OnePlus2 and OnePlusX, should you settle?

This year at the Dublin Web Summit, OnePlus were out on display showing off their two latest handsets, the OnePlus2 and the OnePlusX. Both phones are fantastic, to hold in the hand and play around with; they’re responsive and lovely. While the OnePlus2 looks almost identical to the OnePlus1 (which is no bad thing), the OnePlusX is unmistakably something different. It’s a lot slicker, a lot more sheen and a lot more premium.

Both phones are not only nice to hold, but in a year when handsets have gotten bigger, it’s refreshing to hold something which you can hold and type on with one hand. However, it’s not what these phones have which is of interest to me (the spec sheet gives most mid-high range handsets a good run), it’s what they don’t have.

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2016 will undoubtedly be about two things; Mobile Payment and USB type-C. Both are in their infancy now, currently only a few select countries support Apple Pay, and Android Pay is US only. USB-C is even more rare, with only the Google Nexus range supporting this. It’s surprising then that neither OnePlus support NFC, or fingerprint sensors. Only the OnePlus2 supports USB-C, the X has dropped this.

While this is not a huge problem at the moment, it will become one. It’s unusual for new flagship releases to fall in any way behind for a young company hoping to make its stake in a competitive industry, particularly when it’s target audience is heavily geared towards savvy consumers, and tech enthusiasts.

At a basic level, if you’re not the kind to compare spec sheets for phones; if you’re in a region with Android Pay, you won’t be able to use your new OnePlus to pay for things. You also won’t be able to utilise fingerprint support, which more and more apps are beginning to integrate.

As to why these were omitted, the official reason boils down to price. With a limited user-base, and an extremely competitive price point of €399, it’s a question of whether you want the new high-end flagship, or you want something that doesn’t break the bank, but still has good specs. Speaking with their staff at Web Summit, in Dublin, their customers also just didn’t really use NFC, and didn’t really see the point in fingerprint sensors. It’s a fair reason on which basis to exclude it, NFC does have limited uses outside of payments at the moment, the same goes for Fingerprint sensors.

What I found interesting was the reason the USB-C was excluded from the X. It seems to come down to bulk, the Type-C connector is a little bigger than the traditional micro-USB, which again seems a fair enough point. While it means the X won’t support faster charging, the 2525mAh battery should charge just fine the old-fashioned way. Arguably this is the thing people will least miss from the spec-sheet. Cables take a long time to become obsolete and Micro-USB will be around for a while. The focus from OnePlus was very much to keep the X looking as sophisticated as possible – it’s something they’ve achieved very well, the X is a very good looking phone.

Price can often be a lazy explanation, so too can ‘bulk’ or wanting to keep aesthetics. You don’t have to look too far to see a competitor delivering on price and specs in one bundle, even if it misses out a little on aesthetics; Nexus 5X. Certainly the US price is extremely competitive and it’s able to integrate a very good fingerprint reader in there also. Apart from that, it’s not a terrible looking phone – but it’s certainly not as premium looking as the OnePl

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usX.

Holding both handsets, it can be hard to believe they’re as cheap as they are. Well built and very premium looking, the screen, camera are all very sharp. They’re responsive and while not quite high-end, they’re definitely punching above the mid/low-end weight. Of the two, the X definitely had the edge for me. It was slicker, lighter and snappier than the 2, it also appeared to have a sharper screen and more responsive camera. The hardware is really great, sturdy and you could almost forget it’s as cheap as it is especially with that battery, which is strong.

The one thing that confuses me is the omissions. Granted price is a factor, but NFC is a fairly cheap technology, also the people had spoken, they don’t want USB-C, they don’t need NFC or fingerprint sensors, for now. While you certainly can’t argue the price, it could be seen as a cynical way to get people buying their 2017 model. Fit the moment though, if you want a cheap phone to replace next year, you could do a lot worse.

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iPhone 5 cometh…

With Apple’s conference confirmed on the 4th October, and the iPhone 5 all but a certainty, just what can we expect the new CEO Tim Cook to unveil to us? Here’s some of what we can be expecting from the conference next week.

iPhone 5

Maybe? Probably not...

The iPhone 5 is largely expected to undergo some kind of redesign in terms of the hardware. While it’s expected to look very much the same as the iPhone 4, the internals are expected to address the hazardous antennae issue which gave Apple so many headaches not long ago among other things which aim to generally give the new iPhone a bit more Oomph. Some speculation over the thickness of the handset has arisen, suggesting that the actual handset will be thinner and lighter than previous models. There has also been some comments over the phone’s screen size which is expected to increase to match the growing displays from rivals like Samsung and HTC. Personally I think Apple did well with the iPhone 4 in terms of design, it’s a usable size with little weight and feels good to hold so I can’t see any hugely outlandish overhauls in this field.

Some of the internal changes however aside from the antennae fix, will be big ones. It’s expected that thus iPhone will be made even faster, getting rid of the already short lags present in the current range of iPhones. It’s expected that with the larger screen, Apple will need to invest in much punchier processor power as well as some updates to the excellent Retina Display. Another internal change which would be welcome is the inclusion of an NFC chip, which would allow for contact-less payments to be made. Google already allows this in their own Nexus handsets, and last week activated the feature allowing people to pay for items with Google Wallet, through their smartphone and it’s expected that more and more Android handsets will begin carrying this soon. With PayPal already working on their own apps it makes some sense to do this. But we’ll have to see, Apple tend to wait until a method is more tried and tested.

There has also been some discussion around the possibility of the new iPhone being 4G, I personally don’t really see this as being a major deal breaker, most people won’t have anything above 3G connection and really don’t care much about 4G. So while this might be a bit of Future-proofing on Apple’s part, like the Thunderbolt connection on the new MacBook Air, it’s really not something to get excited about yet.

It will be an intersecting presentation, marking the first major product launch that Jobs hasn’t helmed. iOS5 will also be released to customers in and around, which looks set to add a host of new features to the iPhone. I for one, won’t be buying the new iPhone, I think the iPhone 4 with iOS5 will be able to do much of what the iPhone 5 will be packing.