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The OnePlus 2 pushes the boundaries of how cheap a flagship phone can be (theverge.com)
64 points by Zweihander 538 days ago | hide | past | web | 77 comments | favorite

I'm completely disappointed with the way phone market evolves. I don't want a cheap phone, I want a phone that works.

I want my phone to have enough memory and processing power to handle its operating system without hiccups. It is ridiculous that even a $700 phone can just start lagging on you. I want my phone to have it all - Bluetooth, WiFi, IrDA, accelerometer, thermometer, barometer, SD card, double SIM, removable battery; all sensors and standard protocols and features that companies use now to segment markets. I don't see a reason for a phone to not to have it all other than vendors trying to extract more money from people by forcing them to choose the least inferior option. But fuck it, I'll pay even $1000+, just create a phone that works.

And I want a tool, not a fitness toy for bored first-worlders. Double, no - triply so for wearables. People ask me why I just bought a Pebble instead of one of those shiny touch-screen "smart"watches. It's simple - I want a tool, not a glorified pedometer. While I think a touchscreen would be really welcome, still, Pebble seems to be the only wearables company that wants to make something useful instead of shiny. But I am yet to find such a comapny for phones themselves.

It's disheartening when you compare what we know we can do with what is actually done because of business reasons.

Althought that might be your preference, I'm fairly certain very few people feel the same. I too want a phone that "works", but I'd never pay $1000+. I can live with some sacrifices if i can get a Good Enough phone for ~$400. And imo, OnePlus One is fits the bill quite well. I was sceptical about no SD card and the non-removable battery, but when the battery lasts for days, and i have 64GB eMMC and online backup, I found I don't need those things anyway.

I think there is a huge market of people who wouldn't think twice of paying $1000 for, even among those who aren't really wealthy. Include me in that market. My smartphone is my most important possession, and I use it more than anything else that I own, including my laptop. With reasonably good care, a smart phone will last for 2 years, and, at that time, have 50% of its original value.

So - if a really solid smartphone was available for $1500, that is $750 over 24 months, or $31/month. There are a lot of things that I pay $31/month for, that don't give me the same value as my smartphone, that I would happily give up to get a world-class best-of-breed experience.

And realize, we are comparing with a "good enough" $400 phone - which would probably only have 25% of it's value ($100) after 2 years - so, $300/24 month or $12.50/month, so what we are really asking ourselves, is do we want to spend $12.50 for a good enough phone, or $31/month for a best-in-class phone. I'm certainly willing to pay the extra $19/month.

It is ridiculous that even a $700 phone can just start lagging on you

IMHO the blame for that lies with the software, not the hardware. Android is basically the realisation of the original Java OS, but on hardware fast enough that its performance has become "acceptable" - most of the time.

As for the other features; Bluetooth, WiFi, accelerometer (and compass/magnetometer), SD, dual-SIM, and removable battery are pretty much standard on every generic Chinese phone now since they're based on reference designs that have all those components (they cost almost nothing - it would probably take more work to remove them and customise the HW/SW - and it's yet another feature point they can list.)

I'd consider such a "full-featured" phone "flagship", but what the term appears to mean today is just a fast CPU, big screen, and pretty looks, with the other features appearing and disappearing seemingly randomly.

> with the other features appearing and disappearing seemingly randomly

This is what bothers me. I suspect it's not random, it's market segmentation. So ok, a vendor may think that some consumers value feature X, Y, and Z, while others value featues X, Q and V. But one thing that is missing from all offerings is a phone that has them all. This is the phone that I would like to buy, even if it was significantly more expensive than the rest. But I can't, because it's not there.

(Or I haven't found it yet. If anyone knows of such device, I'd be grateful for a pointer.)

I don't want to start here any flame war or something, but that's the main reason why I've switched to Windows Phone OS - for 100$ - 150$ You've got the system that runs like a charm (I'm not smartphone power user so all apps I need are available in Windows Store)

I HAD a windows phone (Lumia 620) for about 6 months before I gave up trying to get used to it and went back to Android.

The animations are just too slow and annoying for me to get used to. There needs to be a way to turn them off. The phone wasn't laggy. It's just the animations that got on my nerves.

The animations in Windows Phone hide the loading times. The phone wouldn't be any faster without them.

