Insights For Success

Strategy, Innovation, Leadership and Security

Samsung

OnePlus policy that makes it a better buy than Samsung, HTC or LG

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
7dde5baaa7509370f2b16982bfd0605d_260_0.png

As a security technologist, the security philosophy of the OEM is a crucial determinant of my decision to buy or recommend a device. This is where Apple shines with it's iPhone update strategy. Every single iPhone receives updates (security and version) at the same time. 

This is why I highly recommend Google's Pixel devices. The Pixel line offers the same regular and speedy update schedule. The other Android manufacturer that has shown it cares about upgrades is OnePlus. Until this week, it did a great job delivering updates quickly, but it didn't formally commit to a software upgrade schedule. 

OnePlus Software Maintenance Schedule.png

All of that changes this week when OnePlus unveiled its new operating system (Android) maintenance schedule. It has copied the Google Pixel model and will deliver major upgrades for two years and security updates for three years. 

As per the maintenance schedule, there will be 2 years of regular software updates from the release date of the phone (release dates of T variants would be considered), including new features, Android versions, Android security patches and bug fixes and an additional year of Android security patch updates every 2 months.
— OnePlus OS Maintenance Schedule

Conclusion

OnePlus has always offered solid well-designed devices at competitive prices. This new software maintenance schedule commitment makes their offering that much more compelling. 

I can no longer recommend devices from manufacturers that do not regularly deliver security and version upgrades. This is why I only recommend Android devices from Google, Blackberry Mobile and OnePlus. 

Chromebooks are great and here are some myths you might believe

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
unnamed.png

Anytime I pull out a Chromebook in a professional setting, colleagues and friends are dumbfounded how a tech geek like me would "settle" for a browser only thin client. People are downright shocked when I pull out my $1200 Pixelbook. 

Why would I buy a "browser only" device when I could use a Windows or Mac device that can run the Chrome browser but do so much more?

Chromebooks can't run apps

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are not a millennial that grew up with iPads and smartphones. For you, a personal computing device (Windows, Mac or Linux) needs to run native apps. I'm here to shock you but Chromebooks (ChromeOS) devices do and do it without requiring dual-booting.

Chromebooks run Android apps. Most modern Chromebooks can easily install and run most Google Play store Android apps. The list of Android app capable devices is extensive and growing daily (list).

The most common Microsoft Office apps for Android (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) run surprisingly well on Chromebooks. 

Chromebooks will run Linux apps. VentureBeat first reported this and it was later confirmed during Google IO 2018. Goole's Chromebooks will be able to run native Linux applications using the built-in container technology (without dual-booting or emulation). 

Chromebooks will run Windows apps. CrossOver has a Chromebook app that will allow users to run Windows-only apps (like Quicken and Microsoft Office) on a Chromebook without needing to install Windows. 

Truth is that most users, will not need any of these functionalities most of the time. With a little updating of your work structures, you will likely be able to work on a Chromebook 98% of the time without needing to run Windows or Linux apps, but it's nice to know you can.

As an example, I switched to Polarr for my photo editing and it does everything I need. It is affordable, cross-platform and worth like a charm on Chromebooks. If you are looking for a very good password manager, you can use the Steve Gibson approved LastPass

Chromebooks are slow

You get what you pay for. When you compare dollar for dollar a Chromebook will always be fast, more reliable and more secure than Windows, Mac or Linux. The comparison most people late is a $1000 Macbook to a $250 Chromebook. That simply isn't a fair comparison. Chromebooks have become the defacto educational devices because they are very functional even at the low end of the scale. 

When comparing machines with comparable pricing, the Chromebook will always be faster.

I bought a $350 Acer C720P in 2013 (5+ years old) and it :

  • is still fast when running Chrome
  • receives regular updates from Google
  • is always kept secure by Google

I have 3+-year-old ($600-1000) Dell, HP and Lenovo Windows machines that have become slow and painful to use. 

My Pixelbook goes from powered off (not sleep but totally off) to ready to log in, in 5 seconds. 

Chromebooks are useless without an internet connection

I am convinced much of what you do (on your PC, smartphone or tablet) is internet based. As an experiment, try turning off WIFI (or cellular connectivity) for 1 day and see how dependent you really are. 

CR48.jpg

When the CR-48 came out (first Chromebook test unit from Google), it was nothing more than an internet connected thin client. This hasn't been true for a long time though. 

