OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus is continuing with its two-phone launch cycle, and as was the case in previous years, the "T" variant brings updates to the display, and this time we're also getting a new way to unlock the phone. More importantly, it's what's missing on the OnePlus 6T that is fueling the initial conversation around the device — there's no headphone jack, and OnePlus got rid of the notification LED as well.

The 6T comes with the inevitable uptick in price, with the base model now starting at ₹37,999 ($530). You get 128GB of storage as standard, but it's clear that the 6T no longer delivers the same value as its predecessors. OnePlus has dominated in India in recent years, with the brand managing to overtake Samsung in this segment. That's no minor feat, but with companies like POCO taking a leaf out of OnePlus' playbook, the brand has its work cut out.

Indian customers are some of the most unforgiving on the planet, and they have good reason to be. With the country touting the widest selection of phones anywhere in the world, there's no dearth of choice for the Indian buyer at any given price point. To put things into context, the LG G7+ with 128GB of storage is available for ₹40,000 ($560), and you can pick up a Pixel 2 XL for just ₹40,999 ($573).

Then there's the threat of POCO. The Xiaomi sub-brand has dominated the mind share in recent months, and it's already starting to steal market share away from the likes of OnePlus. In this highly competitive backdrop, launching a phone in India without a notification LED or headphone jack is a move that could hurt the brand in the long run.

Performance beast

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus continues to define this segment.

The 6T delivers an iterative update, but it does have a few new features on offer. The in-display fingerprint sensor presents a novel new way to unlock the phone, and the waterdrop notch is a welcome change. OxygenOS continues to be one of the best third-party skins around, and when it comes to performance, few phones come close to the OnePlus 6T.

Pros:

  • Narrower cutout
  • 128GB internal memory as standard
  • Clean software experience
  • Top-notch performance

Cons:

  • No 3.5mm jack
  • Camera is average
  • In-display fingerprint sensor is unreliable
  • No notification LED
  • No IP rating

OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus 6T Hardware

With the OnePlus 6 launching just five months prior, not much has changed on the hardware front. The 6T has the same design aesthetic, and signature design traits like the horizon line are intact. The phone is marginally taller to accommodate the larger 6.41-inch screen, and the larger 3700mAh means it's heavier as well.

One would think that making the phone taller and heavier would make it less conducive to use, but I've found that it is better than the OnePlus 6. The weight gives it a reassuring heft, and it is narrower than its predecessor, making it much more comfortable to use. The alert slider and power button are unchanged, and they provide a decent amount of tactile feedback.

There's Gorilla Glass 6 protection this time around, but the overall finish at the back is identical to its predecessor. The one key change at the back is the removal of the fingerprint sensor, and that leads to a cleaner look. You get the same glossy finish with Mirror Black, but Midnight Black and the limited-edition Thunder Purple offer a delightful matte finish.

Continuing with the refinements, the cutout up front is no longer annoying, thanks to a narrower waterdrop notch. The notch holds just the front camera module, with the earpiece moving to a slit at the top of the display. There's an option to hide the notch, and the bezels at the bottom have also been reduced significantly. The end result is that the 6T feels just as premium as Samsung or Huawei's flagships.

Coming to the display, the 6.41-inch panel is still an Optic AMOLED, but it now sports a resolution of 2340 x 1080. The panel is one of the best in this category, with excellent contrast levels and vibrant colors. I didn't have any issues with sunlight visibility, and in general the screen quality is one area where things haven't changed much (thankfully) over the course of the last year.

The 6T feels just as refined as Samsung or Huawei's flagships, but it is missing a lot of features.

What's notable on the OnePlus 6T is what isn't there anymore. After criticizing other manufacturers for getting rid of the headphone jack, OnePlus has followed suit. The official explanation is that the 3.5mm jack made way for a larger battery and to house the components for the in-display fingerprint sensor, but it's more than likely the decision was out of OnePlus' hands.

OnePlus relies heavily on OPPO for the manufacture and distribution of its phones, and with the R17 Pro ditching the 3.5mm jack, there wasn't any option left for OnePlus.

What's even more egregious is the removal of the notification LED. Like the headphone jack, the notification LED is a feature that Indian customers care about deeply, and its removal is a puzzling move considering OnePlus says it cares about the community.

