Another year, another disappointing Google phone release. In 2015 the 5X and 6P came and went, and weren’t enough of an upgrade for me to consider a switch. The OnePlus Two and the Moto X Pure arrived, and I sighed. The OnePlus X was tempting, but not enough. My Nexus 5 was still plenty for what I needed. 2016 came and went, and we saw a departure of what Google used to stand for. The Nexus brand was retired in favor of the premium Pixel devices, and I was unenthusiastic about dropping $900+ on a phone, no matter how attractive the device. I knew, however, that it was getting to the point of taking the Nexus 5 out behind the barn.
A brief history first. The Nexus 5 was initially purchased by me about a year after release to replace my aging, but reliable Galaxy Nexus. I’ve been madly in love with the Nexus 5 since I’ve owned it. For all intents and purposes, it has been my perfect device, with a few reservations. Like any piece of hardware, it ages overtime. The screen size and resolution are practically perfect. The build and design, although not perfect, are practical and durable. The cameras are serviceable, and even the aging internals are still relatively quick.
Now, as you’ve probably determined from reading this blog, I tend to lean more toward being a geek – A power user and an enthusiast. Though the aging hardware is still relatively quick, I’ve been craving something that stands up to current day multitasking. I would be wrong to say the Nexus 5 can keep up with my day to day heavy demands. To top it off, the battery life has been suffering more and more. I don’t believe it’s a fault of the device or the aging battery by any means, but instead just what I use for applications. Sitting at 25% currently remaining at the end of a slow day, I’ve had just over an hour screen on time. I haven’t been on anything but WiFi, and most of that access has been various social media platforms, snapchat, web browsing, etc. On a work day, I’ve been needing to top up mid day, with less usage.
My frustration with the Nexus 5 lead me on a bit of a search. I really, really liked the Pixel devices, but the price tag left a sour taste in my mouth. For the past many years, Google has offered affordable and impressive hardware in the form of the Nexus lineup, but felt the need to shift into a new brand to better align themselves against the market. Don’t get me wrong, these units are premium, and have just about everything I want for features – Pure Android released really quick, super fast hardware, premium build quality, and even the perfect size with the regular Pixel. But the price tag just feels like too much after spending so little on such a nice device as the Nexus 5.
Other options explored included various other manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung, Oppo, Xiaomi, etc. Unfortunately, they all had some form of problem. No stock android, poor speed to update, middling build quality, poor battery, too large, too expensive, etc… After crossing everything off the list, I returned to my previous runner up when deciding on my Nexus 5 – The upstart OnePlus.
OnePlus formed in 2013 as a subsidiary of Oppo, a large Chinese based smartphone brand. OnePlus wanted to build devices that balanced a high quality, flagship level phone, with a low and affordable price. Their slogan? Never Settle. At the time of purchasing my Nexus 5, the OnePlus One was my runner up. My major concerns were screen size and availability – It was very hard to get a OnePlus off the invite system they had in place, which ultimately led me to buying the Nexus 5. OnePlus has however dismissed their invite system and made device availability much better. The November released OnePlus 3T ended up being the best phone for the price point as of the beginning of March which matched up well with my planned retirement of the Nexus 5.
The OnePlus 3T is above and beyond an upgrade from my 3 year old Nexus 5, and I can happily say I’m pleased with my purchase. Before getting into it’s improvements, a quick spec rundown.
• Snapdragon 821 CPU (2×2.35GHz, 2×1.6GHz) w/ Adreno 530 GPU
• 6GB RAM
• 64GB Storage
• 5.5” Optic AMOLED display (1920×1080)
• 16MP OIS f/2.0 rear camera, 16MP f/2.0 front camera
• 3400mAh battery
• 158g weight
The phone is currently running OxygenOS 4.1.0 at the time of writing (Android 7.1.1) and has so far met all of my wants and needs in a smartphone for 2017. Where the Nexus 5 was starting to struggle with maintaining a silky smooth 60 FPS in day to day operation, the 3T seems to always have more power to spare. The radios, much like with the transition from Galaxy Nexus to Nexus 5, are improved. The cameras are absolutely fantastic, even if they aren’t the absolute best on the market. Low light and selfie performance are in a completely different league than the Nexus 5. If anything though, the biggest improvement is the battery. I have yet to have to charge in the middle of a day, and even on the heaviest use days I’m still making it to the end with juice to spare. For comparison, a heavy use day on the Nexus 5 might have netted me 1.5 hours screen on time before crawling to a charger or my powerbank. The 3T can eek 4 hours or more on the same workload. With lighter tasks, I’m guessing it would be pretty capable of hitting 6 hours of screen time without breaking a sweat. Did I mention that a fingerprint reader is probably one of the biggest game changers too? More apps adopting it means less PINs or passwords on the phone. I’m in love.
If I was to give any negative marks to the 3T, it’d come in the form of screen size. This is more personal than anything, and the 5.5” screen size is now the most common on the market, however 5.5” is bordering on almost too large for my hands. I will in time get used to it, however it won’t ever really rest in my hands like the 5 did. On top of that, the alert slider is usable, but I would like a bit more customization in regards to what each position does, and the ability to completely adjust the rules for each position would be fantastic.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I’m going to miss the Nexus 5. It was the perfect, size, the perfect weight, and the perfect price at the time, and it continues to kick ass, even in 2016. For a regular user, it’s an absolutely killer phone. For power users who yearn for the return of the affordable, powerful, and minimalistic Nexus line, you can find a great home with OnePlus.