After putting the smartphone world on notice with the best-in-class OnePlus 7 Pro six months ago, OnePlus is back with another smartphone, the OnePlus 7T. In the US, this device will be sold alongside the OnePlus 7 Pro, and there’s not a huge price difference between the two devices. The older 7 Pro is still $ 669, and the newer 7T is $ 599—only $ 70 cheaper.
That price difference does leave a lot of room for differentiation, and sure enough, the 7T is a very similar phone to the 7 Pro. On the one hand, that’s a great thing. The OnePlus 7 Pro is one of the best smartphones you can buy, and now the OnePlus 7T is also one of the best smartphones you can buy. But even though the 7T is a great device, it isn’t that new or exciting. Let’s quickly go over what’s different.
Whenever Google, Apple, or Samsung release a smartphone, they usually release two versions of the same phone in different sizes. The OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7 Pro feel a lot like that same strategy, just with two different designs instead of two different sizes and released, inexplicably, six months apart. Those design differences are mostly in the display, the selfie camera, and the rear camera arrangement. Other than that, you’d have to whip out a pair of calipers or a benchmark tool to discern any kind of difference between the two devices.
|SPECS AT A GLANCE: ONEPLUS 7T|
|SCREEN||6.55-inch, 2400×1080 (402 ppi), 90Hz AMOLED
(516ppi, 19.5:9 aspect ratio)
|OS||Android 10 with OnePlus’ OxygenOS skin|
|CPU||Eight-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+
Four Cortex A76-based cores (One 2.96GHz, three 2.41Ghz) and four Cortex A55-based cores at 1.78GHz
|STORAGE||128GB or 256GB|
|NETWORKING||802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, NFC|
|PORTS||USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C|
|CAMERA||Rear: 48MP main camera, 12MP 2x telephoto, 16MP wide-angle
|STARTING PRICE||$ 599|
|OTHER PERKS||quick charging, optical in-display fingerprint sensor, water resistance, dual SIM|
The OnePlus 7 Pro is still the more impressive phone, with a motorized pop-up camera that enables an unblemished, all-screen front design with no notches. The 7T takes a different path and uses a minimal “water drop” notch to house the front camera, just like the previous OnePlus phones, the OnePlus 6T, and OnePlus 7. Preferences may vary here. Some Internet commenters have theorized that the 7 Pro’s pop-up camera might be “fragile,” and while there is zero evidence to back up this claim, (the camera can actually support 49 pounds of weight, and someone once even used it as a bottle opener) some people may want the peace of mind that comes from zero moving parts. Other people really dislike notches and might prefer the notchless design of the 7 Pro.
The lack of a notch was one of the truly unique aspects of the OnePlus 7 Pro. With zero blemishes on the display and an all-screen design, the 7 Pro achieved what might be seen as the ideal smartphone form. In the future, it’s probable that all slate-style phones will look like the OnePlus 7 Pro; it’s just a matter of whether that happens thanks to pop-up cameras, under-display cameras, rear displays, or some other camera solution. With a notch design, the OnePlus 7T looks like a lot of other smartphones out there, including old OnePlus devices like the OnePlus 6T and OnePlus 7. OnePlus has always had the best notch design since the OnePlus 6T, given that it is small, unobtrusive, and fits inside the normal status bar. This year the notch is even smaller—OnePlus says the notch shrank 31% from the 6T version.
The two phones also differ in the screen design. The 7 Pro has a screen that curves along the sides, like a Samsung phone, while the 7T has a regular flat display. I’ve never seen a justification for the curved screen other than some people think it “looks cool,” but it does come with the downside that it distorts the sides of apps. I prefer my apps to be flat and undistorted, but others may feel differently.
The rear camera designs are different thanks to the new camera assembly on the OnePlus 7T. The 7 Pro had a pretty minimal vertical strip of cameras, while the 7T has a giant circle that houses all the lenses. Both camera bumps stick out about the same amount overall, but I can see preferring the smaller overall bump of the OnePlus 7 Pro.