Google's most popular services (Gmail, Calendar, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc) are all offline enabled. The Google Chrome Web Store even has a page dedicated to offline apps.

offline.PNG

Add to these the millions of Android apps and you can do just about anything offline these days. The Chromebook actually has an advantage over competing platforms here (Windows or Mac). As an example, on a traditional laptop, I can't download Netflix content for offline consumption whereas I can with the Android Netflix app running on a Chromebook. Since Chromebooks are power efficient, this becomes an excellent offline and disconnected media consumption platform (aka planes).

Chromebooks barely run Android apps

For better or worse, Google makes many of its experiments public. It is true that Google has made multiple attempts to bring Android to Chromebooks (ChromeOS) and that most have failed. If you tried running Android apps on a Chromebook even a year ago, you may have thought it was a slow and painful experience but not anymore. It still isn't perfect but for those unique occasional needs, the current setup more than satisfies that functionality itch. 

I have tested Android apps on a Google Pixelbook, Acer Chromebook Flip C302 and a Samsung Chromebook Pro and the apps worked great on all of them. 

Chromebooks have no local storage

Not sure how this started but all Chromebooks have local storage. My Pixelbook comes with 250GB of lightning-fast SSD storage (similar storage capacity to my  MacBook Pro Retina). For content that is only occasionally accessed, you can store it in the Google Drive cloud and access it as you would a local file. The Chromebook "file explorer" integrated Google Drive for easy access. 

Chromebooks can't print

Chromebooks support both local and network-based printers. For most users, you will plug in your local printer via USB and it will automagically work (if it is a recent printer). When shopping for a new device, why not opt for one that is Google Cloud Print ready? All major manufacturers support Google Cloud Print, including but not limited to : Brother, Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Kyocera, Lexmark, Sharp, Toshiba, Xerox and more.

Chromebooks don't have any antivirus protection

This comment comes from Windows users that have been trained to install antivirus products on all of their devices. 

Remember that ChromeOS (the operating system powering Chromebooks) was designed to be secure from the start. As an example, it uses techniques like process isolation to keep you safe. Most manufacturers say that Chromebooks do not need antivirus products because : 

  • ChromeOS is updated every 6 weeks
  • ChromeOS is designed with an application and process sandboxing framwork
  • All data on a Chromebook is encrypted by default
Sample support page from Toshiba

Sample support page from Toshiba

So let's extend the question and talk about Chromebook (ChromeOS) security. Why do most security professionals choose Chromebooks as their personal device of choice? Why do security professionals bring Chromebooks to the world's most tech hostile conferences (blackhat, defcon, shmoocon, etc)?

The answer is that Chromebooks are more secure than any other traditional computing platform (including MacOS). How?

  • Automatic updates - Google pushes a ChromeOS update every 6 weeks that all devices receive immediately (regardless of where you bought your Chromebook from and the manufacturer of the Chromebook). These updates add functionality but more importantly they fix security issues.
  • Sandboxing - Each web-page and application on a Chromebook is isolated from every other web-page and application using a technique called Sandboxing. If you visit a malicious web-page, the malware cannot infect other tabs or the computer itself. 
  • Verified Boot - If magically threat actors manage to exploit a vulnerability and "jump" out of the sandbox to infect the boot process (to ensure they infect the device every time it restarts, The verified boot process will detect this and it will automatically repair itself. Every time a Chromebook boots, it checks itself and if it detects that the boot process has been tampered with, it fixes itself without any user intervention. 
  • Data Encryption - Using tamper-resistant encryption (a local TPM chip), all local data is encrypted with a user key which means it cannot be accessed by other users or by threat actors if stolen.
  • Recovery Mode - If anything does go wrong with your Chromebook, you can use a special keyboard combination (differs by manufacturer to enter a special recovery mode that brings back a fresh, clean version of ChromeOS in minutes and with no user intervention. All your data and settings are stored in the cloud so as soon as you log in, your personalizations and settings will all automagically come back.

Conclusion


This article could have easily been 5 times longer, but I believe I captured the most important concepts. If you haven't tried a Chromebook in a while, I encourage you to take a look. Remember that no single device meets everyone's needs, and a Chromebook is no different. I believe Chromebooks are THE alternative for most general computing users and even some individual edge cases (like us crazy security people). 

Remeber that you get what you pay for. Don't expect a $200 Chromebook to perform like $1200 MacBook. Compare a $1200 Google Pixelbook to a $1200 MacBook, and now you have a fair comparison. 

