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OnePlus 5T: 3 months later, here's what I've learned

Commentary: A little over three months after using this phone as my daily driver, some things have changed.

The Oneplus 6 has been officially revealed. Now, it does have a notch, but also image stabilization on its dual rear cameras. We spoke with OnePlus co-founder, Carl Pei about the new phone and the future of OnePlus. 

Last November, the OnePlus 5T impressed us and earned CNET's Editors' Choice for its high-end specs, great camera and affordable price tag (the 64GB model starts at $499 and £449, which converts to about AU$660.)

A little over three months later, the phone is still great. But some of my initial opinions and thoughts have changed or evolved since I first reviewed the phone. While I've discovered some delightful new things about the phone, I've also come across minor irritations as well.

Again, let's be clear, I do like the 5T. It's my daily Android driver for a reason, and it does a ton of things well (which I'll get into later). But now that I have an opportunity to dive a little deeper, indulge me as a nitpick a few things.

Face unlock is pretty 'meh'

In addition to not authorizing payments (which I wouldn't care to use anyway), the 5T's face unlock doesn't work super-well. For it to work perfectly, I need to have ample lighting and position the phone straight in front of my face. I was fine with this in the beginning, but the more I used it, the more I realized how just how rarely I find myself in that perfect scenario.

Unless you're well-lit at all times or prepared to hold your phone up in an awkward, conspicuous way, face unlock won't work. That means whenever I'm at a dim bar, or just want to use it on my desk, the fingerprint reader works so much better.

This feature isn't perfected across the board yet, as FaceID can get tricky on the iPhone X, too.

Bring back 16:9 please

With previous OnePlus models, including the 5, you could take photos in three aspect ratios: 16:9, 4:3 and 1:1. In the 5T, however, 16:9 has been replaced by 18:9. That means images start out closer or more "zoomed in" on the subject, and it makes me have to take a step back to fit everything I want in the frame. While it's true that phone screens are adopting the 18:9 ratio (the 5T's own screen is 18:9), 16:9 is far from dead for photos and video. I don't see why OnePlus couldn't keep the 16:9 ratio on the 5T, since it provides the perfect middle ground between the (dated looking, IMO) 4:3 ratio and the burgeoning 18:9 standard.


Not only does the OnePlus 5T (left) have a screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio, but it takes photos in that ratio, too.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

To err is human; to forgive is… not a guarantee

This isn't a knock on the phone itself, but of OnePlus's mishandling of the credit card data breach that affected over 40,000 users. It feels as if with every release there's always something --  whether it's collecting an inordinate amount of user data or benchmark skewing. I understand that companies do make mistakes, and with relatively small companies like OnePlus, you're going to hit snags. And in the end, I want these companies to do well, because having more competition and options benefits us as consumers.

But there are times when users feel that the company isn't rectifying its actions fast enough or it's not being transparent enough to let people know what's going on. That's not to say OnePlus hasn't tried to fix past issues or apologized for its mistakes. But the company can do better because its customers deserve better. OnePlus makes solid, affordable phones so its passionate fanbase is willing to overlook its missteps for now. But it's starting to press its luck.

Dash Charging is still awesome

Believe the hype with Dash Charging. Dash Charging is OnePlus' proprietary technology for quick-charging its phone batteries. The phone's battery life on its own is still excellent these many months in, but Dash Charging is perfect when you're in a pinch. And if you can afford the extra $30 or £25, it's definitely worth getting the Dash Car Charger. It's saved me a bunch of times when I was low on battery and had to drive somewhere nearby. I definitely recommend it.


Have an extra layer of security with individual app lock.

Lynn La/CNET

Reading Mode is your friend

I didn't expect to like or use Reading Mode as much as I do, but here I am espousing its benefits. Reading Mode changes the 5T's screen to a soft sepia, giving your eyes a break whenever you're reading text on a brightly lit screen. I've set it to activate every time I launch apps like The New York Times or CNET (shameless plug), and it makes reading way more comfortable.

Individual app unlock is oddly comforting

Though they don't do it as much these days, in the past my close friends had the a habit of posting ridiculous things under my Facebook account if I left my phone unattended. (Nothing too slanderous, but still idiotic things like "I like butts" or what have you.)

On the OnePlus 5T you can choose apps that require an extra security layer to open, like a pin or fingerprint. I use it for a handful of apps besides Facebook and Messenger, like Twitter and the gallery and text app.

There's no reason why I should be this paranoid, since most people in my life these days respect my privacy, but I do like having that extra layer of security, especially if one of my buddies wants to relive the good old days.

Still an excellent phone

After spending these many months with the 5T, I still recommend it to people -- especially if they're on a budget and are willing to diverge from the Apple/Samsung path. For those angling to get their next device this year, I suggest you wait a bit for any additional colors to be released. Like last year and the years before, OnePlus rolled out different colors such as gold, white and red a couple of months after the initial launch. I'm not guaranteeing that the same will happen this year, but you never know. 

OnePlus 5T review: A stellar phone gets an even larger screen

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