The OnePlus 6 is, without much question in my mind, one of the best phones of this year. On paper, it matches most of 2018's flagships, but the aggressive pricing makes it a great value when compared to most of its competition. Still, there are a lot of ways that the OnePlus 6 could be improved if the company sticks to its mid-generation "T" refresh, and I've put together a decent-sized list of all the things I'd like to see in the OnePlus 6T.
In what I'm learning is something of an unpopular opinion, I'm actually a very big fan of OnePlus' twice-yearly release schedule. I think it makes any time a good time to buy a OnePlus phone because you know the current model is, at most, only a few months out of date. That means customers can just buy a OnePlus phone whenever they need to, rather than check to see when the next model is expected to land and plan their upgrade schedule around that — if they even can, accidents do happen.
In comparison, it's pretty hard to recommend that someone pick up a Pixel 2 right now, and that's been my stance for all summer. I guess if you're absolutely determined to have the latest device, the fact that a newer model is bound to land in the next year could be upsetting, but I think that's a pretty minor complaint.
However you feel about it, odds are the next OnePlus phone is on the way, so let's take a look at the things I'd love to see in it, from pie-in-the-sky hopes to nitpicks, and maybe even a few realistic expectations.
A real IP rating
We've been told that the OnePlus 6 is good for "everyday" use and "splash-resistant," with some indefinable general waterproofing, but it sports no official IP rating. This is even despite the gaskets and seals found throughout the device in teardowns.
At this point, a warranty-backed IP rating is a hard requirement for a flagship phone, as every other major manufacturer has started doing it. OnePlus was able to slide by with a minimum of objection when it came to the OnePlus 6, but with the company's ever-increasing prices, those days are over. If the 6T doesn't have a legitimate IP rating, it will be a very noteworthy negative omission.
Improved fingerprint sensor
Both David and I have noticed that the fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 6 doesn't seem to work quite as well as the one on the OnePlus 5T, or many other recent phones. Every once in a while, for no discernable reason, it just decides to reject our loving touch for a few tries.
While that's not usually a concern for me since I have it set to also use the camera-based login method, it is a bit annoying to notice it fail. But if you don't use OnePlus' Face Unlock for a particular reason — like not being suddenly, entirely blinded at night when you plug your phone in with Face Unlock assistive lighting enabled — then the fingerprint sensor's apparent inconsistencies could be particularly vexing.
Based on what I've heard from other people with the phone, it's a somewhat common complaint, and I'd really like if OnePlus could put a better fingerprint sensor on its next phone, or fix whatever issues affect the current one.
This is perhaps the most common single complaint when it comes to OnePlus phones: camera performance has always been weak compared to other flagships. While the OnePlus 6 has made some significant strides on that subject compared to the 5 and 5T, it could still stand quite a bit of improvement before we recommend it over an older Pixel (or even a Nexus 5X/6P) for photos.
When it comes to low-light performance, the OnePlus 6 is still a bit of a slouch. The secondary camera is pretty much wasted on parallax for artificial "portrait" bokeh, and on a crop, fine details are still being overly processed into oil-painted mush.
It's a perfectly "okay" camera, but okay doesn't cut it when OnePlus is creeping its prices up over $500, especially when an older Pixel soundly beats it for $200 less new.
And if the secondary sensor won't be used for anything but bokeh, just take it out and invest the difference in a better sensor or improved processing, OnePlus. That or give us something useful like a telephoto or wide-angle.
More fun colors
I love what Huawei is doing with the crazy colors on its glass-backed phones like the P20 Pro. OnePlus has been tentative, so far only releasing the Red and White models to complement the existing black options, but I'd love to see more wild and exciting designs.
Some of OnePlus' abandoned colors shown off earlier this year were surprisingly stunning, like the multicolor speckled white, gradients, and many opalescent varieties. I'd enjoy seeing some more bold and adventurous choices out of OnePlus. (Robin's egg blue with a polished metal frame, let's make it happen.)