Can you recommend a good chinese phone with similar specs that I could find on aliexpress?

Keep dreaming. The sad fact is, the majority of consumers do not even know what half of those features are for let alone need them. We, the techies of the world do not define these products any more - our mothers, uncles and children do (and all they want to do is take acceptable looking selfies, share them and send the odd text message.

I don't have high hopes. Just had to vent out.

What also irks me is that all that consumer-defined hardware is pushing human ability to weather stress and annoyances. I sometimes really wonder if the proliferation of underpowered, laggy phones isn't turning into public health problem. I sometimes get to fix my mother's laptop (also used by my sister). It came with Windows 8, but it runs it so slow that personally, I'd kill myself if I had to do any work on such equipment. And yes, my mother is incredibly annoyed as well, but she doesn't really expect any better, she gave up on it some time ago.

Yes, I am dreaming about good technology. I know we have the means, there just isn't will. The only place when you can see technology working without problems is sci-fi movies. Just try and imagine that scene from Star Trek - an away team tries to scan derelict starship with a tricorder, only to have it hang up, reboot and then complain that it won't work because it can't connect to the cloud. Ridiculous, isn't it?

But hey, not all is lost yet. People are attempting to make their own phones outside of big phone vendors. They do that mostly to push against erosion of privacy and user's ability to control their own device. I'm hoping someone will try to make a smartphone equivalent of a tricorder. I think there are enough geeks like me to fund a decent Kickstarter.

Just try and imagine that scene from Star Trek - an away team tries to scan derelict starship with a tricorder, only to have it hang up, reboot and then complain that it won't work because it can't connect to the cloud. Ridiculous, isn't it?

We're not in the 24th Century yet!

Sounds like you might want one of these:


It doesn't matter about the memory and processing power. The hiccups are down the the OS, not the hardware.

Relevant video: https://vimeo.com/134128443

A very interesting video, thanks! So the question is, how can I get my hands on something from Shenzhen that works? I've seen people importing Chinese smartphones that are equivalent to high-end products on Western market but for half a price. But could anyone share some tips on finding and getting a device that may be more functional than what you can buy in Europe/US?

I'd just browse dealextreme or aliexpress: http://www.dx.com/attr/cell-phones-accessories-599/cell-phon...

e.g. http://www.dx.com/p/xiaomi-4-quad-core-android-4-4-3-bar-pho... which can be compared against the OnePlus 2 here: http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/xiaomi-mi-5-needs-to... (headline says mi5, scroll down)

My personal oppinion is that dx is lacking the newer Android devices. Geekbuying.com is often better in this regard. DX has for example not the latest Meizu or Ulefone phones.

Well, if you're in Europe, find some info about VAT and customs duty rates and limits for imported goods and how individual customers pay them. Here in Slovakia, for example, if I buy anything over 20€ from China, it will be held by the post office until I come and pay 20% VAT on it and if it's more than around 140€ (I don't remember the exact amount), I have to pay duty too.

There is a EU-based shop of dx at http://eud.dx.com/. At least, they ship via the Netherlands. Not as fast as a typical EU-based shop but it takes out the hassle with customs

I want a phone that has all that, and also makes coffee

I'm really sad that it won't have CyanogenMod; that was the biggest reason that I purchased a One. It's a real shame that there was that whole fight over exclusivity in India (IIRC, it sounds like CM's fault, but I'm not 100% certain).

I'm interested to read details of how the fingerprint unlock works. Remember that a fingerprint reader is insufficient to be secure, as fingerprints are low-entropy and relatively public.

If they don't lock it down and is similar to the One, then it should be incredibly easy to switch to CM.

I'm running CM12.1 on my One at the moment and it's leaps and bounds better than the stock CM11S ROM that comes with the device.

I have been slightly paranoid to flash mine (came from China I think and not quite correctly installed as the OTA updates don't take with a signature mismatch). If you have the time - can you tell me

1. Are they easy to brick? 2. Is there a decent guide for updating?


Just back it up, fastboot unlock, and flash a recovery image. You'll thank yourself you did it. As per your questions:

1. Not that easy to completely brick. If you try to flash the wrong recovery or boot, it will fail to start even in recovery mode (bricked?). I've done that to mine, but I was still able to boot it up while tethered (I have two phones and I inadvertently used the image for my other phone on my One Plus).