The two phones do differ slightly in their measurements, with the 7T losing about a millimeter and a half off the top and sides compared to the OnePlus 7 Pro. This isn’t really enough to qualify the 7T as “smaller,” and it isn’t something you’d notice unless you had the two phones side by side. Phone size tiers typically see about 4mm shaved off the sides of the phone and 6-7mm taken off the height on the smaller model—for example, comparing the Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10 or the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11. With only 1.5mm of difference in both directions, the 7T and 7 Pro are not significantly different.
The best feature of the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 90Hz display, is still here. You get a buttery-smooth 90FPS interface that makes scrolling, animations, and everything else on the display feel smoother and faster. OnePlus is really ahead of the pack here, and these higher refresh rates are something you’ll see on most high-end smartphones in the future. Google is jumping on the 90Hz bandwagon with the Pixel 4, and considering Samsung makes 90Hz displays for OnePlus and other companies, it will probably be adopting a faster refresh rate with the Galaxy S11. Apple has been making 120Hz iPads since 2017, but so far the iPhone is still stuck at 60Hz.
One addition to the OnePlus 7T is fast charging thanks to OnePlus’ “Warp Charge 30T” charging tech. OnePlus’ charging scheme is actually pretty novel. Phones get hot when they charge, and this heat can slow down charging, impact the phone’s performance, and degrade the battery. The heat comes from the power management circuitry inside the phone that converts the incoming USB power into something the battery will accept. Normally this happens in the phone, but OnePlus duplicates this charging circuitry inside the power brick. So you get a very large power brick from OnePlus with a proprietary quick-charging standard, and when you connect it to a compatible OnePlus phone, the power circuitry in the power brick takes over charging duty, so the brick gets hot instead of your phone. A cooler phone charges faster, the performance while charging is better, and it’s better for the battery. It’s pretty neat.
This year, charging is 23% faster than the OnePlus 7 Pro, and OnePlus says the new phone will charge from zero to 70% in just half an hour. This is all thanks to a revamped battery structure, not actually a new charger, so the existing “Warp Charge 30” chargers that were introduced earlier this year will still charge the phone at maximum speed.
A lack of improvement
Unfortunately, none of the problems we had with the 7 Pro have been fixed in the OnePlus 7T. The device still doesn’t have an option for an always-on display, which shows the time and any notification icons in minimal white text on a black background. Because black uses almost no power on a OLED display, this feature uses very little power while letting you check the time and your notifications without touching your phone. You’ll find this feature on modern Google and Samsung phones, but for whatever reason, OnePlus refuses to add it.
The OnePlus 7T also still has a glass back but no wireless charging. Glass backs are more fragile and less durable than metal, but most smartphones have switched to glass as a tradeoff for wireless charging. There’s no tradeoff with OnePlus, though—it’s just the worst of both worlds.
There’s also no headphone jack, and while there’s still no officially tested IPXX water rating, the phone did survive a dunk in water and rinsing off in the sink. There has been some controversy online about OnePlus’ lack of water resistance testing, but remember that no manufacturer—not Samsung nor Apple nor Google—actually stands behind their water resistance claims. If your phone gets water damage, your warranty is void. With that in mind, I don’t think the lack of an official IP rating is too big of a big deal.
The software is really one of the biggest changes since to the OnePlus 7 Pro, since you now get Android 10 instead of the Android 9 that shipped with the 7 Pro. OnePlus gets high marks for being both one of the first OEMs to ship Android 10 in a new device, the 7T, and one of the first to update an older device, the 7 Pro, to Android 10, just 18 days after the general release.
As usual, OnePlus is really a model OEM when it comes to the software. The OnePlus’ “Oxygen OS” keeps the normal Android style and layout with only the lightest visual tweaking and adds lots of customizability. This is what all OEMs should do: add features, but don’t change things for change’s sake.
One of the biggest changes from earlier OnePlus software is the gesture navigation system. Google’s Android 10 gesture system is available alongside OnePlus’ old gesture navigation. Both systems have similar gestures for “Home” and “Recent Apps”: Home is a swipe up from the bottom, and Recent Apps is a swipe up and hold. What’s different is the “Back” gesture: OnePlus’ was a swipe up from the bottom corner, while Google’s is a swipe in from either edge.
