The OnePlus 8 Pro. [credit: Ron Amadeo ]
OnePlus is staying true to its reputation of "best Android OEM" and is the first third-party manufacturer to ship a final Android 11 build to its phones. The big update started rolling out to the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro over the weekend, just 32 days after the OS hit Pixel phones. Some companies, OnePlus included, have been involved in the Android 11 beta program, but this is the first stable release outside of Pixel phones.
For OnePlus, Android 11 also brings a rev of its Android skin, and the headline inclusion is that after years of complaints, the company is finally adding an always-on display mode to its smartphones. An always-on display pretty much never turns off and always shows time and any notifications on your phone. The trick to doing this without killing the battery is that OLED displays have per-pixel lighting control (as opposed to the screen-wide backlight on an LCD), so black pixels can be turned off. With a minimal white-on-black interface, you can display important information all the time while only minimally impacting the battery.
We check our phones nearly a hundred times a day to see things like the time or notifications, and if you're sitting at a desk, an always-on display lets you do that all the time without even touching the phone. Having the most important information always available, hands-free, is something that's hard to give up once you've lived with it, and here OnePlus has finally caught up to the competition. Google, Samsung, Motorola, and LG have been shipping the feature for years, even on budget phones.