OnePlus Open Review: This flagship foldable is as good as it gets – CNBCTV18

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The foldable smartphone segment may still be in its nascency. But this is a rapidly growing market. Counterpoint Research estimates that the global foldable market — comprising ‘book-style’ and ‘clamshell’ smartphones — grew by 10% in just the third quarter of 2023, while CyberMedia Research suggests that with growing acceptance, prices of such devices could drop by 12-15% this year, with ₹60,000-75,000 being the sweet spot.


This has been a year of firsts for OnePlus, which also released its first tablets, the excellent OnePlus Pad (review) and the OnePlus Pad Go (review), as well as, oddly enough, a mechanical keyboard. That is not even considering the host of superb smartphones it released across its flagship and midrange lineups, including the OnePlus 11 5G, which marked a return to form for the company.

However, as ridiculously powerful and snappy as the OnePlus 11 is, it must relinquish its title as the company’s flagship — it now belongs to the OnePlus Open.

The Open is priced at ₹1,39,999 and comes in two colour variants, green and black, and just one RAM/storage option — 16/512. It ships with the Android 13-based Oxygen OS 13.2 and is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, the same chipset that powers the OnePlus 11. The device packs a 4,805 mAh battery and possibly the brightest screens on a smartphone available right now, peaking at a brightness of 2,800 nits. OnePlus sent me the green variant for review, and honestly, I’ve never been more tempted to ditch my iPhone for an Android device. 

Design

This is just the first part of what makes the OnePlus Open truly stand out. I don’t know how OnePlus did it, but it pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Of the three book-style foldable smartphones officially available in India, the OnePlus Open is the thinnest — folded and unfolded — lightest, brightest, and, dare I say it, the best looking.

Device Thickness (folded) Thickness (unfolded) Weight Peak screen brightness
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 13.4 mm 6.1 mm 253 gm 1,750 nits
OnePlus Open 11.7 mm 5.8 mm 239/245 gm 2,800 nits
TECNO Phantom V Fold 14.5 mm 6.9 mm 299 gm 1,100 nits
The black variant of the Open, which comes with a faux leather back, weighs 239 grams while the green variant, which sports a matte-finish glass back, is slightly heavier at 245 grams, but both are significantly lighter than the TECNO Phantom V (review) and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5.
Just like the Z Fold5, the OnePlus Open has flat sides — which make it very comfortable to hold, whether unfolded or folded. While I did appreciate the Z Fold5’s design, with the cover screen just narrow enough to make you want to use the inside screen, the Open’s cover display is wide enough for you to use it without ever unfolding it. But there’s something intangible about it — maybe it’s the design, or maybe it’s the stunning screen — that makes you want to unfold it.

The inside screen boasts an 89.6% screen-to-body ratio and is delightful to look at, especially because of its uniform bezels. While it is more square in shape than the Z Fold5, that doesn’t make it any less of a joy to watch content on. In fact, I prefer the squarer design as it makes for an easier experience to hold and use it one-handed.

The most impressive aspect of the design is the near-invisible crease in the middle of the main screen. It is visible — barely — when the screen is off, but I was hard-pressed to find it whenever there’s content on the screen. It is no secret that this is basically the same device as the OPPO Find N3 Fold — both brands are part of the same conglomerate and have agreed to sell the devices under their own branding in different markets without competing with each other. As such, OnePlus has clearly benefited from OPPO’s three years of experience making book-style foldables.

As for the buttons, you have the usual — a power button that doubles as a fingerprint reader, a volume rocker just above, and OnePlus’ iconic alert slider. The power button/fingerprint reader is a little too high for my liking — it is perhaps half-a-centimetre higher than where my thumb would naturally rest whenever I pick up the phone, but the reader is responsive enough that even a partial read of my thumb was enough to unlock the device.

It also has face unlock, which in my experience has been reliable in just about every lighting condition. You can use a double-tap to wake the screen and unlock the phone, and raise the device to wake it.

My only gripe with this is that whenever I get a notification and the screen lights up, for some reason, face unlock doesn’t trigger. I either have to wait for the screen to sleep before raising the device to unlock it, double-tap to lock the screen and double-tap again to unlock it, or just use the fingerprint reader — neither of those scenarios is a good look for the face unlock option.

The back of the Open sports a gigantic camera bump — possibly the largest I’ve seen on a smartphone — and houses the smartphone’s piece de resistance, its absolutely brilliant cameras. This is definitely the best primary camera setup in a foldable, and easily among the best set of cameras on a smartphone I’ve tested this year.

The Open is rated IPX4 for water resistance — meaning it can withstand a quick splash, but I wouldn’t go around taking underwater shots with it. As with all foldables, because of the existing drawbacks of the hinge technology, there is no official rating for dust resistance. This is slightly lower than the IPX8 rating the Z Fold5 comes with, but much better than the Phantom V Flip, which is not officially rated for either water or dust resistance.

