[Guide] OnePlus One Buying/Flashing Guide FAQ

You’ve seen random things around the net about the OnePlus One (OPO), you’ve read a smattering of reviews, you’ve even read my review. Even if you’re convinced that you’d like to buy one, it turns out there’s different variants with different OS’s pre-loaded and it looks like a confusing mess. On top of that, these seem impossible to get. Luckily, I’ve put together a bunch of common questions and useful links that I’ve seen around, explained in plain English.

Note that I’m just an enthusiast, I have no affiliation with any of these companies.

VERSIONS:

  • Are there different hardware versions of the OPO?

As far as I know, no, just the choice between grey/white and 16/64GB. Both the China and international versions support the same TD-LTE bands (700/1700/1800/2100/2300/2600) without Cat-6. I believe that some UK and US carriers will not work with these. Local Australian 1800mhz LTE networks (by far the most common), work perfectly well. There is a slight cosmetic difference between the China (ColorOS) version and the International (CyanogenMod) version, namely the CyanogenMod logo on the lower half of the rear backplate.

  • What are the different software versions?

There are two main variants. The China-only version, which runs ColorOS, a non-Google affiliated AOSP-based derivative. Then there’s the CyanogenMod 11S version, which is the international, Google-loaded version. It’s fairly trivial to switch between these (guide below), so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about which one you get.

BUYING:

  • How does the OPO compare to current phones?

Favourably, it uses the same processor as the current range of flagships (Galaxy S5 / HTC One M8 / LG G3), with 3GB of RAM (like the Galaxy Note 3) which helps in task switching and games. The screen sits at 401ppi, well beyond ‘Retina’ range, and physically is approximately the same size as the Galaxy Note 3. However, it’s narrower and has a curved back which makes it more wieldable. If you dislike Samsung/LG/HTC bloatware and want something simple, either this or the Nexus range is for you. The 3100mAh battery is also larger than the S5/M8, and battery life has been tremendously good. If you’re a heavy user, a day should be no problem, moderate users might get two days.

  • Is the camera any good? I like taking photos.

The camera is definitely one of the better ones in the class, using a Sony Exmor sensor with a large aperture and dual-LED flashes. More details in my review. Camera samples. It also does 4K video recording, in two different formats. It does not shoot lasers. The HDR mode needs work, this I’m sure will be fixed in a software update later. It also does time lapse, super slow motion and some other things.

  • How does the OPO compare to upcoming phones?

The Snapdragon 801 is a slight bump to the revered Snapdragon 800. It has a more powerful GPU and uses slightly less power. The upcoming Note 3 and Nexus 6 (and likely phones for the next 6 months) will likely be using the Snapdragon 805, which itself is another bump up from the 801. The big jump in processing power will come with the Snapdragon 808 or 810, which is a true 64-bit 6/8-core chip, with Cat-6 LTE, manufactured on a 20nm process, but we won’t be seeing these chips in devices till at least mid-2015. The Nexus 6 is also unlikely to receive a 64GB model, and neither it, nor the OPO, have SD slots. In short, minimal danger of being obseleted.

  • Is it waterproof?

Nope. But here’s a video of a guy dunking it in water anyway (it still works). And dropping it.

  • Is it available on contract?

No, but you shouldn’t be contract, it’s usually a terrible deal for you. I ditched my contract plan years ago and the savings are huge, even factoring in new phones more often. Who doesn’t like new toys or changing carriers on a whim?

  • How do I get one?

Either via an invite from somebody to purchase from the official OnePlus store. Each purchase then gets 3 more invites to give out. It’s a ridiculous system, but it seems to be working. Or, you can hit up Amazon or eBay. There’s probably some on your local Craigslist or Gumtree too. Do NOT overpay for these, this device was only released two months ago, and there’s been constant scarcity, so there will be scalpers galore.

FLASHING:

  • What is the third-party community like?

Very active. For one, it’s a high-end device, which tinkerers like to play with. It also has official Cyanogen support, which helps. On top of that, it uses the ubiquitous Snapdragon chip which enjoys plentiful support, rather than the somewhat sketchy Exynos. There are also minimal tacky addons like fingerprint or other sensors to worry about for modders.

