It’s hard to believe OnePlus is almost five years old. The OnePlus One made a great first impression back in 2014, but arguably, it wasn’t until last spring’s OnePlus 6 that the company achieved its goal of making a true “flagship killer”. It’s been a bumpy road, though. The OnePlus 2 was a miss, and the OnePlus 5 and 5T cameras didn’t live up to the hype. Until the OnePlus 6, only the OnePlus 3 and 3T came close to hitting the mark.
Now we have the OnePlus 6T, which builds upon the OnePlus 6 and underpins the company’s first partnership with a US carrier: T-Mobile. That’s a big deal. So, how does the OnePlus 6T compare to other flagships? Is it the company’s best phone to date? Does T-Mobile’s model make any compromises? Let’s find out.
Hardware and design
Put the OnePlus 6T next to the OnePlus 6 with their screens turned off, and it’s hard to tell them apart. Both handsets essentially share the same design and overall footprint. The most obvious difference is that the OnePlus 6T lacks a fingerprint sensor in the back. It’s been moved to the front, under the display, just like the Mate 20 Pro, a first for any phone sold in the US. Look closely and you’ll notice that the OnePlus 6T body is thicker (8.2 vs. 7.75mm) but has a thinner camera pod. That’s because it houses a larger battery than the OnePlus 6 (3,700 vs. 3,300mAh).
Keep looking and you’ll soon discover that the OnePlus 6T lacks a headphone jack. Instead, it supports both analog and digital USB Type-C audio devices. There’s a lovely red and white dongle in the box, but it’s no consolation, really. So much for “never settle”, eh? The company says it needed to make space for the in-display fingerprint sensor and larger battery. Right. What’s less obvious is the missing notification LED in the front. See, the OnePlus 6T features a larger, more immersive display than the OnePlus 6 (6.41 vs. 6.28in), with almost no bottom chin and a much smaller teardrop-shaped notch.
Everything else is pretty much exactly in the same place – power button and mute slider on the right side, volume rocker and SIM tray on the left, USB Type-C port, mono speaker and primary mic on the bottom edge, and secondary mic on top. Overall, it’s a pleasant and modern glass sandwich design, even if it doesn’t particularly stand out. There are a few other subtle differences, though. The OnePlus 6T feels slightly chunkier than the OnePlus 6 because of the extra thickness and weight (185 vs. 177g), and personally, I don’t like the more rounded corners on the new screen. It makes the OnePlus 6T look frumpy.
Build quality is top notch, but there’s still no official IP rating for water resistance. When pressed, the company implied the OnePlus 6T is mostly splash resistant, whatever that means. So, proceed with caution. Beyond the predictable Mirror black and Midnight black finishes, the OnePlus 6T is also available in a stunning new color: Thunder purple. Gone are the OnePlus 6’s Silk white and red – for now.
The OnePlus 6T sports a 6.41-inch edge-to-edge 1080p AMOLED display with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio (2340 x 1080 pixels). It features almost no bottom chin and a small teardrop-shaped notch for the selfie camera. The earpiece is relegated to a slit above the screen in the aluminum frame. This maximizes screen real estate, but also means there is no notification LED. Surely, OnePlus might have been able to incorporate one into the earpiece like HTC used to do?
I’m a fan of AMOLED displays and this one mostly lives up my expectations. Viewing angles are reasonably wide, blacks are inky deep, and colors are pleasantly vivid. The default color temperature is somewhat cold, but the Adaptive mode fixes this. My only real beef is with the screen’s brightness. First, the OnePlus 6T struggles in direct sunlight, just like the Pixel 3 XL. Second, the auto-brightness is often too dim. It’s an ongoing OnePlus issue, and it’s very annoying.
There’s also some yellow tinting at extreme viewing angles, but that’s common with AMOLED displays. Finally — and I mentioned this already — I find the screen corners to be too rounded for my taste, but that’s a minor niggle.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The OnePlus 6T camera hardware is identical to the one in the OnePlus 6 — dual shooters in the back (16MP f/1.7 with OIS and 20MP f/1.7) and a 16MP f/2.0 camera in front. While it still delivers quality photos and videos in most conditions, it falls a little short of today’s cream of the crop. The OnePlus 6 camera was quite competitive 6 months ago, but progress never ends. OnePlus is aware of this and has focused on improving the software instead.
