OnePlus 6: Here are six things that we expect from the upcoming flagship smartphone

Looking at what the competition offers, and things that consumers think should be an absolute-must in a flagship, it is not hard to deduce what the OnePlus 6 or even the OnePlus 6T after it will be.

OnePlus has been on a roll lately, just four years after its inception, the Chinese company’s phones have cemented themselves as champions of the “budget flagship” category. Starting with the OnePlus 3T in 2016, it has adopted a bi-annual product release strategy. With the OnePlus 5T launching in November last year, the pattern suggests a OnePlus 6 should be out by June this year.

OnePlus Lava Red.

OnePlus 5T in Lava Red.

Pete Lau, the OnePlus CEO, has confirmed that the next flagship will be launching in June this year. While not outright naming the device, Lau has also confirmed that the OnePlus 6 would come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset. And just to keep things interesting (and probably not drive away potential OnePlus 6 buyers to avoid the fate the OnePlus 5 buyers faced this year after the launch of OnePlus 5T), Lau said that he wasn't sure if there would be two phone releasing this year.

For Rs 32,999, the OnePlus 5T has many features that rival Android brands like Samsung, LG, or Google, which also charge a lot more for. Having said that, there are certain omissions the OnePlus makes, presumably to keep the costs down.

With every generation, we’ve seen the company fill the gaps between its products and the competition. With the OnePlus 5T, it was the tall aspect-ratio display, the OnePlus 5 added the dual-camera setup, while the OnePlus 3 was built using aluminium, etc.

Looking at what the competition offers, and things that consumers think should be an absolute must in a flagship, it is not hard to deduce what the OnePlus 6 or even the OnePlus 6T after it will be. Plus, the company also openly talks about what features it wants to keep, and what it would rather not implement today, making it easier.

1: Refreshed Design

This is a no-brainer change that will very likely come to the OnePlus 6. Much like Apple’s ‘s’ upgrades to the iPhones, OnePlus has been reusing hardware design for two generations. The OnePlus 3T looks like the OnePlus 3, the OnePlus 5T looks like the OnePlus 5.

Look ma! No antenna bands!

OnePlus 5T Star Wars Limited Edition.

There’s a good chance the OnePlus 6 will bring about a new design, but frankly, I wonder how different can it really be from the current crop. Apple switched to glass backs for enabling Qi wireless charging. As linked above, the company doesn’t really seem to be in favour of wireless charging today. Apple’s adoption of Qi is said to give the standard the shot in the arm it needed for widespread adoption. Maybe this will convince OnePlus otherwise.

Switching to glass purely for aesthetics has its own downsides — glass is far more susceptible to damage, so we hope a company known for practical decisions like retaining the 3.5mm headphone jack won’t trade durability for looks.

2: Updated System-on-Chip and more storage

The OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T were based on Qualcomm’s current-latest Snapdragon 835 platform. And System-on-chip (or SoC) is something the phone maker has never skimped on. In December 2017, the chipmaker announced the next generation of its flag bearer, titled Snapdragon 845. You can click on the prior link to know the exact improvements; long story short, like clockwork, the Snapdragon 845 is faster, more power efficient and more intelligent than the Snapdragon 835.

OnePlus has also been a torchbearer in upping the amount of RAM put in a smartphone. I believe both the 6 GB and 8 GB configurations should prove amply-large even in 2018. But we might just see the storage of the higher-tier models bumped from 128 GB to 256 GB. It will better justify the Rs 5,000 price difference between it and the 64 GB storage base unit.

3: Water Resistance

Ingress Protection (IP) rating, which suggests the tolerance electronics have towards water and dust, have been a selling point for manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Apple and others. Although, today nearly every phone maker avoids promoting the usage of its smartphone underwater. They even absolve themselves of any warranty claim if the liquid damage is detected (even for products that are IP rated). In an interview, OnePlus’ CEO also argued the cost-benefit of waterproofing, suggesting it affects thermal dissipation and makes the phone thicker and heavier.

