The search for the Android equivalent of Apple’s iPhone has been going on for years. Users have been asking for a phone that focuses on not only uncomplicated and beautiful software but a tight hardware experience too.
All we want is the complete package.
Every year hype builds around the phone that will take on the iPhone that year. We hear rumors of an iPhone killer like the HTC One M8 with its aluminum build and amazing speakers. Specs and build materials leak, but it never pans out. This predictably pops up around the time Samsung releases a device or whenever the next Nexus device was expected (when those were still a thing).
But that was allegedly about to change when we first heard about the Pixel.
It was supposed to be Google’s first real phone. Google had always controlled the software experience in its Nexus devices but always left the hardware up to a partner like Samsung, HTC, or Huawei. This time the search giant supposedly controlled not only software but hardware too. How true that is, we don’t really know, but the Pixel was supposed to be the iPhone killer. It was the first Android phone that would really take on Apple and beat its iPhone. But, did it?
Sure, Google blanketed the airwaves just like Apple does. The smart and cool ads focused on not only what was great about the Pixel, but about how it was just as good, or better, than the iPhone. The camera was rated by DxOMark as the best ever and still holds that title to this day. The software was tightly integrated and as smooth as any released on a flagship to this day.
But, as someone who pre-ordered his Pixel XL while the announcement press conference was still taking place, it just didn’t seem to live up to the hype that surrounded it. Sure, it was a really good phone but it wasn’t great like so many other iPhone killers.
The Pixel’s software was one of its biggest selling points to me. It was definitely the smoothest I’ve ever experienced on an Android phone and I saw no lag in the few months I had the Pixel, but nothing really blew me away. There was no wow factor at all.
I generally dislike the skins that phone manufacturers like Samsung and LG (especially) put on devices, so the Pixel should have the ideal software for me, right? Google placed a huge emphasis on Assistant but it never changed the way I used my phone and quickly was forgotten. The unlimited backup of photos and videos at full resolution is wonderful but if you’re anything like me, you’re fine settling for the compressed image in Google Photos.
The area where I feel the Pixel’s hype most overlooked was the physical construction of the device. The blocky corners never felt premium to me and the glass that covers part of the back of the phone scratched far too easily. The Pixel is nothing if not boring to look at due to the complete lack of anything visually interesting about the device.
I’ve owned every iPhone that has ever been released (besides the iPhone 5c) because I love mobile technology. I use an Android phone as my daily driver because I prefer Nougat to iOS. But, people generally dismiss is how big of a role the physical design of a device plays on the overall satisfaction someone will have with a device.
So, if I’m not using a Pixel XL like a good little Android fanboy, what am I using? For a long time, I was using the Moto Z Play due to its excellent software and even better battery, but I’ve finally settled on the OnePlus 3T.
Without taking price into consideration, I feel like the OnePlus 3T was the best phone released in 2016 and the closest thing you can find to an Android-iPhone equivalent.
OnePlus has come a long way in its short existence. It has made some really, really bad choices along the way and the growing pains have been very apparent but I feel like OnePlus is finally on track after the release of the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T in 2016.
Why do I think the OnePlus 3T is the best Android phone out right now? First, you have to start with the build and materials. The aluminum body is curved perfectly to fit into your hand comfortably and mine looks as good today as it did the day I took it out of the box. The phone is extremely thin so a small camera bump sticks out of the back of the phone, but it doesn’t bother me as it used to. Maybe I’m more willing to overlook it since I’m so happy with the rest of the phone.
The iPhone-like camera bands wrap from the rear of the device to the sides. The left side holds a slider that switches your phone between three volume settings, Silent, Do Not Disturb and regular volume. I do miss a scheduled Do Not Disturb at night when I forget to move the slider up one spot, but it is otherwise very convenient. In a world where we’re trying to erase bezels on phones that feel increasingly hard to use I think we might have forgotten we actually need to be able to hold a phone comfortably. The slider is one of those quality-of-life features that OnePlus thought to include in its phones that everyone else has ignored because they think it makes them look too much like an iPhone.
In a world where we’re trying to erase bezels on phones that feel increasingly hard to use I think we might have forgotten we actually need to be able to hold a phone comfortably. The slider is one of those quality-of-life features that OnePlus thought to include in its phones that everyone else has ignored because they think it makes them look too much like an iPhone.
The bottom of the phone houses a USB type-C port and speaker and… yes, a headphone jack. This phone is immediately better than the iPhone for that reason alone.
But, where OnePlus has come the furthest is its software. Most will remember that its first phone, the OnePlus One, shipped with CyanogenMod on board. For someone like me who loved pouring hours into almost bricking then fixing my phone while flashing a bunch of random ROMs, this was amazing. Now, I’m in a different phase of my life where I just want stable software that doesn’t stutter. My phone isn’t even rooted.
I really love what OnePlus has done since dropping CM. Oxygen OS has matured into a stable operating system that offers just enough in the way of tweaks and improvements over stock-Android that keeps me happy.
A lot of it is common sense.
Reordering quick tiles is a no brainer. Picking what double presses and long presses do changes the way I use my phone. It’s the little stuff like this that move this phone from a great one to the best on the market.
This article is entirely subjective. That’s why it’s placed under the Editorials and Opinions section of the site, but I truly think that if you’re switching from an iPhone to an Android device you’ll be happier with a OnePlus 3T than a Pixel.
So where do the Samsungs, LGs, and Sonys of the world go from here in their fight against Apple’s market share? I don’t think it’s any secret that Samsung and LG are going to continue to do their own thing. The leaks of the S8 and G6 look interesting but it’s very obvious that they both feel like they can fight off Apple by being different.
Other manufacturers may (hopefully) follow the lead of Lenovo and Motorola and release phones with innovative hardware and software that resembles stock-Android with some quality of life tweaks on top of the OS.
Or some are going to follow OnePlus’ lead and fight Apple on its own turf. The OnePlus 3T is everything that is good about an iPhone and more and I encourage all of my friends to check it out when they’re looking for a new phone. I encourage you to do the same.