Last year's OnePlus One set a high bar for how much performance you could squeeze out of a $299 smartphone, and its sequel doesn't disappoint. Tucked away inside the 9.85mm-thick frame is one of Qualcomm's octa-core Snapdragon 810 chipsets partnered with either 3GB or 4GB of RAM, depending on which version you choose. You've also got a sealed 3,300mAh battery (and I do mean sealed; there's nothing but curved plastic under the battery cover), a tray that holds two nano-SIM cards and either 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. As our comments section continues to make clear, the lack of expandable memory options is a downright dealbreaker for some of you. I'm more of a "streaming everything" kind of guy so the 53GB of free space in the higher-end model I tested was more than enough, but keep that limit in mind before you punch someone in the face for an invite. Oh, and there's no NFC this time around, a puzzling omission that'll keep your OnePlus 2 from doubling as a wallet whenever Android Pay finally launches.
There's so much going on inside the OnePlus 2, in fact, that the designers clearly didn't feel the need to give it a brand-new look. What we got instead is a thoughtful refinement of the original's design that makes the whole thing feel more premium than its price tag suggests. To wit: The chassis itself is made of polycarbonate, but a magnesium and aluminum band runs around its sides, with drilled vents for the speaker and a USB Type-C charging port along the bottom. A quick look at the phone's left edge reveals something new: a three-stage notification slider that lets you select how obnoxious you want the phone to be when tweets, status updates and emails roll in. This is, in short, a revelation. It's a staggeringly useful addition, and other smartphone makers would do well to add something similar.
The most eye-catching addition is the fingerprint sensor that doubles as a home button. Pity that it's not as sensitive as it should be. It sometimes took multiple tries to unlock the phone with my finger (a reality, sadly, for just about any smartphone with biometric security) and you have to hit it with more force than you might expect. It's nice, in a way -- an ill-placed glancing blow won't disrupt your gaming sessions -- but I'd prefer more touch-pressure consistency between the home button and the two soft keys on either side of it.
If you've played with the original model, the OnePlus 2's back will seem like a blast from the past. The changes here are pretty modest, and they mostly boil down to the fact that the 13-megapixel camera and dual-LED flash have been shifted south a few millimeters. This time, though, the camera itself is sandwiched between the flash and an LED autofocus module that promises to lock onto targets in as little as 0.2 second. My review unit came with the company's trademark sandstone black rear panel, which has been a point of contention among the people I've shown it too. Some (myself included) love the gritty, tactile feel of the sandstone finish because it's so drastically different from the glass-and-metal monoliths we usually play with, but it just left others scratching their heads. You can swap it out for bamboo, Kevlar, black apricot or rosewood covers for a little extra cash, and don't worry: It's much, much easier to remove this time around.
All told, OnePlus did a wonderful job putting its second-generation flagship killer together. It's light, but not too light, and there's not an iota of give when you start twisting the device (not that you should really do that in the first place). Between the OnePlus 2's handsome design, sturdy construction and Gorilla Glass 4 screen you've got a real looker that can stand up to even the silliest drunken drops. Just... trust me on that last bit.
Display and sound
We're looking at yet another 5.5-inch, 1080p IPS LCD display this year, which means the same number of pixels squeezed into each linear inch as the original OnePlus One (that's 401 ppi, to be exact). The rest of the madding crowd might be embracing those gorgeous Quad HD panels, but really -- we're hardly worse off with a full HD screen here, especially considering the cost. I wouldn't be surprised if a few people reading this could somehow pick out individual pixels on the OP2's high-def screen. Well, I can't anyway, and the staggering majority of people can't, either. You're not missing out on anything.
As you might expect from an IPS screen, viewing angles are great even from odd positions (good news for over-the-shoulder screen peekers). Just don't expect the punchy colors you'd get from a Samsung phone's AMOLED display. I happen to like when my retinas are scorched by saturated screens, but the OnePlus 2's is considerably less in-your-face. Things are even cooler and subtler here than on the LG G4's "Quantum display," which strove for eye-catching color accuracy above all else. All told, it feels a little dull, a little lifeless, but I might be in the minority on this one. Still, those subdued colors also mean viewing the screen in direct sunlight can be tricky (though cranking up the brightness helps).
Meanwhile, the single speaker on the phone's bottom side does a fine job belting out tunes, although things can get muddled when you crank up the volume. OnePlus included the MaxxAudio equalizer app for good measure, and you can toggle it from the volume shade if you need some extra oomph. Honestly, the equalizer's effects are more noticeable -- and more valuable -- when you're using them in tandem with a pair of headphones. Just be careful when MaxxAudio is enabled; I couldn't get the volume up to 50 percent without feeling like I was thrashing my eardrums.
Before we go any further, a brief software note: Our OnePlus 2 is running a pre-release build (A2005_14_150807, if you're curious), and the company tells us an OTA update that's "close" to what I have is going live shortly.
Bon voyage, CyanogenMod. After a prolonged, public breakup (and at least one Taylor Swift joke), the OnePlus 2 comes loaded with a mostly clean version of Android 5.1.1 with just a handful of OnePlus' custom OxygenOS interface tweaks for added flavor. I really do mean "clean," too. As I mentioned earlier, my 64GB model had 53GB of storage ready for me to use out of the box, and just about all of that reserved space is taken up by Android proper. There are only two preloaded apps to be found here -- that MaxxAudio equalizer and SwiftKey's not-for-me keyboard -- and both can be disabled without much headache. Too bad you can't uninstall them. The rest is basically unfettered Lollipop and it looks and runs just as nicely as you'd expect it to.
Now we're left with those Oxygen tweaks, most of which are surprisingly useful. There's a dark theme if you're tired of Material Design's decided whiteness, and you can fire up some onscreen navigation keys if the insensitive physical home button really gets on your nerves. OnePlus also cribbed a few notes from Oppo with its onscreen gestures, so drawing a circle or a V on the display while the phone is off launches the camera and flashlight, respectively. Oh, and a double-tap on the screen will rouse the phone from slumber, a la LG's most recent G series devices. Perhaps the biggest question mark is the Shelf, which you can access by swiping right on your home screen. It puts your most frequently used apps and contacts in one place, and throws in your local weather report and some space for widgets down at the bottom. It's nice to have, I guess, but I've used the feature precisely zero times over the last week (unless you count the times I just showed people it was there).