Hands on with the OnePlus 5T

OnePlus formally took the wraps off of its latest flagship today, and the 5T is very similar to the OnePlus 5 in many respects, with some important improvements. I was at the event, so naturally, I got to spend some hands on time with the phone.

The two things of note that have changed are the rear camera and the display. Out of those two, the display is probably the most important, since many complained of a "jelly scrolling" effect that the OnePlus 5 had, because the display was inverted. I played around with 5T a bit, and was pleased to see that in my admittedly limited time with it, there were no issues.

But aside from using a proper display this time around, the company also went with the latest trend of having an 18:9 aspect ratio, which means that there's no fingerprint sensor on the front of the phone. That has been moved to the back.

I set up my fingerprint on one of the demo units, and also registered my face for Face Unlock (I'm really not sure if I was supposed to, but I did). The fingerprint sensor is fast, just as you'd expect it to be (OnePlus says 0.2 seconds), but I was more impressed with Face Unlock.

During the announcement, OnePlus described Face Unlock as a feature of OxygenOS, implying that it's a software feature. I asked around to try and find out if there's any additional hardware or if it might be coming in the update for the OnePlus 5, but it was remarkably hard to find any staff that knew what they were talking about. Whenever I asked a technical question, the staff that manned the demo tables just said something like, "Oh, I don't actually work for OnePlus. I'm just event staff."

I got the impression that Face Unlock only uses the front camera, and the point of explaining the staff's lack of knowledge was that I can't say that this is confirmed. What I found interesting though is just how well the feature works.

If it is indeed just the front camera, the feature is quite remarkable. Upon waking the phone, it logged me in right away. I borrowed someone's hat and zipped up my coat, and it still recognized me instantly. And as you can see from the images, the lighting in there was terrible, which is a further endorsement for Face Unlock.

But I was also unable to fool it with a selfie. Admittedly, I'd need more testing in the real world, but I couldn't fake this thing out. That's an impressive feat, since Microsoft and Apple have to use 3D cameras to map users' faces, and LG and Samsung have an advanced mode on their phones that while more secure, is very slow.

The bottom of the device still holds the USB Type-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and speaker, which is just fine. I also love that OnePlus includes a switch on the side for silencing notifications, something that very few Android OEMs do.

As mentioned earlier, the camera does have some improvements as well, with the secondary lens now sporting an f/1.7 aperture. I really didn't spend a lot of time with this, as smartphone cameras are really things that need to be tested in the real world to form actual opinions.

And that's about it, since the phone is pretty similar to its predecessor. The new AMOLED display looks great, and that redesign is the main feature of the new device.

I also want to note that the pricing is very impressive as well. With Samsung selling its flagship for over $900 and Apple selling its flagship for over $1,000, $499 for a Snapdragon 835 and 6GB RAM is phenomenal. Equally impressive is the price of an upgrade in storage, which is just $60.

The OnePlus 5T goes on sale on November 21 in the U.S., Europe, and India.

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