OnePlus 3T vs OnePlus 3: Should you upgrade?

The 3T makes small tweaks to stay cutting edge; should you, too?

The OnePlus 3 has reigned as our favourite phone in the world since its July debut, simply because it does the seemingly impossible: deliver flagship power at an affordable price.

Of course, the cutting edge moves ever ahead with time, and even in the four months since the OnePlus 3's release, we've seen some advancement in smartphone tech. Apple's A10 Fusion processor in the iPhone 7 is the fastest around right now, but even in the Android world, the Snapdragon 821 offers speedier performance than the 820 in the OnePlus 3.

So OnePlus is moving the goalposts again. Today, the company revealed the OnePlus 3T, an admittedly incremental upgrade that brings several small tweaks to the winning design, from the processor bump to a larger battery, as well as camera tweaks and a new body colour.

But if you just bought the OnePlus 3 within the last few months, do you really need to trade up? Here's our first take based on the specs and our initial hands-on, and we'll provide a final verdict once we have a OnePlus 3T of our own.

No! It's the same design

We quite like the OnePlus 3's build. It's not the most distinctive flagship we've ever seen, but it's a big improvement over the OnePlus 2, and most importantly, it looks and feels like a premium phone at half the price of the top-tier competition.

Likewise, we also enjoy the look of the OnePlus 3 – because it's the exact same design. Truly, nothing has changed here aside from the new Gunmetal colour, which is a fair bit more striking than the lighter grey of the original. You can also get it in Soft Gold, much like the OnePlus 3. 

Realistically you wouldn't upgrade solely because of that new colour option, but we do like it a lot. Maybe we'll just spray-paint our older model.

Maybe! It's had a few camera upgrades

You'll see a few small tweaks in the camera department on the OnePlus 3T, both on the front and the back. With the main rear camera, an updated electronic image stabilisation algorithm should smooth out your video capture, although we don't know yet if it'll produce amazing results on par with what the Pixel can do.

The back camera also has a fresh layer of sapphire glass to better resist scratches, in case you're concerned about that sort of thing.

And then the front camera gets a solid spec bump too, scrapping the serviceable 8-megapixel selfie shooter of the OnePlus 3 for a 16-megapixel camera that promises better light and crisper snaps. Enough to warrant the upgrade? Probably not, but if you're a selfie- or video-addict, you might see things differently. We'll know more once we've tested it.

No! It's got the exact same screen

While many parts of the OnePlus 3T see small enhancements over the original model, that's not the case with the screen: it's the exact same 5.5in 1080p AMOLED display from the OnePlus 3.

We're not complaining at all. It's a damn fine screen, and about as good as they come in the 1080p ballpark. Other flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 bump up the resolution to Quad HD territory, but then you're paying a lot more for that privilege – for most buyers, probably too much more to warrant the tiny bump in crispness.

Maybe! It'll last a little longer

With its 3,000mAh battery pack, the OnePlus 3 is a very solid all-day performer, although it's not quite beefy enough to provide much more than that. The OnePlus 3T sees a small enhancement here, however, boosting the tally to 3,400mAh – that's 13% more capacity.

In real-world usage, that might mean a few more hours of light usage or maybe an extra hour of heavy-duty gameplay or streaming media. It's not a substantial upgrade, then, but when it comes to battery life every little helps.

Maybe! It's a bit more powerful

The Snapdragon 820 system-on-a-chip of the OnePlus 3 has already been cast aside in favour of Qualcomm's newer Snapdragon 821, which promises about a 10% speed enhancement over the previous version. That's relatively small, but it makes sense given the timeline.

We've used the Snapdragon 821 before in Google's Pixel, and it's clearly a match for any phone around in terms of sheer speed. Like the OnePlus 3, the 3T also has 6GB RAM, and that combination should make it blisteringly fast. 

Fast enough to upgrade for? Well you'll see a slight bump in benchmarks, but we're not convinced that you'll notice any difference in day-to-day usage. The 820 already packed more than enough power to satisfy your web browsing and social habits, and we doubt most apps will benefit much from the 821 upgrade.

That said, the most demanding of games could run a hair smoother - we'll see how it fares in our tests - and it'll certainly future-proof your phone for a few months longer.

Initial verdict: Should you upgrade?

No. Like, pretty clearly, no.

That's not a mark against the OnePlus 3T on its own merits - we haven't spent enough time with it to decide whether it should outrank the vanilla OnePlus 3 on our smartphone chart, but it's clearly going to be in with a shot. For those of you who own a 2015 phone (or, heaven forbid, even something older), the 3T might well be your new champion.

But if you already own the OnePlus 3, you already have something new – and as of the time of writing, it's still our pick for the best smartphone option on the market today. The OnePlus 3T brings several small tweaks that might ultimately make it the better option overall, but we doubt it's enough to warrant scrapping your months-old device for.

It's also not certain yet whether the upgrades are worth the extra cost, with the 64GB model of the OnePlus 3T coming in at £400 (around 33,000) and the 128GB model costing £430 (around 36,000) . That's a ₹6,000 premium over the current Indian price for the smaller OnePlus 3, and there's no guarantee you'd get full whack for your old phone if you did choose to sell it.

We'll have a firmer verdict once the 3T hits the Stuff office, but OnePlus 3 owners can probably keep their wallets at bay when the 3T releases in India. For everyone else, though, it looks like that smartphone-buying-dilemma just got even harder.