The tick-tock cycle of OnePlus phones is a little deceptive. While the almost identical names might make it seem like differences are few, these “T” refreshes do sometimes bring bigger changes in design, as with the OnePlus 5T, or entirely new features, as in the case of the OnePlus 6T last year. Specs for OnePlus’ next flagship phone — likely the “OnePlus 7T Pro” if history holds — will probably be familiar, but that doesn’t mean there aren't any improvements the company can deliver, and I have some wants.
I’ve been using the 7 Pro as my daily driver since before it was formally revealed to the world (tech blogger privilege) and while that choice should reflect how much I enjoy the phone given all the other options that exist, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. There are a lot of things I appreciate about it, but almost as many little details have become aggravating over time, and I’d like it if OnePlus could make a few tweaks with its next device.
(Realistically, it's far too late in the product development cycle for this list to make a difference, but it's good to have wants, and I've got them in spades.)
Real, rated water resistance
This has been a long-standing problem for the company’s products, and it’s nearly a joke that OnePlus still hasn’t given its flagship phones an honest-to-god IP water rating. No number of marketing videos will replace that testing and the enhanced consumer confidence it inspires, even if warranties don’t cover water damage.
A clip of a phone splashing in a bucket isn't enough.
The company has tried to hand-wave such fears away with marketing videos, and apologists will parade the tests of bloggers and YouTubers which show it brushing off anecdotal splashes and pseudoscientific dips with ease, but the lack of a formal specification makes it stand out from all the other flagships that do have one, and it’s almost comic at this point. The company's prior claim that such tests would incur a ridiculous $30 price increase per phone also seems entirely unsupported.
The lack of an IP rating for OnePlus' phones isn't something that can be rationalized away by value anymore. The price simply demands it now.
Always-on display on the Pixel 3 XL.
Having a portion of the display always on to show information is a common feature on many OLED-equipped phones, and it’s especially useful when acclimating to the positioning of an in-display fingerprint reader, but OnePlus has sadly omitted that functionality. The Galaxy S10 can do it, a Pixel can do it, but the OnePlus 7 Pro can’t — and there’s no good reason it shouldn’t.
The company first made it sound like the feature was planned, though it was a lower priority than other more important issues. Later comments made it sound like battery life was a concern, but if the feature can simply be made optional, customers can make that choice for themselves. Though that wouldn’t be a problem if the next OnePlus phone has…
Longer battery life, more power, wireless charging
I think the battery life on the OnePlus 7 Pro is fairly good. Anything north of 4-5 hours of screen on time is fine for me, and I can stretch out to two days in lighter use, but the Galaxy S10+ easily laughed at numbers like that, and not everyone uses their phones the same way. Others who are a bit harder on their devices have had valid complaints about the phone’s longevity. Regardless of my experiences, a further improvement in battery life would be appreciated by everyone.
In what feels like a related demand, I’d also like to see OnePlus improve on its already fast charging speeds. We did see a bump on the 7 Pro to 30W in the form of Warp Charge, but other companies are pushing 40-50W at the high-end these days, and I’d like to see OnePlus match that. The current fast-charging level has already saved my hide more than once, but if I’m going to be picky (and I’m paid to), then I’d like to see OnePlus use parent/sister company Oppo’s SuperVOOC up to its maximum two-cell speeds and reach closer to 50W.
In my last power-related demand, wireless charging is rising in popularity again. I'm not personally a fan of the concept given the early death its heat inflicted on several of my phone's batteries back in the day, but it's a convenience many expect if they're to accept a glass-backed design.
More responsive automatic brightness
Whether it’s a fault of Android in general or the 7 Pro’s in-display ambient light sensor, the frequently inaccurate automatic brightness on the phone is one of my biggest complaints. It’s better than it was, but the phone frequently and confusingly settles on inexplicable brightness settings, selecting something far too dim even in the glow of daylight, or something a bit too bright at night. Ostensibly Android can adapt to your preferences if you adjust the brightness when you feel that it's "wrong," but the 7 Pro just can’t seem to learn.
Stronger, deeper haptics
The OnePlus 7 saw a substantial improvement in haptic feedback/vibration over the legitimate garbage in the company’s previous phones, but it’s still nothing compared to phones like the recent Pixels. Of course, the iPhones are leagues beyond even that, but it's probably too much to hope for the same experience on Android anytime soon. Even so, I'd prefer to see more improvement when it comes to haptics rather than settling for "better than it used to be."
The company may have replaced the more-noise-than-vibration feedback found in prior phones, but the strength and character of the haptics in the 7 Pro still leave room for improvement, even compared to some other Android handsets.
More consistent camera
I think the camera in the 7 Pro is fine — it’s not Pixel or Huawei good, but it takes generally "okay" photos most of the time, and it can even take some pretty good ones in challenging circumstances. That said, performance is inconsistent, with the phone occasionally choosing the wrong white balance, muting colors, or cranking ISO unnecessarily. It’s that unpredictability that bothers me the most: I never know what to expect when I tap the shutter. Will it take a good photo this time?
The 7 Pro struggles with white balance, and the telephoto camera could be sharper.
Ported Gcam results on the OnePlus 7 Pro are quite a lot better, so improvements will probably come down to processing, and that just takes time and effort on OnePlus' part. The company has made it abundantly clear that it's hard at work making those improvements, but some other changes in hardware could improve things, too.
Originally, the telephoto camera’s performance didn’t bother me coming from the Samsung Galaxy S10+, but a long discussion with Michael Fisher convinced me that the focus and sharpness of the zoomed-in camera are lacking, and improvements to both could be made. I'd also like to see the shutter delay reduced; I've missed too many time-dependent shots in the last few months waiting for it to take the photo after tapping.
Make a smaller flagship
I’m putting this at the end because the next phone’s industrial design will almost certainly be about the same, but the OnePlus 7 Pro is just too big. It’s the single feature about the phone that bothers me in day-to-day use the most, even though other big flagships like the Pixel 3 XL and Galaxy S10+ don't bother me in the least.
The 7 Pro is a big boy.
I don’t drop phones, but I regularly drop the OnePlus 7 Pro out of the sheer awkwardness of maneuvering such a big device for one-handed use. Even with the tapered sides that nestle into the palm more easily, it’s just hard to hold.
Whether it has more to do with the shape or overall dimensions, something makes the phone seriously unwieldy, and I wish it were easier to hold and use, physically.
Don't fix what isn't broken
While there are some improvements I'd like to see, the last thing I want is for OnePlus to break any of the existing features in the 7 Pro that make it such a wonderful device. For example, the stock-like lightweight software utterly screams on flagship-grade hardware. Sure, it might kill background apps more frequently than I'd like, with weird issues like wide-color breaking night mode, but otherwise, I consider the company's twist on Android second only to Google's Pixels, and I'd hate to see it get bloated or bogged down by unnecessary changes.
Pretty much the best hardware feature on OnePlus phones — don't take away the alert slider.
Separate from the software experience, I also think OnePlus has made substantial steps in hardware quality and industrial design over the last couple of years. At one point its "flagship killers" didn't feel like flagships, but that day is long gone. By touch, you'd have a tough time telling that the OnePlus 7 Pro costs hundreds less than the latest Samsung or Huawei flagships. The unique and frankly indispensable alert slider is another thing I'd hate to see leave.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is still my favorite phone of the year, and there's plenty of ways the company can further improve things with its next product. I hope it doesn't throw away any of what made the older phone great in the process.