Then there's the audio quality. There's a single speaker located at the bottom of the 6T, and while it's loud, it's nowhere near as detailed as what you get on other phones in this segment. With most phones now delivering stereo sound, it's hard not to feel like OnePlus is a step behind in this area.

On the subject of missed opportunities, the vibration motor on the 6T is sub-par. This wouldn't have been an issue normally, but the Pixel 3 XL had great haptics, and switching from it to the 6T it was immediately noticeable that OnePlus has a long way to go here.

In-display fingerprint sensor

OnePlus 6T India review

The in-display fingerprint sensor is the marquee addition on the OnePlus 6T, but after using the phone for three weeks, it's clear that OnePlus should have waited another year before introducing it. The tech itself isn't new for Indian buyers, as Vivo introduced three phones that feature in-display modules — the X21 introduced the sensor, the NEX made it cool, and the V11 Pro showed that it works on a mainstream phone.

OnePlus touted the in-display fingerprint reader as one of the key new features on the 6T, and right now it just doesn't feel reliable enough to use as the default way of authentication. I've had several issues with the sensor recognizing my fingerprint, and having used all of Vivo's phones with in-display sensors, I can safely say that the 6T is the buggiest implementation I've seen so far.

The in-display fingerprint sensor is slow, buggy, and just not reliable.

The sensor took well over a second or two to authenticate on average, and there were several times where it failed to do so at all. And unlike a traditional fingerprint sensor — where you get an immediate feedback when it doesn't recognize your data — the in-display module on the 6T takes a while to register a false reading, so more often than not you're sitting with your finger on the sensor without knowing if it works or not.

Then there's the issue of using the sensor in the dark. As it is an optical sensor, it emits a green light that authenticates your fingerprints. OnePlus has done a decent job incorporating green elements in the unlock animations, but the light is quite intense — particularly if you're using the phone in bed.

The feature is still very cool, but it's just not fast or reliable to use daily, particularly if you're like me and unlock your phone over a hundred times a day. I switched to using face unlock as the default method of authentication — it isn't as secure as the in-display sensor, but it also doesn't make me want to throw the phone out the window.

Performance

OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus' singular obsession with performance was what made the brand so enticing to enthusiasts, and that trait is thankfully unchanged. The 6T is running the same Snapdragon 845 platform as the OnePlus 6, and it is just as fast. It's great that the base variant now comes with 128GB of storage as standard, and the 6GB of RAM is more than adequate for even the most demanding of tasks.

There's also a smart boost feature that caches data in the RAM to boost loading times, and that made a noticeable difference when launching games like PUBG. I had zero issues playing visually-intensive titles, and aside from the back of the device getting warm, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

If it's performance you're after, the OnePlus 6T is a fantastic choice.

The OnePlus 6T has 4x4 MIMO, and I haven't had any issues with connectivity. Even a few rooms away from my router, I got over a solid 200Mbit with no loss in connectivity at any point. Call quality was similarly satisfactory, and having used the 6T primarily with Jio, VoLTE worked just fine.

The 6T is positioned as an affordable flagship, and there are the usual set of tradeoffs that are associated with most devices in this category. There's no IP rating this time as well, which is a puzzling move as there's no 3.5mm jack anymore. OnePlus would have assuaged some of its more vocal customers had it offered IP68 or IP67 dust and water resistance, but that isn't the case.

Battery life

OnePlus 6T India review

Another feature that hasn't made its way onto the OnePlus 6T is wireless charging. It doesn't look like wireless charging is a priority for the brand as its own custom wired fast charging protocol is one of the best around. Dash Charge (now Fast Charge) itself has been unchanged for over two years, and while the wall plug has been updated last year, the charging standard still works at 5V/4A.

It's likely we'll see a much-needed refresh on this front next year. OnePlus sources its fast charging tech from OPPO, and as such it's possible we'll see a Fast Charge version of Super VOOC next year.

As for battery life, I had no issues getting a full day's worth of use out of the 3700mAh battery. I averaged well over five hours' worth of screen-on-time over the course of the day, with usage consisting of navigation, browsing, streaming music, and messaging. The larger battery also eliminates any anxiety about the phone running out of charge before the end of the day.

OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus 6T Software

Over the years, OnePlus has tuned OxygenOS into one of the most robust third-party skins around. Its focus on an uncluttered software experience combined with blazing performance makes the 6T one of the fastest devices on the market today. OnePlus has also gotten much better at releasing software updates, with the OnePlus 6 one of the first devices to pick up the stable Android 9.0 Pie update and the 6T offering Pie out of the box.

OxygenOS continues to be of the best third-party skins around.

Not a lot has changed when it comes to features — you get the mainstay features like reading mode, display calibration, app locker, and much more. There's still a layer of customization for those looking for a differentiated set of features, like gestures. OnePlus was one of the first manufacturers to roll out gestures on its devices, and while the company emulated the same system as iOS, it is more intuitive than what Google is offering with Pie.

OnePlus hasn't committed to one particular style of navigation, so you get the option to choose from the default Pie gestures or the manufacturer's own system. If you'd rather not bother with gestures at all, there's also the option to switch back to the Oreo-style fixed navigation bar.

OxygenOS also offered a dark theme for some time now, and with the 6T the company is expanding its functionality. When you select the dark theme, it not only changes the color scheme for the settings and navigation shade, but also for all the first-party apps. There's also a game mode that mutes notifications and prioritizes network bandwidth for games.

Overall, OxygenOS continues to be one of my favorite third-party skins because of its focus on simplicity — there's customizability for those that want it, but that fades away into the background if you don't need it.

OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus 6T Camera

OnePlus hasn't made any changes to the camera hardware on the 6T, so you have the same 16MP + 20MP camera configuration at the back and a 16MP shooter up front. The quality of the images are a testament to that, and aside from a new night mode — which stitches images taken at various exposures — there's precious little in the way of new features.

Low-light shots are still noisy, and while the new night mode fixes some of these issues, the camera quality is strictly average — just like the OnePlus 6. When you consider the fact that the 6T costs ₹37,999 — and with the likes of the Pixel 2 XL now available at the same price point — camera quality is an area that OnePlus cannot afford to ignore anymore.

OnePlus 6T India review

OnePlus 6T Review

It's an understatement to say that OnePlus catalyzed this particular segment in India. OnePlus focused on an aggressive strategy for the Indian market from the beginning, and that has paid off handsomely. The 6T continues to be the go-to recommendation in this segment, and while that may change in the coming years, for now the performance on offer is unmatched.

OnePlus doesn't have nearly the amount of resources as Samsung, Xiaomi, and the other big manufacturers, so it is a laudable achievement that it was able to secure a deal with T-Mobile in the U.S. It isn't just in that particular market where OnePlus is seeing making waves — the manufacturer has partnered with Amazon-owned Souq to launch the 6T in the Middle East.

OnePlus still offers decent value, but it isn't the only value player in town anymore.

As for the Indian market, the 6T will be available in retail stores across the country as OnePlus builds on its momentum to attract a wider user base. Customers can now pick up the phone at Reliance Digital stores across the country, and the added visibility should spur sales.

What's evident from the launch of the 6T is that OnePlus is slowly moving away from its community-driven focus that allowed it to gain momentum in this category. The lack of the 3.5mm jack and notification LED will prove to be a divisive change — one that'll be a deal-breaker to a vocal portion of the community — but the carrier and retail partnerships will give OnePlus a much larger footprint as it sets its sights on the mainstream market.

The OnePlus 6T still offers decent value overall, but if you're in the market for a device that has the best hardware and an average camera, POCO has you covered with the F1. If camera quality is your main priority, then the LG G7+ ThinQ is a fantastic choice. The phone is much more durable, has IP68 dust and water resistance, and comes with a camera that runs rings around the 6T.

It doesn't make much sense to upgrade to the 6T if you're using anything from the OnePlus 5 and up, and given the manufacturer's release cycle, the OnePlus 7 will make its debut within six months. With OnePlus set to make its foray into 5G early next year, you're better off waiting for what comes out of the brand in 2019.

4 out of 5

Ultimately, the 6T feels like OnePlus' coming-of-age phone. The company is now taking on the mainstream players, and only time will tell whether that strategy pays off. It's still great value at ₹37,999, but it's no longer the only value player in town, nor the most exciting.

The POCO F1 delivers much of the same hardware for far less, and the ZenFone 5Z is also gaining momentum. But the most compelling option for buyers in this segment is the LG G7+, which is a fantastic alternative that costs nearly the same as the 6T.

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