Samsung Note 8 review from an iPhone user

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
11 - Copy.jpg

You should take the time to read my article about why I am switching from an iPhone to an Android device. A summary of the situation is that I have had every iPhone since the very first one ten years ago and the spark isn't there anymore. I have been dual carrying Android phones for the last 5 years but my main personal daily driver has been an iPhone.

Looking at messages from readers, many of you are in the same boat and I will be reviewing a handful of phones for switchers with the requirements of an iPhone users looking to geek out.

The first phone I am reviewing is the Samsung Note 8 64GB North American edition. I mention this because my readers are global and you can find other derivatives (128/256GB storage, dual SIM, etc).

Last year I thought the Note 7 was the best Android phone I had ever used until it wasn't, because of the exploding battery issue. Until the recall, the Note 7 was in a league all on its own, even compared to the Galaxy S7. This year, not so much. The Gap between the Note 8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus has srunk dramatically. 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus

The closest competitor to the Samsung Note 8 is the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. The younger sibling has almost all of the features of its big brother except :

  • Note 8 dual cameras
  • Note 8 Stylus - SPen
  • Note 8 has a 0.1" larger screen
  • Note 8 has 2 more GB of RAM

For all of these upgrades, you will have to fork over an extra $124 (USA retail based on the unlocked versions). 

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note 8 are both rated IP67 which means they are water and dust resistant (compared to the iPhone and Pixel 2 XL's IP 67).

12 - Copy.jpg

SPen

Ask any note fan and the first thing they will show you is the Note 8's ability to take notes using the SPen even when the screen is asleep. Then they will open a drawing app and show you how you can use the SPen to draw with pressure sensitive brushes.

Most iPhone users look at this and call this cute and they dismiss the pen as nothing more than a parlour trick. 

The truth is that writing on a device this size with a small pen just isn't comfortable to do for long periods of time. This isn't something you will likely do daily and this won't replace your notebook but...  the SPen is useful for specific in-field tasks.

For my day job, I sign letters (PDF) once in a while and being able to do this without having to print and scan is incredibly valuable. The SPen is also a much more precise mechanism to highlight text (compared to my chunky man-fingers). 

SPen works perfectly with Google Keep

SPen works perfectly with Google Keep

I found myself using the SPen to click on tiny touch-targets on web pages, to annotate screenshots or crop with more accuracy and to resize app windows when using 2 apps simultaneously. 

Regardless of all the negative comments made by SPen haters, the SPen is truly an indispensable feature of the Note 8. It is the defining feature of the Note 8. It is what makes the Note a Note and I now understand why. 

13 - Copy.jpg

Samsung Note 8 cameras

The Samsung Note 8 (like the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X) has a "standard" camera and a 2x telephoto lens (both 12 MP). The usefulness of the telephoto will depend on what type of pictures you take but most buyers should find this useful.

Yes, the telephoto camera is optically stabilized and the stabilization works well. In my testing, it worked as well as its main competitors. The only phone with better stabilization is the Pixel 2 with its Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) and Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS).

What about portrait mode you ask? It can create a fake depth of field effect that is adjustable post snap (aka you can change how much the background is blurred after the fact). Like the iPhoneX, this feature is driven by software and the performance is hit or miss. To be honest, this works as well as on an iPhone X but not as well as on a Pixel 2. The success of this feature will depend on appropriate lighting, the background and foreground, etc. 

20171117_113735 - Copy.jpg
Capture.PNG

Samsung calls it primary camera a wide angle but it only has a 77-degree field of view which wouldn't really make it a wide angle. For comparison, the LG V30's primary camera has a 71-degree field of view, while it's wide angle has a 120-degree field of view. 

How does the Samsung Note 8 camera compare to the iPhoneX? 

Most iPhone users expect a point and shoot camera that gives "good enough" pictures most of the time in automatic mode. The Samsung Note 8 will meet and exceed your expectations. The Note 8 camera will allow you to take pictures from sunrise to sunset, whether it is sunny or raining (since it is water resistant).  

The Samsung Note 8 camera won’t let you down. It is a beautiful combination of speed, reliability and performance.

 

The camera is good but not as good as the Pixel 2. 

The battery?

Die-hard Note fans love the line-up because the Note always pushed the technology boundaries. It meant Note users always had the best, biggest and flashiest toys to play with. This has always included the battery.

We all remember the issues with the Note 7 battery and looks like Samsung has taken the safe route by using a 3300 mAh battery in the Samsung Note 8. 