2. Loads of guides on their forums or google in general. Also, Nexus 4 or 5 guides are the same procedure, just replacing with the relevant images and ROMs (the OnePlus One's codename is Bacon, in case you're looking at what roms to download).

Have you found a trustworthy source for the holo interface for CM12?

I just switched from CM12 to OxygenOS. I don't see many advantages that CyanogenMod might have over this slightly modified stock Android. As with CM, it has a few extra settings and it can be rooted. Yes it comes with Google's Apps, but most of them are quite useful.

Agreed - I bought the One for CM as well (and stayed with CM, moved to 12.1 later).

Looking at the S6 Edge on my desk here I won't ever buy another device, without seeing official nightly builds from CM first. So no OPT(? OP2?) for me, for now, although I crave for a replacement device to get away from this Samsung POS.

Is anyone else in the "My perfect phone would be my current one but with a battery that easily lasts 3+ days" boat? I've currently got an iPhone 5S, and I can achieve this with those portable USB chargers. I've no need for any of the other features which new generations of smartphones are adding (multi-core\multi-ghz processors, huge amounts of RAM etc), though there's perhaps a killer app round the corner which will advantage of this. Otherwise I cannot see myself replacing my 5S in the next couple of years (except for Apple dropping support, or me dropping it in my beer)

Depending on how heavy your use is, you should look at the Xiaomi Mi4i.

I picked it up as a Nexus 5 replacement solely for the ridiculously large battery (3100mAh or 72% more than the similarly sized iPhone 6 and still 6% more than the 6 Plus). It's slimmer and more solid (the N5 has a tendency to get dented), and arguably has better specs (it definitely deals with Skype, my only performance hog, much better). When I was in the market, there was nothing that came close in terms of battery life. IRL it has been alright, if I read a book and check emails most of the time it will die in about 32 hours but going into town for meetings (i.e. only using maps, email and the odd Kindle), I've found it only lost 30% battery/day.

Cost me around 205 USD including shipping and a 6 month warranty, but if it breaks I'll just buy another one. It's only 1/5th the cost of an iPhone...

The Xiaomi portable chargers are also pretty neat.

I don't know about US availability as it appears most things Xiaomi are directly ripped off Apple and there's probably copyright issues. Check out the Mi Note to see what I mean...

I'm in the EU so I suspect it maybe a little easier to pickup a Xiami phone. 3100mAh is pretty impressive by the sounds of things, so as long as the power consumption hasn't scaled similarly that could be an interesting option. I'll check it out!

Watch out not to get the Mi 4 by accident. The Mi4i was launched this year and was basically designed to be a "premium smartphone at emerging markets prices" whereas the Mi 4 is the "China flagship", whose design is a stretched iPhone 5S (you might like that though) just like the Samsung Alpha. It's a lot more expensive and as far as I'm concerned unjustifiably so. i stands for "international".

I don't think the power consumption is as smart as the N5; it def drains about the same in airplane mode as not in airplane mode, whilst the N5 basically became as good as switched off. On the upside power management seems much better when it comes to dealing with networks; maybe I was on the wrong frequency bands. The N5 battery was shockingly bad; after a year and a half I was getting barely 1.5 hours of use out of the thing. Great when you're stranded in Tokyo and relying on Google Maps and Translate...

FWIW my iPhone 4 from years ago is still the most durable phone I've owned. I still get a good 3 days battery out of it (it's our guest phone) and it can go weeks on airplane mode in the drawer. But when you've tasted a 5" screen and multitasking, it really is too little...

When mobile OS gets good enough to export HDMI (and a docking bay) and use it as a desktop-type replacement, then I'll want a more badass phone. Unfortunately the thing I care about the most (slow-motion / high frame rate video recording) isn't being pushed by anyone but Apple, which means the current 120/240 FPS sensors that Apple uses will be the peak of technology. Very disappointed Android or others didn't push this; it has implications for machine vision and other externalities that make the price of some of the most interesting tech (high sampling rate video for computer vision and other related industries).

Oh well.

