There's a utopian idea behind the OnePlus One: Offer a phone powered by the latest hardware and featuring a wealth of carrier options without any carrier restrictions. If that doesn't grab you, the price tag might — it's $300 for an off-contract 16GB model, about half of what you'd pay for phones boasting similar specs. But does the phone deliver a premium experience?
For the most part, it does, comparing favorably in many respects to flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One. The OnePlus One's 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display has slightly fewer pixels per inch than those Samsung and HTC devices, for example, but it's an incremental difference that's not likely to be noticed by the human eye; the OnePlus One is still perfectly equipped for watching video on the go. The phone is slightly bigger than most Android models, thanks to an oversized bezel around the display. I found it a little too big, and wielding it proved challenging.
With a 2.4GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 3GB of RAM, you won't have to worry about the OnePlus One becoming obsolete for a while, and the phone handled our performance tests without stutters or crashes. Its battery life could have been better, though: The Galaxy S5 outperformed the OnePlus One in our battery tests, even though the former runs on a smaller battery pack. Call that the side effect of a larger display.
The OnePlus One comes with a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera features a Sony Exmor IMX 214 sensor and f/2.0 aperture lens for low-light shots, while its 5-megapixel front-facing camera is perfect for selfies. I enjoyed the crisp and clear outside shots I took with the One, though its low-light performance wasn't as stellar as advertised.
The OnePlus One runs a custom version of Android by Cyanogen, dubbed CyanogenMod build 11S. Its custom firmware is built on top of Android 4.4.2, and while many of its interface elements look and feel like Google's Android, it's essentially its own operating system. As a result, the OnePlus One offers many customizable features, the best of which is the ability to tweak the phone's interface to your liking. Since Cyanogen and OnePlus have the Google seal of approval (and suite of standard Google apps), you'll still have access to everything in the Play Store — something that many other Android forks don't have.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.