Revisiting The OnePlus 3: sRGB, Memory Management, & Moreby Brandon Chester on June 30, 2016 3:00 PM EST
As far as accuracy relative to the sRGB standard goes, the OnePlus 3 is now in a great position. The last questions that need to be answered are what the relevance of this is, and how it changes my opinion about the phone. I'll start with the question of relevance, as it has generated some interesting discussions in the time since I published my original review.
In my view, having your phone target the color space used for content on the web is an important feature. Clearly not everyone shares this view, and we're all welcome to have differing opinions on this topic. However, from an objective perspective there is no question that targeting an irrelevant color gamut which causes severe distortions to content is not a good thing. When looking at things from a more subjective point of view, the situation becomes much less clear. Many people enjoy the oversaturated colors that wide gamut displays provide when software isn't color managed. I have no issue with that, but users who want an accurate display should have the option to enable an sRGB color mode, and that was the issue with the OnePlus 3 when it launched.
What I do have to disagree with is the idea that sRGB accuracy is a niche feature. Many readers and other commentators have made that assertion since I posted my review, and OnePlus maintains that stance as well. I think people value display accuracy more than some may think, and it isn't spoken of much purely because if your display is accurate then there's no discussion to be had about it; it simply looks as it should. While this is by no means a definitive piece of evidence, it is worth noting that Apple, the company bringing in most of the profits in the smartphone market, values color accuracy quite highly across all their devices. When moving to a wider gamut they put a great deal of effort into updating their operating system to enable the use of a wider color space for designing applications and artwork, while maintaining accuracy and compatibility with older devices, and they are really the only vendor that has properly executed the transition to wide color.
Targeting a common color standard has benefits beyond simply being "accurate" relative to some arbitrary gamut. It means that what you see on one device will look the same on another device, and this means that you can rest assured that the people you share content with will see the same colors that you did. In the world of creative arts you have people who spend hours editing photos and videos, drawing artwork, and designing websites and apps. In all of these situations, someone spent a great deal of time choosing exactly the right colors to bring their content to you. I think they would all disagree with the idea that being able to view their creations as they intended is just some niche feature that isn't worth the effort. sRGB is certainly not the widest gamut, and things are finally moving away from it, but that transition needs to be handled properly. The important thing is not that everything targets sRGB, but that everything targets whatever color standard has been chosen to be used across all platforms, and for the time being that standard is sRGB whether we like it or not.
While not everyone feels that offering an sRGB mode matters, and seemingly not everyone at OnePlus feels that it matters, it is apparent that there are engineers there who do. After my review was posted they were exceptionally quick to publish an update for review units that included an sRGB mode, and as you've seen, they did an excellent job of bringing the display in line with the sRGB standard considering that there must be some degree of variance from unit to unit that prevents precise tuning. Creating, validating, and publishing updates takes considerable engineering effort, so it looks like sRGB calibration is not too niche to be worth it after all. I haven't gotten a firm answer on when this update will rolling out to every OnePlus 3, but I've heard that it should be happening quite soon.
Now for the second question: how does this change my view of the phone? I mentioned this on Twitter the other day, but with this update the OnePlus 3 has become my daily Android device, as I had originally hoped it would before the display accuracy disappointed me. OnePlus has addressed the only issue about the phone that I felt truly hampered my enjoyment of it. My original recommendation was conditional in that you needed to not really care about display accuracy for the phone to be worth buying. It's unfortunate that OnePlus can't fix the relatively low brightness or address the low effective resolution that a 5.5" 1080p PenTile display provides, but every phone has issues and these are ones that I can live with. My only other complaint about the phone now is that the video recording isn't great, but it's still functional and not a deal-breaker at all unless you record a ton of video. After this update I can safely say that if OnePlus leaves these settings as they are then the OnePlus 3 should be seriously considered by all smartphone buyers, and it's a phone that I would personally recommend based both on its technical merit and how I simply enjoy using it on a daily basis.