The OnePlus 6P gains a night mode for handheld long exposures called Nightscape, similar to what’s found on the Mate 20 Pro and Pixel 3. It also boasts a newly minted portrait mode. These improvements are also coming to the OnePlus 6 in a software update, which is good news. Otherwise, you’ll find the usual modes — portrait, manual (called pro), time-lapse, panorama, and slow motion (1080p 240fps and 720p 480fps).
On the video front, the OnePlus 6T captures up to 4k / 60fps stabilized with the main shooter, and 1080p / 30fps stabilized with the selfie camera. Ultimately, I think most people will be happy with the OnePlus 6P camera – it’s nice enough. Let’s hope OnePlus switches to a 12MP primary sensor with larger pixels next year, for even better results.
Reception and sound quality
OnePlus sent me an unlocked dual-SIM review unit, not T-Mobile’s single SIM OnePlus 6T variant. I used it on AT&T and T-Mobile in San Francisco, New York City, and Portland, and on Chunghwa Telecom in Taiwan without any hiccups. Calls were loud and clear, and data transfers were speedy. The OnePlus 6T is the company’s first phone to be certified for use on Verizon’s LTE network (without legacy CDMA support), but I didn’t get a chance to try this out. It also works on T-Mobile’s rapidly growing 600MHz LTE spectrum (band 71).
If you expected the OnePlus 6T to have a headphone jack, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is the company’s first handset without one, a strange decision considering OnePlus’ past stance on the topic and its loyal customer base. I’m not happy about this, but at least the phone supports both analog and digital USB Type-C audio devices, and the built-in DAC and headphone amp are the same high-quality Dirac HD-certified components as in the OnePlus 6. There’s also an analog USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle supplied in the box.
There’s not much to say about the mono speaker. It’s somewhat tinny and quiet, but it’s fine for calls and the occasional YouTube video. Obviously, this is one area where OnePlus needs to improve next year – most other flagship speakers sound better.
Performance and battery life
If there’s one area where OnePlus usually reigns supreme, it’s performance, and once again, the company delivers. The OnePlus 6T stays buttery smooth and lightning quick no matter what you throw at it. It’s a delight to use, whether you’re multitasking like a boss or beating your friends at Fortnite. I can’t emphasize this more: if performance matters to you most, stop reading now and buy a OnePlus 6T. Then again, the OnePlus 6 is just as fast since both phones pack Qualcomm’s mighty Snapdragon 845 paired with a generous 6 or 8GB of RAM.
The OnePlus 6T raises base storage to 128GB (from 64GB) and tops off at 256GB, but there’s still no micro-SD support. Other specs are par for the flagship course: Gigabit LTE up to 1Gbps (CAT 16), WiFi 802.11ac with 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, NFC, and A-GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo for location.
But let’s talk about that in-display fingerprint sensor. Yes, it’s reasonably fast and accurate. No, you probably won’t be annoyed using it. Is it super cool? You bet. Just don’t expect it to be as bulletproof and speedy as the fingerprint sensor on the back of the OnePlus 6. Is it better than on the Mate 20 Pro? About the same. Basically, it requires a period of adjustment. In the end, I still prefer rear-mounted fingerprint sensors, because I can unlock my handset while pulling it out of my pocket.
As for battery life, it’s excellent. The OnePlus 6 already features decent endurance, and with 400mAh more on tap (3,700 vs 3,300mAh), the OnePlus 6T lasts even longer. Most people will have no problem getting a solid day’s use from a full charge. Day to day, the OnePlus 6T handily beats the Pixel 3 XL but doesn’t match the Mate 20 Pro. That’s good. And when it’s time for a refill, OnePlus includes their ultra-fast charger right in the box. Just forget about wireless charging — it’s not available.
The OnePlus 6T runs Oxygen OS 9.0.5. It’s basically stock Android 9.0 (Pie) with a custom launcher and a few other tweaks. All of OnePlus’ usual tricks are here, like Reading Mode and Night Mode, which make text easier to read by turning the screen black and white and reducing blue color in low light, respectively. There’s also Gaming Mode, which mutes notifications and boosts performance for better gaming, and Smart Boost, which speeds up app startup.
