OnePlus 8 VS iPhone 11
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Video review by Jaime Rivera

I love how Michael Fisher recently pointed out the reality behind the new OnePlus approach: You either die a hero, or you live long enough to become the Villain (OnePlus 8 Pro review: 8:09).

It seems the company we once called the flagship killer has decided to switch sides, and it’s not because of the OnePlus 8 Pro. I mean, that’s finally the flagship without compromise that we always asked for, so it’s up to you if you wanna pay more for it.

No, for me, the main antagonist of the story is the OnePlus 8. This phone is meant to satisfy those looking for everything OnePlus has been known for, and yet this is the first time we get the compromise without the aggressive price. At $699, we’re already talking iPhone 11 territory, which means that either OnePlus has forgotten why it’s developed such a fan base, or it might just be that it feels that its flagship killer successor is just as good, or better.

What happens when the tables are turned? Just a couple of years ago the OnePlus 6 was half the price of an iPhone X, so calling out a winner in any comparison would always be a no-brainer. In 2019, it’s as if Apple play hard ball with how aggresive it priced the iPhone 11, but even that comparison was easy because the OnePlus 7T was still $100 less expensive.

For 2020, you’d assume that this is OnePlus saying hey Apple, my OnePlus 8 is equal to your iPhone 11 given their matched price, but that’s not entirely accurate. You have to first acknowledge that these phones are anything but similar.

Hardware

They’re both made of the same aluminum and glass materials, but visually this is clearly a design from 2018 competing with a more modern product. First example: The OnePlus 8 is 14 grams lighter than the iPhone 11, and this is hard to believe since the 8 is 10mm taller, addressing the large phone frenzy of most. It’s also 3mm narrower, and a hair thinner, and this even with a larger 4300 mAh battery vs 3110. Props to OnePlus for their more efficient design.

Second is 5G. Might not be something you care about yet, but if you hold on to phones for more than a year, then you will, and the iPhone doesn’t include it. By contrast, the OnePlus 8 supports either sub6 on T-Mobile or mmWave on Verizon, and that later statement is important. See, every other phone that does high band on big red has been massive because of the extra antennas needed, and yet I think it’s safe to call the OnePlus 8 the smallest mmWave phone at the moment.

Third is the internals, but not for a chip comparison as the 865 wins certain things and the A13 Bionic wins others. What matters to you is which phone gives you more for the same money, and well, the OnePlus 8 starts at double the RAM, double the storage that’s technically faster. Bluetooth is also a newer standard, though Wi-Fi is the same. Really the iPhone only wins in its IP rating vs the OnePlus being splashproof, and and the slow wireless charing support. Saldy the OnePlus 8 has no coil, but the WarpCharge 30T adapter in the box makes the iPhone’s 5W solution look like a toy on a cracker jack box.

Then the display battle only makes matters worse for the iPhone. Sure Apple does know how to callibrate an LCD, but it’s no Fluid AMOLED. We’re talking 6.55-inches vs 6.1, 88% screen to body ratio vs 70. 1080p resolution vs some odd 828p, HDR10+ support vs none. 90hz refresh rate vs 60. More than 1000 nits of brightness vs 625. Very minor bezels vs some of the largest left. Like, sorry Apple but the OnePlus 8 is that good. (audio test) I could say the speaker quality is similar, but that’s about it. (audio test)

I think it’s really a no-brainer that the OnePlus 8 is not just superior when it comes to hardware, but also the device that gives you more for the same money.

Software

By now I know some of you are accustomed to my thoughts on comparing iOS to Android. I usually chose to leave this as a tie since it’s all a matter of taste.

I mean, there’s no such thing as a special iPhone 11 version of iOS, aside from letting you flip the screen in certain apps. It is what it is regardless of which phone you pick. Those of you looking for simplicity and consistency, I think there’s no better choice than what Apple offers. If anything I’d say I prefer Apple’s app store because in many cases, certain apps are exclusive to iOS, and those that aren’t still tend to be more complete. I mean both platforms run Microsoft Office apps, for example, but notice how iOS has far more options. 

Still, for customizability, Android is king, and Oxygen OS remains my favorite platform. With Apple it’s either you buy into gestures or a home button, where OnePlus users chan choose both. You can pick Amazon’s A assistant vs the Google Assistant any day, and having the Google assistant is far more useful than Apple’s choice for widgets at the left. And then there’s added perks like reading mode, zen mode and OnePlus gaming features.

Again not calling out a winner, but you can’t say OnePlus doesn’t offer a more complete experience.

Experience

After using the OnePlus 8 for a couple of weeks, and the iPhone 11 for months on and off, I’m gonna call the endurance battle another tie. The iPhone 11 is and has always been a media consumption king, but so has every single OnePlus phone I’ve ever tried. If anything I’ll say I’m impressed at how well the 8 handles daily tasks with all its added antennas.

