Can the $749 OnePlus 7 Pro replace your iPhone?
I spent two weeks with OnePlus' latest smartphone--here's what I found out.
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I use an iPhone 7 Plus as my daily driver. It’s getting old, but it has enough space to jam my 11,000 song music library into and it allows me access to apps I can’t live without like Adobe Lightroom and Day One. Most importantly, my wife, as well as the majority of my friends use iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Using an iOS device makes it easier to stay in touch with them. My work computer is a Mac. I read comic books on an iPad in my spare time. Sticking with an iPhone feels easy; lazy in the best possible way. As Steve Jobs once said, it just works. Despite this, my current iPhone could very well be my last iPhone.
I spend months at a time in multiple countries during the course of a year, so being locked into a cellular plan with a subsidized phone doesn’t make sense—I typically buy my hardware outright. But the cost of a new iPhone is troubling to me. They cost far more than I’m comfortable with paying, especially when you consider that there are Android-powered alternatives out there that perform just as well as Apple’s flagship smartphones do. I know this because my job forces me to use Androids handsets from time to time. For example, right now, I’m in the middle of testing smartwatches. My iPhone works well for this but, to ensure that I’m providing good service to Reviewed’s readers, I’ve been using a OnePlus 6T, running the latest iteration of Android. I bought the OnePlus 6T last year while I was freelancing because, while its camera isn’t anything to write home about, the handset is very fast, has a lovely display, and impressively long battery life. Most importantly, for a handset with flagship-class hardware under its hood, it was dirt cheap, compared to offerings from Google, Samsung, and Apple. Recently, I was contacted by OnePlus and asked if I’d be interested in taking their latest offering, the OnePlus 7 Pro, for a spin.
Having used it, daily, for the past few weeks, I can tell you that it’s a very capable device, available at a price point designed to make other phone manufacturers a little nervous.
The handset I was provided with for this review comes packing 12 GB of RAM and 256GB of storage space for $749. Models of the 7 Pro can be had with less RAM and storage, for less money. The 6GB/128GB model of the 7 Pro, for example, is available from OnePlus for $669. T-Mobile will be carrying the OnePlus, exclusively, in the United States. Maybe you can score a deal.
No matter which version you decide upon, you’ll be shipped a phone with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 processor baked into it (Octa-core, 7nm, up to 2.84 GHz). For most folks, all you need to know is that this makes the phone very fast. Batch exporting images from Adobe Lightroom to my camera roll took precious little time to complete. Games like XCOM: Enemy Within and The Elder Scrolls: Blades loaded quickly and played buttery smooth. That OnePlus’ Oxygen OS—the company’s custom flavor of Android 9—is so easy to navigate adds to this feeling of speed and fluidity. I love that, like my OnePlus 6T, the 7 Pro comes packing dual-SIM card slots—a welcome perk for a fella like me that spends months at a time, in multiple nations, over the course of a single year.
What We Like
The 7 Pro’s 6.67 (maybe about 6.5 inches of which is useable) curved glass QHD+ AMOLED display is absolutely gorgeous. HD movies served up from the phone’s internal storage are stunning with crisp, deep blacks and vibrant colors. Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video users will be happy to know that the 7 Pro offers full HDR playback. You’ll find scrolling through content like Twitter or Facebook is smoother than on most handsets. This is due to the fact that the 7 Pro’s display boasts a 90Hz Refresh Rate.
I’ve never been bothered by notches in the smartphone displays I use. A lot of folks are, though. If you’re one of them, you should know that this phone’s display has no notch or camera holes distracting from its display. This is made possible by the fact that the 7 Pro comes packing a mechanical pop-up selfie camera that hides away in the phone’s chassis when not in use. I’m not crazy about moving parts in my portable electronics—it’s a point of failure waiting to happen. OnePlus argues that the selfie cam should be good for 300,000 uses before the mechanism is at risk for failure. Apply this knowledge as you see fit.
