Touch Response on the OnePlus 6, iPhone Xs, and iPad Pro (2017)

https://youtu.be/d4mdB4YTtMo

The OnePlus 6 is a very nice Android phone (and at less than $600 it’s one of the most affordable high end phones of the year), but one thing that was bugging me was touch response time. Animations feel fast and the phone generally works quite quickly, but there was a slight disconnect between when I was tapping/swiping on screen and things would happen. I was not alone, apparently.

To test this, I busted out the slow motion video and counted the frames between how long it took the Twitter app and websites to recognize my swipe gestures to start scrolling. Check out the video above for more thoughts, but the ultimate results were:

  • OnePlus 6: 0.15 second lag (average)
  • iPhone Xs: 0.08 second lag
  • iPad Pro 10.5: 0.07 second lag

Android Updates and the Lowest Bars Possible

Android Developers Blog: An Update on Project Treble

Thanks to Treble, we expect to see more devices from OEMs running Android 9 Pie at the end of 2018 as compared to the number of devices that were running Android Oreo at the end of 2017.

It's worth noting that Oreo was on 0.5% of devices in December 2017 and 0.7% in January 2018. Sure, they're on pace to hit at least 0.8% by the end of the year, but that's after Pie will be 4 months old, that's not exactly the accelerated upgrade pattern I think we expected.

As of today, Android Pie still does not have enough usage to register on Google’s distribution dashboard.

One Slick Android Feature

Much like iOS, Android has an app store that lets people easily download apps for their devices. The differences between the Play Store and App Store are more in execution than concept, and will be how the vast majority of people get apps.

But Android also has the ability to simple install apps like you can on a Mac or PC. If I manually turn on the feature, I can install .APK files from anywhere I’d like. This has been a feature of Android since the beginning, and many people likely did this for the first time recently with Fortnite, which is not being distributed via the Play Store at all.

Why this is risky

On the one hand, this means that it allows people to install software that does not meet the standards set by Google for what should be allowed on Android. This can be good, but it can also lead to malicious software getting onto your device and doing things that are not acceptable to Google’s guidelines. This is inherent risk with any software, and things like the curated app stores of the modern era are guards against this danger.

This also means that piracy is more of an issue on Android, as people can more easily get free versions of paid apps if they would like. Developers can mitigate this, but it’s additional work and clearly does not stop this from being a thing1.

Why this is excellent

But then there’s the best part of this functionality: installing apps meant for one device (usually Pixels) and using it on whatever phone you happen to own. The most recent example of this is the new Google Camera app which introduced Night Sight. I have a OnePlus 6, which has a pretty good camera, but Google does not intend to give this camera app to me since I didn’t buy their phone. Fair enough, but the Android community got their hands on the APK for the Google Camera app with Night Sight and modified it to let it run on my phone.

And just like that, I’m using Google’s camera app with Night Sight and it works great on my OnePlus 6. And the best part: it works great! Google is using pretty standard hardware in their camera, so the magic of Night Sight is all done in software. So when I try to use Night Sight, I get results like this:

👇 Regular Mode

👇 Night Sight

The Night Sight feature works great and is proving to be a nice feature to have in a pinch. And it’s all possible because Android lets me go around the official app store if I’d like.

I don’t know if Apple will ever allow this on iOS, but it is certainly one of the things that I enjoy about Android whenever I am experimenting with the platform.

  1. No links from me, since I do not want to encourage this behavior.

OnePlus 6 Charges Fast, But Only with It’s Proprietary Charger

Note, these results seem almost too bad to be true, but replicated the results across numerous charging setups. Let me know if there is a charging brick out there that will work better.

When I looked at the OnePlus 6 fast charging (don’t call it Dash Charge anymore) last week, I found it was very fast. When put up against the iPhone Xs’s fastest charging option, it was the winner, even if only by a few percentage points. All the better, it won with the charging brick that came in the box, not one that you needed to either have from a Mac you already own or just bought from Apple.

