OnePlus 3 Two Years Later: Goodbye, Android.

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When it comes to Android devices, I always have mixed feelings.

First thing first, my final thought on the OnePlus 3, the phone that I’ve been using for the past 28 months: worth every penny I spent on it. Every disappointment can be justified by the price tag.

Hardware

The ¥2499($399) phone I got in June 2016 was the flagship killer at the time. With snapdragon 820 and 6 GB of RAM, it was overall really smooth and responsive. The fingerprint sensor is fast and reliable, and the 3-stage mute switch is very useful when I need it. The screen is fine. 1080p is fine for me, and after the 3rd party software tweak that enables P3 color gamut came out, the screen really has nothing to complain about other than the max brightness.

Note: The rest of the article is pretty much all bad things about this phone, after all, it’s 2 years old and I am switching. However, as I stated earlier, this was a great phone with an even better value, and I still think so today.

The Dash charging. This was one of the key features of the phone and I’ve got to say I loved it! Dash charging delivers one of the fastest charging experience, even in 2018. Too bad it is not compatible with either Power Delivery or Quick Charging from Qualcomm, and that it uses a proprietary cable and adapter, much like Apple.

But sadly, I can’t say the same for the battery life for this phone. The 3000 mAh battery is small and has poor performance. Before I switched to the iPhone I had to charge 240%+ every day to keep it from shutting down in the middle of the day, and that’s after I replaced the battery after one year of use. What’s even more disappointing is that I cannot count on it to last even when I’m not using it, though that’s part of the software problem, more on that later.

Camera. I’d say the camera on the OnePlus 3 was mediocre. The smartphone cameras really started to improve since fall 2016, when the iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel were announced. It’s definitely not comparable with those cameras, but personally, I’m not that hard on cameras.

One of the biggest complain I have on this phone is the signal strength. The reception is OK, but the bluetooth signal is just bad. Using my QC35, a single hand on the right earcup can block the entire signal. What’s even worse is when I pair my AirPods with it. It will disconnect unless I keep my phone out of the pocket and hold it at the height of chest. This really annoys me.

Software

Let’s talk about software.

I only played with the preinstalled H2OS for several minutes while I was downloading the Oxygen OS ROM file, then I flashed the Oxygen OS.

Oxygen OS is, still, my favorite skin on top of Android. It was light, much like stock, but with some really useful touches that shines. Some features like quick toggles are, I think, even more thoughtful than stock.

I have to point out that I use my OnePlus 3 on Oxygen OS 4.5.1 (Android 7.1.1). Newer versions of OOS has made me disappointed by changing the quick toggle style and the Always-On Display Style. (Not just these two, the list goes on forever)

So Oxygen OS offers the near-stock UI and some useful features, but that’s as far as it goes. I almost uninstall (or disable, as not every app is uninstallable) all the apps that oneplus provided, with the only exception of the Phone app (I couldn’t find a better caller app to replace it, T9 searching is critical for me):

  • Camera: the stock camera is clean, but I use the Google Camera Instead for better HDR. However this phone doesn’t seem to have enough compute power for HDR processing, HDR takes more than 10 seconds per photo to process.
  • Contacts: Disabled. I view contacts via the Phone app.
  • OnePlus Launcher: the OnePlus launcher was pretty clean, but the shelf was useless compared to the Google Now Cards page. I once used the Google Now Launcher, but later I switched to Nova Launcher, which I think is the best launcher on Android platform today.
  • Gallery: Uninstalled, use Google Photos instead.

The list goes on and on. You get the point: Android gives me choices, and I appreciate it.

Even today I am happy that I can customize however I want without duplicating apps, thank you Android.

Android

But Android has its own shortcomings, especially here in mainland China, where Google does not operate, except Ads.

The best of Android comes from Google. That’s why I tried my best mimicking the original Android experience by using Google services and Play services as much as possible. Some works out great for me. I started using Google Calendar to make and arrange schedule, using Keep to take short notes, using Google Photos for the obvious reason, using Google Fit for fitness tracking, using Chrome for browsing (what else to use lol) and using Inbox (to be discontinued tho…) for email. Google knows best. I once even tried to use Google Maps, but apparently, it’s totally unusable in China.

However, living in China, inevitably I use Chinese apps like Wechat and Alipay. They don’t give a **** about the Android experience, not at all. There are tools like Greenify trying to solve the problem, but it’s still a mess, apps still keep running in the background draining battery. For android users in China, they have to choose between being able to receive notifications and having a reasonable battery life.

This is the sad part. For years I’ve been believing in Android, and it did try to fix some of the problems like permission management and background restrictions, but these app developers would always find a way to bypass them. They care nothing about user experience, and for them Android is the perfect place to do whatever they want: there is no app store that regulates. ( Android phones in China don’t have and nearly can’t have Play Store)

I wonder what it is like using the OnePlus 3 in the US. Today Google Apps still run very smoothly on my OnePlus 3, so it could be a totally different story. Too bad for Chinese users, these apps like Wechat and Alipay are just essential.

Better user experience pushes user to switch, and that’s why I had no choice but to switch to an iPhone.

Extended Thoughts

Personally, I believe in freedom. I think the freedom gives both more places for developers to unleash and more choices for us consumers. But apparently, things don’t work that way. And it’s not just Android phones: Android tablets are nearly all dead, and Android Wear (now “Wear OS by Google”) is barely alive at best. iPad and Apple Watch just rule the market.

Apple builds walls, while Google breaks them. It’s really sad to see myself buying an iPad, and now switching to an iPhone. For the foreseeable future, my next laptop is going to be a Macbook, and my next watch is going to be an Apple Watch. It’s pretty ironic for a former android enthusiast to go all Apple.

Perhaps I was just wrong, from the very beginning.

BTW, comments are always appreciated:)