Today is the day that OnePlus has unveiled its second handset of 2018. A day early, thanks to Apple's calendar meddling, but still, now we've been able to see exactly what the OnePlus 6T has to offer. Normally the company's 'T' range only tend to offer incremental upgrades to the previous model, and in many ways that's true of the 6T. But, there are some big changes that have happened since the launch of the 6 back in May. Let's take a look and see what's what, shall we?
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The specs in the 6T are almost exactly the same as the 6. It has the same Snapdragon 845 chipset, and comes with the same choice of either 6GB or 8GB of RAM - depending on which model you get. What has changed, however, is the fact that OnePlus has ditched the 64GB storage option. Now you have to choose between 128GB and 256GB, though opting for 6GB of RAM means you can't get the larger storage option. Irritating? Maybe, but that's the way things are. It was the same with the OnePlus 6.
The camera module is also exactly the same, with a dual 16MP and 20MP lenses on the back of the phone. Both lenses have an f.17 aperture and optical image stabilisation. The front camera is also the same, with a 16MP lens with f/2.0 aperture and portrait mode.
The biggest difference is that the 6T has a larger battery. It's now 3,700 mAh, compared to the 3,300 mAh battery of the OnePlus 6. That's 20 per cent more power for those keeping count, and considering the 6 had a pretty great battery life then there should be good things on the horizon.
The obvious difference in design is the fact that the OnePlus 6T has a much smaller notch that before. It's literally just the front camera, with the speaker grill shifting up to the top of the handset and previous model's IR sensor being removed altogether. The phone itself is also slightly bigger and thicker, to accommodate the larger battery and the fact the 6T ditched the standard rear fingerprint sensor in favour of one embedded in the screen. OnePlus hopes people will be able to ignore the smaller notch, but you can still fill in the gaps as you could on the OnePlus 6.
That means there's a 6.41-inch AMOLED display, up from the 6's 6.28-inch screen. Like the OnePlus 6 it has a FHD+ resolution and the 19:5:9 aspect ratio, though this time the screen is made from the newly announced Gorilla Glass 6. Considering how sturdy Gorilla Glass 5 has proven to be, it'll be interesting to see how much torture the new recipe can handle. That should mean you won't need a screen protector, though, which is always a good thing. I found OnePlus's tempered glass cover to be far too flimsy to be of any use.
The back of the 6T is still glass, though there's no wireless charging again, and that's made from Gorilla Glass 5. So nice all-round protection from the glass front.
The OnePlus 6 is slightly smaller and yellower. Just enough for it to make a difference
As you can above, however, the screen itself has also changed slightly. The OnePlus 6 has a yellowy tint compared to its little brother. Why? I can't tell, since all the display settings were identical, but if you're like me you'll never be able to unsee that.
Sadly the changes to the size mean the 6T isn't likely to fit into any OnePlus 6 cases, and even if you do manage to squeeze it into one you'll find some of the key components have moved. The power is a little bit lower, for instance, the top microphone has moved, and the new slim-form speaker grill will be blocked. You could make some modifications with a drill and a pair of cutting pliers, but it's easier just to buy the right case to begin with.
The speaker grill on the right of the 6T is a fraud, and is only there to look pretty.
As has already been announced the 6T does not come with a headphone jack, and while it was physically possible to add the 3.5mm port OnePlus decided against it. For one it claims 59 per cent of surveyed customers like wired headphones, and while that may be a percentage good enough to leave the EU it wasn't high enough to make the company change its mind about removing the headphone jack. The jack was removed primarily to make room for the in-display fingerprint sensor, though the larger battery also meant space at the base of the phone was at a premium. Adding a headphone jack would have required components to be stacked on top of each other - increasing the thickness and weight of the phone as a result. It's not clear how much thicker this hypothetical phone would be, but OnePlus CEO Pete Lau wouldn't allow the phone to be thicker than it already ended up being, for reasons, so the headphone jack had to go.
Sadly the one design point that has remained the same is that the OnePlus 6T only has a single speaker at the base of the phone. The OnePlus 6 was the same, and I commented on how stupid that was for a premium phone in my review. Despite shouts from people saying you don't need speakers on your phone, there are times you want to use it to play sound without having to use headphones. Stereo speakers make it sound better, and just about everyone else has worked that out already - even the slow-adopting folks at Apple.
It's barely noticeable, but the extra thickness to the 6T also means the camera bump is less pronounced.
As with the 6 the 6T is designed to be water resistant, though it doesn't have the IP rating. For one OnePlus has admitted getting the rating is an additional cost that would be passed onto consumers, but has also gone on record to say that IP ratings aren't clear enough. Pressure is one thing that isn't taken into account, and it's not like having it offers any sort of warranty protection. The 6T is designed to survive accidental water exposure, like dropping it in the toilet or a drink, and the company has added extra foam and silicone seals inside to protect the insides from as much water damage as possible.
The Fingerprint Scanner
The biggest part of the OnePlus 6T is the aforementioned in-display fingerprint scanner. It's a light based system, as previously reported, and OnePlus claims to have tested it 300,000 times without there being any deterioration. Apparently that means you could use it 10 times a day for ten years and it would still function as it did on day one. The company has been doing all sorts of tests, as you can imagine, to ensure that everything works perfectly in a variety of different conditions. That includes having altered the colour of the scanning light to offer the best possible results (blue/green is what it's gone with) and that it would still work under a screen protector.
