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.