So why bother with this certification when OnePlus phones already offer some resistance to accidental spills? For one, better peace of mind — knowing your phone has IP certification means you don’t have to be as protective of it in bad weather, or say, when you’re at the beach. Next, the feature is already been widely available in nearly every 2017 flagship out there — from Apple, Samsung, LG, HTC, Google, to Sony (of course) — without any big compromise to their size or cooling capability. To keep their #NeverSettle mantra, the OnePlus 6 will want to add IP-rated water and dust resistance to its feature set.

That raised dual camera looks cool, but also hides the NFC antenna in the ridge above it.

The currently available OnePlus 5T features a raised dual camera which looks cool. It also hides the NFC antenna in the ridge above it.

4: Improved Cameras

If there’s been one perceptible difference between OnePlus phones and the higher-priced Android flagships, it’s almost always been the camera. Don’t get us wrong — the current crop of OnePlus phones click good quality photos, provided the lighting is sufficient. In low light, the quality difference when compared to the likes of Samsung, Google or Apple is noticeable. The company tried to mitigate this issue with every release, sometimes using experimental methods.

For example, you’ll be intrigued to know that the OnePlus 2, OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T featured Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) — the mechanical system that negates the unsteadiness of the hand when taking pictures or videos. But interestingly, this feature was dropped in the OnePlus 5, and the quality of low-light shots (where OIS is helpful) took a hit. Next, the OnePlus 5T removed the telephoto lens (which enabled the 1.6x lossless zoom) in favour of a specialised sensor for low-light photos. But as real-world testing showed, a better single camera lens with OIS would have done a better job than the OnePlus 5T’s odd dual-lens combination.

So the OnePlus 6 has a tall task of convincing the pundits that it too has a camera system that’s as good as the competitors it’s trying to undercut.

5: Stereo Speakers

The OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T already have a fairly loud speaker at the bottom. Adding a stereo speaker system should be a natural progression since it’s not just about loudness. Having a pair of speakers enables stereo separation — a cool effect when the phone is facing you sideways. And it’s not compulsory to accommodate these speakers on the front face of the phone (although that is ideal for that stereo effect). Phones like the Apple iPhone 8 and X or the HTC U11 have one typical down-firing speaker, while the earpiece doubles up as the secondary output source. The OnePlus 6 could follow a similar path.

6: Under-the-display Fingerprint Scanner

The OnePlus 5T moved the fingerprint scanner from the front to the back, because the tall 6-inch display occupied the front face almost entirely. As an alternative unlock method, the company added a custom Face Unlock feature. Although known to be blazingly-fast, it isn’t as secure as the fingerprint scanner or Apple’s Face ID, due to the lack of any specialised biometric hardware (it just uses the front-facing camera). Due to this, activities like authorising payments in Google Play still require the fingerprint scanner to be used.

OnePlus 5T Review 1280 720 (9)

OnePlus 5T features a fingerprint reader on the back.

OnePlus’ parent company BBK electronics also owns the brand Vivo. In mid-2016, Vivo demoed the world’s first smartphone prototype to bear a fingerprint scanner underneath the display. After giving the world a demo of its first smartphone prototype to bear a fingerprint scanner underneath the display, the smartphone maker showed up at CES 2018 with a proper unit. Vivo at the event showed off the new unnamed smartphone with a functional under display fingerprint reader and also said that it was made in partnership with Synaptics.

Having two unlock mechanisms offers flexibility — while Face Unlock on the OnePlus 5T can suffice for typical use, the fingerprint scanner at the back comes in handy when the former doesn’t work (like in pitch dark conditions, or when lying in bed sideways). But having two ways to unlock a phone also brings some confusion — you have to pay attention if one method didn’t work to use the alternative — not great for muscle memory.

If the technology is genuinely ready for mass consumption, there’s a fair chance OnePlus’ parent company may want to consider an under-screen fingerprint scanner for the OnePlus 6. There also were rumors about the same, so it seems plausible.

So those are our predictions for the OnePlus 6. Do you think any other feature should make it to next OnePlus phone?

Let’s talk about them in the comments section.

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