The Best Cell Phone You have Likely NEVER Heard Of

It is the best you have never heard of if you are not a techno gadget geek like me.

Recently, my Motorola Pure Edition (2015) died a rather incomplete death.  After just over a year, both the camera and Bluetooth began doing some really weird things.  It almost made the phone unusable for me.  I need both my camera personally and professionally, and Bluetooth is critical to so many things I do.

So having either functioning abnormally, or not at all, was not an option.

I was not ready to buy a new phone, however.  I do not do contracts.  I haven’t in quite a while.  I don’t like being locked into an agreement.  Flexibility is very important to me. So when it comes to buying phones, I look for affordability along with great features, especially since I am buying the phone outright.   Up front I will pay a premium for that luxury, but over the two-year life standard on most cell contracts,  I’ll manage to save $200+, depending on the phone.

The Search

And so began the search for the next device.  And you need to know something about me.  I’m a voracious researcher about major purchases like a new cell phone.  I use the phone, as most of us do, for so many things critical to my day.  For some, a cell phone is simply entertainment…games, videos, and social media…for me, it is my mobile office, my personal management tool, my concierge, and my entertainment.  Pretty much in that order.  So when I went to looking for a new device, I was looking for powerful specs without the power price to go along with it.

I really wanted a Google Pixel XL.  I loved the specs, the reviews, and the fact that it was a real threat to the Samsung Galaxy S8.  Just on specs alone the Pixel was a clear winner IMHO.  I’ve owned Samsung devices before.  And on paper they are great phones.  But the bloatware and constant bastardizing of Android was driving me nuts.  I’m a bit of a purist.  Give me stock Android and let me play.  Please do not redefine the experience for me.  If I want someone to build the box and make me stay inside it, I would buy an iPhone (yes, I went there).  The beauty of Android is the high level of personalization in so many functional ways that iOS simply will not deliver.  I chose my words carefully there…it is not that iOS cannot deliver that level of customization…Apple will not allow it.   And so exit Apple stage left.  It works for lots of folks, just not for me.

The problem with the Pixel was the price.  Just to get started with a base model off-the-shelf Pixel XL you open your wallet and drop $769.  Ouch.

Going back to the drawing board, I began looking at other, less conventional possibilities.  Enter the OnePlus 5.  Comparing specs, the OnePlus 5 and the Pixel XL could be twins in many ways.  For a great side-by-side spec comparison for your techies out there, check out this comparison on Digital Trends.

What I Learned

Let me sum up my top three personal observations. 

  • The OnePlus 5 offers a better processor and more memory to start (OnePlus offers RAM both in 6GB and an 8GB sizes, where the Pixel XL started with 4GB.)
  • The OnePlus 5 debuted with 2 rear cameras (yes, I said T-W-O), one of which offers telephoto capability.
  • The OnePlus 5 is thinner and a touch lighter than the Pixel XL.  There have been accusations bandied about that it’s an iPhone copy, but at this point, it is less about design for me and more about functionality and power.

Once I compared the specs, and came to understand that in some ways the OnePlus was the winner (not all of them, mind you), it came down to price.  A Google Pixel XL with 128GB will set you back $869.  Compare that with the OnePlus 5 with 4GB of additional RAM (for a total of 8) and 128GB of memory, and you will only be out $539.  That’s a savings of $330 for those of you too shocked by that number to be able to handle the math.

Dollar for dollar, there is no finer phone on the market than the OnePlus 5.  Not iPhone, not Samsung, and not Google.  All great devices, don’t get me wrong.  But for value…you can’t beat it.

Made the Leap

So I ordered one.  I received it in 2 days with free shipping.  Went ahead and bought the OtterBox case while I was at it.  No sense not getting a case for the thing.

After 10 days, I can tell you this is the finest cell phone I’ve ever handled.  It is fast.  I mean crazy fast.  Never a stutter or a hiccup, no matter how many apps I have open.  The OxygenOS developed by OnePlus is a nice touch.  Consider it stock Android 7 with some simple enhancements.  For a purist like me, I can disable almost all of the bonus enhancements and get pretty close to stock Android 7, without the hoops or restrictions that Samsung imposes.  For the most part, I find the additions and enhancements well-conceived and helpful.  I

Yes, I took that with the OnePlus 5.

hope the Google team considers some of the changes for future standard Android releases.

The camera is amazing.  It has one drawback.  At this time, there is no optical image stabilization.  That can make getting that great piece of video a bit trickier.  However, OnePlus announced plans to introduce software-driven electronic image stabilization in a future update — hopefully soon.  But I will tell you that I have had no issues so far.  Great photos with exceptional resolution and color.  Not as fine a camera as the PIxel XL, but I have a Nikon.  If the picture is that important, I’ll break out the big guns.

Dual SIM Capability

I like the idea of the dual sim cards offered in the OnePlus 5.  Handy for those needing a phone line for work and personal without the need for 2 devices.  If you are a Verizon or Sprint customer, you’ll be out of luck.  It only works on AT&T or T-Mobile.  Which is fine if you live in an area where you can get either of those carriers and have no love for Verizon (I have never met anyone who says they love Verizon, but I have met a couple of folks that like their Sprint service). 

Photo courtesy of Android Authority.

Oh yeah – love the fingerprint scanner.  It is snappy and responsive.  Zero delay in getting my phone unlocked.  I never really thought I would care either way about a fingerprint scanner.  But in the future, I won’t own a phone without it.

One bummer is that there is no microSD card slot.  For backups, this would be handy.  Restoring an Android device is a trial in near futility, so microSD can save the day.  But I sense that microSD is going the way of the 8-track tape deck.  We will not being seeing them on many phones in the future.  I am hopeful that Google will eventually get around to addressing backup issues the right way, instead of making it so difficult and time-consuming.  Then the microSD issue won’t be such a big deal.

The phone also offers the Type-C connector for charging and data transfer.  Loved the idea with my Pixel C tablet, and love it for the phone.  It does not matter which way you insert it, it will connect.  Farewell, microUSB connection…don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Battery life is phenomenal.  I can get a full day of moderate to heavy use on one charge.  And their Dash charge technology can have my phone almost to full charge in less than an hour.  In a battery charge test, it blew away other flagship phones in charge time and overall battery usage.

The Wrap Up

I have never really sat down to craft a product review before.  My goal here was not to do a blow-by-blow of every aspect of the phone.  There are professionals out there that do that for a living.  My goal was to impress upon you that sometimes the most incredible products don’t always have to come from the same manufacturers they always do.  Especially when the incredible product is clearly the best value in the market.  And in this case, it’s not even close.

I’ll leave you with a couple of additional thoughts.  The Midnight Black OnePlus 3T sold out globally in about one month, after it was released earlier this year.  Pop-up stores of the OnePlus 5 during their innovative launch produced sell-outs within hours.  It is a fabulous device with great specs, a fabulous build, and exceptional performance, all without the big price tag to match.  And it is in high demand because of the great value.

For me, it was a no-brainer.  If you are looking to buy one, use this link and you’ll get $20 off on accessories when you buy a OnePlus from their site.  Enjoy, and if you love it, drop me a note so I know that in some small way, I helped you find a great device.

 

Get your OnePlus5