There's a single OnePlus 5 version for the whole world

OnePlus dual SIM
OnePlus dual SIM (Image credit: Android Central)

The OnePlus 5 is here, and it's a pretty great device in a lot of ways. But in terms of network connectivity, it breaks down interesting new ground, and finds itself among a select few devices that takes advantage of some of the Snapdragon 835's latest advances.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the device that is available to purchase right now.

Every model comes unlocked out of the box

Like all previous OnePlus devices, the OnePlus 5 comes unlocked out of the box. This means that as long as it supports a particular network, you'll be able to put in your SIM card and it will just work. If the network is really obscure, you may have to enter the APN information manually, but those are edge cases and shouldn't apply to the vast majority of users.

What is an APN and how do you change it?

It's dual-SIM

The OnePlus 5 has two SIM slots, which for many Americans will be an unusual inclusion but for millions of others it will be essential. Both SIM cards can operate at 4G LTE speeds which is nice, and Android can dynamically switch between them if necessary. Flexibility FTW!

There's only one version for the entire world

This is really neat. The OnePlus 5 is only being released in one version for the entire world, which means that the version sold to Americans is physically the same hardware as the one sold in China, India and South Africa. This is a big deal. Last year's OnePlus 3T had two distinct versions for the U.S. and Europe/Asia, and the LTE bands were largely not compatible between the two regions, which made it difficult to roam.

Now, the OnePlus 5 has 34 distinct cellular bands, covering at least one band in every country — in one piece of hardware. That's pretty impressive.

It's only meant to work on AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.

The OnePlus 5 may have 34 distinct cellular bands, but none of them form explicit compatibility with Verizon or Sprint in the U.S. Instead, the phone has been developed with AT&T and T-Mobile users in mind, and it will work flawlessly out of the box with both of them.

It has even been optimized for T-Mobile's Advanced Calling features, including VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and VoWiFi (Voice of Wi-Fi), which are configured and enabled out of the box. Just pop in a T-Mobile SIM and it should work.

So no Verizon compatibility?

Nope. It may look that way because the phone technically supports one of Verizon's legacy CDMA frequencies and a handful of its LTE bands, but OnePlus has no intention of ever officially supporting Verizon.

Turn a bunch of technical jargon into English for me

From a network perspective, the OnePlus is more about efficiency than speed.

Sure! The OnePlus 5 supports download speeds of 600Mbps and upload speeds of 150Mbps thanks to the use of 3x carrier aggregation, 256QAM and 2x2 MIMO.

Let's break things down: carrier aggregation is the combination of three separate "channels" of airwaves into a single stream of data. It forms the foundation of the LTE-Advance standard, and makes it possible for phones to come close to those "gigabit" speeds that we've seen in recent marketing.

256QAM is the modulation, or shape, the data forms. Think of it as a ones and zeroes packed really tightly together into a box; the more tightly packed the data, the more information the box can store.

And finally, 2x2 MIMO indicates the number of antennas in the phone that can send and receive data at the same time. Other phones like the Galaxy S8 and HTC U11 support 4x4 MIMO, which together with 3x carrier aggregation and 256QAM can achieve download speeds of close to 1,000Mbps, or 1Gbps.

OnePlus 5 specs

Does this matter in the real world?

Will you notice a difference in download speeds between the OnePlus 5 and Galaxy S8 on the same network? Maybe, but only in artificial speed tests, since real-world usage maxes out at speeds much lower than even the OnePlus 5's theoretical maximum.

At the same time, it's unfortunate that OnePlus chose not to try to implement 4x4 MIMO, which from an engineering perspective is admittedly quite hard to do, but would have been great for its speed-focused marketing to include gigabit cellular.

What about Wi-Fi? Bluetooth?

Here there's some good news. The OnePlus 5 supports 2x2 MIMO, dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which is among the fastest you can find in a device today. It also supports the nascent Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which has no hardware support at this point, but this should future-proof the phone for when speakers, smartwatches and other gadgets beginning including the new wireless tech.

It also supports aptX and aptX HD audio codecs, which is great for those (like me) who use Bluetooth headphones and want to eke the best-possible sound quality.

Anything else cool?

Yes! The OnePlus 5 is actually the first phone from a Chinese manufacturer to support Envelope Tracking and closed-loop Antenna Tuning, two technologies that, relatively new to the industry, maintain high signal quality while keeping battery use down and prevent the dreaded "death grip" that older devices used to suffer from.

So what's the takeaway here?

The OnePlus 5 is one of the most advanced phones on the market from a network perspective, and manages to reinforce the company's strategy of simplicity by building one model for the entire world. Even Samsung and Apple, with its enormous resources, haven't managed to do that. Sure, OnePlus alienates a few networks in the process — Verizon and Sprint, in particular — but this is as worldwide a phone as it comes these days.

