July 09, 2014, 10:48 AM — Looking for the best Android phone ever built, when you consider its price and value? Then you might want to get in line for the OnePlus One. I've got details, including whether it might be right for you.
Price and availability
You can't buy the OnePlus One yet, but when you can get your hands on it, you'll find it surprisingly affordable -- $299 unlocked, versus prices of between $600 and $700 for top-of-the-line Android phones such as the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5.
As for availability, that's a bit of a mystery at this point. The phone's Web site says you have to ask someone who's already bought the phone for an invite, or else enter "contests and promotional events," none of which seem to exist yet. Still, at some point you'll be able to get one. And when you pay, it'll have to be with PayPal. There's one more drawback: It'll work on AT&T or T-Mobile, but not Verizon or Sprint.
Processor and RAM
Even though the OnePlus One is less than half the price of phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, it doesn't scrimp on power. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.5 Ghz quad-core processor, and so is just as fast. Not only that, but with 3GB of RAM, it's got more memory than does the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 or iPhone 5S.
Here's where the phone falls down a bit. You get a choice of devices with 16 GB or 64 GB of storage, but there's no microSD slot for adding storage. That's one way that the manufacturer has been able to hold down costs. The 64GB version is only $50 more than the 16GB version, so I'd go with the 64GB version.
It's a big-boy phone, with a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and pixel density of 401 ppi. That doesn't quite measure up to the specs of the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5. But reviewers have universally praised the screen, and said there was no noticeable difference between it and the higher-price phones.
These have solid specs: A rear camera at 13 megapixels with two LEDs for handling taking photos in very dim light. There's also a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.
Here's where the OnePlus One really shines. It sports CyanogenMod, firmware based on Android Open Source Project, and running Android 4.4.2. What's the big deal? As the "Mod" in CyanogenMod implies, you'll be able to modify just about every aspect of how Android runs on this device. CyanogenMod has a massive community of people who share their modifications, so you'll be able to get countless themes, fonts, sound packs, boot animations, wallpapers, and much more.