I have spoken to a dozen Note fan readers and every single one of them complained that the Note 8 felt like Samsung was "playing it safe" and this isn't why they became Note fans. Remember that the cheaper Samsung Galaxy 8 comes with a 3500mAh battery.

Samsung's official position is that the smaller battery was required because of a lack of space (due to the dual camera system and the SPen slot). 

To help alleviate the pain of a smaller battery, Samsung has efficient hardware and purpose-built software to help conserve power (where possible). In my 2 weeks of testing, the phone got through average days just fine but died when I was travelling (spotty reception and more media consumption). Either the battery should have been slightly bigger or their battery conservation model should have been more aggressive. 

If you need to juice up, you can use the built-in QuickCharge 2 or wireless charging now found in most coffee shops. Again I felt like the fast charging was good but not great. The Huawei Mate 10 Pro, Pixel 2 XL and OnePlus 5 all out-charge the Note 8. Why didn't Samsung go with QuickCharge 3? On a positive note, if you own a USBC PD charger (like the one that comes with the Pixel 2 or the Pixelbook), you will be able to fast charge the Note 8. This was a wonderful surprise.

Samsung does offer fast wireless charging but it costs $125CAD which seems a bit too rich for me, considering you have to buy a couple to make it really work (bedroom, office, kitchen, etc).

What about the fingerprint scanner?

The fingerprint scanner is located in the back next to the camera. This is a horrible location because:

  • it is not in a location where my finger naturally goes
  • I keep smudging the camera lens when my finger misses the scanner

The alternative is to use the "as secure" Iris scanner. The Iris scanner is wonderful when it works, but frustrating when it doesn't (e.g. outdoors under bright sunlight). 

Nothing more to say here.

The display

The display on the Note 8 is a thing of beauty and easily the best display on any smartphone (iPhoneX included). Its 6.3-inch display is bright, clean, clear and easy on the eyes. The Samsung Infinity Display stretches from one edge of the phone to the other. 

With all the Pixel 2 XL screen issues, it is refreshing to see Samsung release AMOLED screens that are so beautiful. Videos look crisp. Pictures look amazing. Web pages are easy to read.

The screen is everything you expect from the leader in screen manufacturing. The screen is bright, punchy and the size means you are drawn to whatever content you are consuming.

Phone calls

tempFileForShare_20171117-124443.jpg

My house is notoriously bad for cell phone reception and compared to other Android devices, the Note performed extremely well. checking cell phone signal strengh, the Note 8 consistently had a stronger signal and calls worked everytime. 

Call sound quality was excellent. The little dinky speaker did the best it could do but I wouldn't use this for multi-person conference calls using it as speakerphone. The phone supports the latest bluetooth 5 wireless technology so you can always pickup a fancy pair of wireless headphones or use wired headphones with its built in 3.5mm headphone jack. But bluetooth 5 isn't turned on yet. We expect this switch to happen with Android 8 (Oreo).

Bixby

I hate Bixby.I hate Bixby. I hate Bixby. I hate Bixby with a passion. I never wanted to use it but did press on the dedicated Bixby button a couple of times by mistake. With the latest updates Samsung will allow you to turn off the button but I would like to remap it for Google Assistant and I can't. 

Conclusion

I went into this review not knowing what to expect. Would this be a suitable replacement for a user switching from an iPhone to Android? Is this device worth the $1,000 price?

The Note 8 doesn't feel like a device built for geeks pushing the technology envelope. It just doesn't. The rowdy teenager has now grown up into a mature adult and more people want to be it's friend now. By becoming more mainstream, the target audience for the Note has grown significantly. In the last 2 weeks, I met grandmothers and other "normal" people that love their Note devices. Normies now love the Note because it is less jarring.

If you don't need the extra 2GB of RAM, the telephoto camera and the pen, the S8 Plus is a fantastic buy. But don't be too quick to dismiss the Note 8. Yes it isn't as special as it once was but it is a wonderful device.

My one major issue is the software. Android 8 (Oreo) has been out for 6+ months now, other smaller Android makers have already released their phone updates to it, but Samsung hasn't given us a release date yet. How can their 2017 flagship phone still not have Oreo? Additionally their custom launcher has dramatically improved but I still want the option to have a "stock" Pixel like launcher (similar to what Motorola does). These two issues may be what makes me switch back to a Google device next time. 

Do you need a dual-SIM smartphone?

