
I'd like to extend a big 'Thank You' to the folks at GearBest who supplied the OnePlus 5T for this review. If you would like to purchase the 5T you can head to the OnePlus website or you can pick it up from GearBest.