In the last couple of days, the OnePus India team has been making a fool of itself. Firstly, they carried an advertisement of the phone with all its details (including some wrong ones) on a national daily newspaper, a day before the global launch. Secondly, their online exclusive retail partner Amazon jumped the gun and made the page live a day before, shooting mails to all its customers with details of the phone.
But if like me, you've woken up this morning to rave reviews of the new OnePlus 3, which many feel, is a category defining device. Don't be surprised. I’ve fortunately had a chance to play around with the phone. I, too, feel that it is a really good smartphone. However, it does have one flaw, which it shares with many other phones.
Yes, if you’re as obsessive like me, and care about software updates, then the OnePlus 3 is a loser. That’s probably the only solid reason to not buy it. Let me explain in detail.
OnePlus 3 works on a retooled version of Google’s Android Marshmallow. OnePlus calls this "Oxygen OS", which it had unveiled last year with the OnePlus 2. More or less, this take on Android remains true to what Google offers on its Nexus smartphones, but the problem is that when Google launches Android N later this year, it is highly likely that the OnePlus 3 wouldn't be updated as quickly. Chances are that update could come in 2017.
Last year, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei claimed the OnePlus 2 will be one of the first phones to get the update to Android Marshmallow. Instead, the update for the phone only came a couple of weeks ago.
Seemingly, Pie has learnt his lesson and not oversold his phone this time around and is being rather coy about when the phone will get the update to Android N. You can’t blame him. Google hasn't even released the operating system, so it will be hard to predict, but as is the case with many of the Chinese smartphone companies, updating their phones to the latest version of Android isn’t high on their list of priorities.
Look at Xiaomi. It is perhaps the most well-known Chinese smartphone brand. Its phones were only recently updated to Marshmallow, but they still don't have core Google Android features like Now-on-tap.
Xiaomi executives tell me that it’s a bug and it will be resolved soon, but the fact of the matter is, a new version of Android is just a couple of months away, and we will again land ourselves in the same cycle of delayed software updates.
Even for OnePlus this will be an issue, because when you retool Android, no matter how lightly, it takes a lot of engineering and time to adapt those changes to a new version of Android.
For a start-up it is a herculean task as they have to build features on their OS and then integrate them with differing versions of Android. This year Google has added some big features on a core platform level. The main one being a new Google Assistant and a split-screen multitasking view. The Google Assistant is likely to be updated through the PlayStore, but the multitasking bit is something that will only come with an update to the OS.
Only Google’s Nexus devices and Motorola’s phones have quenched my thirst as far as fast Android updates are concerned. They manage this because they don't change anything. Motorola just adds a couple of cool tricks and changes nothing in the core UI.
For the rest, it is a different story altogether, OnePlus included. Other than that, the OnePlus 3 is a fantastic phone, so go for it.