It could be because I haven’t been able to test 5G during this whole COVID19 mess, but from the experience I had with the 7T Pro, I don’t expect many differences. Phone calls on both sound good as well, though I do prefer the deeper audio coming from the iPhone, even if callers couldn’t tell a difference.

Camera

Now, the battle were I felt OnePlus 8 would fail was the camera, and it would’ve been the case if I did this comparison a week ago, before the most recent software update. I was really underwhelmed with this camera on my first video, but things have changed.

Spec wise, the numbers game belongs to OnePlus. We’re not just talking about more megapixels from the primary sensor, but also a larger dye. This allows the company to crop its way into the telephoto camera it doesn’t include, while Apple can’t do any tricks for lossless zoom. They both have an ultra-wide, though OnePlus offers more megapixels, and that third sensor on the OnePlus 8 is a 2 megapixel macro that I’ll talk about soon.

As for the results, well, where do I start. This is one of those cases where during the day you will notice differences. The iPhone tends to be warmer and smoother around the edges. It’s more visually pleasing to the viewer, but I sometimes feel the OnePlus was doing a more accurate job, even if a tad oversharpened in certain cases. Both have the versatility of an ultra-wide and neither has a telephoto, but the OnePlus pulls more information out of its primary for a 2X digital crop than the iPhone.

Oh and that whole Macro lens on the OnePlus does sound like something cool to have, but the implementation is washed out and just unsuable in most cases, even if the iPhone doesn’t have the functionality at all.

Now night mode is where things get interesting. OnePlus recently pushed a software update to the 8 and it shows. It still favors avoiding grain with the Ultra-wide, but it beats the pants off the iPhone, which doesn’t even have a night mode in this setting. The iPhone 11 is just completely useless here, but then the tables turn in the primary cameras. Both phones are comparable in detail and avoiding grain, but the iPhone’s drift to warmer photos makes them more eye pleasing.

Now that warmth doesn’t always favor the iPhone, and this is most evident in portraits where at times I look far more orange than I really am, and separation of the subject is sometimes lost. The OnePlus 8 does a better job with the separation, but I’m not a fan of this odd light aura that it creates around subjects. 

I also notice some odd inconsistencies in color between the wide crop and regular crop on the iPhone 11, with the later being more true to life. I’d give this section to OnePlus if all I saw was the wide shot, but the crop photo brings a crazy amoutn of detail. Even in regular selfies I feel the iPhone does a more colorful job than OnePlus, which sometimes tends to be washed out.

That said, flip the lights out and try a low light selfie, and woaah, I never thougth the iPhone would perform this bad. OnePlus doesn’t have a selfie night mode even for portraits, but it pulls in a lot more light than the iPhone 11.

I’d call photography more a pick your poison, but it’s when we get to video that the iPhone wins. Both have the same capabilities from the primary cameras, and I can praise OnePlus for its stabilization, but Apple does a far better job at avoiding the moire you see on the palm tree, and also tha warping Android phones are notorious for. The iPhone seems like more a camcorder than a phone.

And if we flip cameras, the iPhone wins again. We have a far wider crop, far better dinamic range, and hey this is 4K video, where the OnePlus 8 is washed out, tight in the crop, and limited to 1080p. If you’re looking for a VLOGGING phone, the iPhone 11 should be your pick, where as if you’re thinking about photography, both have pros and cons and seem as good enough choices.

Conclusion

To conclude, let me start by clarifying that I walked into this thinking the iPhone 11 would win. My thought was, I know the OnePlus 8 is a better phone in so many ways, but I couldn’t forgive the lack luster camera performance I saw a week ago, and it’s not like if 5G is something people really care about right now.

Well, I’m gonna say that it’s amazing what a small software update can do, and I just received another update after I took the photos I used for this video. I mean the iPhone 11 is baked. It is what it is. I doubt that Apple is going to push any other software update that’ll add any sort of improvement we don’t already know about until iOS 14 comes to town. The OnePlus 8 is a different story. It’s still being baked, and judging by the OnePlus track record,  it’ll clearly be getting improvements before and after it reaches stores next week.

I know lots of you are die-hard Apple fans, and for you the concept of buying a phone is all about it being an iPhone, regardless of what it doesn’t have. I’d even say that if you’re planning on doing YouTube videos and are looking for a good camera alternative, I’d pick the iPhone 11 over even an S20 Ultra. Thing is, for absolutely everything else, if I had to pick just one out of these two phones, you just can’t deny that the OnePlus 8 is a better buy. Both of these phones feel like flagship killers, but the differences tip in favor of OnePlus. At the time fo this comparison, buying a OnePlus 8 almost feels like if you’re investing in the future, and not the past.

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