This story was originally published 2020/05/31
7:28am PDTon May 31, 2020 and last updated 2021/03/22
9:37pm PDTon Mar 22, 2021.
OxygenOS won plaudits for remaining mostly true to stock Android but has since developed more of its own personality. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even if it bears a strong resemblance to Samsung’s One UI. Despite the visual transformation, OnePlus’ skin has not only retained many of its neat little features, but some of its recent iterations have also introduced new tricks to make your life a tiny bit easier.
We’ve put together a list of our favorite features that are hidden in the various nooks and crannies of OxygenOS.
Swipe up to search apps
With hundreds of apps installed on your phone, using the search bar is by far the fastest way to open the one you want, but it’s still a multiple-step process. OnePlus takes things a step further by including a quick gesture that takes you straight to the app drawer search bar. Neat!
While swiping up to open the app drawer, hold midway for a split second, and that’s it. The keyboard automatically pops up, waiting for you to start typing in the search bar at the top. It’s enabled by default and works on older OnePlus phones as well. I cannot emphasize enough how useful and time-saving this feature is.
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 (
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.
Live Caption has been immensely helpful for those with hearing impediments or just about anybody on occasions when turning up the volume isn’t an option. Pixel phones pioneered the feature, but Google has since opened it up to other OEMs. OnePlus is one of the very few to have implemented it so far.
In your phone’s volume controls, you’ll find an additional button to turn on Live Caption whenever you need it. A live — and accurate — transcription of whatever is playing on your screen will appear in the center. It works across the device and even when the phone is muted. It’s one of those handy features that will make you wonder how you ever lived without it.
In landscape mode.
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.
Quick reply in landscape
Messaging apps, in particular, have a hard time adjusting to landscape mode, with the keyboard often taking most of the vertical space. They’re basically unusable (and kind of frustrating) that way. However, OxygenOS has a tool that you can use to have a better chatting experience when someone interrupts your YouTube video.
When you hit reply on a notification banner while in landscape mode, your OnePlus phone will open the chat thread in a mini overlay on the left. A more manageable floating keyboard appears on the right, and it gets even better if you have swipe typing enabled. This feature works as expected and is something I’d like to see on other phones as well.
OnePlus users can enable it from the Utilities section of the Settings app.
Dark mode scheduling
Dark mode on older OnePlus phones followed a cumbersome process, requiring you to manually dig deep into the Settings app to get it working. Even worse, this convoluted process would even mess up your customized theme.
Thankfully, the latest version of OxygenOS has added a much-needed and far more convenient scheduling feature. You can now either set dark mode to automatically turn on after sunset or punch in your own custom schedule. If you still want some manual control, you can easily add a toggle in the quick settings menu.
This new scheduling option is available under your phone’s display settings.
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.
OxygenOS is one jam-packed software skin that doesn’t fail to impress with all its fun little features. Beyond this short list of cherry-picked utilities, OxygenOS has a lot else going for it. If you think we’ve missed something that you strongly feel should’ve been on the list, let us know in the comments.
Even more goodies
Updated to include the swipe up gesture for searching apps, Live Caption, quick reply in landscape mode, and dark mode scheduling.
Ryne Hager and Scott Scrivens contributed to this post.