The headphone jack
Google has seemingly yet to realize the profound mistake it made in taking away the headphone jack, but OnePlus has wisely included one in every phone it's ever made. Let's not break that trend.
That port on the right shouldn't be going anywhere, OnePlus.
Some people are fine with moving to Bluetooth audio, and I have no problem with that. The great thing about Bluetooth is that it works whether you've got a headphone jack or not, and the incredible inconvenience the lack of one has imposed on me with the Pixel 2 XL far exceeds any potential gains from the saved space.
When I am forced to choose between audio and charging when I use my Pixel 2 XL for navigation in 2018, it's not my car or my accessories budget I rage over. Let's keep that headphone jack, OnePlus.
A better notch
In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with the OnePlus 6's notch. Much like the title to Ryan's review for the phone or David's editorial earlier this year, I think it's one of the best notches Android flagships have (so far). It's among the smallest out there, and OnePlus even offers to hide it in software if it's the sort of thing that bothers you.
But there's nothing that says it can't be improved, and OPPO's R17 — alleged to be the base for the future OnePlus 6T — has a pretty slick one. If we're going to be collectively slightly distracted by a gap at the top of our screens, I'd like if it was as small as possible. Either way, industrial design in 2018 has indicated that notches are here to stay — at least for the near future.
I have no personal objection to the 1080p-equivalent resolution OnePlus chooses for its phones. The Samsung-made OLED displays are of decent quality, and panel uniformity (a common nitpick of mine) is improving with each hardware refresh. But one thing I do want to see is increased brightness.
According to Dylan Raga's analysis over at XDA, the displays used in the OnePlus 6 support Samsung's HBM, or "high brightness mode," but for some reason it was disabled. Although max brightness for the OnePlus 6 is typically 440-550 nits (depending on how much of the display is illuminated, it gets complicated), in HBM it was able to reach an astounding 630-818 nits.
I don't know what OnePlus would need to do to get HBM working on its phones, but I'd really like to see it happen.
Better adaptive brightness
In a related request, the adaptive brightness sensitivity on the OnePlus 6 is pretty mediocre. It's a small gripe (I said I was going to nitpick), but in faint lighting, the phone can't seem to decide what luminosity to settle on, and it always seems to be either too dim or too bright. It gets more than a bit annoying after a while.
I don't know what the cause of the strange behavior is, or if a better quality ambient light sensor or better hysteresis can make for a more predictable experience, but I'd really like to see adaptive brightness turn into something I can safely ignore, rather than something I'm frequently annoyed by.
Most of the world uses GSM, but here in the States, we've still got a pair of big carriers pushing CDMA. That means many subscribers here have to base their phone purchasing decision on more fundamental concerns than specs or price. Depending on where you live or work, you might not have any choice when it comes to carriers — at least, if you want your phone to be usable — and that means you need a phone that supports them.
If you're on Verizon or Sprint, OnePlus just isn't an option. While it's not entirely fair to ask the company to pander to customers of two specific carriers out of a worldwide market, CDMA support would make the phones a lot easier to recommend — especially if carriers like Verizon can get off their ridiculous "certification" high-horse for activation.
One last nitpick
Most people probably won't notice or care when it comes to this, but there's something I want badly: a way to invoke Google Assistant via OnePlus' gestures.
No navigation bar also means no convenient shortcut to the Assistant.
I like OnePlus' gesture system quite a lot. Unlike Google's, it doesn't waste space while also being unintuitive. I just have to keep in mind where I swipe in from, and how long I hold for. Without any visual indicators, it's definitely even less intuitive than Google's gestures, but at least OnePlus' system has some space-saving benefits.
The only unfortunate sacrifice that seems to come from gaining the extra vertical space is a loss of Assistant functionality, and while I can invoke it via voice, that's a bit awkward in a crowded subway car. I don't have a solution, both my creativity and this list have run out, but I'd love if OnePlus were able to come up with a way to do it.