With the same starting price as its predecessor and a nice list of improvements, the OnePlus 6T is a great buy for a number of reasons. But for many Android users, the main selling point for the latest OnePlus flagship is how easy it will be to root and mod the device.
We just finished ranking the best phones for rooting and modding, and the OnePlus 6T came out on top as the clear winner. There are several reasons for this — most notably, an easily unlockable bootloader and top-notch development support — but I'll explain the key areas where the 6T excels for modding below.
Aside from the occasional exploit, the only reliable way to root a phone is by unlocking the bootloader. This allows you to flash custom firmware images like TWRP, which in turn lets you flash root files like Magisk in just a few taps.
Most phones these days don't have unlockable bootloaders. Even if they do, they'll use an unlock code system to make sure the OEM knows you've modded your phone's firmware — in other words, you give your IMEI to the manufacturer, they put it on a list of devices that are known to have been "tampered" with, then they'll email you a code that lets you unlock your bootloader.
The new T-Mobile variant of the OnePlus 6T uses an unlock code system, but not the SIM-unlocked variant that you can buy directly from OnePlus. That version lets you unlock the bootloader by enabling a setting, then booting into Bootloader mode and sending the "fastboot flashing unlock" command — it's really that simple.
With the unlock code system, the phone's manufacturer knows when you've unlocked your bootloader. Even though OnePlus is using this system on their T-Mobile variants to pacify the first US carrier to sell their phone in stores, they will still honor the device's warranty if it's been unlocked.
In fact, rooting doesn't even void the warranty on OnePlus devices. The only limitation is that software defects caused by rooting will not be considered in warranty claims, but that's perfectly reasonable — after all, if you break your phone's software, it should be on you to fix it.
Root isn't very fun unless there are plenty of root-level tweaks that work with your particular phone model. Custom kernels, custom ROMs, flashable ZIPs, Magisk modules ... if a phone doesn't have many of these, it doesn't really matter how easy it is to root in the first place.
Thankfully, the OnePlus 6T will have the most active root development scene of any device. This is a foregone conclusion at this point — after years of previous OnePlus phones having the best selection of root mods, there's no doubt the 6T will follow suit. For instance, the OnePlus 6 currently has fifteen unique, non-stock custom ROMs available to it, nine separate custom kernels, and a host of OxygenOS-specific Magisk modules.
There are two major reasons you might need your phone's official firmware images when rooting and modding. First, if you soft-brick the device, you'll need to reflash the stock images to get things back in order. Secondly, since rooting typically prevents OTA updates, manually flashing the firmware files is the easiest way to get the latest Android version after you've rooted.
The OnePlus 6T has you covered in both of these scenarios. Unlike other phones that will leave you scouring third-party sites to find the stock firmware, OnePlus hosts the factory images for all its phones on an official website. This includes OTA updates as well as the base factory images packages, which you can flash to get things up and running even if you've completely corrupted the entire OS.
Overall, if you plan on rooting your next phone, the OnePlus 6T can't be beat. It was designed with rooters in mind, and even aside from that, it's the best bang-for-your-buck phone, period. You can't get this impressive list of specs and features for under $600 anywhere else, that's for sure.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' annual Tweaks & Hacks Celebration week. Read all of the Tweaks & Hacks Celebration stories.