Chinese company’s latest smartphone is hoping to attract users with 6in-screen complete with facial recognition
The latest Android smartphone from Chinese upstart OnePlus hopes to tempt users looking for the new all-screen experience, but at less than half the price of an iPhone X.
The 5T is a revamped version of the 5 launched in June and marks the second time the company has updated its smartphone line more than once in a year. According to co-founder Carl Pei, this is because “when we’ve got new technology ready to go we don’t want to leave our users with older devices”.
Launched in New York, the 5T is essentially a OnePlus 5 on the inside, with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, memory and storage options, fast-charging system and Oxygen OS software based on last year’s Android 7.1.1, not the newer Android 8 Oreo. It even costs the same, priced at £449, undercutting rivals by at least several hundred pounds.
But the 1080p AMOLED screen has been stretched to the now popular 18:9 ratio, filling the front of the display with thin bezels at the top, bottom and sides. That means the 5T has a larger 6in screen squeezed into a body that is less than 2mm bigger than the 5, with its 5.5in screen. The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back – a common position for many Android devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, which introduced the 18:9 stretch-screen concept earlier this year.
OnePlus has also introduced its own version of facial recognition using the front-facing selfie camera to make unlocking the device while on a desk a little more convenient, trading a certain level of security in the process.
“Our face-recognition system analyses 100 different points on your face and is one of the fastest on Android,” said Pei. “It’ll be difficult to fool with either a photo or a video, but it’s only 2D not 3D [like Apple’s Face ID], which means it’s a feature designed for convenience, for those that are happy to trade a little bit of security for convenience, of which there are many.”
The rear dual camera has also been altered, ditching the telephoto setup that provided a 2x optical zoom for two cameras both using the same fast f1.7 lenses for better low-light performance. One camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and the other a 20-megapixel sensor, which is used in light levels below 10 lux – where a very dark overcast day is around 100 lux.
“Low-light photography was one of the key pieces of feedback we got from users, so we designed a system that merges four pixels into one to reduce noise while having two cameras to produce portrait mode shots and a hybrid zoom system that could replace the 2x zoom of a telephoto lens,” explained Pei.
The OnePlus 5T will go on sale on 21 November across Europe and North America, priced at £449 for 64GB storage and 6GB RAM, and £499 for 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM.
OnePlus has made a name for itself as the self-proclaimed “flagship killer”, offering a top-end experience at price significantly less than rivals. It has gained the backing of O2 in the UK, which sells last year’s OnePlus 3, a significant consumer confidence boost for a relatively unknown brand. But the company has faced challenges, including over software updates – an update to Android 8 Oreo for the 5T is not expected until the start of 2018.
Recently the company was accused of having installed a diagnostics program on its phones that could be used to create a backdoor via a developer system when attached to a computer allowing so-called root access.
“While [the EngineerMode app] can enable adb root, which provides privileges for adb commands, it will not let third-party apps access full root privileges,” said OnePlus. “Additionally, adb root is only accessible if USB debugging, which is off by default, is turned on, and any sort of root access would still require physical access to your device.”
“While we don’t see this as a major security issue, we understand that users may still have concerns and therefore we will remove the adb root function from EngineerMode in an upcoming OTA.”