This maybe shows why these manufacturers are having a tough time pleasing us all - you and I have substantially different use cases for our phones! I like having a nice-ish camera that behaves well in lower light situations, but that's it as far as the camera goes. The high frame-rate functionality just isn't something I've ever used or needed. I have seen a few videos of people playing "catch" with slightly clumsy\not-so-bright dogs, which in slow motion is pretty hilarious and I'm thinking of getting a dog soon so this may change :)

I have lumia 735 and battery lasts here for 3-4 days (if 3G internet and WiFi is off)

Ahhh maybe I should be more specific - I'd like it to work for this duration without having to worry about switching on/off the 3G/WiFi radios.

No NFC, which seems like an odd choice. Wonder how much that shaved off the manufacturing cost.


I'm guessing it was more related to the 'feature' of having replaceable backplates.

Whoa, that's a nice find. That breaks the yubikey setup with OpenKeyChain. That's rather unfortunate...

Give me a 4.5-inch phone with slightly lower specs (a battery-saving 720p screen would be enough at that size) for less than $300, and I'm sold.

For the time being, though, I'm going to wait out the "my phone is bigger than your dick" game that everyone and their dog seems to be engaged in. 175 grams is way too heavy to carry around in a pocket, let alone hold with one hand for more than a few minutes. And yet everyone competes in the already overcrowded "flagship" market instead of trying to find a niche.

I hope at least some manufactorers will return to their senses before my 4.27-inch, 107-gram Galaxy S4 Mini begins to feel unbearably slow.

You could pick up the Nexus 5. I switched to OPO from Nexus 5 and it had the perfect dimensions. Lightweight and great for one-hand usage. The battery is a bummer though.

The maximum screen size I'm looking for is 4.5 inches, maybe 4.7 if the bezel is very thin. Maximum weight: around 120 grams.

The Nexus 5 is bigger and heavier than that, but I'm keeping it near the edge of my radar in case I have no other choice.

<rant> LG recently began to market the Gram, a series of high-end ultrabooks that weigh less than 1000 grams. Why on Earth is nobody trying to market medium-to-high-end phones that weigh less than 100 grams? </rant>

Sony z3 compact is the one you're looking for. Sadly it's one of the dying breed of non huge phones with flagship specs and good software (just don't upgrade to Lollipop, it's junk).

4.6 inches and 129 grams! We're getting closer...

As for the software, I don't really care as long as I can wipe it and replace it with Cyanogenmod. Just checked and it seems that Cyanogenmod supports the Z3 Compact. Thanks for the suggestion.

Caution with unlocking the device, when you do, you loose the proprietary DRM data for the camera and picture optimization by Sony and the quality drops massively. You can't regain them (or at least this wasn't the case a year ago). So do some research on this before, not sure if this can be avoided now.

Sign me up for that. Give me more battery and less screen ; we have voice commands now. also make it as rugged as possible. i hate using cases or being too careful with my phone.

Sony has some decent options. I just switched to 'stupid' Nokia.

I'm sorry but, 400 bucks is cheap now? It's a great phone for the price, don't get me wrong, but I think 400 bucks is a lot of money.

Flagship phones for other brands are usually in the $700 range. So it's cheap for a flagship at least..

'Cheap' is used in a specific context here. The headline says 'how cheap a _flagship_ phone can be'.

There are cheaper phones out there. Would you name them among 'flagship' devices?

What's the minimum spec to be considered "flagship?"

Well it's not a lot (as in 'a lot lot') of money for large amounts of people, especially amongst those who would buy a phone that you can only buy online and for which you need to go through an 'invite' system. "Cheap" is always a relative concept, so I'm not sure what it is you're complaining about.

It's cheap for what you get. Try comparing it to an iPhone, specs and price.

I think Asus deserves some credit here as well for selling a 4GB RAM Intel Atom phone with dual SIM and SD card slot for comparable prices:


Of course, as usual, their own skin and who knows how long you get updates.

Forget updates, you can even run full-blown Windows 10 and Office on that beast. If only it came with Windows apps and drivers to use the phone-related features...


That's being done with KVM, so it's not really booting and running Win7 natively on the phone (the hardware is probably not close enough to a PC to be able to do this) but inside a VM.

You can find people running various other versions of Windows (and even MS-DOS) on an Android phone, again as a VM.

It has a removable back, but no removable battery or expandable storage? I can sort of understand if the back wasn't removable... but on this one, it is. In this price range you can find many other Android phones which do have those features.