But what if you don’t use OnePlus’s proprietary fast charger? What if you have the fast charger they give you in your bedroom and want another charger elsewhere? I wanted to know, so I ran a couple more tests to see how well it played with standard fast chargers.

I tried 2 other chargers, both of which have previously charged my iPhones, Pixels, Galaxys, and even Motorola phones quite quickly. These were the Apple 30W USB-C Power Adapter and the Aukey Quick Charge 3.0…(long Amazon keyword listing name).

The results are not what I was expecting.

Not only were these charge times far slower than the OnePlus charger, they were almost exactly in line with what my iPhone Xs does when plugged into the 5W charger that comes in the box.

My Takeaway

Basically, if you want fast charging, you really need to use the charging brick from OnePlus directly and anything else will deliver far worse results. Effectively, it turns those fast charging bricks you might have for other devices into the 5W adapter that everyone is grumpy about shipping with the new iPhones.

The good news is that OnePlus sells additional fast charge power bricks for just $19.99 on their online store. It would be nice to be able to use anything you want, but at least their prices for proprietary charging bricks is reasonable.

6 Things That Annoy Me About the OnePlus 6

Earlier I shared 6 things I really like about the OnePlus 6, so it’s of course time to look at the things that bug me about this phone.

Garbage menu bar

I wrote about this already, but I’m still annoyed how the top right of the menu bar is chock full of junk that never gives me any useful information.

Alignment is all off everywhere

Check out the clock in the menu bar:

It seems randomly aligned and is awkwardly placed in the curved corner of the screen. Also, the full set of icons on the right side of the notch is not centered in that space either, it’s too far right.

The rounded corners of the screen are also all over the place. The screen itself is equally rounded on all 4 corners, but many apps black out the menu bar and either have sharp corners on top or, even worse, have artificially rounded top corners that are completely different than the bottom corners.

This is really a picky problem, but it bothers me.

The speaker is straight up terrible

Reviewers commented on how the speaker was a little lackluster, but I think they gave it too much credit. This speaker is bottom-firing and can be totally muted by putting a pinky finger over it. Worse, it’s so quiet I can hardly hear it from across a room, and it feels like 0-50% volume is basically muted.

And worst of all, the quality of the sound this produces is basically unusable. I listened to my own podcast on it and thought I needed to go delete the episode because the audio quality was so bad. I listened on my iPhone’s speakers to confirm and realized it was indeed just the speakers on the OnePlus, not my show that sounded so bad.

The screen is dim

The screen on the OnePlus 6 is plenty high resolution (1080px across) and it looks good, but it’s so dark. You can boost the brightness up to 100% and it looks pretty good, but if you use auto-brightness like me, it likes to set itself to 10-20% brightness all the time, even when I’m in a well-lit environment.

Android Pie’s adaptive brightness feature is supposed to learn how bright I like my screen and adjust brightness according to my taste, but I’m seeing nothing of the sort here.

The gestures are a trove of compromises

The OnePlus 6 has 3 navigation options, none of which are particularly good.

(1) You can have the old school 3 buttons, which I find hard to use after getting used to gestures on the iPhone.

(2) You have Android Pie’s gesture navigation, which I have used since May and still think is bad. It’s actually somehow worse than it is on the Pixel 2 which I was using before, too. The animations are not as fluid and it just feels unresponsive much of the time.

(3) OnePlus’s custom gesture interface, which is essentially swiping up to close apps and swiping up from the left or right bottom of the screen to go back. This one is okay for closing apps, but bringing up multitasking is slow and you lose quick app switching. Also, the “pull up from the bottom right/left to go back” gesture is completely unnatural and throws me every time.

Android itself

Yes folks, as is the problem for all Android phones, I just don’t find the software itself to be terribly compelling. Android still has iOS beat in terms of managing notifications, but but I prefer basically everything else on iOS. The quality of apps I’m used to on iOS simply aren’t here and Android makes getting these apps to work together for me to get actual work done much harder.

