Founded on December 16, 2013, by former Oppo vice-president Pete Lau and Carl Pei, OnePlus is an extremely young company when compared to more established players like Samsung and Huawei. That said, the company has had tremendous success in its five years of life and saw over $1.4 billion in revenue for 2017.
Most of that success is due to how relatively affordable its smartphones are. From the beginning, the company believed that companies should not sacrifice quality for lower-priced devices. That credo is how the “Never Settle” slogan came to be.
Fast forward to 2018, and OnePlus’ “Never Settle” slogan is as strong as ever with the OnePlus 6T. The company’s latest smartphone has been its most successful due to the combination of flagship specs, a price that doesn’t make your wallet hate you, plenty of social media buzz, and its partnership with T-Mobile.
The first three aforementioned factors have worked very well for OnePlus as a whole. Let’s take a look at whether those factors played roles in five important moments in OnePlus’ history (spoiler: they mostly do).
The OnePlus One
You can’t talk about OnePlus without bringing up the product that put the company in the limelight. The reason it successfully got its foot in the very large door that is the smartphone market. The reason why we still cough when we see
We’re talking about the OnePlus One.
This was it: the $299 smartphone that would be the envy of the smartphone market. The smartphone that would shake things up. The smartphone that would make phone manufacturers rethink their business strategies. The smartphone that would validate OnePlus’ “Never Settle” slogan.
To an extent, it did.
The OnePlus One certainly had the specs to walk the walk. It featured a 5.46-inch IPS display with Full HD resolution, a 13-megapixel rear camera, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 3,100mAh battery, and a OnePlus One-exclusive version of CyanogenMod based on Android 4.4.4 KitKat.
The OnePlus One also had the price to back up the big talk. You could get the 16GB version for $299, while the 64GB version went for $349. These prices were unheard of for a phone with the specs above.
The Nexus 5 was the only other smartphone that could touch the OnePlus One when it came to the price-to-specs ratio.
The OnePlus One wasn’t immune to issues, though. The phone initially suffered from very low call volume before an update eventually rectified the problem. The OnePlus One also lacked expandable storage, didn’t have the best signal reception, and had some touchscreen issues.
Worst of all, the company’s invite system was universally panned and made it very difficult to get the phone.
That said, KnowYourMobile said it best: the OnePlus One was the beginning of something special. The phone struck a chord with people and sold over one million units by the end of 2014. The OnePlus One also helped to generate $300 million in revenue by the end of 2014.
By all accounts, the OnePlus One was a rousing success for the young company.
The phone didn’t prevent pricier smartphones like the Galaxy Note 4 from also performing well. That said, the OnePlus One arguably kickstarted the conversation of whether we’re spending too much on smartphones.
It’s a conversation that we still have today, even when OnePlus continually falls victim to subtle price creep with each smartphone release.
Cyanogen and the birth of OxygenOS
Have you ever been in a relationship that ended and realized you were better off without your significant other? That’s probably how OnePlus felt after its partnership with Cyanogen Inc. crumbled.
It seemed like a great partnership, especially for Android tinkerers. There would finally be a flagship-level smartphone without the flagship-level price that would officially support the most popular Android ROM at the time.
The problem was that Cyanogen blindsided OnePlus when it announced an exclusive deal with Indian manufacturer Micromax. The agreement prevented other companies from using Cyanogen OS on their devices and eventually led to the OnePlus One being banned in India.
From that point onward, OnePlus’ relationship with Cyanogen was never the same. The bad blood between both companies only worsened over time and resulted in the partnership ending in April 2015.
Here’s the thing: the split might have been one of the best things to happen to OnePlus.
Then-Cyanogen CEO Kirk McMaster had some disparaging remarks toward OnePlus and said OnePlus “built their brand on the back of Cyanogen.” McMaster also said that “without Cyanogen, OnePlus would have sold like one device in international markets.”
Unfortunately for McMaster, Cyanogen as a company would soon fall apart. Cyanogen’s attempt to make money off of CyanogenMod failed as most phone manufacturers chose their own Android skins instead of Cyanogen OS.
As a result, Cyanogen laid off approximately 30 of its 106 employees in July 2016. Just three months later, McMaster stepped down as CEO. In November 2016, Cyanogen severed ties with CyanogenMod founder Steve Kondik.
None of these changes prevented Cyanogen from shutting down CyanogenMod and all other services in December 2016.
Since its debut later in 2015, OxygenOS has been consistently touted as one of the best and fastest Android skins around. It also helps that OxygenOS allows for a level of customizability not usually seen from phone manufacturers’ Android skins.
We can only assume that OnePlus learned some hard and humbling lessons with its partnership with Cyanogen. Here were two companies that looked to establish themselves as fast as possible, had very outspoken executives, and were stubborn with their respective visions.
The difference is that Cyanogen crumbled while OnePlus blossomed.