Google’s Back gesture is a big improvement, since moving your thumb all the way to the bottom corner of the phone one-handed can be tough, especially on a huge phone like the OnePlus 7T or 7 Pro. It’s hard to do while also supporting the rest of the phone. Google’s gesture lets you use anywhere on the left or right edge that feels comfortable, which feels a lot safer and faster. Google’s gesture has the downside of conflicting with app navigation drawers, but hopefully developers also have a hamburger button that’s easy to use.
All the other Android 10 features are mostly here and intact. OnePlus has had a dark theme for a while, but in Android 10, it’s system-wide and affects third-party apps. Google and other app developers are slowly rolling out support across their app selection, and someday, we’re told, we’ll be able to turn all apps dark with the flip of a switch. OnePlus’ dark mode implementation is a bit clunky, since the company forgot the quick settings toggle that exists on stock Android. Now there’s no easy dark mode toggle, and you have to go through the multi-step process of navigating through Settings > Customization > Preset theme > Nuance Dark just to turn dark mode on and off.
Performance and camera
On the move from a OnePlus 7 Pro to a OnePlus 7T, OnePlus upgrades from a Snapdragon 855 SoC to a Snapdragon 855+, and we’re really splitting hairs here. The two chips are exactly the same architecturally, but the “plus” version gets a CPU clock bump from 2.84GHz to 2.96GHz and a GPU clock bump from 585MHz to about 673MHz (you can’t actually detect the GPU clock on an Android device). That adds up to a 4% faster CPU and a 15% faster GPU, both of which are reflected in benchmarks.
There isn’t a lot to say about the camera, either. The camera bump might look different, but the hardware is identical to the 7 Pro, except that the 3x optical zoom of the 7 Pro was downgraded to 2x for the 7T. I checked, and the pictures are identical, too, so we’ll skip most of the camera samples.
The one new camera feature that is really cool is the new macro mode, which lets you take super close-up, detailed pictures. When you turn on macro mode, which accessible via a flower icon in the camera app, the OnePlus 7T can focus on items as little as 2.5cm away. The OnePlus 7 Pro, which doesn’t have the new macro mode, needs about 10cm of distance to focus on something.
Macro mode brings out detail that can be hard to see and appreciate with the naked eye, making it the rare new camera feature that is actually useful and fun to use.
Still one of the best phones you can buy
The OnePlus 7T is a great phone; it’s just not all that much different from the OnePlus 7 Pro. With only a $ 70 price difference, you could really pick either one and be fine, since even the specs don’t differ much. It’s basically the same device, in two slightly different styles, which you’re free to pick from based on your preferences.
This isn’t the update I would have liked to see. The best thing OnePlus could do to make the device more useful is to add in an always-on display, allowing users to see the time and their notifications without touching the phone. This is something that has been on Google and Samsung flagships for years, and it’s expected of a flagship Android phone. You could say all the same things about wireless charging—it’s a feature that exists on all other flagships at this point, and OnePlus is behind the competition.
When you’re making one of the best phones on the market, you aren’t obligated to change much. Most of the competition still hasn’t caught up to OnePlus’ screen-maximizing phone design, 90Hz display, lightly customized Android package, and relatively fast updates. OnePlus is not only making phones better than the competition, but also for cheaper—the $ 600 price tag is a steal compared to the $ 1,000 smartphones out there. These things are far more important than the phone’s few missing features—and make either the OnePlus 7 Pro or 7T highly recommended.
- OnePlus is making better phones than the competition for less. The $ 600 price tag puts other phones to shame.
- The buttery-smooth 90Hz display makes the phone a joy to use. Scrolling and animations feel way better at 90FPS.
- If you have to have a notched selfie camera, the OnePlus 7T has the smallest, most unobtrusive notch in the industry.
- The camera’s new macro mode is actually useful.
- OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is a model of what OEMs should do with Android: the design and layout hasn’t changed much. OnePlus mostly just adds extra features and customizability.
- This is one of the first phones with Android 10, and if OnePlus’ history is any indication, you’ll get fast updates.
- No wireless charging.
- Only bi-monthly security updates when most other OEMs offer monthly security updates.
- Iffy water resistance with no official guidance on what the phone can survive.
- OnePlus stubbornly refuses to add an always-on display, despite it just being a software feature.
Listing image by Ron Amadeo