OnePlus: the cell phone brand for masochists

By | December 28, 2015

Here’s what you’ll be getting when you buy a OnePlus phone:

  • glaring software bugs which the company allows to persist for over a year;
  • new features rolled out with inexcusable bugs that should have been caught and fixed before release;
  • customer service that is beyond awful;
  • should you decide to return your phone due to the aforementioned issues, a concerted effort by the company to avoid giving you a refund; and finally,
  • even if they do agree to give you a refund, a delay of several weeks after they receive your returned phone before they finally do so.

Here are the bugs I experienced in my OnePlus 2 in the short time I had it:

  • frequent spontaneous reboots (a known, long-standing problem reported by many other OnePlus users);
  • the personal WiFi hotspot would regularly stop working (phone said it was working, laptop said it was connected to hotspot, but laptop couldn’t connect to the internet) until I rebooted my phone;
  • “OK Google” voice activation worked poorly or not at all (another long-standing, nown problem);
  • the fingerprint sensor frequently failed to read my fingerprint successfully;
  • sometimes, when I tried to switch data service from one SIM card to the other, data service wouldn’t work on the other card, and then it wouldn’t let me switch to the first card until I rebooted the phone;
  • three different apps I use every day wouldn’t work: Amazon Music (long-standing, known problem), Synology DS Cloud (I wasn’t the only one), and Podkicker Pro; I’m guessing that all of these were due to one underlying bug related to temporary app data storage;
  • in a software update in which they added a new feature, the ability to have the phone prompt on every call or SMS for which SIM card to use, they broke the ability to specify a default, such that it was no longer possible to configure the phone not to prompt on every call or SMS (OnePlus has botched multiple attempts to get this logic right); and
  • though not exactly a bug, I’m not sure why all the reviews seem to rave about the quality of the OnePlus 2 camera, because it consistently gave me poorer, blurrier pictures than the Nexus 5 I replaced with it or the Nexus 6P I bought after I gave up on the OnePlus 2.

I contacted OnePlus’s support department about most of these issues. I gained exactly one bit of knowledge from my extensive interaction with them: contacting OnePlus’s support department is a mind-numbing, soul-crushing waste of time, and you should by no means expect them to ever help you in any meaningful way. Here are some “highlights:”

  • You shouldn’t expect to ever get a response in less than a day. I often waited multiple days. Once I waited eight days.
  • It appears that all their tier-1 support representatives know how to do is “escalate your ticket to a specialist,” and of course you have to wait at least another day for a response from the “specialist.”
  • It appears that all their “specialists” know how to do is suggest that you hard-reset your phone. They suggest this even when there is no evidence whatsoever that hard-resetting will do any good. They suggest this even when the problem you are complaining about is one that has been reported to them many times by many people and hard-resetting hasn’t solved it in the past. They suggest this in complete disregard for the fact that “power users” like me have spent many hours installing and configuring all of their apps and copying tens of gigabytes of data onto the phone, and all of that work would have to be done after a hard reset.
  • I explained to them that I was not about to waste my time hard-resetting a two-week-old phone and spending many hours reconfiguring it after the reset, when (a) there was ample reason to believe that hard-resetting the phone won’t solve the problem, and (b) even if it did, if it was necessary to hard-reset a two-week-old phone then that meant it was going to be necessary to hard-reset it over and over throughout the life of the phone, and that would be entirely unacceptable so in that case I would like to simply return the phone for a refund.
    In response, they offered to have a “Level 2 Tech Specialist” do an hour-long remote debugging session to “patch fix/ flash to another ROM,” and that my computer would have to be connected to a Windows PC which I would have to allow them to control remotely during the session. Leaving aside the asinity of this approach and the fact that it is unlikely that it would have fixed any of the problems I was having, when I told them that I did not have access to a Windows PC — nor, for that matter, would any of their other customers who use Linux or Mac OS — they suggested that I visit a public library and do the debugging session from there. Seriously.
  • At one point, I sent them a comprehensive list of all the problems I had experienced (i.e., most of the items I listed above, not including a couple of which I was not yet aware when I sent the list) and asked them to escalate my ticket to someone who had the ability to understand my concerns and the authority to respond substantively to them. In fact, I asked them for that escalation at least three times. It never happened. At no point did I receive even one response that indicated that anyone had read and understood my concerns.
  • They never acknowledged that several of the problems I reported to them were known, long-standing issues.
  • They never indicated that any attempt had been made to reproduce any of the issues I reported, even though several of them were easily reproducible.
  • They never told me that three of the issues I had reported — the inability to use Amazon Music, DS Cloud, or Podkicker Pro — would be fixed by an upcoming software update, even though that update was released when I was in the midst of corresponding with them about these issues.
  • Nothing I was told by them at any point during our interaction was in any way helpful.
  • When I finally came to my senses, admitted to myself that there was no way I was ever going to be happy with this phone or with the company, and demanded a refund, they first ignored my refund request and offered me a replacement phone instead. Then, when I reiterated my demand for a refund, they claimed that I wasn’t entitled to one because my request was made more than 15 days after I received the phone. This, even though:
    1. this was only five weeks to the day after I received the phone, and it should have been entirely clear to them by this point that there was no way in hell that I was ever going to be a satisfied customer; any company that cared at all about their service and reputation would have agreed to a refund even outside of their draconian 15-day refund policy;
    2. most of the delay in reaching the point where I demanded a refund was caused by them being slow to respond to my emails; and
    3. I first contacted them about problems with my phone 14 days after I received it, so even within the bounds of their policy I was entitled to a refund.
  • After they agreed to refund my money and I shipped my phone back to them, they didn’t refund my money until four weeks after the returned phone was delivered to them, and even then it only happened after I filed a dispute with Paypal.

I have to admit that it isn’t all bad. The OnePlus 2 is, at least theoretically, a pretty nice phone. It has a good hand-feel; its main differentiating feature — dual-SIM support — is useful to a lot of people; and its price is quite low for a phone with its specs. But if you want a phone that will Just Work™ and customer service that can actually help you fix problems, I must assure you, most insistently, that this is not the brand for you.

I replaced my returned OnePlus 2 with a Nexus 6P. It was more more expensive, but it was unquestionably worth it. I’ve experienced none of the problems listed above with the 6P, or for that matter any problems at all; the phone simply always works the way it’s supposed to. I suspect that Google’s customer support is better than OnePlus’s — it would be hard for it to be worse! — but I can’t tell you for certain, because I haven’t had to contact Google even once.

Just say no to OnePlus.



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