  • How do I unlock the bootloader?

You need to unlock your bootloader to load different ROMs on. Don’t worry, you can relock it later. You should already have your ADB SDK tools installed, in which case, boot the phone holding Power + Vol Down to boot into fastboot. Then type ‘fastboot oem unlock’. Important note: This will wipe your phone, so either make a backup, or do this first thing after you get it.

  • How do I install a third-party recovery?

Highly recommended, as it allows you to do full-device backups, and revert if required. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff. At the moment there’s TWRP and PhilZ (based on CWM). All of them work fine, but I’ve always been a fan of TWRP. Download TWRP to your PC, then to install, from fastboot again, ‘fastboot flash recovery recovery.img’ (or whatever the current TWRP .img filename is). Reboot into recovery.

  • How do I flash a new ROM?

Download the appropriate ROM, then boot the phone into recovery mode Power + Vol Up. Copy ROM .zip to the phone’s /sdcard and then install from the menus. Or sideload it.

  • What’s the difference between CM11S and CM11?

CM11S is the ‘official’ CyanogenMod that comes with the OPO. It contains the full suite of Google closed-source apps (GMail/Maps/Youtube/etc). It’s also updated via OTA and seems to be receiving updates every 2-4 weeks from OnePlus. It contains an OPO-specific kernel, custom lockscreen, hotword detection, custom colour calibration, custom CM gallery / camera / DSP apps and it’s own icon / visual / boot theme.You can get these on the vanilla CM, see later. You can download the official CM11S ROM manually here (bottom of page).

CM11 (the vanilla version), is updated far more quickly, and you can also load the Google Apps on. New patches and updates are first incorporated into CM11, before eventually making their way to CM11S. Nearly all the CM11S-specific additions can be added to CM11, see below. Note that most of the people I’ve seen having issues with their devices (battery / GPS / multi-touch), have been using CM11S. There’s no reason NOT to be using CM11. Download link for the Snapshot (Stable) or Nightly (Testing) versions.

  • Can I jump between ROMs?

If you’re using the same ROM, flashing a new ROM over an older version is usually fine. Just clear your cache / dalvik-cache in between. Going backwards to an older version is usually not recommended. Either way, your apps/data/sdcard will be preserved. It’s not recommended to switch between ROMs, for example jumping from CM to ParanoidAndroid. There are cases where it might still work (ie. if both are closely based on AOSP, or say CM11S to CM11), but it’s generally better not to. Remember to always make a nandroid backup before doing any major changes.

  • How do I get CM11S apps on CM11?

Some kind soul has placed all the CM11S from a recent update available for download. To install the .zips, boot into recovery and flash them. To install the .apks, either copy to phone and install as normal (which installs them as user apps), or copy them to /system/app which installs them as permanent system apps on next reboot. Note that you’ll need root access. Personally, I only bother with the CM11S Camera and DSP apps, the rest is fluff or already in CM11.

  • What third-party kernels are available?

AK for serious overclocking / performance and Franco kernel, for overall improvement. I’ve found the standard CM kernel to be lacking and sometimes jittery. Franco’s kernel improves overall performance measurably (about 10-15% in benchmarks), feels more responsive, and allows for a bunch of tweaks, with his excellent app. A -50mv across the board undervolt seems to be the sweet spot, for those so inclined.

ISSUES:

  • I’m having multi-touch issues, making the keyboard or screen go crazy!

You’re probably using an older CM11S build with the older touchscreen driver. Either update to a newer CM11S, or even better, jump to the latest CM11 nightlies. They are tremendously stable and incorporate all the latest hardware patches and fixes.

  • There is a slight yellow tinge on the bottom edge of the screen on a completely white background!

There have been reports of this happening, as per many other manufacturers as well. It’s something to do with the glue used in bonding the screen together. Some people have reported leaving the phone in the sun to dry, or putting it under UV lights helps. I checked my device and it doesn’t have this issue, so I can’t vouch for these methods. My batch date is Jul 2014. If all else fails, go to Settings and tweak the warmness of the colours there.

 

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