I'm a big fan of cheap phones, an obsession that's been well documented. I've tried the Moto G, Nexus 5, and OnePlus One, and have loved them all. I'm completely convinced that a great smartphone and an expensive smartphone are not mutually exclusive. The new $US250 OnePlus X is proof.
Yes. That phone pictured above is $US250, no contracts. If you want to get even more fancy, there's a porcelain option for $US350. It looks great, too:
In person, the design feels a little iPhone 5-ish with the camera placement and the flat edges and Sony Xperia Z-like with the glass back panel. But OnePlus says the move away from positioning the camera in the centre was simply an issue of sensor space within the phone itself, and the edges actually have 7 notches that go around the device so its a little more textured that just straight aluminium.
As for the back, the glass actually bubbles up from the sides instead of just a flat pane straight across like an Xperia phone. OnePlus founder Carl Pei told us that the inspiration for the backplate came from the convex meniscus of an overflowing glass of water. Long story short, it's what the iPhone display does but it's on the back.
The porcelain version is slightly different. Instead of a curved edge, there's a sharper angle that slopes toward the bezel, but from a distance you can barely tell the difference. The only unfortunate inheritance from using glass and porcelain is the X quickly becomes a fingerprint nightmare, so if you have OCD polishing tendencies, maybe avoid this guy -- or keep a cloth handy.
With a great-looking design, the OnePlus X carries that same head-scratching, "how the hell is this possible" feeling as the original One, but the best way to think of it is a actually a combination of the original OnePlus One and the new(er) OnePlus 2, all encased in glass or porcelain.
There were a few corners cut to reach that price with the biggest one being the processor. With Qualcomm nearing the release of the 820, the silicon most likely in all the best phones for 2016, the OnePlus X trends in the opposite direction and packs in a Snapdragon 801, the same processor used in 2014's OnePlus One.
OnePlus founder Carl Pei says he's confident with the processor, mentioning that it was basically "the chip that built OnePlus" in the first place and can still outclass the 400 and 600 series usually found in sub-$US300 phones. But if you want your phone to be more future proof, you might think differently.
The OnePlus X also takes a few things from the latest OnePlus flagship, including the hardware button on the right that can quickly set notifications to all, priority, or none. It also runs Oxygen OS, the OnePlus homegrown Android mod that debuted on the OnePlus 2, but with one an added feature -- an FM radio.
The OS is still based on Lollipop, but Pei says a Marshmallow build is coming and that many features, like Doze and Quick Settings customisation, is already available on Oxygen OS albeit OnePlus' own implementation.
But there are a few new things OnePlus is trying out this time around -- and not just the crazy porcelain idea. The OnePlus X is the first phone from the company to use a 5-inch, full HD AMOLED display. To take advantage of AMOLED's energy-saving powers, OnePlus added a lot of blacks to the UI to not only match the already dark exterior but also keep those pixels turned off and not burning through your battery.
The X will be for sale starting November 5, with the porcelain version coming later as a limited release (only 10,000 phones worldwide). For the first month, OnePlus will use the old invite system as they ramp up production, but after a month, they will begin periods of direct sales as well.
The OnePlus X is shockingly good looking, especially in the context of how much it costs. It successfully walks that often perilous line between cheap-looking and overly gaudy when phones try to reach both the fashion-conscious and the budget-conscious.
But the eternal question still lingers. Were too many performance corners cut in sacrifice to price? We'll know much more once we get our hands on one.
Porcelain (left) and Onyx
OnePlus X Specs
- OS: Oxygen OS 5.1 based on Android 5.1
- CPU: Snapdragon 801 processor
- Screen: 5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED (441 PPI)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 16GB + MicroSD up to 128GB
- Camera: 13 megapixel rear (f/2.2 and 1080p video) / 8 megapixel front
- Battery: 2525 mAh
- Dimensions: 5.51 x 2.72 x 0.27 inches
- Weight: 137g (159g w/ ceramic)
- Colours: Onyx and Ceramic
- Price and Availability: $US250 - $US350 (depending on material); Available November 5
Images by Michael Hession.