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Opinion: OnePlus 5 looks incredible, but the company needs to step up its software support game before I recommend it

The OnePlus 5 went official just yesterday and it looks incredible. Our own Hayato is heads-down on his review as we speak and I look forward to his thoughts on Android’s new spec beast. From my perspective, though, there’s a lot to love about this phone at a glance. But I’m wary to recommend buying one for one reason in particular…

OnePlus’ phones, traditionally, have all been pretty solid. The original OnePlus One was a groundbreaker when it came to specs vs price and, despite some missteps, the OnePlus 2 followed. Down to today, the OnePlus lineup has been a safe bet in terms of raw hardware, but there’s been a caveat: software updates.

Android is a solid OS as it is from Google, and OnePlus sees that. The company’s skin, OxygenOS, doesn’t change a ton from Google’s flavor of Android, but that hasn’t really helped the company in keeping up with software updates.

Beta updates roll out to testers on a regular basis, but the company is generally at least a few months behind on major updates. The best example for this was the OnePlus X and OnePlus 2. Both of those devices took ages to be updated from the Android Lollipop they launched with to Android Marshmallow. To be specific, the OnePlus X took almost exactly one year to be updated to Marshmallow compared to Google’s Nexus devices. The OnePlus 2 wasn’t much better either, taking over 8 months to get that same update.

It’s one thing to take a long time to push an update, but it’s a much bigger deal when phones just don’t get updates that they actually deserve. That’s another area where the OnePlus 2 is a prime example. The company was quick to promise Nougat for the OnePlus 2 after the debut of the 3, but it recently officially confirmed that it would not be getting that update after all.

Flash forward to today. The OnePlus 5 is official, and the OnePlus 3 and 3T have been discontinued. OnePlus promised last week that both of those devices would be picking up Android O when it releases, but at this point that could mean that we’ll see the update while the Android P beta is ongoing.

For less expensive smartphones, this is pretty common. Honestly, I’m fine with that for the simple reason that it’s an inexpensive device which means you can probably afford to replace it when updates cease.

The OnePlus 5 on the other hand, isn’t all that cheap. $539 is a stellar deal for the specs you’re getting, but it’s still $539. That’s no small amount of money and definitely not a price I can see a lot of people spending to upgrade to the next OnePlus device if the 5 stops getting timely updates. (Although OnePlus’ audience tends to be the savvy users that replace their phones more often than most.)

So, until OnePlus ups its game when it comes to long-term support, I can’t recommend buying a OnePlus 5. While, sure, you’ll end up waiting for updates on a Samsung or LG smartphone, more often than not it does still come, eventually. And updates matter, if not just for security, but for a phone to be a good long-term investment. Software is always evolving, and no one wants to be left out on key features that they could have had if they got a competing phone.

Where might OnePlus have a chance to prove itself? The OnePlus 3 and 3T. The company promised Android O for both and if it can actually deliver that in a timely manner, I’ll give them some major points on device support.

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