OnePlus claims the Open can withstand one million unfolds, but how well the hinge or the main screen holds up in the months to come is something I will keenly observe.

Battery life

This is among the biggest concerns for anyone looking to buy a foldable. I’m happy to report that the OnePlus Open has exceptional battery life for its segment.

I’ve really been putting the device through its paces, mostly using the camera more than I normally would, and it would end each day with at least 25-30% left in the tank. Even if you’re even harder on this phone and manage to run the battery down faster, the ridiculously fast 65W SuperVOOC charging brick that comes in the box — using which you can charge the Open from 0-100% in just under 45 minutes — lets you get a quick top-up for a few more hours of usage.

If you, like myself, are the sort to prefer charging the phone only once — overnight — then the Open comes with a battery optimisation feature, dubbed ‘Wise Charging.’ Essentially, the device learns your charging habits and juices up the phone to 80% and and then slowly charges it to full, which in theory extends the health of the battery. I’ve only had the Open for a couple of weeks, so only time will tell if this feature actually works.

For context, my iPhone 14 Pro Max, which I got on day one and have only ever charged wirelessly and overnight, also has the same feature. A little over a year into use, the battery health stands at 87%.

In short, once the honeymoon period is over and you settle down with the OnePlus Open, you should have no concerns about the phone dying on you in the middle of the day.

Performance

What can I say here about the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset that hasn’t already been said? It’s an absolute monster, and it sometimes felt like the Open was responding to my gestures even before my fingers completed them, but that could also be the 120 Hz refresh rate that both the cover and main displays boast.

The result is a snappy, buttery smooth, delightful experience with zero lag.  jitters or app crashes — at least during the time I tested it. The phone did freeze up once or twice, and how the performance holds up with Android 14 (or Oxygen OS 14) remains to be seen, but so far so good. So far so better, in fact.

Display & user interface

Both the cover and main displays are a treat for the eyes. With punchy, vibrant colour reproduction, watching videos or even reading on the Open is a delightful experience. Watching videos is enhanced by the excellent quad-speaker setup.

Thanks to the 2,800 nits of peak brightness, content is very visible even under the harshest sunlight. Display is what makes or breaks a phone, and in this case, the two screens open up a world of possibilities.

Multitasking is another area the OnePlus Open excels in. It can support up to three windows simultaneously, each fully opening in a regular screen-sized orientation. You can switch between the three windows at a finger tap, and I never knew how much I needed multitasking until I started using WhatsApp while scrolling through my Twitter (sorry, X) feed, and checking emails at the same time.

Cameras

Now we come to the USP — and my favourite part — of the OnePlus Open: The cameras.

The Open has five cameras — a 48MP primary ‘Pixel Stacked’ lens, a 64MP telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom and 6x ‘in-sensor’ zoom, and a 48MP ultrawide shooter complete the main setup. The cover display has a 32MP selfie camera, while the main display has a 20MP camera, housed in a hole punch cutout on the top right corner.

The selfie cameras take good enough shots, but the meat of this meal is in the main camera setup. The partnership with Hasselblad seems to have finally come to fruition. Like I mentioned earlier in my review, this is easily the best camera setup in a foldable, and among the best in any smartphone I’ve tested this year.

I will not dwell too much on how well the cameras photograph in good lighting conditions, as every smartphone out there, regardless of the price, takes good photos in broad daylight. It is when the sun sets that the OnePlus Open truly comes into its own. I’m far from being a dab hand at photography, but even I was able to pull off some stunners with the OnePlus Open. It retains an impressive amount of detail without overexposing or oversaturating the subject.

Sample these:

I was most impressed with the 6x in-sensor zoom. Even though it’s not true optical zoom, it is just as good as you can see in the close-up of my cat in the last photograph or the one of the artful lightbulb a few photos above it.

While it is important for a smartphone to take good photographs, it is equally so for the experience to be fun. And taking photographs on the OnePlus Open is nothing if not a bucketful of fun.

I would pat myself on the back for these photographs, but the OnePlus Open would probably smack me in the head — it’s all the phone, and it does a damn fine job too.

Verdict

Priced at ₹1,39,999, the OnePlus Open is the company’s true flagship for 2023. It hits the sweet spot — between the 12/256 variant of the Z Fold5, which starts at ₹1,64,999 and the stripped-down experience that comes with the 12/256 variant of the Phantom V Fold, priced at ₹88,888. If you’re in the market for a good foldable, the Open is as good as it gets. If you’re in the market for a great Android smartphone and have the money to fork out, the Open is again a compelling choice, especially with all the offers bundled in. What I’m trying to say is this — the OnePlus Open is a fantastic smartphone, period.

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