The smartphone to which you should be paying the most attention to right now isn’t made by Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, or even Apple. It’s called the OnePlus One, and it will be announced next week. If you’ve never heard of OnePlus, then we’re not surprised. It’s a brand new company and the One will be its first ever smartphone release, but this isn’t going to be a half-hearted, test-the-waters launch. No, OnePlus intends to make a splash, and so far it has made all the right moves. We’re very excited about the OnePlus One, and think you should be, too. Here’s why.
It’s going to be reasonably priced
The Galaxy S5, off contract, will cost you at least $600. It’s the same story for the HTC One M8, the Xperia Z2, and most other high-end Android phones. The OnePlus One is going to be less than $400. That’s Nexus 5 money ($350), and the best thing is, the OnePlus One is technically more impressive than Google’s most recent device.
We’re very excited about the OnePlus One, and think you should be, too.
A low price is great for us, and it could help solve what we call the Nexus 5 dilemma. Because flagship Android phones are really expensive, we usually end up recommending the Nexus 5, or the Moto X when asked which phone someone should buy. Both are excellent, well-priced phones, but stand almost alone in the market. A new iPhone, HTC One, or Galaxy S will cost you at least $650, if not much more.
At $400, the OnePlus One is potentially another amazing phone to add to this very short list. It’s great news for anyone looking to avoid signing a contract to lower the initial cost of a new smartphone, without being forced to compromise on specs. The more phones like the OnePlus One and the Nexus 5 there are, the more overpriced the Galaxy S5 and friends will look, and that could end up bringing about exciting, industry-wide changes.
It could be faster than a Galaxy S5
How about these specs, eh? The OnePlus One will have a 5.5-inch, 1080p screen produced by Japan Display. That’s a big screen, but OnePlus has squeezed it into a device smaller than the Xperia Z1S, which has a 5-inch display. This should produce a high screen-to-body ratio, on a device with thin bezels for a super-modern look. Expect a phone that rivals the thin bezels on the LG G2.
For the processor, OnePlus has partnered with Qualcomm, and fitted the very latest (super fast) Snapdragon 801 chip inside its phone. That’s the same CPU found in the brand new Galaxy S5, the Xperia Z2, and the HTC One M8, except it’s running at 2.5GHz here, and will be assisted by 3GB of RAM. On paper, that makes the OnePlus One faster and potentially more capable than its peers.
A 13-megapixel Sony Exmor rear camera will be used on the rear of the phone (a good camera), and a 5-megapixel camera will adorn the front. It also comes with 4G LTE, a 3100mAh battery inside (bigger battery than most phones its size), a set of stereo speakers, and a choice of 16GB or 64GB of memory. In our spec-obsessed world, this ticks all the right boxes. Don’t forget, this is going to cost less than $400.
It’s going to run CyanogenMod
OnePlus is using Android on its first phone, but it’s not a plain vanilla version, or one covered with a divisive custom user interface (see: HTC One and Galaxy phones). Instead, OnePlus has partnered with CyanogenMod, which has produced a subtly tweaked version of its popular aftermarket edition of Android. The presence of CyanogenMod’s software does edge the OnePlus slightly into overly geeky territory. It’s incredibly customizable, and its installation means the OnePlus One will be an Android hacker’s dream, due to its open nature. That said, the software still provides all the usual Android benefits, and all Google’s proprietary apps can be installed separately, so no one will miss out.
The inclusion of CyanogenMod on its own is interesting, but it’s the parallels between it and OnePlus that really makes it a great match. CyanogenMod is a user-driven operating system; its many fans develop and promote the software, rather than using focus groups to tweak it, and an overblown marketing campaign to get the word out. OnePlus has adopted a similar strategy, and seems to be equally dedicated to keeping its growing army of supporters happy.
OnePlus communicates with its customers
When’s the last time Samsung asked your opinion about a future phone?
Strike that. When’s the last time any smartphone manufacturer talked to you honestly about a product it expects you to buy? We’re willing to bet it’s a pretty rare occurrence, but it has been OnePlus’ strategy right from the start. Beginning with its ambitious plan to build the best smartphone possible, it has been running a busy forum, and an equally informative Facebook page, asking what people who may buy the phone actually want.
OnePlus has communicated with its future customers from day one.
The company says that thanks to this communication, it has been able to make informed decisions about which features to include in the phone, and even where compromises have been made – for example, the battery is fixed, rather than replaceable – they’ve ensured it’s as close to what people wanted as possible (it can last well over a day).
OnePlus’ open, friendly, and inclusive discussion with existing and prospective customers makes a refreshing change in the tech world, and we’re hoping it continues long after the phone goes on sale.
A global phone for everyone
When the OnePlus One goes on sale, you’re not going to find it stacked alongside the Galaxy S5 at AT&T, Best Buy, or some other retail outlet. The OnePlus One will be sold online through the company’s own website. For some reason, there are still people who don’t want to buy smartphones this way. AmazonWireless and Google’s Nexus program is helping to alter views on this, particularly in America, and the OnePlus One may continue to push forward this important change in attitude.
When the phone is available, OnePlus will ensure the shopping site is localized, with information on which networks the phone will operate on, and the currency you purchase it in will be relevant to your location. Additionally, once ordered, the phone will be shipped from a location where additional taxes, VAT, and import duties won’t apply.
OnePlus says it’s a global company, and fully intends to have the phone on sale all around the world in the future. Initially though, it’s starting with 16 countries, and details on those were just now released. It will hit the U.K. first, followed by the United States, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, and other countries. If your country isn’t listed, there’s still hope. Even if they’re not included in the first wave, it’s likely you’ll eventually get to buy the OnePlus One online.
We’re always looking for innovation
The tech media (like us) is often harping on about innovation, or more specifically, a lack of it in the industry. Some analysts are looking for mind-blowing features, while others are waiting for their lives to be changed by some previously unheard of breakthrough. Innovation can take many forms, and by definition, can mean the introduction of new methods, in addition to new devices or ideas. The OnePlus One phone may not have a 3D interface like the upcoming Amazon phone, but the method with which it has been conceived, brought to life, and how it will eventually be sold, is suitably innovative. If for no other reason, this is enough to make us want to see OnePlus succeed.
The OnePlus One will be unveiled on April 23, 2014.
(OnePlus One sketch courtesy of BGR)