The OnePlus 2 is quite unlike any other phone of this year. Sure, it's a slim rectangle and has hardware we know well. But you can't buy it from shops, or even from the websites.
Where Samsung and co. go to great lengths to try to persuade you to buy their phones, it can at times seem as though OnePlus makes buying its phones deliberately difficult. First, you can only buy them from the OnePlus store. Second, you need an invite to even place an order. An "invite"?! Who the heavens to these people think they are?
And yet, this hasn't stopped hundreds of thousands from scrabbling to get their hands on the new OnePlus 2.
And that's for the 64GB storage version. There's an even cheaper 16GB model incoming too.
It's pretty special. And absolutely worth chasing after if you have the patience to cope with the unique shopping experience.
Scratch my back
One of the real head-turning elements of the OnePlus 2 is that no part of it feels like it belongs in an affordable phone. It out-premiums the LG G4, for example, with a metal band that runs around its sides and an unusual rear texture that feels nothing like good old plastic.
Those of you familiar with the OnePlus One may remember this style. It's a rear cover texture that sits somewhere between felt and sandpaper, giving you a rough and grippy surface that has some of the tactile vibe of fabric.
I find it a much more satisfying feel than glossy or even soft-touch plastic, although if you hate the sound of this style, OnePlus also offers covers finished in kevlar, rosewood, bamboo and apricot (the tree, rather than the orange fruit itself). There are plenty of touch sensations on offer, each quite different from the norm.
You do have to pay around ₹2000 extra for each of these, but it's not a bad deal when they feature real wood and kevlar, not just a plastic veneer.
Casting quite a shadow
Aside from the unusual backs, the OnePlus 2 is also a bit larger than some of this year's Android contenders. It's a lot bigger than the Galaxy S6, for example. Some of this is down to the large 5.5in screen, but there's also the battery to consider.
OnePlus is out to cater for hardcore mobile fans over just about everyone else, and that means the OnePlus 2 has favoured specs such as battery life and power over weight and skinniness. At 9.9mm thick the OnePlus 2 isn't exactly going to force everything else out of your pocket, but it is a bit chunkier and heavier than most. At 175g it's a good 20g heavier than the LG G4, for example.
If you absolutely hate larger phones, this might be enough to put you off entirely, but I haven't found any of the usability nightmares that cropped up with the also-chunky Nexus 6. The key thing is that the hardware buttons on the side are dead easy to reach, and that stretching for the soft keys doesn't feel like a thumb workout.
There are also several thoughtful little touches to the OnePlus 2's design. Where else among Androids do you get a little 3-way switch on the side, allowing you to immediately silence notifications or switch to only allow priority ones through? This cinema-ready switch sits on the left side.
The camera lens has also been shunted down the back a bit, so I haven't once ended up ruining a pic by resting a finger over the lens - and believe me, that happens quite a lot with some of the phones I've been testing of late. The OnePlus 2's camera placement does look a bit odd, but you'll get used to that far quicker than you'd teach your finger to not sit where it's naturally comfortable.
For the OnePlus 2’s real hardware special moves, though, look no further than the Home button at the bottom of the display. It’s not a mechanical button at all, but a touch-sensitive panel that also houses a fingerprint scanner.
We’ve seen all kinds of scanners in phones over the last year, some good, many not so much. This, thankfully, is a good one. You don’t have to swipe your digit, just press it on the sensor, and its accuracy is pretty excellent. The only times it's struggled are when my fingers have been wet: and any capacitive fingerprint sensor would struggle like this.
While the Samsung Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6 get extra smartie-pants points for fitting the scanner into a clicky button rather than a static pad, the OnePlus 2’s scanner feels just about as fast and reliable.
You can teach the phone up to five fingerprints, although 99 per cent of the time I ended up using my right thumb. It’s easily the most intuitive choice if you’re right-handed.
A pretty well-connected contender
There are other neat hardware improvements to note since last year’s OnePlus One too. The OnePlus 2 has dual SIM cards as standard, both tiny nano SIMs that slot into a tray under the back cover, which is held in place by an array of little plastic clips. It also has a USB-C connector rather than the usual microUSB one. This is reversible and so much less of a practical pain than current microUSB. We’ll start to see loads more phones use this in the future.
However, it’s still ultimately just a USB 2.0 port, not one that gets you the sort of bonus file-flinging speed that’ll be the norm once USB-C is the default.
4G coverage has been fixed too. One of the big issues with the original OnePlus One is that while it has 4G, it doesn’t support the 800MHz band, which most networks in the UK use for their 4G signal. On some networks it’s effectively a 3G phone.
The OnePlus 2 has pretty comprehensive 4G coverage for today’s networks: two thumbs up.
Every design choice in the OnePlus 2 feels deliberately considered. And that’s just as true when you consider the bits left out.
There’s no NFC, for one. This features in just about every other Android phone at the price. OnePlus says hardly anyone used it in the first phone. Is it possible the company nixed it just before it had chance to go mainstream? Tie me will tell.
An IR blaster is missing too. You get one in the Galaxy S6 and LG G4, but I imagine that OnePlus decided that — as with NFC — it would be more sensible to ditch it and save a few pennies. And presumably plenty of pennies have had to be saved to hit that delightfully tempting price.