Mobile

How one of my favorite Android phones actually changed my life

Man using OnePlus Open black color with one hand while sitting on a couch.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” I was reminded of this soul-crushing monolog while doing a rerun of Rick and Morty before diving into the latest season. These lines rattled me, not for their essence, but because they echoed with my low spirits at that moment. Lying on the couch, I curled into the blanket and watched a few more episodes.

I was watching the show on the OnePlus Open and couldn’t possibly imagine the same experience using any other phone or tablet. It’s not because the OnePlus Open is one of my favorite phones of this year (it is, but that’s not related), but because it is one of the most helpful phones with a feature-rich software experience and screen real-estate of a tiny tablet like the iPad mini.

OnePlus Open in Emerald Dusk open showing inner display flat.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The OnePlus Open has allowed me to accomplish what I previously lacked: devoting time to leisurely activities, which can be loosely translated to spending more time on the couch while binge-watching Netflix or scrolling Reels endlessly. The experience has been lowkey life-changing, allowing me to embrace instincts in me that self-proclaimed productivity experts on YouTube will instantly dismiss as procrastination and laziness, even though they are often with the intent to freshen up the mind before I dive back into my creative endeavors.

Here, let me share some examples of how the OnePlus Open has made my life easier in many ways — and I promise not to turn into a philosophical essay about existentialism.

The OnePlus Open’s hardware is top-notch

OnePlus Open black color held in hand and being used by a man wearing a blue hoodie.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

One aspect of the OnePlus Open that has been lauded repeatedly and deserves its appreciation is how well it feels in the hand. The Open is among the lightest laterally-folding phones — indeed, the lightest available in the U.S. Its weight compliments the thin profile, measuring less than 6mm (0.24 inches) when unfolded. More importantly, the OnePlus Open rarely feels unevenly weighted despite its huge camera bump.

In her OnePlus Open review, my colleague Christine praises the fact that the phone’s lightweight profile might make you reconsider folding phones if you have previously steered clear because of their heft. I say I couldn’t agree more. While small yet significant changes on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 made me like it more than the Fold 4, I only realized what I was missing when I held the OnePlus Open for the first time. Let me tell you, the feeling has only grown on me since.

The more time I spend with the OnePlus Open, the more open and comfortable I feel using it unfolded. More often than not, I tend to use the Open with just one hand — something I was never comfortable doing with the Galaxy Z Fold 5. Another factor that aids this ease of handling is the nearly square aspect ratio of the inner display. Even with the case included in the phone’s box, the phone feels tolerable (palatable, even). And this is just one of the many reasons I can’t seem to put it down.

Watching one TikTok at a time is for the weak

Three apps running side by side using multitasking features on a OnePlus Open held in hand.
Open Canvas is a boon on the OnePlus Open. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Being a foldable phone, the OnePlus Open’s target audience is pro-users who want maximum productivity when on the go. The phone justifiably offers a rich set of productivity and multitasking features, as my colleague Nadeem Sarwar extensively discussed when he deemed them even better than Samsung’s. The phone’s Open Canvas feature deserves the spotlight here as it allows three apps to run with maximized visibility. While two apps predominantly show on the screen, the third one is stashed along the edge — you can easily access the third one by tapping on it, and this nudges the first one out. However, the applications of this feature can be extended far beyond work, as I do below.

I can easily run two (or even three) full-screen games simultaneously on the screen. While that unquestionably sounds loony, I will not refrain from confessing I have been doing — and enjoying — it.

Two games running simultaneously on OnePlus Open held in hands.
Botworld (top) and Whiteout Survival running on OnePlus Open simultaneously. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

I have recently been fostering an obsession with a Clash of Clans-style real-time strategy mobile game called Whiteout Survival. The objective is to build and administrate a town around a large furnace to keep the inhabitants warm while constantly upgrading different buildings, training special troops, going on expeditions, and participating in wars — all while trying to ensure the inhabitants are healthy, well-fed, and motivated. After a certain level, upgrades take much longer, and sticking around might just not be as entertaining. Meanwhile, I have also begun harvesting robots in another game titled Botworld Adventure, which is a lot like Pokémon but with ratchety machines that do well as make-shift warriors in duel — again, like Pokemon battles.

So, while my defense is being reinforced or buildings are being upgraded in Whiteout Survival, I nudge it aside to traverse the bot universe. It’s not compulsive behavior (I promise!)

YouTube Shorts and Instagram running simultenously on OnePlus Open held in hands.
Instagram Reels (left) and YouTube Shorts side-by-side on OnePlus Open. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

If that’s not enough relaxation, you can always have half a dozen Red Bulls, run Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok side by side, and watch multiple vertically scrolling videos side-by-side. Making sense out of everything you watch is for the weak anyway!

Using the OnePlus Open without touching it

Man using OnePlus Open with air gestures while lying on a couch.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The OnePlus Open offers one of the most well-stocked versions of OnePlus’ Android skin, OxygenOS. I’ve already mentioned the productivity features, but what really helps me get the best out of my sloppy moments is Air Gestures. If the name isn’t descriptive enough, the feature lets you control the phone by waving your hand in front of it. On older OnePlus phones, Air Gestures are limited to receiving and ending calls, but the OnePlus Open gets an enhanced version of the feature.

