It was five years ago that I came across this brand called OnePlus. The OnePlus One had been around for some time then. I actually bought a used OnePlus One because it impressed me in ways no other phone had managed to. And also because since it wasn’t sold commercially, I felt I had to. You needed an invite you had to apply for, to get your hands on it. For the price tag and the spec sheet, it deserved the name it was getting “Flagship Killer“! The thing was running the Cyanogen OS on Android, which was as close to stock Android as you could get.
Just some months later, I was able to get my hands on that bloody invite to get a OnePlus 2! And I’d be dammed if you think I wasn’t getting that because its ancestor had been a great phone! For an unbeatable price, it was selling hardware that no other phone company was able to. That sandstone texture on the design was the icing on the cake. Also, Oxygen OS was even closer to Stock Android and that fingerprint sensor was something a few high-end phones could brag about back then. You could say I was in love with my OnePlus 2!
Then, they launched the OnePlus X – a sort of a toned-down version of the OnePlus 2. Sitting comfortably between the 1 and the 2, it was available without an invite, And I think that’s the point I started losing somewhat of interest because I no longer felt special. The X was a good phone, with its custom ceramic back and all the other features that made a OnePlus device, but it just wasn’t something I would wait in line for. Call it whatever you want, but it is what it is, I am not gonna lie. I also got to use the OnePlus X for a brief amount of time, but I quickly switched back to my OnePlus 2.
A year later, the smartphone game was changing. And so, OnePlus was changing its tactics too. Being quite widely sought after, it was going fully commercial now. The OnePlus 3 came out – and it disappointed me. The phone was now all metal, like most other flagships. It was more premium, but the sandstone texture I adored was gone. I actually skipped the phone. But 6 months later, the company introduced the OnePlus 3T. It had slight bumps in some departments keeping the form factor the same. And I got it, not because I was impressed or anything, but just for the heck of it. The specs were still flagship killer level albeit the prices were increasing slowly.
I have been a OnePlus enthusiast since the beginning. And even though its phones continued to impress me less and less, I bought the OnePlus 5T but swapped it for the Essential Phone later. From then on, I have not seen a reason to get another OnePlus device, even though there are all these upgrades with dual or triple cameras, on-screen fingerprints, pop-up cameras, and stuff. It’s not the Essential Phone’s doing – I actually lost that a year later, and back to my 3T I am, but because I feel like OnePlus is not the flagship killer it once used to be!
OnePlus 6 was still a good flagship phone, still retaining the flagship killer title. Then, the Xiaomi Pocophone F1 came along. For half the price of OnePlus 6, it featured a similar spec-sheet. Of course, it was nowhere comparable in terms of premium-ness, the aesthetics, and the user experience. But the term “Flagship Killer” almost went to the Pocophone…almost. It wasn’t to be because OnePlus was still killing it in terms of all other aspects. It almost meant that good phones were getting cheaper…while OnePlus phones’ prices were increasing steadily.
But as Marques Brownlee put it “It’s not that good phones are getting cheaper, cheap phones are getting better“. And that is exactly what is happening at present. You have phones in so many price ranges that it’s difficult to classify them into. There are various mid-range phones, there are semi-flagships, and even the budget category has sub-categories inside. With so many different kinds of phones, it’s obvious that phones will try to oust each other and along the lines of that. Cheap phones are providing features like good chipsets, more RAM, quad-cameras, in-display fingerprints and such.
And herein comes OnePlus predicament. The company no longer offers the jaw-dropping deals. Instead, the company has made its phones more premium and feature-rich, but at the same time, the prices are shooting upwards. And there are always other phones that for a lesser price, offer you something close. Take the Xiaomi Redmi K20 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro, for example. The OnePlus 7 Pro, is by far, the best OnePlus phone, but people are calling the K20 Pro the new flagship killer. And maybe it does deserve the title.
OnePlus, on the other hand, seems nonchalant about this development. They’re not concerned about the title. The company is still trying to be more innovative – providing a 90 Hz refresh rate, all-screen with pop-up cameras, in-display fingerprints, etc. But only that is not enough to make people choose the OnePlus 7 Pro over other flagships such as the Galaxy S10 or the Huawei P30 Pro or the Galaxy Note 10. Of course, those flagships are even more expensive, but currently, the OnePlus walks the line between premium flagship and a flagship killer – a territory not many people would want to choose.
However, it’s not only about walking that line. Because as far as consumers are concerned, OnePlus is still the hot favorite in many markets. In India, it takes its place among the top 5 premium phone brands. But you know what? OnePlus is slowly transitioning into a regular phone company. They’re following the mainstream trends like any other. Launching two different kinds of phones with a wide difference between variants, removing the headphone jack and everything… It’s not something that, as a OnePlus enthusiast, I’m happy about. And I’m guessing, neither are other enthusiasts.
Then, there’s the OnePlus 7T – which released just recently. That phone makes you question the existence of the OnePlus 7 Pro now. For a lesser price, it offers more or less, similar features, minus the bells and whistles, which many can do without, too. But OnePlus is not done yet – there’s the OnePlus 7T Pro to talk about to…and who can forget the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition? All this now makes me feel that there is nothing special about the brand anymore. Of course, all other companies are coming out with multiple variations of their phone, but I never expected this from them. Maybe, it’s just me…but there is some tension in the OnePlus Fan Community. For now, opinions are divided…
The company is expanding, though. It has established its Global R&D centers in India, where it will be working on AI, future camera developments and that beloved Oxygen OS. Also, it’s signing deals with more US carriers to make it more widespread. You can say, the company played it well – hooked the consumers with flagship killing materials and now it’s carrying on with the name.
Nevertheless, the company, while doing well for itself in terms of popularity in some regions, is losing its core competency. That flagship killer motive is not there anymore. And it is obvious that the next OnePlus flagship will come with a higher price surely. And any further increase will bring them in the territory of actual flagship prices where Apple and Samsung reign with iron fists! For what it’s worth, OnePlus is not capable of winning the fight against the Galaxy flagship lineup or Apple’s if it comes to that. But then again, the company can’t dwindle in the same place for long, nor can it now, go back to its founding days.
It’s not as cheap as it used to be. And cannot give you everything you want in a phone as the rulers do. The name OnePlus is not special anymore, it’s becoming your regular phone brand. Therefore, if it does not play it’s cards right, OnePlus’ future looks shady but not in terms of a brand. It stands to lose the most loyal of fans who were there from the beginning, and philosophically speaking, it just might lose itself!