OnePlus Opens the Door for Mainstream Foldable Phones

The new OnePlus Open is the latest and most polished folding phone yet, and it’s also the ‘least expensive’ folding phone on the American market.

The new OnePlus Open. OnePlus

Folding phones came to market with an inauspicious start. Although the concept is fantastic — an iPad Mini-sized screen that can fold up into your pocket — the first review units of the Samsung Galaxy Fold had to be recalled after the signature screens failed spectacularly. That was 2019, though, and in the past four years, Google, Honor, Huawei, Oppo, and now OnePlus have all introduced folding phones, and the kinks and creases have been mostly ironed out.

The new OnePlus Open, which was unveiled last week, is the latest and most polished folding phone yet, and, setting aside smaller “flip” style folding phones — like the Motorola Razr and Samsung Galaxy Flip, which fold from a normal phone size into a small square — it’s also the “least expensive” folding phone on the American market. 

That doesn’t mean it’s “cheap,” though. On the contrary, it starts at $1,699 in the U.S., and though you can trade in many phones for hundreds of dollars, that’s still laptop money. At that price, it needs to be excellent; and thankfully, it is.

Aside from wireless charging — which OnePlus oddly omits from all its phones — the Open has every top-of-the-range spec. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 21 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, comes with a 4,805mAh battery that handily lasts a full day of heavy use, and 67W fast charging, which replenishes it to full from zero in roughly 45 minutes. You can get those features in other phones though — some of which cost almost half the price of the Open — so the most important feature is the screen. It, too, is great.

On the outside, you have a 6.31-inch, 120hz cover display, but unfolding the phone displays its 7.82-inch, 2440 x 2268 resolution folding display; the most impressive I’ve ever tried. It’s bright, well-calibrated, and, most importantly, flat. Having tried review units of several other folding phones, you get used to the middle crease, where the screen bends, but you never forget it, particularly when scrolling with the phone held in landscape. Given time, the crease on my Open review unit will become more noticeable, but it’s doing so at a far slower rate than its competitors.

Aside from the folding screen, the other prominent feature of the Open is its enormous circular camera hump promising great pictures. In reality, the results are fine — great for most situations but disappointing for others. For taking selfies, it’s unbeatable as you can take them with the rear camera whilst previewing on the cover screen. Similarly, for daily photography, this is a great sensor with nice color calibration, and it produces crisp if indistinct pictures for daily use.

The new OnePlus Open.
The new OnePlus Open. OnePlus

However, low-light photography could use improvement, the video has more grain than I would like, and the white balance differences between the three levels of zoom leave a marked difference between each. A software update could improve this, but at launch, the zoom quality is unimpressive. Then again, as I wrote in my review of the Nothing Phone 2, if you really care about photography, buy a cheap phone and a small camera.

Oddly, the best thing about this camera setup is that the large camera bump makes the phone incredibly comfortable to hold. OnePlus focused on dialing down the weight and thickness of the Open, meaning it is no heavier than last year’s iPhone 14 Pro, and the camera bump helps this light feel as your index finger naturally rests on it. Whether the phone is folded or open, the weight balances slightly on your finger as a pivot point, giving a far more confident, comfortable hold when using the phone one-handed. This sounds like a small thing, but it’s immediately noticeable in hand.

Aside from the somewhat underwhelming phone quality, the great shame of the camera bump is that detracts from an otherwise pleasant, top-quality design. The flat polished rails are stylish and comfortable, the buttons have satisfying clicks, the speakers and microphone quality are superb, and the inclusion of a physical vibration rocker is a gimmick but a really pleasant one. There are only two colors — green with a glass back and black with vegan leather — and though I wasn’t expecting to like the green, it’s a muted, sophisticated shade, and the option I’d recommend. Vegan leather feels great but ages quickly and poorly.

The new OnePlus open in Emerald Dusk.
The new OnePlus open in Emerald Dusk. OnePlus

Do I recommend the OnePlus Open? If you are cross-shopping between foldables, it’s the obvious choice. I personally prefer the thin, tall outside display of the Samsung Fold series, but the more conventional display of the OnePlus Open is accessible to the average consumer. OnePlus has also given their OxygenOS skin of Android a range of helpful additions for multitasking and moving windows in the large display, and I hope their competitors copy these. All in all, it’s a great device; but it’s still $1,699.  

If you’re not set on buying a foldable phone, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend any of them, however much I enjoy using this form factor. They’re not twice as good as a traditional “slab” smartphones, though they cost twice as much, and their reliability concerns are still yet to be fully solved. Any moving part is inherently susceptible to weather damage, and given time, the screens on Samsung’s Fold devices often gather small cracks at the bend. This is tolerable for using every day, but when you’re spending $1,700 or more on a phone, “tolerable” isn’t good enough.

If you’re curious about buying a foldable, my strongest recommendation therefore is a refurbished Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. It has a few differences from this year’s Z Fold 5, but it’s only $815 on Amazon, $1,000 off the retail price. The reliability concerns remain, but for that folding screen, for the right customer, that might be a trade-off you’re willing to make.

If it were my money, that’s the phone I would buy right now.

The New York Sun

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