Even by the standards of OnePlus’s previous product refresh timelines, the OnePlus 6 (Review) has had a very short life. Just five months after its launch, it’s already out of stock and effectively dead, making way for the predictably named OnePlus 6T. The company has told us in the past that it isn’t interested in sitting around and waiting for a predetermined amount of time if it has new technology to ship, and we take that to mean that it doesn’t ever want competitors’ products to seem newer and fresher. It’s an approach that has worked well so far, and no one’s expecting buyers to upgrade with every single release.
In the past, successive models have usually meant moving to a better processor, delivering improved cameras, or adopting new industry trends or standards. This time, it’s all about a new fingerprint sensor and a smaller notch – oh, and the company’s first ever partnership with a US carrier, which is probably the biggest reason to whip up a new model this soon. The OnePlus 6T — with a new fingerprint reader and a smaller notch — is perhaps the company’s most minor refresh ever in terms of hardware, but it could be the most significant in terms of experimentation and strategy, and the evolution of OnePlus as a global player.
We’re also intrigued by how the company is handling the removal of features, some of which it has championed in the past. Does gaining a powerful new global player mean losing the scrappy startup that always put tech-savvy users first? We’ve got lots of questions, and we’re going to dig up the answers.
OnePlus 6T design
The OnePlus 6T does feel somewhat fresh in terms of keeping up with trends, but not much has changed over the past five months, so the differences between this phone and its predecessor are subtle. First of all, the chunky notch has been replaced with a slight ‘waterdrop’ dip for the front camera. It’s exactly like what we’ve seen on the Oppo F9 Pro (Review), Vivo V11 Pro (Review), and Realme 2 Pro (Review), all from companies that are under the BBK Electronics umbrella, just like OnePlus. The earpiece is designed into the seam where the front glass meets the phone’s metal rim, and it’s not too small to cause discomfort.
The biggest downside of this notch design is the death of the popular multi-colour notification LED that’s been a OnePlus staple till now. The loss is somewhat offset by the Ambient Display feature that lets the OLED screen light up to show notification information, but that isn’t always on, so you can’t tell at a glance if there are alerts for you to check.
The screen is slightly larger than that of the OnePlus 6, at 6.41 inches compared to 6.2 inches before. If you place the two phones next to each other, you’ll notice that the new model’s bottom “chin” has been reduced, making the very slim border around the screen look almost uniform on all four sides. The corners have very wide curves, and unfortunately some UI elements and fullscreen apps look like they’ve been cut off awkwardly.
OnePlus will ship this phone with a pre-applied screen protector because it can’t guarantee that aftermarket ones will allow the in-display fingerprint sensor to work. We aren’t fans of this, because it isn’t shaped to perfectly match the curves of the screen and notch, and it really detracts from the slick look of this phone. We noticed a strange crosshatch pattern on the protective film when looked at from an angle, though this wasn’t distracting when looking at the screen head-on. It also picked up scratches and smudges way too easily for our liking.
That brings us to biggest new feature of the OnePlus 6T — its in-display fingerprint sensor. OnePlus says that it has experimented with this technology for over a year, and had even developed prototypes of the OnePlus 5T with it, before ultimately deciding that it wasn’t yet good enough to ship then. We’ll have a lot more detail about how well this works later on in the review.