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This is the cheaper (and cooler) OnePlus 11 you wish you could buy

The OnePlus 11, in many ways, attempts to do over the shortcomings of the previous OnePlus flagships. While the OnePlus 11 feels closer to OnePlus’s once-revered form, the company’s strategy to launch flagship killers in niche markets such as India and China still keeps older OnePlus users attracted to the brand, despite its evolution in recent years. The OnePlus 11R — a $200 cheaper OnePlus 11 — is the latest phone that fits the picture that OnePlus purists long for.

OnePlus has spent the last few years facing the odds. By pivoting into the budget segment with its Nord series, OnePlus has been able to sell more units but at the cost of losing its grip on the “never settle” identity. OnePlus, which once enjoyed a cultdom for its clean software and hardware portraying parsimony, has attempted to keep fans in price-conscious markets (especially in Asia) with its R suffix series.

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Here’s why the OnePlus 11R makes for a more compelling alternative to the OnePlus 11.

Similar features, lower price

OnePlus 11R, a cheaper OnePlus 11, at the Cloud 11 event in India.
This is NOT the OnePlus 11! Tushar Mehta/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 11 and the 11R are identical on many fronts. They are aesthetically twins with nearly exact dimensions, have the same primary 50MP camera, the same 100W fast charging, ditto RAM and storage options, and (of course) the same software. The OnePlus 11R also does not relinquish the highly-treasured alert slider.

The differences between the two phones include a flat, lower-resolution display on the OnePlus 11R. The 11R also comes with a few-months-old Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip that also powers the OnePlus 10T and lacks Hasselblad color science driving the cameras on the pricier models. And there is some scope for disappointment if you are expecting a dedicated telephoto on the OnePlus 11R.

OnePlus 11 in gray and bluish-silver colr on a fabric surface
The OnePlus 11R in Sonic Black and Galactic Silver colors. Tushar Mehta/Digital Trends

You can deduce that with these two smartphones, OnePlus is targeting completely different audiences that are almost mutually exclusive. The key word is “almost.” This subset includes OnePlus users who have admired the brand since its origin and stuck to it — mostly reluctantly — against its vagrancy away from the original values of hardcore performance and killing prices.

For this group — the purists, reductivists, the real never-settlers — the OnePlus 11R is a more appetizing platter. The OnePlus 11R’s pricing translates to roughly $480, as opposed to the OnePlus 11’s $699 asking price, and the latter only presents marginal upgrades.

I say this because, in reality, human eyes don’t perceive the OnePlus 11’s 2K display and the 1.5K one on the 11R any differently. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has barely any architectural upgrades over the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Other deficits, especially the lack of Hasselblad’s camera tuning on the OnePlus 11R, are very easy to live with.

The OnePlus 11R brings back the IR blaster

IR blaster app on the OnePlus 11R held in hald.
IR Remote application on the OnePlus 11R Tushar Mehta/Digital Trends

Other than its excellent value for money, the OnePlus 11R also offers a novel (read: forgotten) feature: an IR blaster. It is a sensor that emits infrared rays and can be used to remotely control any appliance or device that has a dedicated remote control. This includes your heaters, air conditioners, remote-controlled fans, home theater systems, TVs, projectors, etc.

The feature is largely useful if you have yet to modernize your home with gadgets that talk directly to phones and smart assistants. The feature has been seen on many phones sold in China. Other Chinese brands have brought the IR blaster to phones sold globally, with Xiaomi easily outpacing others in the number of phones to feature it.

Despite being an exciting package, limitations are stopping you from buying the OnePlus 11R in the U.S. The primary one is that OnePlus is not selling the 11R officially anywhere other than select Asian markets. Even if you can grab one or get one imported through a friend, you will likely face connectivity issues owing to the lack of support for cellular bands available in the U.S.

OnePlus is keeping real value away from Americans

OnePlus 11R in gray black and silver blue colors on a white table top.
OnePlus 11R: a near identical twin of the OnePlus 11 Tushar Mehta/Digital Trends

Why is OnePlus consciously limiting a great value-for-money device to select markets? The most apparent reason is the market potential in the United States. Americans, on average, spend over 50% more on a smartphone than in price-sensitive markets like India.

OnePlus had a paltry 2% market share in the U.S. by the end of 2021. The numbers have further dwindled to 1% in the second quarter of 2022. These numbers also include OnePlus’s much cheaper Nord phones sold in the U.S. — such as the Nord N300 5G. While it’s not easy to isolate the contribution of flagship models, it’s safe to assume the only way OnePlus can make up for its (presumably) sweeping marketing spending in the U.S. is by aiming for a higher sellable value than chasing higher sales in the number of units.

It is unfortunate that results in the absence of a more economical and enormously appealing OnePlus phone from stores across the country. You may still choose OnePlus 10T if you are looking for a slightly more affordable alternative to the OnePlus 11. Alas, the compromises you will have to make compared to the OnePlus 11 will pinch you sore.

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