With the Open, you can use your hands to scroll up or down on the screen. Place your knuckles facing the screen between 20 and 40cm (7.8 and 15.7 inches). Then, flick your hand open to scroll downward. You can also perform the reverse gesture to scroll up. This has allowed me to stay glued to the couch and easily scroll to the next Instagram Reel or YouTube Short. Interestingly, these gestures also work well in the low light, allowing you to doomscroll until you fall asleep.

OnePlus OxygenOS Air Gestures settings.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Why not just use my thumb to scroll instead of using Air Gestures? There are two reasons: First, it allows me to hold the phone more securely while lying sideways on a cushiony surface, like the bed or the couch. Second, why use something basic when you can be fancy? It also makes for a great trick for the holidays. Show it to your family members when you meet them for Christmas, and watch them be blown away by your wizardly skills!

A funny approach to hands-free viewing

OnePlus Open playing a video while partially open and kept on a table top.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

While using the OnePlus Open is definitely enjoyable, you might want to rest your hands and place it on a flat surface while you enjoy your content. The OnePlus Open’s hinge isn’t proficient enough to facilitate use when the phone is only half-folded. So, if you open it at an angle of 135 degrees or higher, the hinge tends to snap open. Even when it can stay bent, the phone’s weight shifts so it lies on the central rib instead of one of the back faces.

I figured out a way to use the outer screen instead while keeping the phone half-folded, i.e., in a tent-like shape, which sits easily on a flat surface. It can be activated by opening the Camera app, switching to the cover screen for a preview, and then closing the camera. This behavior isn’t intended but will let you use the outer screen even when the phone is partially or fully unfolded.

It is expected that OnePlus will add a flex mode similar to Samsung with future updates, but until it does, I am going to rely on this method to switch my preferred screen for consuming content.

Dolby Vision is a delight

OnePlus Open with Dolby Vision support on Midnight Gospel Netflix series.
Netflix series Midnight Gospel with Dolby Vision on OnePlus Open. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

One of the reasons that has prevented me from fully embracing the Galaxy Z Fold 5 as my device for unwinding is its lack of Dolby Vision support. For everyone other than those voluntarily choosing not to give a damn, Dolby Vision is an HDR codec with separate information about different parameters like brightness, contrast, and color intensity for each frame of a video instead of having a single setting for the entire video. This allows the video to appear richer and have better contrast with per-frame variations as required. For several years, Samsung has steered away from Dolby Vision and instead promoted its proprietary codec — HDR10+. While both are comparable, Dolby Vision is more widely used, especially on apps like Netflix. Therefore, content designed for Dolby Vision defaults back to the open-source (and far inferior) HDR10 codec, which makes it appear dull and unappealing.

The OnePlus Open, on the other hand, supports Dolby Vision on both the outer and the inner screen, allowing for better colors and contrast on supported content. This adds to my roster of reasons why the OnePlus Open is my desired foldable for entertainment.

A lovely reading experience

Adapative Sleep setting on OnePlus Open keeps the display lit until you are looking at it.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Not all my time spent with the OnePlus Open is with the intention of engaging the monkey brain. The handy design also makes the Open a brilliant phone for reading e-books or online editorials — and has definitely encouraged me to read more.

A feature that nurtures this habit is Adaptive Sleep, which keeps the display active even past the usual auto-screen-off timer. It uses the phone’s front camera to capture when you are looking at the phone, eliminating the need to keep tapping every few seconds to keep the phone active.

This feature isn’t unique to the OnePlus Open (or other OnePlus phones), but it has significantly enhanced my reading experience on the phone.

The OnePlus Open is something special

Hinge view of OnePlus Open foldable phone.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

In a world that easily gets fired up by Ted Talks about productivity and distilling success out of each moment awake, spending time not catering to ambitions but aimlessly squandering into the mazes of social media is seen as wasted. But our society’s crushing obsession with productivity makes extreme and detrimental conditions like burnout rampant and endemic. There is sufficient proof and documentation to back the impact of this “grindset” culture.

While I realize a lot of the experiential settings I illustrated above sound bizarre (they sure are, and I only rely on them to make this article sound satiric), I want to draw your attention to the importance of taking a break. Just as many pieces of technology keep us fixated on our aspirations, many also help us unwind and relax. For me, the OnePlus Open has been that piece of technology that has allowed me to achieve more.

Every email or task update is an opportunity to immerse back into work and toss out the elusive work-life balance, especially for remote employees like myself. The Open has facilitated a setup where I can respond to more messages and emails right from my phone instead of having to dash to my computer. It has enabled me to log my brain farts before they turn into tangible pieces of work.

The OnePlus Open has allowed me to spend more time on my couch (or any lofty surface) without the crippling guilt of being away from work and out of touch. I can safely say it has brought me closer to my more authentic self by encouraging me to read more, watch more great content, flex my fingers while playing some relaxing games, and be less cynical about the perceived perils of technology.

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Courtesy by: Digital Trends

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