The OnePlus 5 Gets Faster and Has a Better Camera, but it’s Getting More Expensive

The low-cost premium option isn’t as low-cost as it used to be.

Last year, the OnePlus 3 was the premiere choice for anyone looking to get a premium Android smartphone without shelling out over $600. Running high-end specs at just $400, it was one of the best value buys of the past year, but later in the year, we saw signs that that low price tag wasn’t going to last. The upgraded OnePlus 3T was also a terrific phone, but retailed for $440. Today, OnePlus announced the OnePlus 5, which starts at $480.

From the outside, the 5.5″ OnePlus 5 isn’t too far removed from the previous generation. We’re still looking at a unibody aluminum phone, coming in familiar grey or the jet black that OnePlus introduced on the 3T not too long ago. The oval fingerprint reader is still on the front of the phone at the bottom, with what now seems like a large bezel up top containing the speaker grille and the front-facing camera. Things are a bit different on the back, with OnePlus going along with the curved antenna line trend. You’ll also notice that they’ve added a dual-camera system on the back, which is a big part of the OnePlus marketing push this year. On the bottom, looks like there’s still a single mono loudspeaker (and a headphone port!). And, longtime OnePlus fans will be happy to know that the physical slider for notification control is still there, so you can silence notifications with ease.

The best news here is that on paper, it’s still the lower-cost premium phone the brand is known for. The OnePlus 5 runs OxygenOS, which is a lightweight, nearly stock version of Android 7.0, on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC and 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM. You’ll get 64 GB or 128 GB of storage depending on which model you get, but unfortunately, there’s no support for microSD cards at all this year.

OnePlus has stuck with a 1080p display with an optic AMOLED panel and support for sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamuts. The 3,300 mAh battery is pretty large, made better by OnePlus’ Dash charging — as long as you’ve got the right wall adapter and cable (which still cost extra), there’s no phone out there that will charge faster.

The camera looks like it was the biggest point of emphasis this year. OnePlus went all out for the MPs, using one 16 MP Sony IMX 398 sensor and one 20 MP Sony IMX 350 sensor with 1.12-micron and 1.0-micron pixel sizes, respectively. Those pixel sizes aren’t actually that large compared to sensors on the HTC U11, the Galaxy S8, or the Google Pixel, so we’re not sure the new camera rig will put OnePlus at the top of the heap in smartphone photography — especially because there’s no optical image stabilization.

Instead of the Huawei method of using one monochrome and one color sensor to improve light levels, OnePlus has used a wide-angle and telephoto lens in tandem, more similar to the iPhone 7 and the LG G6. Both have autofocus, with phase detect on the 20 MP telephoto. The 16 MP sensor is paired with an f/1.7 lens, while the 20 MP sensor is paired with a f/2.6 lens. When used together, the camera array can create shots where the subject is pulled into tight focus against a blurred background. But, with an f/2.6 lens on the 20 MP sensor and a relatively small pixel size, our best guess is that the phone will struggle in low-light conditions.

The OnePlus 5 looks great for connectivity, with one exception. It’s nice to see dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX and aptX HD, and NFC, but the surprise is a lack of Gigabit LTE. Carriers are starting to roll out Gigabit LTE network service this year, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC has the X16 modem that can take advantage of those speeds. We’re not sure why the OnePlus 5 wouldn’t be able to handle Gigabit LTE, but it’s not listed as a feature on the spec sheet.


On the software side, OnePlus is continuing their commitment to only add useful features to stock Android. One of those will be a reading mode that uses ambient light levels to turn down the brightness and switch over to grey-scale, instead of turning the whole screen yellow like blue light filters do. App Priority will preload your most used apps into system memory, making loading a lot faster.

If you watched the OnePlus 5 keynote this morning, you have a code that can be used to buy the phone early starting today. OnePlus also sold a limited number of phones from pop-up shops in New York today, with similar one-day sales taking place in London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Copenhagen tomorrow. Everyone else will be able to buy the OnePlus 5 online on June 27 — the grey phone comes with 64 GB of storage and 6 GB of RAM and costs $480, while the black version comes with 128 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM and costs $540.

We’ll have our full review of the OnePlus 5 up in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for what we think of this somewhat affordable flagship.