Here's a GIF of it in action:
And here's a GIF with a deliberate failure, just to show off the one of the effects you can choose to see when you scan your print:
There are a few of these effects, but they're just for show. The real magic is done by the green light you can just about see under my thumb.
The downside here, though? The in-display sensor is slightly slower than the rear-mounted sensor on the OnePlus 6. That took 0.2 seconds to unlock, while the OnePlus 6T takes 0.35 seconds. Huge difference, right? That said the company believes that people won't notice, or will make up for the lost 0.15 seconds due to the fact the new sensor isn't on the back of the phone. Face Unlock, which hasn't changed, still takes 0.4 seconds to unlock.
You may have heard rumours that OnePlus has been working in in-display fingerprint scanning since before the release of the 5T, which is true. But back then the CMOS sensors that the company dabbled with had to be stuck to the underside of the display - meaning it made repairs a lot more annoying. It was also too small and not accurate enough, which is why the company held back. But now it believes that the time is right, and the fact that they're one of the first big names to widely release this sort of device in western markets is irrelevant.
Top: OnePlus 6T. Below: OnePlus 6. You can see the camera app is basically the same, though the OnePlus 6T's screen is noticeably larger. Note the Google Lens icon in the bottom right corner too.
While the camera hardware is exactly the same as before, the software inside the phone is not. The OnePlus 6T has followed the trend of AI-enabled cameras, with algorithms designed to detect faces, night scenes, and reduce the amount of noise. There's also scene detection, which automatically alters the camera's settings to get the best picture possible. It's able to detect text, food, the difference between black and dark objects, and green tones. OnePlus also emphasised that the camera would offer a better colour balance, and more natural colouring.
From a first glance, however, the AI aspects weren't very noticeable. If they're working automatically they're nowhere near as in your face as Samsung's and Huawei's. More on that in the full review, though.
Night Mode is the most interesting aspect, especially given the poor low-light performance on the OnePlus 6. It's been designed to offer better clarity, less noise, more colour definition, and better HDR at night and in dark environments. It does this by taking a one second burst of images, before piecing them together to create the best possible picture. It's not too dissimilar to what other phone companies have come up with, so we know this sort of thing works.
The 6T will also come with Google Lens right out of the box, though this feature has been rolling out to OnePlus 6 devices already.
Very little has changed on the software front, beyond the fact the OnePlus 6T runs Android Pie right out of the box. But that was to be expected, and the latest version of Android is already available to install on its predecessor. OnePlus has been tweaking the notification settings though, primarily for Game Mode. Now there's a new floating 'ticker tape' style notification system that can be activated when Game Mode is activated. It's designed to be subtle, and means you can keep tabs on what's going on without having notifications interrupting you every five seconds. Naturally you can still opt to turn them off completely, but if you do activate the new floating notification you need to be aware that it's a blanket setting for all notifications - and can't be applied to individual apps.
OnePlus has also introduced 'Smart Boost', which is designed to make apps load faster. This is achieved by taking data from apps that don't need to be used, and pushes them to the ones that do. On top of this all the special modes introduced on the OnePlus 6, like Night and Reading mode will be sticking around. That's filtering out blue light and going monochrome, for those that don't know.
In the box
As discussed the OnePlus 6T doesn't have a headphone jack, and to compensate the company has included the USB-C/3.5mm adaptor in the box. It's also releasing Type-C Bullets earphones, which are exactly the same as the old 3.5mm Bullets V2 earbuds just with a different connector. They have the same inline controls and DAC audio, but you'll need to pay £15.99 if you want a pair to call your own.
As you can see, Your Honour, there's no infringing brand names here.
There's also a fast charger in there, and as you might have expected OnePlus has dropped the 'Dash Charge' name in light of everything that's happened. Instead it's called OnePlus fast charging, though the tech is the same as that included on the OnePlus 6. The charging stats are still the same, however, with OnePlus promising "a full day of power" after 30 minutes. The exact percentage isn't clear, though with the OnePlus 6 it was 60 per cent. As with before there's no wireless charging, with the reasoning being that it's still not fast enough for OnePlus's liking.
Pricing & Availability
Prices have increased across the board this time round, and you may remember that the OnePlus 6 started at £469 for the 6GB/64GB variant back in May. This time the base variant is £30 more expensive at £499, but that's with 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM. The 8GB/128GB model is £529, while the 8GB/256GB model is £579, both of which are £10 more than the equivalent OnePlus 6. If only other companies could add new features and make up for it with such small price increases.
As the leaks mentioned we only get to see this phone in Midnight and Mirror Black, so there's no sign of White or Red this time around. Unfortunately there are also some minor limits to colour availability too. The 6GB RAM variant is only available in Mirror Black, while the 256GB storage option only comes in Midnight. The 128GB storage option phone is available in both colours, however.
As previously announced the OnePlus 6T will be available from new retailers, with EE, Vodafone, John Lewis, Carphone Warehouse, and Amazon all joining O2 in offering the new device. Obviously OnePlus will also be selling it from their own online store, and it has various pop-ups opening on Wednesday. The nearest one to you is probably the one in London.
So it's safe to say that a lot and a little has changed since the release of the OnePlus 6. Then again that phrase could also describe every smartphone launch from the past few years. The good news is that there have been plenty of noticeable changes in the OnePlus 6T, particularly in the form of the in-display fingerprint scanner. Those are still very uncommon in mainstream handsets, especially outside China, so the fact that it's hear in a handset with a mid-range-tier price is a very good thing. Expect to see this feature pop up all over the place from now on.