With the OnePlus 7 Pro, OnePlus promised a better phone, without bells and whistles. Trouble is, that's not what we got.
That’s not to say the OnePlus 7 Pro is bad; far from it. In fact, the up-and-coming Chinese phone maker’s latest device is already on our list of the best smartphones you can buy today. At a starting price of $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro offers unparalleled performance and a gorgeous display with a mesmerizingly-smooth refresh rate, all for a couple of hundred dollars less than alternatives from Google, Apple, Samsung or Huawei.
But it’s also not above gimmicks. And in chasing those gimmicks, the price of OnePlus’ new handset has ballooned. The cheapest model costs a full $120 more than the base OnePlus 6T that released late last year.
And for that you’re getting what, exactly?
Ok, there’s the industry-first 90Hz, Quad HD display. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s new triple camera is better than the old dual-lens system in the OnePlus 6T, though Huawei’s P30 Pro, the Google Pixel 3 and the Galaxy S10 edge it in some respects. The new Snapdragon 855 chipset offers gobs of power, but then the 6T was no slouch, either.
All of those are valid justifications for springing for the OnePlus 7 Pro. But once you see past them, you come to realize OnePlus has found itself mired in the same meaningless rat race it used to rally against.
No single aspect of the device is a better example of this than the OnePlus 7 Pro’s motorized pop-up selfie camera. The 6T already had as unobtrusive a notch as you can get, and with the new mechanism propping itself out of the top edge, the 7 Pro winds up being noticeably thicker — all for a nice-to-have party trick. In fact, it’s bigger than the already somewhat unwieldy 6T in every dimension (and heavier, too — almost by a full ounce).
To its credit, OnePlus did use that extra real estate to pack in a larger battery — 4,000mAh compared to the 6T’s 3,700mAh. And yet, the new phone lasted an hour less in our battery test than the outgoing device. While OnePlus has beefed up the 7 Pro’s charging speed with a new 30-watt adapter, because the battery is larger, topping up proved no faster based on our testing. Both the OnePlus 6T and 7 Pro hit the same 60 percent in a half hour.
Why the OnePlus 6T is better
The OnePlus 7 Pro may be a great value proposition, but the OnePlus 6T is still better. With the 6T’s 8GB RAM, 128GB storage configuration seeing a $30 price drop to $549, OnePlus’ previous phone (which is barely seven months old, mind) is still by far the least expensive option if you’re looking for flagship-caliber Snapdragon power, a fantastic software experience in the company’s OxygenOS stack and an AMOLED display that continues to impress, even though it may have been beaten by the company’s latest metal.
The funny thing is, OnePlus is well aware of how phenomenal the 6T continues to be; that’s why it's offering the OnePlus 7 in markets outside North America. The OnePlus 7 is functionally the 6T, but with the 7 Pro’s faster processor and two of the 7 Pro’s three new cameras. That variant is curiously absent in the U.S., where the 6T will continue to be sold unlocked through the company’s website and in T-Mobile stores around the country.
Is OnePlus afraid the standard OnePlus 7’s even more compelling value could cannibalize sales of its pricier and more ambitious product? Possibly. There are perfectly good business justifications for OnePlus to move upmarket. The thing is, though, none of those matter to customers. And if you really want a smartphone without bells and whistles, that performs reliably at a high level for as little as possible, the answer is still the OnePlus 6T.