OnePlus 3 vs iPhone 6: Which is the better mid-range flagship?

OnePlus 3 or the iPhone 6, Android vs iOS; which is the best bet in mid-range flagships at the moment

Written by Varun Sharma | Updated: November 24, 2016 9:11 am
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I have been an iPhone 6 user for the past 4 months – having never owned an Android device. It all started with my dad wanting to buy a new smartphone – a replacement to his old Nokia Lumia 830. With the Lumia dream and lineup now dead, it was time to move on to either Android or iOS, both platforms previously unexplored by him. Considering that he didn’t want to spend a big amount, he decided to stay in the Rs 30,000 range. OnePlus 3 is considered to be one of the best Android phones in that range, and the closest iOS phone in the range is the iPhone 6. So, I pitched both phones against each other to find out the best one to purchase.

I used a OnePlus 3 as my daily driver for 10 days. This was the first time I used an Android flagship as my primary device. I decided to test the phones on three fronts – battery life, camera and ease of use and here’s what I thought.

Ease of use:  

I have been an iOS user for some time now, and I know how to (more or less) get my phone to do whatever I want. There is not a lot of customisation that you can do with iOS, and that might not necessarily be a bad thing. Android on the other hand has a lot more going on and might be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. There is no true way to understand which OS is better; love or hate for Android or iOS is entirely subjective.

The iPhone is a little tricky to connect to a computer to transfer data, while Android phones are more of a plug and use type for data transferring. Plus the iPhone does not allow a user to toggle network data on or off in the quick settings menu, which is there in Android. Some gesture controls in the OnePlus 3; like the circle drawn on the display open the camera, drawing a ‘V’ shape on the locked display to start the flashlight are useful and come in handy.

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I also found myself fiddling around with the brightness settings of the OnePlus 3 quite a few times, even while I left it in auto. This is not something I do a lot with the iPhone. Strangely music starts to play when you plug your headphone into the OnePlus 3 even even when the music app is closed.

I did not really find any solid reasons to prefer one operating system over the other, even if my bias made me believe that iOS feels like a more refined experience. It is important to understand that Apple makes its own hardware and its software. This gives it at a significant advantage compared to other OEMs, who simply adopt Google’s Android and then try to improve upon it.

It always feels like Apple has given a lot more attention to detail with the OS, which mostly remains without lag even in a two year old device. Now imagine, running the latest Android OS on your two year old Android smartphone. You can’t, because OEMs stop pushing new operating system after a year of launching their device.

Apple on the other hand even allowed the three year old iPhone 5s to receive this year’s iOS 10 update. Buying an iPhone does give you some advantages over an Android device. It is not common for two year old smartphones to stand up against a new flagship phone, but the iPhone 6 does a pretty great job of it.

Battery life

This is one segment where I was sure the OnePlus 3 would be a sure shot winner, but as it turns out – it wasn’t. The iPhone 6 has a small 1810 mAh battery in compared to OnePlus 3’s massive 3000 mAh capacity. It might look straight-forward that the OnePlus 3 can possibly run twice as much as the iPhone 6, but for me it didn’t.

I usually start my day with 95-100 per cent battery on my iPhone 6 after charging it at night and leaving the Wi-Fi on, so I did the same with the OnePlus 3. I realised that iOS really does use much less battery on idle – with the phone draining just one or two per cent over the night (sometimes even zero), whereas the OnePlus 3 lost a good 4-5 per cent during the same period.

On my first day with the OnePlus 3, I was so confident leaving the house with 95 per cent battery – finding no need to carry a charger. Without any music on the device, I used the phone to read the news, browse the net and play a simple game. After an hour or hour-and-a-half of use, I reached office with 65 per cent battery. Needless to say, I was looking for a type-C charger not much later.

It was surprising that I found my OnePlus 3 device running out of power so soon, while others claimed a good two days of battery life. Another friend, who has used the phone has called the battery life inconsistent, claiming that sometimes its great – while sometimes not so good.

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OnePlus 3’s Dash Charge is really fast, and you can have your phone fully charged within an hour – starting at zero. But if I have to keep charging it before the end of the day, what is exactly the point?

iPhone 6 on the other hand gives a more consistent battery life. It barely drains when the phone is on idle. I am able to squeeze out 18 hours of use from the phone with ease, though a heavy use day does make me run for a charger mid-day – but that’s true with any phone. Do note this iPhone 6 is around four months old, but then the OnePlus 3 I reviewed was even newer.

I found myself reaching home at 10 pm in the night with 20-25 per cent with the iPhone 6, and a similar if not lower battery percentage with the OnePlus 3.

 Camera

OnePlus 3 features a 16MP f/2.0 aperture primary camera that can easily be described as one of the best in most categories of Android smartphones. The camera is quick to launch, focus and shoot. The OnePlus 3 camera outperforms the iPhone camera in good light conditions, but I found that the iPhone 6 was doing much better in the night. I found myself fiddling around with the focus a lot more with the OnePlus 3.

The OnePlus 3, on the other hand, does scores better in low light conditions in close spaces as compared to the iPhone 6.

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During the day, the OnePlus 3 performed slightly better than the iPhone 6 when taking pictures indoors. Pictures taken outside during the day were much harder to compare as both phones did well. Considering that both phones have ‘slow mo’ and ‘time lapse’ videos, both are a good bet.

The one thing that is better with the OnePlus 3 is a manual function in the camera, which would be appreciated by a photographer like my father. Even though it gives limited control over ISO settings, contrast, aperture timings and a few other things – it is still more than what you can do with the iPhone 6. In the camera department, I’ll give the edge to the OnePlus 3.

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OnePlus 3

Even though I am an iPhone user, I have to admit that I was excited to try out the OnePlus device. Right off the bat, the OnePlus 3 has specs far superior to all iPhones, but what it doesn’t have is iOS – which does more than fine even on 1GB RAM. OnePlus 3 also comes with 64GB of internal storage at a Rs 27,999 price tag, which means there is a lot of room to store movies, songs, videos and more. The iPhone 6 on the other hand (the more affordable 16GB version) has very limited storage to even consider storing movies.

The fingerprint scanner on the OnePlus 3 is blazing fast, while on the iPhone 6 I found myself disabling it for being too slow and inconsistent.

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Apple iPhone 6

It does not matter that the iPhone 6 is now two years old, as it still remains a very capable and potent phone to own. The camera is still better than most other flagships, the phone works well on iOS 10 and is still the best bet for people who want an iPhone, but aren’t willing to spend a premium amount.

Even though iPhone 6 comes with 1GB RAM, it can easily cope with multi-tasking. The phone seems a little slow in comparison to the OnePlus 3 with apps taking a few milliseconds more to open, but this is not a difference you will notice it.

Conclusion

I must admit I was relying on the OnePlus 3 to outshine and outperform the iPhone 6, but the Apple phone easily held up its own through all tasks. OnePlus 3 is the better device among the two, no doubt, but there is something about the iPhone 6 which impresses and draws customers. Both the devices are premium phones, and will be a good bet for any user.

But now there’s the OnePlus 3T in the market, and no doubt the question is: Should you wait to get the newer phone? In my opinion, the OnePlus 3 is already very fast, and it seems pointless to shell out that extra sum for a different processor, although the extra battery is something I’d want to test out. The other major difference is the new 16MP front camera, but again this is a difference that you can live without.

Finally I pitched the OnePlus 3 as the ideal phone for my father, but he didn’t like the idea of a 5.5-inch display. But the iPhone 6 didn’t win either and he just went with the iPhone 6s. And frankly that’s a lesson on the brand value that Apple holds, which is very hard to beat for other brands.