What's wrong with the OnePlus One?
The OnePlus One is among the more interesting phones we’ve seen over the last year. At first it seems too good to be true.
It has a 1080p screen, the same processor as the Galaxy S5, a respectable camera and 4G, but costs less than half the price of the rivals from the bigger names. Are you going to get stung if you buy a OnePlus One?
Here are the issues that are worth thinking about before you get too excited.
It’s extremely hard to get hold of
The OnePlus One has become the most-hyped phone ever to come from a phone maker that just about no normal people have heard of. At present it’s probably the hardest-to-get-hold-of phone there is.
Around the phone’s launch, OnePlus is running an invite system to ensure the company isn’t completely swamped by demand. Essentially it’s a way for OnePlus to turn that it can’t make enough phones into another cog in its anticipation-generation engine. You can only buy a phone if you have an invite.
In order to get an invite, you need to know someone who has already bought the phone. Each person who buys the phone gets a few invites to let them into the OnePlus club of folks who have the right to buy a mobile.
We’re sure people will try and sell invites online, but we don’t recommend getting in suckered into that. Instead, see if any of your friends have bought the phone, and have a look into the OnePlus forum to see if you get snag one. As a company with a fairly community-centric approach, it’s likely reams of invites will eventually be granted to active forum users.
There’s no microSD card slot
One of the most contentious decisions of the OnePlus One was to leave out a microSD card slot. This means you can’t easily expand memory unless you’re happy to rely on cloud services – which isn’t the same thing at all.
To make matters worse, early versions of the phone shipped with a manual that stated the phone has an microSD slot. It doesn’t.
Part of this is to make the 64GB version of the OnePlus One a valid buy – phones with microSD slots tend to only sell well in their lowest storage capacity. There is no real solution either, except to suggest that OnePlus One buyers seriously consider the 64GB version, rather than the entry-level 16GB one.
It doesn’t support Band 20 4G – this is a biggie
One of the most important issues with the OnePlus One for UK buyers is that it does not support band 20 4G. This is the band over which several of the UK’s networks transmit their 4G signal. And this means you cannot get 4G mobile internet with them.
The networks that use band 20 include O2, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, LycaMobile and GiffGaff. Yes, you cannot get 4G on a OnePlus One with any of these networks in the UK.
That only really leaves EE and Three, and as Three uses band 20 for part of its signal, 4G speed may not be too hot on Three. These networks use Band 3 (EE/Three) and band 7 (EE), which are supported by the OnePlus One.
Other 4G bands supported by the OnePlus One include band 4 and band 17. But they’re not of much use here.
Once again there are no real solutions. This is a hardware issue, not something that can be solved with a software patch.
You can either be happy with a 3G connection or sign up to one of the 4G networks that doesn’t rely entirely on band 20. Decent SIM-only EE 4G plans start at £16.99, which gets you 1GB, maxing out at £22.99 for a 4GB a month plan.
Three’s 4G deals are much more attractive. Starting at £12.90 a month you can get an ‘all you can eat’ data plan, which has a fair use policy of 1000GB a month. There is some limiting of speed for tethering and file sharing between 3pm and 12am, but that’s hardly a serious trade-off given the price.
OnePlus One has no track record of support
Another serious issue: who is OnePlus, exactly? There has been a lot of talk about how it is made of people from Oppo, another manufacturer, but that doesn’t mean the company will turn out to be as reliable or stable as Oppo, which itself is hardly a well-known company in the UK.
Why does this matter? Support. We currently have no idea about what lengths you’ll have to go to get a OnePlus One repaired should it fail within the first month, and we don’t even know if the company will be around in twelve months’ time should something go wrong later down the line while the phone is still under warranty.
OnePlus is under certain obligations by law, but that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily follow them quickly or easily.
... and no track record with Android updates
Almost as important as the warranty support, will OnePlus really keep on offering software support for the phone? It claims it will support the OnePlus One for two years, but at this point the claim is little more than clever marketing and (we hope) good intentions. One possible issue is that because the OnePlus One is likely to attract a rabid community of tech tinkerers, OnePlus may start to lean on unofficial software updates doing the job for it. This would be short-sighted, as while the most vocal One fans may appear happy - the people rejoicing as a new Android 6.5 ROM is released - the larger, more normal crowd may be most unhappy indeed.
This is the best reason why some of you prospective OnePlus One owners should think about waiting for Google to announce the Nexus 6, the rumoured next instalment of the Google own brand phone series. Either do that, or expect that you may have to get your hands dirty in order to keep up-to-date with the latest version of Android.
Is the OnePlus One too good to be true?
It seems OnePlus has done well with the One. While there are sure to be other niggles post-launch, the phone appears to be a good starting point for the young company. However, it is somewhat non-UK centric, and it shows.
Most of the UK’s 4G networks will not work with the phone, and that’s a major downer if you’re looking at the OnePlus One as a cheaper way to get on-board with everything that’s new and flashy in the mobile tech world.