When a company that’s been known for incredible value for money steps into the flagship space, should it be treated like a premium brand or should its existing brand identity hold? Should we expect more than what it usually delivers?

The former would be true from a buyer’s point of view. After all, the OnePlus 7 Pro will cost you fifty thousand bucks of your own money. It doesn’t matter what costs OnePlus incurred, at about 50,000, you want a small country built into your smartphone, don’t you?

One could argue that OnePlus’ foray into this space began with last year’s 6T, McLaren edition etc, and from 2019 onwards there’s no going back. With the OnePlus 7 Pro, the company can no longer sell on the “value" philosophy. It has to deliver everything that premium brands like Samsung, Huawei, Apple etc. do.

And so begins the OnePlus 7 Pro review.

Ticking the right boxes

It might have a slightly wider footprint, but my roommate often picked up the OnePlus 7 Pro thinking it was his Galaxy S9 Plus. Borderless, curved screen and all-glass design — check.

And it’s a great screen too. Colours are correctly balanced, touch latency is as low as it gets, animations are smooth and stutter free, and OnePlus even threw in a 90Hz refresh rate, which makes no difference to your day-to-day usage, but checks another box — specs that are “future facing" but of no value today.

Refresh rate is the number of frames a display can show per second. Imagine an old-school flip book, the simulated motion will be smoother, the faster you flip the pages. However, it will only matter if your eyes can spot the difference between fast flipping and slightly faster flipping.

Higher refresh rates, theoretically, help in gaming, watching sports etc. But content delivery on smartphones is still largely in the 60Hz range, meaning your 90Hz display is waiting for content creators to catch up.

Lastly, there are three cameras on the back — 48MP, 16MP and 8MP. Have more cameras than users know the use for, check. Here’s what multiple cameras on smartphones mean to you.

What does this all mean?

So, OnePlus has ensured that we can’t deny the flagship chops of the OnePlus 7 Pro. The company even customises its software to perfection, making this the fastest Android phone you can buy today, period. You’ll see this particular opinion being repeated in every review of this phone.

OnePlus’ animations are the smoothest any Android phone can provide, apps launch almost immediately, games like Asphalt 9 and Injustice run without frame drops and unnatural heating, it has enough RAM to stay this fast for long, the works. It’s actually the perfect smartphone as far as speed and smoothness are concerned.

If I had to pick things about this phone that belong in the flagship class, I'd go for the display and performance.

What doesn’t make it to the flagship class though is the camera. That does not mean the phone doesn’t have a good camera. But we were looking for a great camera. And all the National Geographic covers in the world won’t convince me this is a “great" camera to be recalled alongside the Pixel 3 or Huawei P30 Pro. It beats the iPhone XS quite consistently though, but then, which Android flagship doesn’t anymore.

To go into a little more detail, OnePlus’ algorithms are adept at handling daylight, dusk, dawn, street lights and more. You know, the usual stuff.

Where it absolutely fails as a premium camera are tougher conditions, like low and coloured lighting in bars, a streak of yellow CFL light running across your subject’s face, taking portrait photos in low-ish light and so on. It has a Night Sight mode, but there’s no improvement there from the 6T either, if you liked it before you will continue to do so.

The camera also lacks the “smarts" of a Pixel or Huawei camera. It can undoubtedly do well in the hands of more accomplished photographers, and post production can salvage most photos and make them look unreal (which is probably how those magazine covers happened), but as a point-and-shoot camera, you will find yourself grimacing a few more times than you should.

But the camera is undoubtedly the only hitch in an otherwise great premium smartphone. It charges faster than almost every other phone, barring BBK Electronics’ (OnePlus’ parent company) other brand Oppo and its VOOC charging. For the record, OnePlus calls its charging tech “Warp Charge". Oh, and the battery lasts a day without fail.

Should you buy it?

There’s really no reason not to, except if you want a better and more dependable camera, or if you have the OnePlus 6T (this isn’t a sizeable upgrade). The Pixel 3 costs just a bit more, and though it lacks the OnePlus 7 Pro’s speed, display quality, warp charge, and design, it has a camera that beats that device hands down, and Google’s hand of god behind it. The Huawei P30 Pro, on the other hand, matches the 7 Pro in almost everything (except battery charging) and has a better camera, but it’s considerably more expensive.

In the end, what really works in OnePlus’ favour is that flagships today are exorbitantly priced. So, while the company shouldn’t ideally be allowed to tout the “we are cheaper but better" card, it still can. Can you afford nearly 20k more for a Huawei P30 Pro? I can’t. The base variant of the OnePlus 7 Pro has everything most buyers need, so it’s likely the one that will sell the most.

However, one thing must be said. The OnePlus 7 Pro is not a phone that elevates the company’s image. It has absolutely nothing that separates OnePlus from the rest. The new display might be expensive, but those who still see OnePlus as a “value" brand, could easily argue that the phone should/could have been cheaper. As with all of its previous phones, this is the best option because it’s cheaper, but could it have been cheaper still?

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