Lots of companies make big phones, but in the US only two companies have sold the best big phones: Apple and Samsung. If you want a phone with a huge, near perfect screen, top-end performance, and great build quality, those were your choices. Sure, the Pixel XL line is pretty good and Huawei makes great big phones, but the former hasn’t sold well and the latter isn’t sold in the US.
Now, OnePlus is throwing its hat into the ring with a phone that purports to be just as good and high-quality as a Galaxy S10 Plus or iPhone XS Max, but it costs hundreds less. That’s the pitch for the OnePlus 7 Pro, which is launching on T-Mobile for $699 and will also be available unlocked in three different configurations ranging from $669 to $749. If you’re familiar with OnePlus, you might know it as a company that portrays itself as a scrappy underdog that makes midrange phones that punch above their weight class.
With the 7 Pro, OnePlus is declaring that it’s no longer just a middle-weight boxer. It wants to challenge Apple and Samsung in the heavyweight class. It has created a phone that — on paper, at least — has certainly earned a chance to take on the champions.
Let’s get ready to rumble.
Great battery life
Nice Android customizations
Camera is good, but not stellar
Heavy, may be too big for some
No wireless charging or IP rating for water resistance
One of the things that distinguishes the top-flight, expensive phones from regular phones is overall build quality. The phone has to feel like it deserves to cost as much as it does. The 7 Pro does, though perhaps because it borrows much of its basic design from Samsung’s Galaxy phones. The glass on the front and back curves in toward a metal rail that runs all around the frame. Where OnePlus (barely) differentiates itself is the back of the phone. It has a matte finish and iridescent colors, plus a vertical array of cameras.
The screen is the star of the show
The OnePlus 7 Pro is also a large phone; it’s just a little bigger and heavier than Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9. It has a screen that’s about 6.5 inches diagonally (depending on how you count the curved edges) in a fairly tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio. If you’re used to big phones, none of this will put you off. If you’re not used to big phones, you might be tempted to give this one a try anyway because the screen is so nice.
The thing that you’ll likely show off to your friends is the motorized pop-up selfie camera. It’s a neat trick and a relative rarity in the US, but the whole point of it is to allow OnePlus to stretch the display edge to edge without any notches or camera cutouts. The bezels are tiny all the way around, and on the left and right edges, the screen curves into the body just like on a Samsung Galaxy phone.
I hate to use the word “immersive” because it’s been over-marketed into meaninglessness, but that’s the word for the screen. It is so large and so expansive you hardly notice there’s a phone behind it when you look at it. (Though you will feel it, as the OnePlus 7 Pro is heavy.)
Still, big screens are nothing special anymore. What really matters at this tier of phones is the quality of the screen. OnePlus nailed it on several important fronts.
First, the screen hits the basics: It’s high resolution, gets really bright, and has vibrant colors. It’s an OLED screen, of course, just like you should expect on a high-end phone. OnePlus offers a few different color calibration presets, or there are sliders to customize color profiles like sRGB or P3 even further. If you want a more neutral look for better color accuracy, you can do that, but I left it at the default “Vivid” setting most of the time and was quite pleased with it.
OnePlus has gone a little further than that, though, by giving this screen a higher refresh rate: 90Hz instead of 60Hz. It makes everything from scrolling to animations look much smoother. As on the iPad Pro, a faster refresh rate is the sort of thing you don’t really think you’ll care about until you use it and somehow everything else feels a little stuttery. It means you can read as you scroll, and touch responses feel much more in tune with your finger’s placement.
The 7 Pro will dynamically change either the refresh rate or the resolution on the fly, depending on whether the app you’re using might be better off with something slower or lower resolution (e.g. watching a 1080p video). It’s not the first phone to offer a high refresh rate screen, but the others so far have been esoteric gaming phones with other significant…