OnePlus Seeking Midrange Magic With $250 OnePlus X Smartphone

OnePlus has always been a surprising company, attracting an outsized amount of attention for being a relatively small operation. Only two years old, it's consistently made big promises in terms of hardware and pricing, and for the most part, actually delivered. Aside from a high-profile partnership -- and then break with -- Android ROM CyanogenMod, its first phone was also notable for being a high quality device that started at only $300.  

High-quality, off-contract phones were less common then than now (hello Moto X), and the OnePlus One sold extremely well. Anecdotally, I can personally say that it was one of the few non-Samsung Android phones I regularly saw being used on public transit.

OnePlus tried to capture that magic again this summer with the OnePlus 2, with mixed results. While the company kept a reasonably low price ($329 for 16 GB, $389 for 64 GB), the new model didn't include many things that are now considered standard on a high-quality handset, such as NFC and wireless charging. It did include the new USB Type-C connector, but without fast-charging, and only at USB 2.0 speeds. This, combined with a sometimes baffling system of requiring self-destructing, social media "invitations" to be able to purchase the phone, soured some consumers.

Magic At The Midrange: OnePlus X

OnePlus is trying to recapture the magic, not with another new high-end device, but with a mid-range phone with low-end pricing. The new OnePlus X unveiled today sports internals not that different from the original OnePlus One, but it will retail for just $250.

OnePlus has listened to customer feedback and has also made a number of improvements on its own, and this looks to be an exciting device.

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OnePlus OneOnePlus TwoOnePlus X
Pricing$299.99$329 (starting)$249.99
SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 801 (MSM8974AC)Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 r2.1(MSM8994)Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
CPU CoreQualcomm Krait 400 (4 Core) @ 2.45 GHzCortex-A53 (4 cores) @ 1.56 GHz  & Cortex-A57 (4 cores) @ 1.82 GHz Qualcomm Krait 400 (4 cores) @ 2.3 GHz
GPU CoreQualcomm Adreno 330 Qualcomm Adreno 430 Qualcomm Adreno 330
Display5.5-inch IPS @ 1920x1080 (401ppi)5.5-inch IPS @ 1920x1080 (401ppi)5 inch AMOLED @ 1920x1080 with Gorilla Glass 3 (441ppi)
Storage16 GB, 64 GB16 GB, 64 GB16 GB eMMC v5.0 plus MicroSD support
Battery11.78 Whr (3.8V 3100 mAh, non-removable)Li-Polymer 3,300 mAh, non-removableLi-Polymer 2,525 mAh, non-removable
Front Optics5MP5 MP, 1080p @ 30fps8 Megapixel, Aperture: f/2.4
Rear Optics13 MP 1/3.06" Sony IMX214 Exmor RS CMOS sensor, 1.12μm pixels, f/2.0 wide aperture, 28 mm wide 6-element lens, AF, HDR, dual LED flash, RAW, 4K video13 MP, f/2.0 aperture, 1.3µmPixels, OIS, laser autofocus, dual-LED flash4K video at 30fps, 720p video at 120fps13 Megapixel, f/2.2 aperture, 1/3.06" Samsung ISOCELL sensor with 1.12μm  pixels. Phase-detect autofocus, 1080p video at 30fps,720p video at 120fps
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, NFC, 4G LTE (Cat 4), microUSB 2.0Wi-Fi 802.11 2.4 GHz b/g/n 5 GHz a/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct Bluetooth 4.1 LE, 4G LTE (Cat 4), USB type CWi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, 4G LTE (Cat 4), microUSB 2.0
Size152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm, 162g151.8 x 74.9 x 9.85 mm140 x 69 x 6.9 mm

The OnePlus X Onyx

Thin And Pretty

The first thing that stands out about the OnePlus X is its design. It's incredibly thin, at just under 7 mm, and with only the smallest of camera bumps. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei said the phone is so thin that no USB Type-C connector on the market would fit in it, forcing them back to microUSB.

Make no mistake, this is a good-looking phone. It's designed with glass front and back, very thin bezels on the sides of the screen, and a textured aluminum strip around the edges.

On the standard "Onyx" model, the front and back are dark glass, with a subtle curve at the edge. OnePlus said this was supposed to evoke the surface tension of a drop of water, and although it mostly just looks like a modern smartphone screen, it's still an attractive design.  

The OnePlus X Ceramic has a sharply angled bevel on the edge of the screen

However, for European consumers, there will also be a special "Ceramic" model. This replaces the glass with a high-strength fired ceramic. Just slightly softer than sapphire (at 8.5 on the Mohs scale, compared to 9 for sapphire, and around 6.5 for Gorilla Glass), OnePlus said the ceramic is repeatedly fired at 2700° F and cooled, and it goes through three diamond grit-polishing treatments. The whole manufacturing procedure takes 25 days, and has only a 20 percent yield rate, which may explain why OnePlus is limiting production of the Ceramic models to 10,000 units.  

Visually, the two models are extremely similar, though the Ceramic is slightly silvery and has a hard angle at the edge of the screen.

