OnePlus had a dream start last year. Almost every startups’ dream is to be immensely successful on the first try, and OnePlus did just that with the One (OnePlus One). It was undoubtedly one of the best budget offerings of 2014. Now after OnePlus has lost one of its trump cards, Cyanogen, they’ve launched their “2016 flagship killer” christened the OnePlus 2. Does it really make you “never settle”? Is it still one of the best budget phones going into 2016? And moreover does it justify its price? Well, lets find out in our review of the OnePlus 2 in 2016.

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With smartphones all about being lighter, thinner, and faster these days, OnePlus isn’t one of the companies joining in on the rage and we absolutely love that. The OnePlus Two (OP2) though thick, has a nice heft to it that generally equates itself to the current flagships in today’s market. The sides of the OP2 are completely made up of metal, aluminium and magnesium alloy to be exact, as is the notification slider and the main keys. They feel nice but are very mushy — some more travel would have been nice. The notification slider is well placed on the left and lets you toggle between ‘no notifications’, ‘priority’ and ‘all notifications’. More than using the volume keys to put my phone in silent, I used the notification slider which I feel should make its way into other Android phones and not just the iPhones. Other than that, you can find a drilled speaker grill on the bottom and even though it looks like stereo only the holes on the right house the speaker, the ones on the left are just for the microphone.

The speaker itself though loud, is highly tinny and the placement is plain bad. While playing games I found myself cupping the speakers way too often and I honestly hope OnePlus bails us out with their next [major] device. The capacitive keys on the front are standard fare except for fingerprint scanner which also doubles as a home key. Though it looks clickable, take my word for it, it isn’t. The scanner itself is really easy to set up and is pretty accurate. Just be sure you scan all the parts of your finger while registering or you’re going to have some issues with it. You can store up to 10 fingers and can simply unlock the phone by pressing the scanner with your registered finger.

The back of the phone is made of the same sandstone finish as the previous generation, which I personally love, and this year it’s a bit more durable and tough. Opening the back cover reveals a sealed in battery and dual nano sim tray, both of which support 4g. Overall, my opinion is that if you put this phone in my hands while I wear a blindfold I would probably end up thinking its a much more expensive phone than it really is. The metal and the sandstone back give the phone a premium feel that even more expensive phones lack.

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Under the hood we have a much improved Snapdragon 810. Its super snappy with its 8 cores even with all that thermal throttling to prevent the infamous heating issue. The good news ends there. The bad news is that the heating issue recurred with the latest software update which I’m plain puzzled by. Earlier, games like Mr. Dash and Asphalt 8 ran without a hitch, in fact almost perfectly, but after the update its been heating a lot along the metal rails with just casual gaming. I will give them credit with respect to performance because even though the phone heats up, it still performs insanely well. Apps open snappily, multitasking is a complete breeze with the 4 gigabytes of RAM and just about every part of this phone screams “THIS IS A FLAGSHIP”. No one’s ever going to be unhappy using this phone except for the new-found heating issue.

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In terms of software the OnePlus 2 runs an in-house ROM that’s made by OnePlus, called Oxygen OS. It is a breath of fresh air for stock Android users…. at least most of the time. The ROM is based on Lollipop 5.1 AOSP with an update promised for Marshmallow in early 2016. The software itself is clean with a few useful addition to stock Android. One such feature is called Shelf, which is built into the stock OnePlus launcher (Oxygen OS). Shelf is like a modified version of Google Now, which is capable of holding most used apps, widgets, search results and much more. It has a lot of scope in the Android ecosystem if more features that are similar to HTC’s Blink Feed are baked in. For now, it does what it says and that’s completely appreciable. Oxygen OS also allows us to change the order of switches for wifi, bluetooth and all the other usual toggles in the notification shade.

We truly love this feature and sincerely hope it finds its way into other Android phones. Moreover, the OP2 has a MAXX audio equalizer built-in, which serves the purpose of tweaking the audio output, but, the preset modes aren’t the best with OnePlus struggling to get its audio priorities right. Music mode boosts background music instead of the vocals which is simply wrong and movie mode dims the volume for some reason. Here’s a shout out to OnePlus to fix these issues in the next software update. The System UI itself can be switched between light and  dark mode with accent colors. We recommend the latter to pump out more juice from your phone. Overall, we found the software experience to be enjoyable, as well as the frequent updates that finds its way into the phone at least once or twice a week to neatly irons out the bugs. We found one bug which was extremely irritating and still hasn’t been fixed concerning the volume slider. When we reduce the volume the volume slider stays stagnant indicating no change while the volume output actually has been changed. Other than this issue, Oxygen OS remains one of our favorite Android skins to date and we highly recommend it.

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Camera has always been a high standard for OnePlus, and they’re back with a better camera! The 13 MP sensor accompanied with the laser autofocus and OIS proves that you don’t need a Sony sensor to produce good quality pictures. Pictures shot in broad daylight are color accurate with moderate saturation. Details are sharp and the laser autofocus provides for some really nice bokeh. It is probably the best camera in the mid-range smartphone market right now. However, this is let down by a really slow shutter speed along with an overly simplified camera interface, which misses the manual controls and raw capture that the One had.

Nonetheless, pictures are great and the HDR mode, while taking a long time to process the picture, does a great job improving the vibrancy in pictures. The OIS gives somewhat okay low light images with a huge scope for improvement considering the hardware it packs. Videos shot at 4k 30 fps were okay for the most part with the camera bouncing focus a lot and the OIS not really keeping up steam. Oh, and the front 5 MP shooter isn’t the best. For the most part this is all nitpicking, seeing the price of the phone, it truly is capable of standing toe-to-toe with the major flagships in the camera department.

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The display is a 1080p IPS display and is one of the best in its class. With great contrast, deep blacks, great color accuracy, good sharpness and the ability to get really dim and be visible in bright sunlight truly, makes it one of the best IPS displays out there — it also helps out immensely with the battery life. With manufacturers going quadHD, OnePlus has stayed true to their 1080p display which turns the tide in the battery life and screen battle.

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I always prefer larger battery life over the screens that barely show any difference to the human eye over 1080p ones. The battery gave me around 5-6 hours of screen on time, which is great by today’s standards. In case you’re wondering, the battery is a 3400mAh one, which doesn’t support wireless charging or quick charge. Part of the reason for this is the new standard USB C port on the phone which I’m sure you’ve heard of. I agree, it’s the future, but right now there are way too many tradeoffs. I have to keep hunting for the correct cable to charge and considering that this is the first phone to support USB C its too early to give my verdict on it. Call quality is decent with the microphone being of good fidelity, the ear piece could have been a bit louder though. One significant thing that pops out in the phone is the lack of NFC and to be honest I didn’t miss it one bit.

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In the end, I think this is a great phone which almost nobody would regret buying. With frequent updates, great performance, good battery life, and above all, an invite-free price of 24,000 rupees (USD $329 and CAD $409) there’s almost nothing that can sway this phone at the price point. I recommend you go buy it now that you no longer need an invite! OnePlus has bid goodbye to the invite system! So that’s been it guys. If you have any comments on the phone let us know below!

Kevin Nether