OnePlus One


I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Verizon for the past two years. Shortly after I got the phone, I installed CyanogenMod onto it. I’ve been extremely happy both with the device and with the software. I’ve been less happy with Verizon, in no small part because of their complicity with domestic spying efforts by the US federal government; but also because of their customer tracking efforts. I’ve also been frustrated at the amount of our monthly Verizon bill, and the on-going battle between our teenage daughter and our “family plan” allotment of mobile data.

I installed CyanogenMod onto the phone originally for two reasons. First, I wanted more frequent updates from the upstream Android project. Carriers are notoriously slow to update the OS on their phones. Second, I didn’t want any of the bloat that Verizon “helpfully” pre-installs on their phones. I didn’t need an NFL application, or their silly Navigator application, or anything else they stuffed into the phone for me.

I read with interest Tim Bray’s post about his acquisition of the OnePlus One phone. I wasn’t exactly in the market for a new phone, but I was intrigued enough by this phone to investigate a little more. All the reviews I read gave it pretty high marks. The price was certainly competitive. The “vanilla” installation of CyanogenMod was extremely appealing.

The problem was the sales model: in order to purchase a OnePlus One, an “invite” was needed. As I opined on Google+, this may have been a clever inventory control mechanism, or might have simply been a marketing gimmick. Either way, it prevented me from engaging with the company. I poked around a little, trying to find an invite, but quickly gave up.

Then Dan alerted me to a special promotion scheduled for January 20: the OnePlus store would be open for two hours without the need for an invite! I was able to purchase two phones: one for me, and one for Jonah, who was in need of a newer device. The units shipped surprisingly fast.

The OnePlus is a GSM phone, though, which does not work on the Verizon network. That’s fine, as I wanted off of Verizon anyway. I switched to T-Mobile. The transfer process was easy, though I admit to being absolutely perplexed by “cell phone economics”. Case in point: the T-Mobile offer to pay my Verizon early termination fee. In order for this offer to be valid, I had to trade in an old phone (Jonah’s), and buy a new phone from T-Mobile. I was bringing two of my own devices to T-Mobile, but in order to get the ETF payoff, I was required to buy a phone from them.

The ETF for my old phone was $180. I bought a $30 phone from T-Mobile, which I did not activate and will likely never use. T-Mobile paid my ETF. How does this work? I honestly don’t know.

As for The OnePlus One itself, I am quite happy. It is a bigger phone than I’m used to, but not uncomfortably so. It’s just about as thick as the Samsung Galaxy S3, but feels to weigh just a shade less. The 64GB “Sandstone Black” model that I purchased has an interestingly textured back cover. Everyone who has held the device has commented on it. It’s not quite abrasive, but it’s definitely not smooth. I’ve quickly gotten used to it. The 16GB “Silk White” model which I purchased for Jonah has no such texture.

So far, the battery has been nothing short of great: in my normal course of action, I end the day with more than 70% battery life remaining. The phone is snappy, the GPS is quick to lock, and the screen is nice. I’m not a smartphone aficionado, so I find the OnePlus One to be a nice step up from the Galaxy S3.

The version of CyanogenMod installed is 11.0-XNPH44S, which equates to Android 4.4.4. I’d like to get Android 5.0, codenamed “Lollipop”, but I don’t know how quickly OnePlus will offer that. The OnePlus is officially supported by CyanogenMod, so I may be able to get Lollipop on my own before the OnePlus distribution system provides an over-the-air update.

The one obvious drawback to the OnePlus One is that it is not a mainstream device, so accessories are not easily purchased. Cases and screen protectors are really only available from the OnePlus online store. Plan ahead if you get this phone, and order the case or screen protector at the same time.

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