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

28 Comments
  • But is it compatible with all those network technologies on T-Mobile?
  • From the article:
    "It has even been optimized for T-Mobile's Advanced Calling features, including VoLTE (Voice over LTE) and VoWiFi (Voice of Wi-Fi), which are configured and enabled out of the box. Just pop in a T-Mobile SIM and it should work."
  • Sorry, I just have not clarified. I meant 256 qam download.
  • It will only do wifi calling and volte on t-mobile. 256qam requires specific software. It's been confirmed by t-mobile directly.
  • The only potentially problematic features are VoLTE and VoWiFi, the rest of T-Mobiles network ist pretty much default LTE+HSDPA, so yeah T-Mobile should not be a really huge problem.
  • I can confirm the OnePlus 3T has wifi calling on t-mobile and it works better than the Pixel or Nexus 5X. I work in a hospital basement with no cell signal so I rely on wifi calling. It more reliably re-connects to wifi calling when needed than any other phone I have used. The Pixel and in particular the Nexus 5X required me to toggle airplane mode to reconnect. The 5X was particularly bad as half the time calls would drop or the other person could not hear me.
  • The PIxel has been great with wifi calling for me. I came from an LG V10 that, considering I bought it from T-Mobile, I thought would have had great wifi calling. But the V10 dropped phone calls and often one side could not hear the other. The Pixel consistently gives me good clear calls, although it does sometimes not show wifi calling. So I'm avoiding carrier phones in the future. The OnePlus having one model worldwide is the most exciting thing I've heard about the phone. Should mean they can dedicate more support to it in the long term, something lacking with carrier phones.
  • I think more OEM need to start making LTE only phones to be compatible with Verizon.
  • I agree.
  • Remove compatibility with dozens of networks around the world in favour of including it for one in the US? Seems like a great move!
  • I remember spending years talking about VZW compatibility. Then, TMO offered a 14day test trial for VZW users.... I never went back and my new new family plan saves us $120 to what we were paying.
  • They wouldn't have to remove compatibility with other networks to add 1-2 more bands. OEM's should make 1 phone that works on every carrier. No reason in this day and age to still not have all bands in your devices. (not even talking about the CDMA bands because those are going by the wayside)
  • No one said remove anything, all they said was add the compatibility, as in, in addition to what is present. I'm also sure that you had no problem grasping that, you just wanted to be a dick from across the pond, for no reason.
  • Here is a wild idea. How about Verizon will join the rest of the world and will drop this steaming pile of poo standard they use??
  • They are in the process of killing off CDMA
  • I completely agree with you, I would love to have thid phone, but without Verizon, I just can't. I might get the S8 or S8+ now, though.
  • They don't even support all of Verizon's LTE bands. It's not just a CDMA issue.
  • I'm most impressed about there being just one model.
  • I wish more manufacturers would focus on making one model that can be used virtually anywhere. Speaking as someone who hasn't bought a "main-stream" phone in a few years, it would open the market to being able to expand user base.
  • And it would also cut down on the overheads required for support (particularly updates).
  • I still don't understand how I can be using an axon 7 on Verizon​ without it being certified by Verizon but everybody else seems to have a problem with allowing that. It's frustrating to say the least
  • Poor Verizon users, sucks to be a network where device availability is limited. Thank god for T-Mobile for upping their network game, can enjoy unlimited fast reliable data at the same time use any device I want and not stuck with useless carrier branded devices. Feel for Verizon and Sprint users.
  • I'm glad you enjoy T-mobile, where you live, but it is sub par in the PNW. It's all about priorities. Yes, I would love more choices in unlocked phones, than Motorola and Google/Nexus, but a smartphone is useless without reliable service.
  • ^^ This, absolutely ^^ I'm glad Verizon is doing away with CDMA, but it's the reason that Verizon is USUALLY better in the "sticks". Of course, it would be really easy to do away with, if the US were the size of a postage stamp.
  • "The OnePlus 5 is one of the most advanced phones on the market from a network perspective" No, it's not. It supports the same WiFi and LTE technologies as last year's smartphones like the Galaxy S7.
    Today's smartphones are noticeably more advanced, with support for WiFi ad, Gigabit LTE with better aggregation.
  • "The OnePlus 5 may have 34 distinct cellular bands, but none of them form explicit compatibility with Verizon or Sprint in the U.S."
    So ....not "the whole world ", after all.
    That bold statement of a headline needs an asterisk.
  • For sure . . heck even on AT&T an unlocked device (non-AT&T branded) will not have full feature support on the network.
  • I think you are confusing "the whole world" with "all of the networks."