The OnePlus 7 isn’t likely to grab all the headlines this week, and for good reason: it’s bigger brother the 7 Pro is faster, shinier, and all-new for the company, while the OnePlus 7 is really just business as usual. But when business is booming, that’s no bad thing.
I haven’t spent as long with the 7 as I have with the 7 Pro – OnePlus is currently focussing its efforts on the flagship device – but I have spent some time hands-on with the hardware in the OnePlus office and at the phone’s official launch event in London – here’s what I think so far.
Price and availability
While the 7 Pro is going on sale almost immediately after the 14 May launch event, there’s a bit more of a wait if you want the regular 7 – you won’t be able to grab it until some time in June, with an exact launch date yet to be confirmed.
Luckily we do know how much it will cost: £499 for a model with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage, and £549 for an 8GB/256GB version. There’s no US pricing because it’s not actually releasing in the US – instead OnePlus will continue to sell the older 6T phone.
That’s exactly the same start price as last year’s OnePlus 6T, and £150 less than the comparably specced 7 Pro models – continuing the OnePlus model of aggressive pricing compared to the competition.
Still, there’s tougher competition at that price than there used to be, with the likes of the Honor View 20 and Xiaomi Mi 9 offering serious specs around the same £500 line – at least in the UK – so the OnePlus 7 might struggle to dominate the mid-range conversation in the same way that previous models have.
At first glance, the OnePlus 7 is awfully similar to the 6T. It’s got essentially the same size, build, display, and notch. The colour is slightly different – Mirror Grey, a shade lighter than last year’s Mirror Black, with a smokier finish – but you’d be hard-pressed to spot that unless you set them side by side.
In person you can see a few subtler differences emerge: the camera bump is more pronounced, some of the buttons have changed shape slightly or been repositioned a little, but you’d really have to know the 6T well to tell without a direct comparison.
That means you get a spacious 6.4in front screen with a small teardrop notch in the centre, and thin bezelling all the way round. Both front and back are coated in glass, with a glossy grey finish to the rear – there’s also a red version, but that’s only for India and China. On the back, you’ll find a dual camera array centred near the top of the body.
The display as a whole is the same too – a 2340×1080, 19.5:9 AMOLED 60Hz panel – though in person it looked a lot brighter than the 6T’s panel on the same settings. You also get the exact same 16Mp selfie camera embedded at the top.
It’s a conservative design then, but undeniably still attractive. It might look a touch pedestrian compared to the full-screen 7 Pro with its sliding selfie shooter, but that pop-up comes with its own questions about durability and reliability that this notched design just doesn’t raise.
There’s still no headphone jack, unsurprisingly, but you do get dual stereo speakers, and USB-C 3.1 for charging. There’s also still an in-display fingerprint scanner, though this has had an upgrade from last year, with a new lens and faster sensor area that makes scanning quicker than before.
Battery hasn’t changed either – there’s a 3700mAh battery in here, with the same fast charging capacity too. That means you don’t get the faster 30W Warp Charge that you’ll find in the 7 Pro, but it should be no slouch in its own right. As before, there’s no wireless charging, and while the phone is water-resistant there’s no IP rating either.
And the new
Still, it’s not all the same. So what’s changed?
First up, the internals. To no-one’s surprise the 7 includes the newer Snapdragon 855 processor, an upgrade from the 6T’s 845. It’s paired here with similar RAM and storage options (6GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB) but that storage is itself enhanced: the phone uses UFS 3.0, a faster storage medium which should deliver faster app opening, game loading, and large file transfers.
Arguably the bigger change is on the back of the phone. There’s still a dual-camera setup, and the secondary lens is the same depth sensor as on the 6T, but the primary camera is now a 48Mp, f/1.7 shooter with optical image stabilisation – which should, in theory, produce sharper images and better lowlight shots.
That’s helped by a new algorithm driving that photography too, with dedicated modes for improved HDR, super resolution 48Mp shots, and an upgraded Nightscape 2.0 for low-light shots. These are the same software upgrades as the 7 Pro – and that camera delivers on its promise – but with a slightly different main lens and without the additional wide-angle and telephoto lenses, it remains to be seen how well the camera on the 7 itself will compare.
The camera isn’t the only part of the phone to get software tweaks, though changes to the rest of the brand’s Oxygen OS are mostly minimal. There’s a new screen recorder to record unlimited footage and audio from the phone; an improved Gaming Mode that gives you more granular notification control; and Zen Mode, which essentially locks your phone down to nothing but the camera and emergency calls for 20 minutes – with absolutely no way to switch it off.
The OnePlus 7 is a fairly cautious upgrade from the 6T: the same design and the same display with beefed up specs, a new camera, and a few small software tweaks. It’s not a game-changer by any means, but it seems like a confident, competitive mid-range device that should appeal to anyone who’s been tempted by a OnePlus device before.
If you stand it up against the 7 Pro it probably won’t seem all that exciting, but with a £150 price difference between the two that’s probably not unreasonable – and there’s still plenty in the 7 to tempt anyone who can’t quite afford the 7 Pro’s full-on flagship price point..