Unfortunately, some changes aren’t for the better. Take Shelf for example — an alternative to Google’s Discover page located to the left of the home screen. It’s as useless as ever, to the point where T-Mobile’s version of the OnePlus 6T makes Discover the default and Shelf an option. Unfortunately, Discover is not available on the unlocked device, so you’ll have to install a third-party launcher if you want to get rid of Shelf.
Speaking of customizations, you’ll find a couple pre-installed apps on T-Mobile’s OnePlus 6T, which can’t be removed: T-Mobile (for billing and customer support) and Unlock (to unlock the device, once paid off). It’s also unclear if T-Mobile’s phone will receive software updates as quickly as the unlocked handset. OnePlus and T-Mobile both say that it will, but I’m skeptical considering the poor track record carriers have when it comes to this.
OnePlus also bundles some of its own apps, like the camera, gallery, text messaging, voice recording, and weather apps. There’s also Community, a forum of discussion for OnePlus users, complete with messaging and profiles, and OnePlus Switch, a utility that helps move everything from an old OnePlus phone to a new one. It’s better than Google’s own migration tool.
Price and competition
There are three OnePlus 6T configurations available: 6GB RAM / 128GB of storage for $549, 8GB of RAM / 128GB of storage for $579, and 8GB RAM / 256GB of storage for $629. Color choices include Mirror black (6/128 and 8/128), Midnight black (8/128 and 8/256), and Thunder purple (8/128). T-Mobile sells just one configuration: Mirror Black with 8GB of RAM / 128GB of storage for $580 upfront, or $0 down plus $24.17 over 24 months.
No matter which OnePlus 6T you chose, it’s an incredible value – a flagship that rivals handsets costing $200-$400 more. Ironically, its main competitor is the OnePlus 6, which is still available. On paper, it’s almost the same phone – same processor, RAM, storage, and camera. You give up some battery capacity, some screen real-estate, and the fancy in-display fingerprint sensor for a headphone jack, a notification LED, and a lighter, thinner package. Not too shabby.
Every other flagship with similar specs is more expensive – Pixel 3 XL, Galaxy S9+, Galaxy Note 9, Mate 20 / 20 Pro, LG V40, iPhone XR / XS / XS Max. There are few other worthy handsets (if any) in the $500-600 price range regardless of specs. You might be able to get a deal on a Pixel 3, Galaxy S9 or LG G7 during this month’s black Friday sales, but that’s about it.
On its own merits, the OnePlus 6T is a great phone and a worthy flagship. It easily competes with handsets costing far more, and that’s before you even consider pricing. At $549, it’s an absolute steal. The specs are loaded, it’s the first phone in the US with an in-display fingerprint sensor and a teardrop notch, and it’s available subsidized on T-Mobile.
But it’s not all unicorns and rainbows, though, despite the fabulous new purple hue. That awesome new in-display fingerprint sensor can be finicky at times. While the battery is larger, the OnePlus 6T is also bulkier. And it lost its headphone jack and notification LED, unlike the svelte, spec-wise identical and even more affordable OnePlus 6.
And therein lies the rub. In my opinion, the only reason to pick the OnePlus 6T over the OnePlus 6 is better battery life and Verizon LTE network certification. But there’s no wrong answer here. Regardless of which you chose, you’re getting an excellent phone and saving money. So, what are you waiting for? Go buy one already!
Unlike Myriam, I don’t mind the OnePlus’s new more rounded corners – I think it helps make the device seem slimmer and more refined. I do however agree with her that the screen could be a bit brighter. I’m also not fussed about the lack of a 3.5mm audio jack, but I do wish that OnePlus had included wireless charging this time around.
The in-display fingerprint sensor is indeed a bit finicky, but like Myriam points out – it’s not better or worse than the one used on the much pricier Huawei Mate 20 Pro. The OnePlus 6T is also the first phone in the U.S. to come with this neat feature, and that is extra impressive considering its reasonable price point. And while the camera hardware is physically the same, the low light performance has gotten even better thanks to a software update.
But all of the above are relatively minor gripes which are outweighed by what a pleasure the OnePlus 6T is to use. No other Android flagship feels as smooth and intuitive to operate as the OnePlus 6T, which makes its value so extremely enticing. At the end of the day, the OnePlus 6T is worthy of all its hype.