The OnePlus 3 is the perfect smartphone for users that want power and style at a great price. Although the OnePlus 3 is only $399, this is not a budget smartphone that cuts corners and leaves owners wanting more. There are more than enough features and specs to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 6s.
Building on the successes of the earlier OnePlus models this year, the OnePlus 3 feels like a real competitor to the established players.
We’ve been using the $399 smartphone for over a month alongside the iPhone 6s, Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 to see how it stacks up. This is what you need to know before you buy the OnePlus 3.
If you want expandable storage and a QHD display, this is not the phone for you. That said, 64GB is the sweet spot for many users and this 1080P HD display is no slouch.
We especially like the OnePlus 3’s design, dash charging, overall battery life and the speed that this phone delivers. The camera is also quite impressive in a range of settings.
The OnePlus 3 is available for $399 without an invite and it works on AT&T and T-Mobile as well as other GSM carriers. It does not work on Verizon or Sprint. You can buy the OnePlus 3 direct from OnePlus.
OnePlus 3 Design
The all metal OnePlus 3 body is pleasing to look at and it also feels good to hold while using the phone or playing a game. With a 5.5-inch display it’s a larger phone, but it’s noticeably smaller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6s Plus.
OnePlus chose a metal body with antenna lines that is a familiar look across many smartphones this year. Although familiar, it looks nice. OnePlus also sells a number of official OnePlus 3 cases that look and feel amazing on the smartphone. Personally the Carbon Fiber and wood grain cases are my favorite.
On the front of the OnePlus 3 are two touch buttons and a home button that is a fingerprint reader. The Fingerprint reader is accurate and fast. Users can choose to use the two touch sensitive buttons or to use on-screen buttons. There is also an option to choose which button does what, in case you are used to the back and menu buttons being swapped.
There is no room for a MicroSD card, but the phone does support two SIM cards if you need to switch carriers regularly.
My favorite small touch is the slider on the left side of the phone that lets you control notifications. The slider is integrated with Android notification controls so you get all notifications, priority notifications or no notifications. There are also standard volume controls and a power button.
On the bottom edge of the phone you’ll find a USB C connection, speakers and a headphone jack. The USB C connection enables Dash charging that can add 63% battery life in 30 minutes of charging.
OnePlus 3 Display
The OnePlus 3 display doesn’t pack as many pixels in as the Samsung Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, but it is on par with the iPhone 6s Plus.
A high quality display is essential to a great smartphone experience, but that doesn’t always mean you need the highest resolution. After staring into the 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution Super AMOLED display for the last month I’m not left wanting more from the display or going back to competing phones with a sigh of relief.
The OnePlus 3 display looks great, works very well outdoors and offers good colors.
Thanks to the Super AMOLED technology the phone also includes an option to show you notifications when the phone senses your hand over top of it without impacting battery life. This makes it easy to catch up on missed notifications without picking up your phone.
OnePlus ships a screen protector on the phone, which is bubble free and doesn’t impede touch functions. You can peel it off without leaving any residue.
OnePlus 3 Camera
On the back of the OnePlus 3 is a 16MP camera that performs very well in many situations. Competing phones may outshine the OnePlus 3 in some settings but, for an all around camera, it does very well. On the front of the phone is a 8MP camera for selfies and video conferencing.
The camera autofocuses fast, includes Auto HDR and records in 4K. Users can choose to shoot photos in RAW and enter a manual mode for more control over ISO, white balance and shutter speed.
A simple default camera app includes easy access to important controls and supports modes including Time-lapse, Slow motion and Panorama in addition to Photo, Video and Manual.
Like most smartphones the OnePlus 3 camera shines in good light, where you can take a photo without much thought and get great results. In lower light, you’ll need to slow down and be more deliberate or photos will end up blurry. This isn’t unique to the OnePlus 3, but it was more of an issue than it is on our iPhone 6s.
The shutter speed is fast and the phone holds focus well. Check out the sample photos below.
The front-facing camera takes good-looking photos and includes an option to take a photo three seconds after you smile, as well as a beauty mode to make your selfies look nicer.
OnePlus 3 Performance & Software
The OnePlus 3 is a fast phone thanks to a Snapdragon 820 processor and 6GB of RAM. Whether you are playing Pokémon Go, gaming in your seat or getting some work done, this phone is blazing fast.
We don’t need to run speed tests and graphics comparisons to know that this phone is quick. Thanks to 6GB of RAM the phone is ready for your needs now, as well as down the road with software updates and apps that may need more power next year.
Users can only buy the OnePlus 3 with 64GB of storage, and there is no way to add more with a MicroSD card. For most users this is the right amount of storage, but if you need more start looking at Samsung or a pricier iPhone.
The OnePlus 3 includes support for NFC to Beam items to other Android devices and to make payments at the store.
OnePlus builds an Oxygen OS that runs on Android Marshmallow. This looks very much like stock Android, but there are more customizations that users can make to the look and feel. There are all the Android Marshmallow features you want, plus some added options like a Shelf to keep your items organized to the left of the home screen.
OnePlus includes gestures on the screen when it is sleeping to turn on the flashlight, open the camera or double tap to wake the screen.
The speaker on the bottom edge of the OnePlus 3 is capable, but we often paired it to the Bose SoundLink Mini II to get more room filling sound.
OnePlus 3 Battery Life
The OnePlus 3 battery life is solid thanks to a 3,000mAh battery tucked into the slim body. It was tough for me to run the battery down in a full day of use unless I combined using the phone as a hotspot and playing Pokémon Go. Even then the OnePlus 3 battery life is impressive.
I love Dash charging. When you use the Dash wall charger or Dash Car charger, you can get more than 60% battery life in 30 minutes of charging. This is more than enough to get through a very busy day with a charge in the car or before heading back out for the evening.
This is faster than the quick charging on some other phones and you can use the phone while it is Dash charging. The heat generating part of this fast charging takes place in the charger instead of in the phone.
Is the OnePlus 3 Worth Buying?
It’s hard to beat the value of the OnePlus 3. For $399 buyers get an amazing smartphone that can hang with the big names on the block,
The sacrifices you make for saving $250 compared to the iPhone 6s or Galaxy S7 are small when you consider everything that the OnePlus 3 does.
Oxygen OS, with regular updates, and specs that aren’t to be trifled with help the OnePlus 3 stand out even for shoppers who aren’t looking just to save money.
There is no way to add more storage, but for millions of users this isn’t a problem and the OnePlus 3 includes 64GB standard, which is enough for many users.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 camera comes out ahead, but the OnePlus 3 camera is still capable.
As a total package the OnePlus 3 is an impressive phone that is definitely worth the $399 sticker price — even if you can afford to buy a more expensive phone.
This article may contain affiliate links. Click here for more details.