Here's one, for example:


No NFC? Guess I'll have to stick with my OnePlus One if I want to continue to use PGP safely on my phone - https://grepular.com/An_NFC_PGP_SmartCard_For_Android

The competitiveness of the Android handset market gets even more brutal. 4.7" to 5.5" is flooded with phones that are that are $199-$399.

This is not including models that are 12+ months old that are discounted but still have solid specs.

Heck, my Nexus 4 is still perfectly usable. The only real motivation for me to upgrade is LTE (which has finally rolled out to my city in the UK).

What's your experience with Lollipop? Mine had pretty large problems with 3G and Wi-Fi signals after upgrading.

I’m running Cyanogenmod 12.1 & everything has been fine so far. Haven’t tried the official Android L releases.

In all of the comments, I see a lot of excitement about the "features" the company is able to pack for a "low" cost.

I would like to say this in simplest possible way

-- One plus one support model and execution is poorest of all phone makers --

The emphasis and culture in the company is to grow fast without concern towards individuals paying still very high prices for their phones but not getting the worth. The half life of the phone is lower than market and people do face issues when the OS changes are pushed without a good amount of testing.

One plus one forums are inundated with people all over the world having hardware issues and the insufficient support they have been receiving. The founder Carl Pei has made commitments to improve support however the progress has fallen short on promises.

One Plus One ended up being a huge lesson for many customers. One plus two would just end up being another phone without company getting its act together.

Sounds like a Nexus by Google, so ...

> For $300, you got a well-made, nice-looking phone with cutting-edge hardware and few compromises to be found

I don't think it is nice-looking. It's not ugly. It's just normal. It looks very similar to some Android phones.

OnePlusOne was interesting mainly because it had cyanogenmod. I can't wait to read reviews about OxygenOS. (but I have to say: cyanogen was much more interesting)

OxygenOS is being made by the Paranoid Android team. These guys definitely know what they're doing. Expect a more minimal experience with UX optimizations aimed at features users use daily.

Disappointed with the invite system again. Did the first version no sell well enough?

I think it's more to do with manufacturing and inventory management. With the invitation system they can smooth-out demand and prevent peaks until manufacturing is well underway.

Of course one of the ways in which it smooths demand is to turn people away; I was interested in a Meizu Ubuntu phone until I learned I had to 'compete' for the privilege of giving them my money.

Same with the original OPO, by the time I won an invitation ( after waiting several months ) I had gone and bought an LG G3.

The opposite. To little supply for the demand. They used the invites to "throttle" the purchase rate to be able to keep up. They probably thought an invite system was a better aproach than a weekly free-for-all aka. SuiciDDOS against the webshop. Hopefully, this time supply will be significantly higher, meaning the invite system will be removed as soon as they know they can keep up with demand.

Even if that only takes six months the phones isn't going to be interesting by the time you can actively purchase it.

You buy phones for their "interesting" factor rather than actually wanting to use it as a phone? If so, you're probably an extremely tiny minority in that regard...

By not interesting I mean a better version from some other company will be available.

"features a 5.5-inch, 1080p screen"

I hope it's not the same screen as in the One... Other than that, it looks like a good improvement.

If it's anything like the Oneplus One it's a buggy ill supported piece of crap.

I take it you own one and would like your objective opinion. What exactly was wrong with it?

I was in a bit of a mood with it when I commented, but for good reason. A couple of the problems I've had :-

When the battery drained, it refused to boot past the "cyanogen" boot screen. Twice. A common problem that required a factory reset. Would say it's charged to 100%, until the moment the USB was removed and it instantly went to 4%. Every time, no matter whether it had been drained, or charged when turned on/off. Again, factory reset fixed it. Wont vibrate more than once with the OnePlus official flip cover when calls are incoming on silent mode. WhatsApp vibrations cant be turned off since CM12 upgrade. Doesn't do 4G in Europe. There's probably a carrier whom it does work with, but from my last bit of research there isn't in the UK. Perhaps Three though.

I've used CM happily on other handsets, and encountered far fewer and far less frustrating. However if you're marketing a phone specifically to be used with CM, I'd expect a lot more QA to be put into it. If you're happy with a "hackable" phone and you're willing to put up with missing calls, disappearing notifications, private lock screen notifications showing message contents still, then it's not a bad way to waste £300, but I want a reliable phone I dont have to fight with, so I'm sacking it off very soon.

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