OnePlus 5T stretches its screen without straining wallets

Even as the generational differences in smartphones have shrunk, the reign of a flagship handset has become shorter and shorter. To keep up with the frantic pace of flagship refreshes, OnePlus is updating its OnePlus 5 phone after just a third of a year. Like its predecessors, the OnePlus 5T's spec sheet can go toe-to-toe with pricey competitors like Samsung's Galaxy S8 without delivering a knockout blow to the wallet.

The phone uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC found in many flagship Android smartphones from the likes of HTC, LG, and Samsung. OnePlus will offer two versions of the 5T. The more-affordable version will have 6 GB of system memory and 64 GB of storage. The high-end version will have 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash memory.

OnePlus has stretched the 5T's 2160x1080 AMOLED screen nearly to the edges of the device, as is the fashion with many competing flagship phones. The 5T's 6", 2160x1080 display doesn't grow the overall size of the phone much. Instead, OnePlus stretched the screen's aspect ratio from 16:9 to 18:9 and shrank the bezels. The 401-PPI screen is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 5.

Overall dimensions still grow just a bit compared to those of the OnePlus 5 at 6.1" tall, 3" wide, and 0.29" thick (15.6 cm x 7.5 cm x 7.3 mm). The handset weighs in at 5.7 oz (162 g). The device's aluminum shell lends the phone a high-end look, though it does preclude the inclusion of wireless charging.

OnePlus has overhauled the dual-camera system from the OnePlus 5 in the move to the 5T. The back of the phone now has a 16-megapixel general-purpose shooter and a 20-MP unit that seems to use a form of pixel binning for improved low-light operation. Both have the same focal length and f/1.7 aperture, so optical zoom is no longer an option as it was on the regular 5. OnePlus has incorporated an electronic image stabilization feature into the rear camera that works when shooting 4K, 30-FPS video, as well.

The 16-MP, f/2.0 front camera is part of the 5T's new face-recognition unlock feature. The manufacturer says the facial recognition feature works 99% of the time it can see the user's eyes and nose, but the company warns that the feature isn't secure enough for use in a mobile payment system or other high-stakes applications. Face ID this isn't. Verification of identity for payments has to rely on the rear-mounted fingerprint reader, for example.

As for software, the 5T will ship with Google's Android 7.1.1 Nougat OS with OnePlus' lightweight OxygenOS skin stretched over top of it. The manufacturer says a beta version of Android 8.0 Oreo will be available for adventurous phone owners sometime in December. The latest version of OxygenOS has a feature called Parallel Apps that allows users to install multiple copies of the same application with different login credentials. Users who use multiple logins for their phone apps might also like the ability to use more than one SIM card, and the dual-card 5T obliges. Users can fall back on 802.11ac Wi-Fi when a cellular connection isn't desired or is unavailable.

The OnePlus 5T still keeps a headphone jack alongside its USB Type-C port. The battle for swappable batteries in desirable phones is long over, and the 5T packs a 3300-mAh non-user-serviceable battery. When the battery is depleted, users can use the phone's Dash Charge feature to quickly replenish the pack. OnePlus says its proprietary charge feature can cram enough juice for a day's use into a dead phone in just half an hour.

OnePlus will sell the unlocked OnePlus 5T directly to consumers starting on November 21. The 5T will ring in at $499 for the entry-level model with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, and $559 for the deluxe unit with 8 GB of memory and 128 GB of flash.

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