6 Really Nice Things About the OnePlus 6

Now listen, the OnePlus 6 has a very low chance of dethroning my iPhone XS for my day-to-day phone, but there are some things I really like about it and had to share them here. And yes, I know OnePlus announced their OnePlus 6T today, but a lot of what I’m about to say is true of that phone too.

Speeeeeeed

The OnePlus 6 is a zippy phone. Not only does the phone have top-end specs, but OnePlus has sped up the system animations for things like opening and closing apps so that things just feel faster than on “stock Android.” With a Snapdragon 845 and 8GB RAM, these are about as high end as specs get in 2018, and they come in a package that’s half the price of most flagships this year.

The chin is totally fine

One thing that people (including me) love about the iPhone X line is that the chin is exactly the same as every other bezel on the phone. It’s hard to get the screen to need that little space on at least one end, and Apple gets top marks for getting as close as anyone to eliminating it.

That said, the tiny chin on the OnePlus 6 is a total non-issue in my opinion. Yes, it could be like 1-2mm smaller, but it’s not something I notice at all when using the phone.

The alert slider is one of a kind (on Android)

One of the things I miss the most whenever I switch to Android is the alert toggle on the iPhone. It’s been there since the start and it’s always been amazing. OnePlus has a very similar slider and I love having it.

Instead of Apple’s 2 state toggle, the OnePlus’s has 3 states (ring, vibrate, and silent) and slides up and down the side of the phone. I find this is a little less easy to toggle quickly and the 3 positions means you have to be a little careful with getting it on the right one (vibrate, which is in the middle), but it’s much better than what I’m used to with all the software-based options on other Android phones.

Those clicky buttons

While we’re on the topic of buttons, all of the buttons on the OnePlus 6 are satisfyingly clicky. They’re a tiny bit less premium than on the iPhone Xs but it’s damn close.

Dark theme all the things

Credit to OnePlus for beating both Google and Apple to a real dark theme for their phone. Apple has nothing in this regard and Google added a “dark” mode in Pie that just made the notification shade darker, none of the actual system UI.

Meanwhile, OnePlus has a dark mode that actually turns the system UI black. It looks really nice on the OLED screen, and just like with their default light theme, you can select an color you’d like as your accent color.

The only downside of this is that since Android doesn’t have a dark mode, you need to hope every third party app (and Google app) that you use has a dark theme you can manually switch to. Otherwise it’s very much like dark mode on macOS right now: some apps have it and look great, while others have not updated and blind you when you open them.

The official case is excellent

I’m not one for cases, but when I do, I try to go with ones made by the manufacturer of the phone. For my iPhone, this means the Apple Leather Case, which costs $49 and makes the phone feel secure in my hand and looks classy. OnePlus has the ”protective case” which is basically a very thin shell around the back and sides of the phone. Oh, and it’s half the price of the Apple one I like, so that’s nice.

I don’t know how much protection this thing actually provides for a drop, but it feels like it adds almost nothing to the bulk of the phone and it gives a little more grip to the back side as it’s made of a soft-touch plastic that just feels good.


I’ll have more to say about the OnePlus 6 in the near future, but these are some of the things that stood out to me as what makes the OnePlus experience something that could convert “stock Android” fans like myself.

iPhone Xs vs OnePlus 6 Fast Charging

OnePlus phones are known for having best-in-class fast charing, and now that I have one of these guys, I had a few questions:

  1. How fast is Dash Charge?
  2. How much faster is it than charing on the newest iPhones?

Despite the Android community’s love of open standards, the OnePlus line has garnered lots of love from Android fans for their proprietary Dash Charge technology. Ironically, in this case Apple uses a more open fast charging standard, but let’s just get to the data to see how they stack up.

Testing Setup

I ran both phones down to 0%, let them rest for 10 minutes, and plugged them into their respective chargers. I plugged both phones into the same outlet to make sure there was no power delivery weirdness. Then I did it again to make sure there were no anomalies. The numbers are the average of both runs.