The OnePlus 3
Even though the OnePlus 2 was a good phone, OnePlus’ sophomore effort was ultimately seen as a disappointment. NFC was nowhere to be seen, the fingerprint sensor needed an update to work properly, and the included USB Type-C cable didn’t follow the standard’s rules for delivering power.
It also didn’t help that the OnePlus 2’s invite system was even worse than the OnePlus One’s. From a slow invite rollout to delayed orders, the OnePlus 2’s launch was so poor that OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei apologized in the company’s forums.
Much was riding on the OnePlus 3. Its direct predecessor was a disappointing follow-up to the OnePlus One. It would be the first OnePlus smartphone that does away with the flawed invite system. OnePlus’ reputation was partially in the gutter.
OnePlus needed a positive and successful launch. Luckily for OnePlus, the OnePlus 3 delivered the goods.
The phone featured the expected flagship specs of the time. The phone also featured other niceties such as NFC, an AMOLED display, Dash Charge, a fingerprint scanner, and an all-aluminum build.
By most accounts, the OnePlus 3 easily lived up to its “flagship killer” billing. It had some RAM issues at launch and some saw the OnePlus 3 as a “safe” smartphone. That said, perhaps a safe smartphone is what OnePlus wanted after the OnePlus 2’s forward-facing features fell flat.
In my opinion, the OnePlus 3 was more than a flagship killer — it also represented OnePlus’ budding maturity as a company. No more awkward promotions. No more stupid invite system. OnePlus let the OnePlus 3 do most of the talking and took a backseat to the phone’s capabilities.
The “Software Maintenance Schedule”
When it comes to software updates, OnePlus was scattershot. Even though the OnePlus One’s Cyanogen OS went up to Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, the phone also supported OxygenOS. Weirdly, the latest version of OxygenOS for the OnePlus One was based on Android 5.1.1 Lollipop.
Things got even weirder with the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X, since both phones only got one major Android platform update. For the OnePlus 2, it was presumably due to the convergence of the HydrogenOS and OxygenOS software teams. For the OnePlus X, the blame fell on the Snapdragon 801.
The software update situation smoothed itself over a bit with subsequent releases. That said, people were still in the dark about when they could expect updates to arrive. With Google, you knew that your phone would get monthly updates. You didn’t get a similar assurance with OnePlus smartphones.
That changed in June 2018, when OnePlus unveiled its Software Maintenance Schedule. According to the schedule, OnePlus will issue two years of bi-monthly software updates and three years of bi-monthly security patches to its smartphones.
Software updates include Android platform updates and new features to OxygenOS. The schedule applies to future OnePlus phone releases as well as OnePlus smartphones as far back as the OnePlus 3.
OnePlus’ update felt like a lighthouse’s light piercing the darkness of the coastline. Current and potential OnePlus users finally know how and when updates would arrive to their phones. That is a luxury that only folks with Google phones have.
The schedule not only gives users clear information, but it allows users to keep OnePlus accountable. It also gives OnePlus a leg-up over most other phone manufacturers, since it’s rare to see an Android update schedule laid out in this manner.
OnePlus’ 5G future
This is cheating a bit since it hasn’t happened yet, but hear me out.
OnePlus made a big splash this month when it announced it would be one of the first to offer a Snapdragon 855 device. The company also revealed it would launch one of the first 5G smartphones in 2019.
When OnePlus made the announcement, CEO Pete Lau said the 5G smartphone could cost $200 to $300 more than its other smartphones. When you consider that the OnePlus 6T’s cheapest variant costs $549, we could be looking at a smartphone that costs at least $749.
As far as OnePlus smartphones are concerned, that is expensive. Even so, the OnePlus 5G phone could be one of the cheapest ways to test out the newest generation of mobile networks. OnePlus could potentially capture a tremendous amount of mindshare when it comes to 5G.
OnePlus is also saying the right things in regards to the price. The company doesn’t expect to sell its 5G smartphone in huge quantities. Instead, OnePlus sees its 5G smartphone as a learning experience for its engineering and product development teams.
That sounds like a company that has a good head on its shoulders if you ask me. But as all we’ve heard thus far are future-looking statements, things might change by the time the OnePlus 7 (and possibly the OnePlus 7T) are launched next year.
That said, OnePlus wants to be one of the first and learn as much as possible about 5G. That could become a huge benefit down the road as 5G increases in usage and availability.
OnePlus has its fair share of blunders, this we know. There’s the dreaded invite system, the weird promotions, and the security issues from late 2017 into early 2018.
That said, OnePlus also has its fair share of bright moments. There are some we didn’t even touch on, such as the shift to two smartphone releases a year and the OnePlus 6T being the first OnePlus phone offered through a U.S. carrier (T-Mobile).
If you feel like we missed other bright moments, let us know in the comments below!
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