We all got excited way back in 2017 when OnePlus came to our shores and brought with them the OnePlus 5 — it all seems so long ago. So much water has passed under the bridge since then and although OnePlus has gone from strength to strength with the release of each device and have expanded into many other markets, successfully mind you, they are still yet to make any commitment to Australia.

We see their stable mates OPPO, realme and Vivo making names for themselves with their high end hardware at affordable prices but we are yet to see OnePlus make a serious commitment to the greatest country on Earth. We can keep dreaming and although their phones cannot be purchased here we do know that there are many Australians that make that effort to get their hands on their phones.

You see it on the OnePlus forums and OnePlus themselves have told us that they see a lot of device activations coming from Australia and for that reason we do our best to get our hands on their devices each time they release one and bring our thoughts on them to you. How does it compare to what you can buy here in-store? How is the mobile signal and connectivity here? Does it charge as fast as designed with an AC adapter? Read on below for all that and more.

Hardware and design

If you are reading this you will already know what’s inside — in one word, everything. Snapdragon 865 with a Snapdragon X55 5G modem (but the phone does not work on Telstra’s 5G networks at this stage), bucketloads of LPDDR5 RAM (the exact amount depends on the version you buy — ours has 12GB) and 256GB of storage.

On the 5G networks, the international version we have supports n2, n5, n66, n41, n71 5G bands but we use n78 and n40 here in Australia. If you want 5G, the Indian and EU models support n78 which *should* support Optus and Telstra 5G networks.

So where to start? How about the display, sorry, the Fluid Display? We’d already heard all about the 6.78-inch QHD+ display with it being awarded as best-in-class in many categories by DisplayMate. The display is curved on the side but not like last year’s curve. It is more curved this year, like a waterfall display. The colours are bright and vibrant and the 120Hz smoothness needs to be seen to be believed — it is possible that the MEMC also makes a big difference when watching videos. Whatever, it works.

This display must have cost OnePlus a fortune and I’ll say it was worth every single penny. What do you look at more on your phone than the display? This display makes me thing they’ve out Samsung’ed Samsung with this display. It’s fast, responsive and gorgeous — each and every display is apparently professionally calibrated.

This year OnePlus has added something their users have been crying out for for years — an official IP68 rating. Although I am yet, and hopefully not ever, it’s nice to know I have that backup just in case something goes wrong while in my “office”.

So what else have they added this year? Fast wireless charging — and boy is it fast. OnePlus has always said that they wouldn’t ever put wireless charging in their devices until it was able to match the speed and efficiency of their wired Warp charging. This year it does. Wired warp charging is 30W, as is their wireless charging. It is surprising that they did not increase the speed of their wired charging given that their stablemate OPPO, who’s charging speeds and types are often mirrored by OnePlus and vice versa, decided to go with 65W wired charging this year.

Back to the 30W Warp Charge Wireless charging. It’s quick — possibly too quick. I love how fast it can charge but I wonder if it is good for the battery to leave it sitting on their for too long. If I want a fast charge I can use the wired charger. Wireless charging is normally reserved for the continual top up during the day. Somewhere to keep your phone while not using it and have it trickle charge at that time. Maybe we now need to rethink our charging full stop. Do we ever need to use wired charging now that we have wireless this fast? As for the battery life, time will tell.

The problem with the charger though is that the cables are not removable. If you have your power sockets under the desk like myself and the desk is mounted to the wall, and you only have a 5-6cm hole for the cables to run through there is no way you will be able to fit this AC plug through the hole to easily stick it on your desk and hide the cable.

As for the rest of the hardware it’s very OnePlus. A gorgeous multi-layer glass rear which somehow is resistant to fingerprints unlike many other ultra premium smartphones — after all this phone is definitely that, an ultra-premium device.

Battery life

Battery life really shouldn’t require a mention, let alone its own section but we have seen other 120Hz phones this year struggle to make it through even three quarters of the day, even on a lower display resolution. The OnePlus 8 Pro suffers no such issues Operating at 120Hz and the full QHD+ 2k resolution the OnePlus 8 Pro easily lasts the full day from 6am until past 10pm, with over five hours of screen on time which included a lot of Bluetooth streaming to the car stereo, to headphones and watching many YouTube videos. Of course if you do manage to run it out there is always 30W wired or wireless charging to quickly top it up.

Software second to none

OnePlus’ Android skin OxygenOS is the best Android skin, bar none. It lacks the smoothness of Pixel animations but no phone even comes close to the Pixel in that regards. The speed of it though is the best around. It transitions fast, apps open fast — most likely due to the sheer volume of RAM included more can be kept in memory, and the interface is fast, fluid and smooth. It was fast and smooth before the 120Hz display and now with the 120Hz display it is even better.

I’ve said it before but it’s like using a custom ROM without the buggyness and the requirement for root access. I don’t need to cover their software again. If you want more info go back and read last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T reviews. Needless to say if you like a stock Android with a fair amount of decent tweaks that does not affect the speed of the device then this is for you.