I used an iPhone Xs with a 29W MacBook charging brick and a USB-C to Lightning cable. I also had a OnePlus 6 with the included Dash Charge brick and cable.

The Results

  1. Dash Charge is the real deal.
  2. It’s faster than the iPhone, but it’s no blowout.

So the OnePlus beat out the iPhone, but considering the hype around Dash Charge, it was a heck of a lot closer than I expected.

Both went from 0-19% in the first 10 minutes, and 30 minutes in, the OnePlus was ahead 57% to 54%.

After that the phones start to diverge quite a bit. Once the iPhone hits 50% charge, the phone really starts to ease up on accepting charge. This never amounts to ton of separation, but if you want the phone that gets you from 0-100% as fast as possible, then the OnePlus is the winner here, getting to 100% 30 minutes faster than the iPhone.

One could make the argument that Apple is being more conservative with battery life, as charging up your battery too quickly can degrade its long term performance. My suspicion is that Apple cares about super fast charging for the first half of the battery, but would rather be easier on the battery on the second half to not over-stress the battery. For a phone-maker who does less with more (the Xs has a 20% smaller battery than the OnePlus 6) and caters to users who tend to hold onto their phones for 3+ years in many cases, this could make a lot of sense.

I would love to have someone who really knows battery tech tell me if that logic follows.

Also very much worth noting that the OnePlus 6 is using the charging brick and cable bundled with the phone, but the iPhone requires additional hardware. The charging brick that comes in the box with the iPhone Xs is less than half the speed of the quicker charger used here. Considering the Xs costs about 2x the price of the 6, that’s a really tough pill to swallow.

A Terrible Misuse of Space

I want to take a few minutes and rant just a bit on the status bar on Android. Now since I know a lot of people will be reading this from iOS, here’s what my status bar looked like earlier today.

On the left we have the time and a couple notification icons for my most recent notifications. Cool, looks fine to me. I know not everyone is into the notification icons up there, but I happen to like them.

Then there’s a notch in the middle, which occupies the rest of the blank space. I’ll talk more about the specifics of this in the coming days, so stay tuned for that.

And then there’s the right side, which I would contend is a terrible, no good, very bad use of space. Space that I will remind you has never been more elusive now that we live in Notch City. In this sliver of space I see my NFC status, ringer setting, Wifi strength, that my SIM tray is empty, that my second SIM tray is empty, and my battery level.

All of that information takes up every sliver of space next to the notch on this phone. All of it!

Who actually thinks these are good things to show 100% of the time someone is using their phone? Does someone out there really happy that they get to see the status of their NFC chip?

You might as well have an icon that shows you if your CPU is still in the phone. And the SIM tray status…for both trays in this dual-SIM phone? REALLY?! I assume one of those will turn into a signal meter when I put a SIM card in, but what about the other one? Will it stay there forever when I’m like almost every other American and have a single SIM card?

The ringer status is less egregious, but it’s still a bit baffling to me why this has to be here all the time. First, who changes their ringer mode more than once a week, or even once a month? And second, when it’s time to make sure your phone is silenced for the movie or whatever you’re doing, you’re going to hit the hardware button to make doubly sure it’s down; you’re not going to just trust that icon hidden amongst a mess of other junk up there.

The Wifi, battery, and cellular meters should be up there because those change all the time. You care about you battery throughout the day, so you should absolutely see it all the time. Your Wifi and cellular status changes almost by the second, so you should always be able to see those to see how well your service is. These make sense, but the rest of the junk…nah.


I’m sure there are ways to get rid of some of these but (a) if they’re built into the system I have not been able to find them, and (b) if I need a third party app then this whole operating system is topsy turvy. Downloading more apps to make my phone simpler is not how it should go. Defaults should be simple and thoughtful, not a shotgun blast of things that “someone will want.” People who are more tech savvy and want to have a more complicated experience should have to turn those things on, you shouldn’t be asking those less savvy to do the work to get a more reasonable experience.

