Between Samsung’s fully loaded OneUI and the largely no-frills stock interface, OxygenOS sits right in the middle with its more judicious take on Android. OnePlus’ software skin doesn’t feel overstuffed with pointless features and manages to hit the right note — one of the reasons many of us would pick it any day over something as cluttered as MIUI. But OxygenOS still looks to be all over the place, with many of its handy tricks scattered across the Settings app, buried deep under layers of sub-sections — keeping them out of sight.
So, we thought we could look for some of the more functional of them and put together a small list to help you get started.
Screen off gestures
Gestures seem to be taking over our smartphones completely now, but OnePlus has had a thing for them long before Google did. Besides its own version of full-screen navigation gestures, OxygenOS has its much-loved Screen off gestures. The basic idea is to draw single-stroke letters on your phone screen when it’s off to take a quick action, like turning on the flashlight or directly jumping to the video recording.
You can even program it to open the app of your choice, though doing that would require you to unlock the phone before the app screen pops up. Besides these, you can also assign each of the letters to open the rear or front camera straightaway. Outside these alphabetical gestures, you get the usual double tap to wake along with some unique music controls. Drawing the pause (||), forward (>), and backward (<) icons on the shut screen will let you play/pause, skip to the next track, and back to the previous one, in that order. It’s a neat way to control music playback, and it works just as well on streaming apps like Spotify as it does local players.
Head to the Buttons & gestures section of the Settings app, and then click on Quick gestures. That’s where you’ll find the entire list of these convenient and intuitive lock screen gestures.
Having two simultaneous instances of a single app isn’t something you can enable on just any phone, or at least the process to get there isn’t particularly easy. Technically, you can use the same app on different device profiles, but that’s often too much hassle for just one or two apps. OnePlus’ OxygenOS is among the handful of mobile skins that natively support the feature, and OnePlus calls its version parallel apps. People using two SIM cards could use it to have WhatsApp accounts with both their phone numbers or run two instances of an app like Uber.
Among the apps I’ve installed on my phone, several social media and communication apps are supported, including Twitter, Telegram, Skype, WhatsApp, and others. Cab hailing services like Uber and India’s Ola are also on the list, along with a local mobile wallet Paytm. The usefulness of parallel apps could vary depending on what all apps you have on your phone, but it looks like the more popular ones are supported out of the box.
To access your custom list of supported apps, you need to hit the Utilities heading inside Settings. Once there, click on Parallel Apps. Now toggle on the app you wish to duplicate, but be cautious when you turn any of them back off: it will wipe the parallel instance’s data for good.
Experimental features—things that OnePlus is just testing out, and aren’t necessarily guaranteed to stay around forever—get to sit under the aptly named OnePlus Laboratory menu in the settings app. The company occasionally populates this section with new features, depending on the device model, so the list on your unit may not necessarily match your neighbor’s OnePlus phone’s.
Still, DC dimming is that one thing that is available nearly across the board. If you’ve ever seen your phone’s OLED screen flicker when at a lower brightness level, then you might want to toggle this setting on to prevent any eye strain. Ryne went in depth on the subject and its inner workings in this editorial. Newer phones like the OnePlus 8 also have another option to force dark mode on apps that don’t natively support it yet.
In addition to these two, Instant translation is also under development and should hit stable channels sooner than later. This feature will show you live translation (in five supported languages) while another person is speaking on a video call, which sounds like a nifty little tool to have (though we have no idea how well it will work). The OnePlus Laboratory feature is listed under the Utilities section of the Settings menu.
Scheduled power on/off
You can keep disturbances at bay during your sleeping hours is by turning on the do not disturb mode, but that still doesn’t save you from your own addiction to the never-ending Facebook feed. If you often find yourself staring at your phone’s bright screen while in bed, then you might want to schedule it to turn off at a specified time. OnePlus phones come with the feature baked in for your peace of mind, and it can even automatically turn on your device before your alarms are set to go off.
This option, too, sits inside the Utilities submenu and has an easy-to-navigate layout. You have toggles against two time pickers, one each for powering the phone off and on. Unfortunately, you can only configure hours, not days of the week.
We’ve all developed muscle memory for that one app we instinctively head for the moment we unlock our phone. You can cut down that two-step process to a single tap using Quick Launch. This feature lets you pick a small list of apps (or even app shortcuts) which you frequently use and shows them on the lock screen when you keep pressing the fingerprint reader. You can slide through the list and highlight an app, which will then open instantly.
Left & Center: Quick Launch settings, Right: Quick Launch in action
This may sound very close to Screen off gestures we discussed earlier, but Quick Launch differs in some fundamental ways. For one, the latter gets much more intricate with all your device apps and their shortcuts, letting you jump straight to an in-app function like adding a calendar entry or opening a new incognito tab in Chrome. Moreover, Quick Launch actually feels quicker than Screen off gestures, which require two presses for the same job (since the phone has to be unlocked to launch the app).
As you might’ve guessed, the feature only works on OnePlus phones with an in-display fingerprint reader, so those using older devices are out of luck. To access the option, head to Utilities in Settings and click on Quick Launch. There you can enable it and choose from a really long list of apps and shortcuts on your phone.
Many recent phones are adopting a dedicated Assistant key — an idea first widely peddled by Samsung for its Bixby voice assistant. But within days of using the button, you’ll find that it’s more annoying than helpful with all the accidental presses. If you’re one of those oddballs who would like to have a physical key to summon the Google Assistant, you can do so on your OnePlus phone using a built-in OxygenOS feature (of note: the Assistant launches by default with the power key on the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro).
Under Buttons & gestures, you’ll find a toggle that lets you hold the power key for half a second to open the voice bot. If you turn this on, the power menu will appear on a longer three-second press (again, except on OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro devices, which just let you have one or the other). Right above this option, there’s another toggle that allows you to click the lock key twice to jump straight into the camera app. It’s possible to use both these features simultaneously.
Frankly speaking, there were so many more features that could’ve made it into this list, but the title fixed the upper limit (though I still snuck an extra in with the bonus hack). You can let us know if we missed any that you strongly feel should’ve been on the list in the comments section below.
Ryne Hager and Scott Scrivens contributed to this post.