For the first time I used OnePlus’ data transfer tool to go from the OnePlus 7 Pro to the OnePlus 8 Pro. This is the first time I’ve had one of these tools work so seamlessly. It was an easy transfer transferring all apps and data for apps across along with contacts, messages, accounts etc. There is no need to download anything from the Play Store, it is all transferred across, and quickly too.

Is this the year OnePlus finally bring a quality camera to the party?

Last year’s OnePlus 7 Pro, even though it ranked high on DxOMark struggled in real world scenarios — it did improve a lot after several updates but was still not up with the Samsung’s and Huawei’s of the world.

This year they have included a quad rear camera with three useful lenses. There is a 48MP main lens with full sensor omnidirectional PDAF, a 48MP ultrawide lens and a 3x zoom telephoto lens. The last lens is a colour filter camera which they are having to actually gimp as it could “see through” certain structures. It is basically a creative lens which allows you to shoot in a weird lens rather than applying a filter with post processing — not incredibly useful to be honest.

The photos produced remind me a lot of Pixel images in that the colours are accurate, not overly saturated but more an accurate reproduction of what it is “seeing”. Some may see this as muted colours but it’s more that it doesn’t overly post process them. They could possibly process them a bit more but it is a fine line to get that right as overly processed images are not great images.

Side by side with the Galaxy S20 Ultra it performed admirably, offering images that were incredibly close in quality. The S20 Ultra does seem to have more light in its photos — that pixel binning of the 108MP camera obviosuly works?). It is safe to say though that the rear camera on the OnePlus 8 Pro is finally ultra-premium quality, matching the rest of the phone. I would certainly feel comfortable carrying this in my pocket and not have any anxiety about creating a quality image at any time the need should arise.

Night mode still needs some work but let’s face it, the Pixel is far and away the best Android phone with this (I’m excluding Huawei because of their lack of Googley usefulness). Night mode is decent and better than some manufacturers — it’s amazing how picky we’ve become with our smartphone cameras.

The 16MP selfie camera takes some decent photos although of course that depends on the subject in those selfie photos. The quality 16MP lens definitely makes a difference and OnePlus have added a nice addition where a subtle halo lights up around the selfie camera so you know where to look when taking the photo.

Overall the OnePlus 8 Pro photography finally delivers what OnePlus has been promising us for a long time, and ultra-premium camera in an ultra-premium device. The camera may still not quite match Huawei or its stablemate, the OPPO Find X2 Pro but it is certainly no slouch and will not disappoint.

Surely it’s not perfect?

There is never going to be a phone that is perfect for everyone. The main downside of this device is the price — no longer is it in the “affordable” flagship range but moving into the ultra-premium price range. Well, for Australians it is. In Europe pricing starts at 909€ (AU$1,424), the US $899 (AU$1,145) but in India it will be Rs54,999 (AU$1,077). Let’s face it, ultra-premium with no corners cut costs money to make.

Of course for Australians another fault with the phone is that you can’t easily buy it here and get full warranty straight from OnePlus. With all of their stablemates here in Australia now it is surely just a matter of time until they share support and distribution channels with each other allow all of them to venture into our market.

The camera is a vast improvement over previous years but it is still not the best — but that is being nit-picky. If you look at the images above the OnePlus is definitely comparable with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra. Not every manufacturer can be number one (there can be only one?).

The display I would prefer to not be curved but this year there is a LOT better accidental touch rejection — so much so that I am yet to have any issues at all with it. Samsung, the kings of displays, have gone away from curved displays such as this — is it time for other vendors to follow? The curve does take up some of the viewable display and to be honest is only there because it looks cool.

Ambient display of some sort is really something OnePlus need and have needed for a while. It is currently in development apparently and will arrive in the next few months — hopefully.

As for perfect. No it is not but it is possibly the closest I have ever seen to perfect, so far.

So should you jump through the requisite hoops to get one?

Those who love Android, and pure Android will want this phone. It provides a software experience second to none. It has the hardware that is the envy of so many other manufacturers. The cameras are finally at a level where they produce quality imagery consistently in a variety of conditions and the display is an absolute delight to behold.

This year OnePlus has included everything that they have been criticised for not including in the past — wireless charging and an IP waterproof rating. The wireless charging is a whopping 30W, better than most smartphones’ wired charging.

There is nothing that this phone lacks. If you really want an ultra-premium device and the local offerings fall short for you then you should look into getting one of these. You could always import one yourself but then that has all sorts of issues with warranty should you require that. The other option is to buy one from a grey market importer such as Kogan who have the 12GB RAM version for $1,649 — not cheap at all.

In the end though this is the best phone that you cannot buy locally. It is a shame that OnePlus do not bring it here officially and until then it is difficult to recommend something that may not have the best warranty coverage. If that is not an issue for you then I say go for it — it’s a great device, you won’t be disappointed.

Disclosure Statement

too much effort to send back to New York