The Broken Promise of Android Treble

Google surprised everyone when they announced the Android Pie (then just Android P) beta would be on more than just Google’s own phones this year. The full list was:

  • Sony Xperia XZ2
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S
  • Nokia 7 Plus
  • Oppo R15 Pro
  • Vivo X21
  • OnePlus 6
  • Essential PH‑1

Not a bad list! I mean it would be nice for Samsung, Motorola, LG, or HTC to be on the list, as these are all very niche phones in the US, but it’s certainly progress.

So here were are a month after Android Pie was released, so let’s look at how many of these beta phones have been updated to Pie. After all, they were running the beta all summer, so they should be ready to go, right?

Phone Status
Sony Xperia XZ2 Coming in November 2018
Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Unknown, but alpha build leaked online
Nokia 7 Plus Coming in September 2018
Oppo R15 Pro Unknown, no announcements
Vivo X21 ”Q4 2018” so likely close to the end of the year
OnePlus 6 Q4 2018, so likely also by December
Essential PH‑1 Released same day as Pixel devices

I have 2 things to say about this:

One, this is a sad showing by these companies who were involved in the official Android Pie beta. They’ve had Pie in beta since May and they were not able to have it ready when Google released Pie to the world. A month after launch and we’re still looking at October through “someday” on most of these phones.

Two, the whole point of Android Treble, which was added in Android 8.0 in 2017, was to make it super easy for OEMs to upgrade their phones from one version of Android to another. Some Android commentators suggested this was basically a matter of swapping out the Android version and required next to zero work from the OEM. The Galaxy S 9 phones, the most popular Android line in the US, will see Pie in January at the earliest. Similarly, other major OEMs have given vague non-answers for when their phones will get the update.

For a bit of fun, check this article from 2 days after the Android Pie release, with an Android site being as optimistic as always:

In short, the Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Oppo R15 Pro, OnePlus 6, and the Vivo X21 should see Android Pie arriving in the next few weeks, probably before the end of this month or in September 2018. If this materializes, it would make Android Pie one of the fastest Android operating systems to be adopted by non-Google devices, however, whether this will be true across the board remains a mystery.

One month in, none of those phones are updated, and only one of them is promised for September. Maybe this train will turn get moving pretty quick here, but we’re a month into Pie and the story seems to be playing out the same as it always does. If you are interested in timely updates to the latest Android versions, it still seems you have to go Google or bust.

Android Pie Review: All the Little Things

This was originally going to be a longer review with more than 2 short parts, but as I looked at what else had changed in Pie compared to Oreo, I found myself at a loss for how much could be said about each change. There’s a fair number of things happening behind the scenes, but from a user’s perspective, the changes amount to a bunch of smaller things.

So instead of going into a great detail about everything, here are some notable changes and how I found them to impact my usage of Android.

Screenshot editing

This is a big one for me, as I take a lot of screenshots when I’m using my phone. I have used Annotable for years on iOS, although my use has dropped a bit since Apple added their own system screenshot editor in iOS 11. All markup apps on Android suck, so it’s nice to see Google take this into their own hands and adopt basically the same thing that Apple does with iOS.

Now, when you take a screenshot, you see a notification with the image, and you can tap “edit” to edit the screen before it’s saved/shared. The tools are the same as you’d expect, with crops, lines, and shapes, and gets the job done for me.

Not a thrilling change, but a nice addition to Android that I appreciated.

Volume controls

Another small, but welcome change is that the volume keys now only control media volume. When you change the media volume, the ringer status comes on screen as well, showing whether you’re on silent, vibrate, or ring. You can tap to toggle between those 2 states, but you need to go into the Settings app to change the ring volume.

This seems like the right way to do things, which is what this has been be behavior on my iOS devices for years 😉

You also see any Chromecast devices at the same time, and can quickly change their volume independent from your phone. It’s easy, intuitive, and delightful.