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
sim-card-1645646_1920.jpg

Do I need a dual-sim phone? The answer is probably not. Most people sign a carrier contract and live with that service for two years. 


There is a small niche group that could benefit from a dual-SIM phone, and this is an article for them. Who are these mythical "special" people:

  • users with a personal and professional mobile phone line that want to carry one phone
  • users that travel often and want to use a low-cost SIM in their destination
  • users that live in regions were carriers aren't national providers, and "good" coverage requires service from 2 providers (much of Asia)
  • users that can find low cost unlimited data-only SIM and want another SIM for voice calls and text messaging, 

Not all dual SIM phones are created equal. 

Categories of dual sim phones

Passive dual-sim phones

Passive dual-SIM phones can only use one of the SIM cards at a time which means the user can switch between SIMs using software or a physical switch. 

Standy dual sim phones

Standby dual sim phones (often with the MediaTek chipset) use both SIMs using time multiplexing. Anytime you start using one of the sims (to make a call, send a message or use data), the other SIM is ignored. If someone calls the second sim when the first one is "active", the caller would receive a busy signal.

Active dial sim phones

Active dual-sim phones are capable of using both sims simultaneously and typically have to IMEIs since the phones come equipped with two radios. 

and we continue...

Because things weren't complicated enough, there is also the concept of unequal connectors. Some phones will be passive or active dual sim but may only be able to support full speed 4G on the primary SIM while slowing down to 3G/2G for the second sim.

Some buys mistakenly assume you can leverage both SIMs simultaneously for doubly fast data connectivity. This simply isn't the case. Dual sim capable phones do not perform network bonding to allow dual network stream aggregation. 

When I upgraded my daily drive smartphone, I switched from an iPhone 6s Plus to a Note 8 dual sim. When not travelling, the second slot hosts my SD card, but when I travel, I will load my KnowRoaming SIM. 

I know several account executives that use dual sim phones (one with their personal sim and the other with their work one). This means they can carry one device yet send/receive messages from either. Even in Canada, I know people that use dual sim phones with low-cost fringe providers. They use these providers when in their home zone for cheap service but switch to a pay as you go national carrier when outside of their "home" coverage area.

My Note 8 SIM Manager

  • I can choose if both SIMs are active.
  • I can choose which service to use with which SIM by default (calls, texts, mobile data).
  • I can even ask the phone to confirm which SIM card to use before each call.
Screenshot_20171209-143213.jpg

Another important consideration

With carriers that support VoLTE (Voice over LTE) or VoWIFI (Voice over WIFI), this functionality is typically only supported on the primary SIM slot. Don't expect both to support VoLTE and VoWIFI. 

Where do I buy a dual sim phone?

Most North American phone models do not come in dual sim versions. The most common way to buy a dual sim phone is either from an importer or you have to import one from a region that sells these devices.

My 128GB dual sim Note 8 was imported from Hong Kong by a Montreal based smartphone importer called PDA Plaza (this is not an ad and is not a sponsored post). I was able to buy my dual sim phone cheaper than what I would have paid locally from Samsung, Bestbuy or my carrier.

There are many options to choose from including Samsung, LG, Asus, OnePlus, etc. Just make sure you check the specifications and ensure the device supports the dual sim model you are looking for.

Examples

Asus Zenphone 5

Screenshot 2017-12-09 at 2.47.49 PM.png

OnePlus 5T

Screenshot 2017-12-09 at 2.49.30 PM.png

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Screenshot 2017-12-09 at 2.51.41 PM.png

Xiamo Red Mi dual sim

Screenshot 2017-12-09 at 2.53.39 PM.png

OnePlus 5T: The good and the bad

Review, GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
smartphone-1445448_1920.jpg

There are hundreds of reviews on the internet explaining the specifications and showing performance tests. I won't rehash any of that information. Instead, I will provide my personal opinion on the phone. My opinion is based on a short usage window thanks to a friend that lent me the device.

This will be a short, easy to read  review that can help you make a purchasing decision (if you are on the fence).

The OnePlus 5T Screen

The OnePlus 5T moved to an 18:9 (tall and narrow display). I like this format of a screen. It gives you a tone of real estate when browsing the web yet remains easy to hold. Many have complained that it is "only" a 1080p panel but to be honest, that isn't an issue (as long as you are not using it for Virtual Reality). In most cases, at arms length, the display is clean, rendering is sharp and the colours pop. 