The Guts

Internally, the OnePlus X is quite similar to the original OnePlus One, with a Snapdragon 801 powering both systems and 3 GB of LPDDR3 memory. However, there are a few differences. The OnePlus X has a 1080p AMOLED phone, a first for OnePlus, which enables the "ambient notifications" seen on many other modern Android phones. Compared to the OnePlus One, the OnePlus X is also clocked slightly slower (2.3 GHz instead of 2.45 GHz) and has a smaller battery to match, at 2525 mAh.

Despite being smaller than the One, the OnePlus X still has a fairly large battery. For comparison, the recently announced HTC One A9 has a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED screen as well, and a 2150 mAh battery. The battery in the OnePlus X is nearly the same size as the one in the Galaxy S6 at 2550 mAh and larger than the batteries in the Moto X or iPhone 6s (2300 mAh and 1715 mAh, respectively).

Of course, battery life is much more than just battery size, and we'll have to wait until we get our hands on a review model to judge how much juice the OnePlus X actually has.

The camera protrudes just very slightly, probably to help protect the lens

The OnePlus X also drops NFC and 802.11ac but does offer a unique add-in port that can support either a second SIM card or a microSD card with up to 128 GB of storage. The X also now uses a Samsung 13MP ISOCELL camera sensor. OnePlus claimed the sensor's phase-detect auto focus (PDAF) can achieve focus in just 0.2 seconds. In our hands-on time, the camera was snappy, with a great interface, and pictures look sharp with good dynamic range, though actual testing will be needed to check its quality.

The notification slider is located on the left side of the phone.

The OnePlus X also picks up the notification slider from the OnePlus 2. This switch lets you quickly switch your phone's notifications from audible to vibrate to a do-not-disturb mode. The current generation of the phone's OS (OxygenOS, based on Android 5.1) supports gesture control (you can draw a "V" to enable the flashlight, etc.), and customizable app permissions. OnePlus reps said an Android 6.0 version of the software will be forthcoming, but they wouldn't discuss a timeline.

OxygenOS barely looks any different from stock Android (which is not a bad thing), and the bundled apps actually seem useful. OxygenOS also comes with Swiftkey, the popular keyboard app, and an FM radio app. The FM app works only with headphones plugged in (it likely uses the cable as an antenna), and it can scan and label all nearby FM stations and create lists of favorite stations. Additional apps include a file manager and zip extractor, and custom icon packs.

The cases that will be available at launch

Availability And Earbuds, Too

Along with the OnePlus X, OnePlus also announced the OnePlus Icons earbuds. The phone will be available at launch with a range of cases, ranging from three types of wood, to kevlar, to the original "sandstone" finish. OnePlus said the wooden cases are now entirely wood, with no plastic backing. While they give the phone a unique look, they were tricky to get on and off, and I constantly felt like I was on the verge of cracking the case or chipping one of its edges.

OnePlus X with a wooden case

The OnePlus X will launch November 14, for $250 (the Ceramic edition is available only in Europe, for EUR 369.99). For the first month, the phone will be available only through the invite system that OnePlus has used for previous models, but after that, it will start opening for general orders at specific times.

Co-founder Carl Pei said OnePlus is aware that some customers view the invite system as onerous, but because of the company's small size, and the challenges of manufacturing hardware, the team relies on the invite system to manage their production and supply chain.

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Chris Schodt is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and features, specializing in virtual reality.
  • amk-aka-Phantom
    No, OnePlus, as good as this looks otherwise, I won't buy a poorly masked attempt to dispose of your excess Snapdragon 801 stock. Please use a modern mid-range 64-bit Cortex-A72 SoC like Snapdragon 618 or 620 which Qualcomm announced back in freaking February, and then we'll talk. But hey, at least you've learned that microSD is a thing, so you've got that going for you, which is nice.
  • thundervore
    I wish these companies would stop with the downward facing speakers. After using an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 and a Galaxy 6 I find these type of speakers annoying when watching any content in landscape. as soon as the phone is turned sideways your hands muffle the speakers forcing you to hold the phone awkwardly to not cover the speakers.
  • scandium
    Your phone is too thin (for no good reason) to fit type C USB?! Well then make it thicker! Idiotic.
  • scolaner
    Your phone is too thin (for no good reason) to fit type C USB?! Well then make it thicker! Idiotic.

    I thought that was odd reasoning, as well. The z-height difference between microUSB and USB Type-C is negligible, at best.
  • Supporter
    They had their chance and blew it; They thought they were special, but were so far from the truth.
  • scolaner
    16864466 said:
    They had their chance and blew it; They thought they were special, but were so far from the truth.

    What do you mean by that? It seems like they're selling a lot of phones. And people generally seem to like them.
  • Supporter
    16865575 said:
    16864466 said:
    They had their chance and blew it; They thought they were special, but were so far from the truth.

    What do you mean by that? It seems like they're selling a lot of phones. And people generally seem to like them.

    soon you shall see...