As I mentioned earlier, my OnePlus 6T’s camera wasn’t great, for a handset released in 2018. OnePlus attempted to smooth the camera’s janky edges out with a number of software updates and had some success. But the handset’s photos still couldn’t hold a candle to the images that my three-year-old iPhone 7 Plus was capable of producing. With the 7 Pro, OnePlus has stuck the photographic landing, for the most part.
While its 48-megapixel (which is set to capture 12-megapixel images) rear sensor can’t hold a candle to the Huawei P30 Pro’s Leica optics or the software wizardry that makes the camera in Google’s latest crop of Pixel handsets shine, it does offer a very respectable point-and-shoot photographic experience.
That even the most expensive version of the 7 Pro sells for hundreds less than the latest handsets from Apple or Samsung makes it all the more palatable. In addition to the handset’s main camera, the 7 Pro also comes packing a wide-angle camera and a 3x telephoto camera (with the option to up the image’s magnification to a blurry 10x zoom through software quackery.)
I found that the images I shot during testing were warm and vibrant. No matter which camera I used, however, the 7 Pro had a hard time dealing with backlighting. While OnePlus’ night mode has improved dramatically since its debut scant months ago, it still lags behind what Google’s Pixel 3a or the iPhone XS are capable of. But you know what? I really like it. As a street shooter or for capturing the landscape while I’m out on a hike, it works very well. When lumped in with the rest of the 7 Pro’s feature set, the camera’s minor shortcomings are easy to forgive.
What We Didn’t Like
I travel and spend long periods of time in difficult environments. I prefer my gear to be waterproof and dust-resistant. OnePlus states that the 7 Pro will survive a bit of rain or being quickly dunked and retrieved from a puddle. But the handset ships without an IPX certification. So, how deep a puddle or how long it can lounge underwater will be a mystery to the phone's owners... until it isn't and you wind up with a waterlogged paperweight. Given that this smartphone costs the better part of a grand, that's tough to swallow.
It's also worth noting that the 7 Pro lacks a headphone port or the ability to be charged wirelessly. The former is fast becoming the standard, rather than the exception. The latter is something I can live without, especially in light of OnePlus' Warp USB C-enabled Warp charging technology. Plugging the handset in for a few minutes nets the 7 Pro's massive 4,000mAh battery a significant charge. More importantly, between charges, the handset proved capable of powering my usage through a full workday, with frequent use as a wireless hotspot for my laptop, without having to plug it in--that’s a win. Also, did I mention that this is a huge handset? Well, it totally is. It’s both heavy and, compared to my iPhone 7 Plus, feels a bit unwieldy. If you’re looking for a smartphone that fits in the hip pocket of your skinny jeans, look elsewhere. That said, I love the 7 Pro’s size: I have arthritis in one of my hands: typing on this thing’s large display suits me just fine and it’s a wonder for tasks like reading and video meetings.
And then there’s the accessories: Maybe I’ve been spoiled as an iPhone user, but I don’t feel like there’s a whole lot of aftermarket screen protectors or cases to choose from. OnePlus offers a few options, with the emphasis on a few. Whether this will change in the months to come is hard to say.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe! I’m definitely considering it. While going without iMessage might make navigating my so-called social life more difficult, the One Plus 7 Pro is a significant upgrade over my iPhone 7 Plus in almost every way. The fact that its beautiful display, wicked fast internals, and decent rear camera can be had for hundreds less than a new handset from Apple is certainly compelling. If I wind up buying this phone, I’ll circle around in six months and let you know how things have turned out with it. But hey, what I’m doing in my life shouldn’t influence you in yours. So, let’s talk brass tacks: The OnePlus 7 Pro is a great handset. Despite its flaws, I can’t imagine anyone regretting the decision to buy one. That said, if you invested in a new smartphone in the last year, don’t require miracles from your smartphone’s camera or haven’t noticed that your handset lags or crashes when opening large files or running complicated software, you’re likely fine without it.