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OnePlus 6T Review: Amazing value with an even more amazing fingerprint reader

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Today, OnePlus is announcing its newest flagship smartphone and lifting the review embargo. The OnePlus 6T is a mid-cycle update to the OnePlus 6, so while the specs haven’t moved much, you do get plenty of upgrades. There’s a new design with a teardrop camera notch on the front, a bigger display, a new baseline of 128GB of storage, and a bigger 3700mAh battery. Most interestingly, there’s now an in-display optical fingerprint reader, which makes the 6T the first US-bound smartphone with this new fingerprint tech.

Speaking of US sales, OnePlus is also making progress on the carrier front. This is the first OnePlus device that will land in brick-and-mortar stores in the US, thanks to a deal with T-Mobile. The phone is also certified for use on Verizon, so while you won’t find one in a Verizon store, you can bring a 6T in and Verizon will activate it.

There is some bad news, though, and that’s the removal of the headphone jack. You need to keep a dongle handy if you want to use wired headphones, but this is softened a bit because OnePlus actually delivers on the space savings promise—this new phone boasts a battery that has 400mAh more capacity than the OnePlus 6. The OnePlus 6T starts at $549 for the 128GB version with 6GB of RAM. The OnePlus 6 started at a lower $529, but that was for 64GB, so you can’t quite call the new price a straight increase. In fact, the higher tiers of the OnePlus 6T are the same price as its predecessor: an 8GB/128GB config for $579 and an 8GB/256GB version for $629.

Compared to the $900ish price tag of flagship phones with similar specs, OnePlus’ $549 price point provides a lot of buffer room. And after spending some time exploring its interesting new features, it’s hard to argue with the value proposition of the OnePlus 6T.

Design and build quality

Groupthink is strong in the Android hardware ecosystem, with seemingly everyone building phones with edge-to-edge notched displays, all-glass bodies, and scooping out the headphone jack. If we have to go down this design path, then the OnePlus 6T is the best execution of the idea so far.

The 6T sports a new “teardrop” notch that minimizes the space taken up by the camera cutout, and the curves on the side look great. The center of the teardrop houses the 16MP front camera, and the brightness and proximity sensors are hiding in the left corner of the teardrop. Above the camera is an earpiece speaker that is integrated into the edge of the glass. All in all, it’s a very compact setup that is much smaller than the big-notch phones that just seem out to emulate the iPhone X.

SPECS AT A GLANCE: OnePlus 6
SCREEN 2340×1080 6.41″ (402ppi) AMOLED
OS Android 9 Pie
CPU Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (Four 2.8GHz Kryo 385 Gold cores and four 1.8GHz Kryo 385 Silver cores.)
RAM 6GB or 8GB
GPU Adreno 630
STORAGE 128GB, or 256GB
NETWORKING 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC
BANDS (NA/EU version)
GSM: 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
TD-SCDMA: 34, 39
WCDMA: 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 19
CDMA: BC0, BC1
LTE: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66, 71
PORTS USB 2.0 Type-C
CAMERA Rear: 16MP main camera, 20MP secondary camera
Front: 16MP camera
SIZE 157.5 × 74.8 × 8.2 mm
WEIGHT 185g
BATTERY 3700mAh
STARTING PRICE $549
OTHER PERKS NFC, quick charging, in-screen fingerprint sensor, mute switch, dual SIM

If there’s any tradeoff you’re making here, it’s the lack of stereo speakers. There’s just one bottom-firing speaker on the 6T, and the top earpiece doesn’t pull double-duty as a media speaker. The bottom speaker is loud enough, so I think the compactness tradeoff is worth it. Phone speakers never sound good enough to play music through anyway, so for the bleeps and bloops of your notifications and ringtones, or the occasional quick YouTube video, the 6T’s single speaker is fine. The earpiece is loud enough, too.

With the tiny notch and just the smallest hint of a bottom bezel, the 6T offers a bigger 6.41-inch AMOLED display in about the same size body as the OnePlus 6. The display looks great, without any of the grainy blemishes that have plagued some OLED panels in the past. If you’re picky about your color, you can pick from several display color presets or set your own white point. The notch is small enough to allow for four notification icons on the left and around five status icons on the right. If you end up having too many status icons, OnePlus has a handy “icon manager” for the status bar, so you can hide the status icons you don’t care about.

You would hope phones would get better every year, but with the OnePlus 6, OnePlus threw in a big downgrade with a move from a metal back to a glass one. Normally this would come with the benefit of wireless charging, but that wasn’t added to the OnePlus 6. Things haven’t changed much here with the OnePlus 6T. The back is still glass, and there’s still no wireless charging to justify the switch to glass.

My “midnight black” version isn’t just plain, glossy glass. It has a silky semi-gloss finish that doesn’t show fingerprints or collect skin oil, which is better than the usual glass finish. It also seems pretty scratch resistant. The back has this weird property where it often reflects light in an “S” shape across the back. This was apparently on purpose. OnePlus’ ad copy says the phone has an “anti-glare coating and a thin, textured multi-layer film that creates the unique S shape.” It looks fine.

With no fingerprint reader on the back, there’s not a whole lot going on. You get the usual dual-camera setup, an LED flash, and an engraving for the OnePlus logo and “Designed by OnePlus” text at the bottom. The sides are metal, and in addition to the usual volume, power, and USB-C port, OnePlus’ trademark three-position mute switch returns.

Listing image by Ron Amadeo

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