OnePlus is back to ruffle the feathers of the established names in smartphones with its 2016 flagship, the OnePlus 3. This year's model has an updated look, high-end specs, and a price that's much, much lower than a lot of its rivals. Could this be the year OnePlus breaks into the big time?

In terms of design and build OnePlus seems to have pitched this somewhere between the iPhone 6 and the HTC 10. The aluminum unibody is tidy enough at first glance and the handset comes in at 7.3 mm thick, a shade thinner than the Samsung Galaxy S7. Graphite and soft gold are the color options you can pick from, and based on the pictures we've seen it's a good-looking if unadventurous design.

The 5.5-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) AMOLED screen pushes the handset firmly towards phablet territory, though lower-res than rival Android flagships. The device is powered by Qualcomm's familiar Snapdragon 820 CPU and a hefty 6 GB of RAM. 64 GB of storage space is your only option and there's no microSD slot to expand that either.

OnePlus is promising excellent charging speeds via a proprietary technology called Dash Charge – 60 percent replenishment in 30 minutes, apparently – but many a phone maker has made similar claims this year. That 60 percent charge will give you 7 hours of HD video playback, OnePlus says, though of course we'll have to wait to put that to the test.

The company does promise that Dash Charge can provide a higher current at a lower temperature, which would be a welcome feature for anyone used to their mobile burning up while it's plugged in.

The other specification of most interest to potential buyers is the camera. The OnePlus 3 comes with a 16 MP camera around the back, up from 13 MP on the OnePlus 2, and there are a bunch of manual controls to take advantage of as well as auto HDR.

OnePlus' own take on Android, OxygenOS, comes pre-installed. The phone does adopt the new USB-C connection standard but (unlike the Moto Z) hasn't ditched the venerable 3.5 mm headphone jack at the same time.

Perhaps most importantly of all, the phone costs a lot less than some of its more well-known rivals: US$399 to be precise. That's significantly undercutting all the other flagships we've seen this year, as well as the 2015 iPhones, which start at $649.

Since it appeared in 2014, OnePlus' approach has always been to offer specs and design close to the best while going much lower than the competition in price, and with its third flagship it might just have found the sweet spot in that particular formula. The fact that the OnePlus 3 is available worldwide right now, with no invite system to get in the way as in previous years, should increase the phone's appeal even further.

Product page: OnePlus

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