By using a 1080p (instead of QuadHD like the Samsung Galaxy Note8/S8, LG V30, Pixel2 XL), this screen is very battery efficient. 

Additionally, the viewing angles are excellent and there is no tinting or colour shifting when looking at it from an angle. 

For those new to the OnePlus game, I also want to note that the OnePlus 5T ships with a screen protector already applied. 

The OnePlus 5T Design

Remember that this is an iterative change (going from the OnePlus 5 to the OnePlus 5T). The design isn't revolutionary even when compared to the iPhone 8 or the Oppo R11. The truth is that it doesn't have to be revolutionary. It is a rectangular slab of glass and metal and is easy to hold, relatively light and durable. 

The curved back makes it easier and more comfortable to hold. 

The device feels premium in the hand. It feels like a $1000 flagship phone: solid and well built. Nothing creeks or crack. 

It comes in one colour: black. 

The OnePlus 5T camera

The camera on the smartphone has become one of the most important factors in my personal purchasing decision. In good light, the OnePlus 5T (like its older brother the OnePlus 5) takes fantastic pictures. In good light, pictures taken with the main camera a sharp, crisp with vibrant eye-pleasing colours. 

The OnePlus 5T got rid of the telephoto lens and replaced it with a higher megapixel sensor (same aperture) supposedly to take better pictures in low light conditions. This is were I found the OnePlus 5T sorely lacking. Low light pictures were soft and grainy (compared to an iPhone 8 or Note 8). I think OnePlus should have gone the LG V30 route and made the second sensor an ultra-wide one). I really think that is the route they will take next year with the OnePlus 6. 

OnePlus has said they will release software updates to improve the camera performance in low light but there is a hardware limitation. Going for a lower megapixel sensor with bigger pixels would have yielded better results.

The OnePlus 5T uses Electronic image stabilization instead of Optical Image Stabilization (which is mechanical). In my video tests, the EIS performed relatively well in most lighting conditions but I still find OIS better. EIS requires the video size to be cut a bit. 

Coming back to reality, the picture and video quality in regular everyday use will be great especially when you consider this is a $500 phone. 

OnePlus 5T Fingerprint reader

The bigger screen means OnePlus had to relocate the fingerprint sensor to the back. It is well located in a spot where your fingers will naturally go (unlike the horribly placed sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8 Plus/Note 8). The sensor on the back is super fast (faster than my Samsung Note 8).

The fingerprint scanner also supports gestures (e.g. swiping down to open the notification shade). 

They have also implemented a basic face unlocking feature which uses 100+ features to "authenticate" you and unlock the phone. It is crazy fast. I cannot explain how fast it is (think instant). 

The OnePlus 5T face unlock feature is not as secure as the fingerprint scanner or FaceID on the iPhone X. IT is good enought for everyday use for most people. You can enable (and should) the face unlock and  fingerprint scanning features. Face unlock uses a picture of your face (no Infrared blaster or reader) so it will not work in dark situations.

OnePlus 5T's Oxygen OS

Until I moved to a Note 8, all of my Android devices have been stock or near Stock (original Motorola, Nexus, Pixel 1 devices). Oxygen OS is not stock but it is as close to stock as you are going to get. 

Oxygen OS feels like using Android on a  Pixel 2 XL with some small improvement modifications. This near stock version means the experience is buttery smooth, no noticeable lags and it even helps with battery life. 

Things they have kept

Cool features I have liked from the OnePlus 5 they kept in the OnePlus 5T include:

  • Dash charging. Dash charging moves the charge control circuitry to the charger (instead of the phone) thus keeping the phone cooler and allowing for faster more efficient charging. In my testing, Dash charging has turned out to be the fastest charging available on any android phone but does require proprietary chargers and cables. 
  • Headphone jack: Without jumping into the headphone jack controversy, jacks are better. I love Bluetooth headphones but there are times when wired is better and cheaper. I love that they decided to keep it. 

Conclusion

Unless photography or virtual reality are your main smartphone decision drivers, this is now the phone to beat. As I write this, my top 3 Android smartphones for 2017 (in order) are:

  1. Samsung Note 8
  2. Google Pixel 2 XL (because of all the issues the phone still has otherwise would have been my #1)
  3. OnePlus 5T

Note that the OnePlus is a top contender in performance at a mid-level price. If you need a casual photo shooter and don't use VR (GearVR or Google Daydream), then the OnePlus 5T is THE number 1 phone of 2017.