Chinese manufacturer OnePlus has launched its latest effort to dethrone Android’s top handsets: the OnePlus 6.
But how does it actually fare in the head-to-head stakes? And, more importantly, is it worth your money over Samsung’s Galaxy S9?
Not obviously cheaper
There’s one clear reason (and for many the only reason) to buy one of the second tier Android devices: cost. On the surface of it, at $529, versus the Galaxy S9’s $720, there’s no comparison.
The S9 is more expensive because of the higher end hardware it comes with, but OnePlus’ entire gambit is that it provides a similar top-end experience at a lower price.
That is true to an extent, and the Chinese manufacturer is good at mimicking certain high-end features to a lesser degree – such as the unnecessary USB-C connection that came with the OnePlus 2, or the fast but less secure (than Apple’s) facial recognition technology- that gives the devices the air of expense without the actual expensive bits.
I think OnePlus is better at this than most other cheap(ish) Android devices. So if you want the best possible attempt at a high-end phone, then OnePlus leads the pack.
That damn notch
It’s probably time critics of the notch – myself included – acquiesced to the reality that it’s going to be something we see a lot more of in the future. The core concept, that it maximizes the display and extends the screen to body ratio, is solid. The fact it’s a blatant rip off of Apple’s design shouldn’t come into the debate. Shouldn’t…
Practically, the notch does have a functional purpose. Whilst the Samsung Galaxy S9 does have an impressive 83.6% screen to body ratio, the OnePlus edges it with 83.8%, which is thanks to the notch. So you’re getting more screen (relative to body) and more display goodness for a lot less money.
Plus, less tech-savvy people might mistake your OnePlus 6 for an iPhone X, which is the whole point, right?
Dual sim by standard
There is a dual-sim Galaxy S9 model but it’s only available in certain markets – markets where that feature is popular, like Asia. The OnePlus does this by standard for all models and – to my memory – always has. If you haven’t made use of dual-sim in the UK or US, you should – it’s a traveler’s best friend.
Samsung has made some impressive strides in slimming down its proprietary UI Samsung Experience (formerly known as TouchWiz), but there’s still some way to go. Galaxy and Note phones still double up on apps like email, app store, calculator and others – plus all of the additional bloat that typically comes with Samsung devices.
OnePlus’ Oxygen OS doesn’t stray too far from stock Android, which, for me, is the only option when it comes to the best Android user experience. This also means that OnePlus should get faster Android security and OS updates, whereas there’s an inbuilt delay with Samsung – and other heavily skinned – Android devices.
One of the chosen few
OnePlus is one of the 12 devices that will support the Android P beta. This means owners of the OnePlus 6 will get early access to the latest version of Android, which looks like it will be one of the biggest updates in a while.
Android P is the result of Google’s heavy focus on Assistant and AI, with increased automation at the core of the OS update. Check out my breakdown of Google’s vision for a smart smartphone for a more detailed look at the next phase of Android.
New features like Your Match on Google Maps, which reduces restaurant research, or adaptive battery and adaptive brightness, which eliminate endlessly toggling the settings. There’s also the new “Actions” and “Slices” which, in essence, reduce the amount of interaction needed to perform a particular task by providing relevant in-app information – or a task – when you need it.
Other stuff like Google lens, clearer Google Maps directions and Google Duplex (whenever it arrives), will be available – in beta form – for OnePlus owners too.
On the other hand…
Of course, there’s more to the OnePlus Vs. Galaxy S9 comparison than notes and notches.
Samsung’s Super AMOLED QHD display is the best in the businesses (especially up against the full HD display of the OnePlus 6), which is a large part of why it costs more. The camera on the S9, too, is one of the best on the market too.
Elsewhere, the water and dust resistance IP68 rating and expandable storage (up to a huge 400GB) in the Galaxy S9 makes Samsung’s flagship one of the true all-rounder smartphones available right now. It basically does everything. Which, again, why it costs that much more.