On October 18, OnePlus announced the OnePlus 8T, but not a OnePlus 8T Pro, preferring to let the OnePlus 8 Pro live on. The company had until this point traditionally replaced all previous versions of its phones every six months or so, saying it allowed them to keep right up to date with the latest tech developments and provide even greater value.
The OnePlus 8 Pro has been around since April 2020, making it positively ancient by OnePlus’ standards, so does it feel like it’s ready for the mobile scrapheap? After all, OnePlus would normally have sent it in that direction by now. I used the OnePlus 8 Pro for a couple of weeks recently and discovered that not only is the 8 Pro still fresh as a daisy, but the decision to keep it around means there is an unexpected financial benefit to you. Interested? You should be.
Software is usually the first thing to suffer on a phone over time, either through lack of new feature updates, or by existing bugs and problems not being fixed. When I reviewed the OnePlus 8 Pro, it was running OxygenOS 10.5, based on Android 10. It’s now on OxygenOS 11 with Android 11 underneath, has several new features, and is almost perfect. Yes, I said it. OxygenOS is absolutely fantastic, the update schedule should make other Android phone makers blush, and it’s quite hard to find things I don’t like about it.
Once it was the lack of an always-on screen, but that has now been fixed. I first used this on the OnePlus 8T, but it didn’t have the unusual Canvas feature at the time. This is present on the OnePlus 8 Pro after an update. It works by analyzing the wallpaper on your phone to create an arty outline image that’s used on the lock screen, together with the time and date. It’s definitely unusual, and as you can see in the example below, it makes the home screen far more interesting, if not exactly pretty, to look at.
What struck me most about returning to OxygenOS was just how reliable it is. It updated without a fuss, even after not being used for several months, and settled into everyday life with ease. I didn’t have any reliability problems, everything worked as it should, and perhaps most importantly everything made sense. I am used to swapping between phones, and it does sometimes take a bit to get back into the swing of things, like knowing where different settings are. Not on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
I happily slid back into using OxygenOS like I was putting on my favorite sweater. It’s a testament to the excellent interface design and ergonomics. The fluid speed is instantly noticeable, even coming from other, newer smartphones. Scrolling through menus is slick, the bounce when you reach the end of a list is perfectly judged, and OnePlus’ algorithms prioritize the apps and services I use most, so they open quickly. This kind of feature can be hard to spot, but you notice the speed on the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Coming back to OxygenOS is like putting on a favorite sweater.
Forced to find something I don’t like, it’s the power controls. Following Samsung’s irritating lead, the side button doesn’t open the power menu but instead calls up Google Assistant by default. To access the power menu you have to press the side button and the volume up control. Not the volume down button, because that takes a screenshot. The gallery on my OnePlus 8 Pro is filled with screenshots of my home page. You can change the action of the side key in the Settings, but it really should be set to the power menu by default.
This one, tiny thing aside, OxygenOS on the OnePlus 8 Pro feels new, fresh, and very modern.
Still got the looks?
I love the software, but what about the hardware around it? The OnePlus 8 Pro’s design is the only thing that dates it a little, and that’s mainly because it didn’t change much over the OnePlus 7T Pro. If OnePlus was more used to an annual refresh, then it may have started life with a more contemporary design. Instead, the OnePlus 8 Pro doesn’t look as stylish as the Galaxy S21, but does still beat less visually interesting phones like the Google Pixel 5.
Design is subjective of course, but build quality and ergonomics are not, and the OnePlus 8 Pro is every bit still a top-level smartphone. Yes, the curved edges are a little sharp and it does notice after extended time holding the phone, but other than that the weight is just right at 200 grams. Considering it’s similarly sized to the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it’s much more manageable, and better balanced too.
It’s not just the way the phone looks, but what you look at as well. The OnePlus 8 Pro’s 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED screen is still superb, and the 120Hz refresh rate complements it perfectly. I noticed some touch accuracy issues when I first reviewed the phone, but did not during my use this time, indicating the problem has been fixed in a software update.
The phone looks good, on all sides — and don’t discount just how great the screen is.
My use of the OnePlus 8 Pro was bookended by the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. I can confidently say the OnePlus 8 Pro’s screen performance stands alongside both, and while the design may not be the most delightful out there, it wasn’t when it launched either. However, a moderately aging look is to be expected when any phone is reaching a year old.
How about the camera? It remains decent, but it’s not quite as spectacular as some of the latest phones like the iPhone 12 Pro and the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but again this is to be expected. My opinion on it really hasn’t altered since my initial review. I wouldn’t recommend the OnePlus 8 Pro specifically for the camera, but instead consider it as reliable, capable, and varied enough feature-wise to hold my creative interest.
A year on, and OnePlus needs to learn from the 8 Pro
If I were presented with the OnePlus 8 Pro as a brand new phone today, I wouldn’t question it. The software, screen, and hardware compete very favorably with phones launched over the past six months. It seems odd to say about a phone that’s less than a year old, but it’s important to do so because of OnePlus’ practice of revamping its range on a very regular basis.
Under its old way of doing things, OnePlus would have replaced the 8 Pro around August or September last year. By not doing so, there is a risk some may look at the OnePlus 8 Pro and consider it outdated or not worth buying. Revisiting the phone now has shown this couldn’t be further from the truth, and ensures it holds on to its position on our best smartphone recommendation list. There’s another small bonus here too, and that concerns price.
Between now and January 31, OnePlus has taken $100 (or 100 British pounds in the U.K.) off the, so it starts at $799 or 799 British pounds. Considering the Galaxy S21 costs the same, and how much more premium the OnePlus 8 Pro feels due to its glass body and curved screen, that’s excellent value. While it’s not out of the question, it’s unlikely OnePlus would have heavily discounted an 8T Pro so soon after release.
OnePlus’ decision to keep the 8 Pro current for longer than six months has no downsides for us as phone buyers. Really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as every other manufacturer does the same.
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