I've written about very expensive flagship phones like the Apple iPhone XS Max and the Samsung Galaxy 10+, and I've written about inexpensive phones like the Motorola Moto G7.
Where I'm seeing more action is in the space between a $400 phone and a $1,200 phone.
I've been using the OnePlus 7 Pro, the latest and nicest phone from Chinese manufacturer OnePlus.
Starting at $669, the OnePlus 7 Pro really is a flagship phone at a bargain price.
A flagship phone is one that can compete with the established flagships from Apple, Samsung and Google. It has top-of-the-line features, including some not found on any other flagship phone that are likely to be copied by the others.
The OnePlus 7 Pro has a few standout features that deserve to be highlighted - the screen, the speed and the cameras.
Fit and finish are also as good as any phone I've used.
The 7 Plus also has some great improvements under the hood in areas you'll never see, but you'll certainly notice them when you use it.
The first thing you notice about the 7 Pro is its full-screen, edge-to-edge curved-glass Amoled display that measures 6.67 inches diagonally. You'll also notice that there is no notch for the front-facing camera (more on that selfie camera below).
It has a QuadHD+ resolution of 3,120 by 1,440 pixels and, most importantly, it has a 90Hz refresh rate.
This means the 7 Pro's screen image is updated 90 times per second, as opposed to 60 times per second for every other phone.
A higher refresh rate means scrolling around on the screen is more fluid and everything you do in interacting with the screen is really snappy. The response to touch and scroll is instant and nicer than any phone I've used (including my $1,250 iPhone XS Max).
Like Samsung's latest phones, the 7 Pro's screen curves down on the sides, which gives the appearance of the screen extending to the very edge of the phone.
The image quality on the screen is absolutely gorgeous.
The display also hides the optical fingerprint sensor that appears on the screen when you need to unlock the phone. After you set up the fingerprint unlock, touch the circle on the screen and the phone unlocks in under a second.
Speed and camera
OnePlus is doing everything it can to make the 7 Pro fast.
It runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with up to 12 gigbytes of RAM and up to 256 GB of internal storage (there is no microSD card option for more storage). The graphics processor is an Adreno 640.
These are all top-line flagship speed features.
Where the 7 Pro blows past the competition is with a feature called UFS 3.0 (universal flash storage). This is the standard for your phone's interacting with its internal storage.
Think of the kind of speed difference between USB 2 and USB 3 or the difference between a regular hard drive vs. a solid state drive.
Everything the 7 Pro does internally is much faster.
The Samsung Galaxy Fold also has UFS 3.0, but it was pulled from the market, so the 7 Pro is currently the only phone with the faster system.
The OnePlus 7 Pro has three rear cameras, and the main camera has a wide-angle lens and a 48-megapixel sensor. The other cameras feature an ultra-wide-angle lens (117-degree field of view) and a 3x optical zoom.
The main camera has an aperture of f/1.6 and optical image stabilization. The telephoto camera also has portrait mode.
The 7 Pro has a mode called Nightscape 2.0 that really helps you take better pictures in very low light.
The selfie camera has a 16-megapixel sensor, and it doesn't live on the front of the phone. It pops up from the top of the phone when it's needed.
I really like the pop-up design. I don't shoot selfies that often, so I appreciate that OnePlus didn't clutter up the screen with a notch for a lens I use less than 1% of the time.
OnePlus says the pop-up camera is rated for more than 300,000 uses, which it says equates to 150 uses every day for 5.5 years.
The front camera can also be used to unlock the phone with face recognition. It worked well and was very fast.
The front camera automatically retracts if you drop the phone while the lens is extended to minimize damage from the drop.
The 7 Pro has some other nice features, such as a 4,000 mAh battery that has Warp Charge 30, which is OnePlus' fast charging from the included Warp Charger. The 30-watt charger can charge the phone from zero to 50% in just 20 minutes.
Warp charging is good, and it almost makes up for the 7 Pro not having wireless charging. I still miss my iPhone's wireless charger, but if you want to spend $500 less for a phone, there will be sacrifices.
OnePlus chose not to pay for an official IPx water and dust resistance certification. This doesn't mean the phone is not water-resistant. There are plenty of videos online showing the phone working after extended dunks and splashes. Getting the IPx certification costs money, and apparently OnePlus wants to pass those savings along to the buyer.
The company makes no promises about water resistance, so be cautious, but don't worry too much.
The 7 Pro measures 6.4 by 2.99 by 0.34 inches and weighs 6.87 ounces.
It charges and syncs with a USB 3.1 port (Type-C), and it doesn't have a headphone jack.
It is a dual-SIM phone, so you can load up two SIMs (from different companies if you like). This is nice if you like to keep your work and personal numbers separate.
The 7 Pro runs Android 9 (Pie) with an overlay called OxygenOS, which is a very clean operating system that adds a few nice features like game mode, which funnels all the processor and RAM to the game you happen to be playing. It has a built-in screen recorder, and there is also something called Zen mode that basically puts your phone in "serious do not disturb" mode for 20 minutes.
You can make emergency calls and use the camera, but that's about it.
The 7 Pro has Bluetooth 5, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and NFC, so you can use mobile pay.
Besides the phone, you get the Warp Charge 30 power adapter and USB-C cable along with a clear silicone case and a preapplied screen protector.
The OnePlus 7 Pro configurations start with 6 GB RAM and 128 GB of storage for $669.
Bumping the RAM to 8 GB and doubling the storage to 256 GB costs just $30 more ($699).
The max configuration of 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage costs $749.
You can buy straight from OnePlus or the 8 GB/256 GB ($699) model is available from T-Mobile.
The OnePlus 7 Pro is making me rethink the priorities I look for in a phone.
It has a screen that is unmatched. It has as much RAM and storage as any flagship phone. The cameras are above average, and Warp Charge is very cool.
Sure, there are features like expandable storage and wireless charging that are missing, but are those features worth $500?
Once you make the decision to not buy a $1,000-plus phone, the options open up to models like the 7 Pro, the Google Pixel 3 and 3a, the Motorola Moto G7 and a few others.
There are cheaper phones and there are more expensive phones, but the OnePlus 7 Pro is settling into a spot in the middle of the pack pricewise, but with the features to be included in any flagship conversation.
When you are researching your next phone, make sure to give the 7 Pro a good long look. I think for the price, it qualifies as a top flagship phone.
Pros: Gorgeous screen. Gobs of RAM and storage. Nice range on the three cameras. Fast charging.
Cons: No wireless charging or microSD card slot.
Bottom line: The OnePlus 7 Pro checks almost all the boxes. It's a keeper.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jim Rossman writes for The Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Visit The Dallas Morning News at www.dallasnews.com