Notifications show fewer icons for notch room

This is another very minor one, but in order to make room for notched phones, Google has reduced the number of icons that will appear at the top of the screen, to only 4. Previously, this would show you all your apps with notifications, and could fill up basically as much space as you had up there.

Google’s decision to reduce this number makes sense for notched phones, but why is it also like this for phones without a notch? If the explanation is to clean up the top bar, I think it’s a supreme half measure. It’s still messy up there, but a little less messy and a lot less useful, since you only see the last few apps to notify you of something.

This isn’t the end of the world, but it seems like the most half of half measures they could have done here.

Small design changes

Android Pie is brighter than any Android version that came before, and I think it looks very nice. I recently sold my Pixel 2 (hence the lack of tons of screenshots in this article) and had to downgrade it back to Android Oreo before shipping it off. Oreo looks downright bland in comparison.

Many icons are more bold and curved than before, and there is more white and blue contrast instead of a general grey and dark gray that previous versions of Android had going on.

The animations are also really nice this year, with some really nice looking animations for everything from opening apps to bringing up the multitasking page.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzjzNW9kHp8

Rotation lock

This is a small one, but worth mention. When you have rotation lock on, your phone will not rotate when you turn it (duh, I guess), but a small icon will appear next to the home button that lets you rotate the phone this one time. Tapping it will make the screen rotate appropriately and then lock the phone into that rotation until you tap that rotation button again.

It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to have when you want to keep you phone in portrait mode, but also want to have it change for YouTube videos.

App Actions

These are very similar to Siri Shortcuts coming in iOS 12, with the idea being when you go to your app drawer, you see your apps, 5 apps that Android thinks you might want to use, and 2 actions inside your apps that might be useful at the time.

Despite using this for the whole summer, I never found myself using this feature because the suggestions were never on point for what I actually wanted to do at the time. I did get suggested navigation in Google Maps when I was going home, which was nice, but most of the time it was “launch Assistant” or “open a playlist in Pocket Casts” or “open Slack to this channel.”

I like the idea of this feature, and I’m impressed with what a more robust version of this allows in iOS 12, but so far it’s not doing much for me. Hopefully more apps will start working better with it and it’ll become more useful.

Adaptive brightness and battery

This is the poster child for “things Apple and Google do the same, but only Google gets credit for WOW SUCH WONDERFUL AI” from some segments of the tech press.

Adaptive brightness has been a part of Android for years, but sometimes it would think the screen should get lighter or darker than you would think in a certain situation, and you’d override it. Now, Android will notice that you adjusted it’s suggestion and the next time will make a similar adjustment to be more in line with what you want. iOS does this too and it’s nice.

The adaptive battery feature is more inscrutable, as the noticeable impact is lesser, but the idea is that it will be more efficient with when it does things, will shut down background processes more aggressively, and generally get you better battery life.

I used this all summer and my battery life seemed fine; about in line with my normal experiences. I honestly didn’t notice any changes in my phone, so I kept it on.I saw one YouTube reviewer report their push notifications for background apps was spotty with this on, but I never experienced that.

Digital Wellbeing

This didn’t make it into the public release, nor did the beta launch in time for me to use it, so I unfortunately can’t speak to this. All I can say is that I like the idea of it and hope that it helps people understand how they use their devices and decide if they’re using them well.

Conclusion

And that’s about it! Pie is getting largely positive reviews, with most noting that this is a relatively minor update to the overall package. Since it is a small change, the results of these reviews are expected: Android fans like it and Android cynics (like me!) don’t. This is undoubtedly a better version of Android than Oreo, so if you liked Oreo, I expect you’ll like this better. But Pie does very little to win someone like me over.

All the same problems with Android still exist. It doesn’t have the services and apps that I love on iOS, and while the design is getting better, it still feels way behind iOS in terms of actually getting work done. That’s just how I feel and I know not everyone feels the same, but if you tend to have similar tastes in operating systems, I hope you satiated your curiosity enough with this mini-review to feel okay with your platform of choice this year.