The Flagship Killer is dead. Long live the new OnePlus

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
My initial idea for how this editorial was going to go was that it'd be discussing the negative side of OnePlus' decision not to make the affordable OnePlus 7 more widely available, and for significantly changing its course by going for a higher-tier market with the 7 Pro, somehow not being true to the community that made OnePlus a thing in the first place.

After giving it some thought, however, I'm going to make a U-turn and congratulate OnePlus for the powerful business acumen that it demonstrated with its new products.

Successful startups are destined to disappoint their most ardent followers


We all love ourselves a good startup, a company that's born out of the passion of some individuals / industry veterans, who decided they want to bring change, do something good for the community, or put some extra pressure on the established competition. OK, maybe also earn a buck or two while at it.

The point is, OnePlus is one such company: it started out by creating and releasing the first OnePlus phone at just $299 back in 2014, when normal flagships cost more than double that amount. An iPhone 6, for example, started at $650. At the time, OnePlus called its phones "flagship killers", openly marketing itself as the opposition to the status quo.

As time went by, OnePlus had to adjust to the market realities and engage in a gradual pricing increase, but that was OK for the most part, because the industry did the same. However, almost 5 years after its humble beginnings, it was starting to become apparent that OnePlus wasn't making much headway. It was still making a pretty great phone overall, still selling it at an extremely aggressive price, and still mostly known and appreciated by a loyal but undeniably small community. Any sane company would realize that under such circumstances, something has to change. The "flagship killer" strategy worked well in the beginning, but is no longer effective. No flagships were ultimately killed, except those that had nothing good to offer anyway.

If OnePlus wanted to keep growing and make any kind of progress, it had to take a risk and change its strategy. And that's exactly what it did this year with the OnePlus 7 Pro, which is both more interesting and more expensive than any OnePlus phone before it.

No matter where you're coming from, if you're successful, at some point you have to scale, not only to grow, but to remain competitive and desirable. It is around that point that a company's most loyal community may start to feel that something is changing, that its favorite company is no longer what it used to be.

Oftentimes, the community will protest against such change, calling upon the company's leadership to come to their senses and put things back in order. If you think about it, that's actually such a selfish act by community, but one that is probably to be expected.

The flagship killer formula has run its course


Remember this ad? The early OnePlus was known for edgy and controversial marketing efforts. It was fun back then, but the new OnePlus requires a more mature approach to selling its products.

It turns out OnePlus is very smart when it comes to anticipating and preventing crisis. Just in time, it has reconsidered its ideas and executed on a plan that will surely position it better for the future.

Here's the thing: OnePlus needs to make waves somehow. We're no longer impressed or surprised by the "flagship specs at half the price" formula. It doesn't get people hyped up or excited. Not only is it predictable, it's proven to be limited in its reach. The way OnePlus is going to try and make bigger waves now is by launching a model that does not rely exclusively on its low price to drive sales. Instead, the 7 Pro is positioned as a higher-end variant of the usual upgrade – a more expensive and more powerful model.

The community may cry all day long how their favorite company is now making more expensive phones, and how those who buy the more ordinary OnePlus 7 will actually not have the latest and greatest OP available, but at the end of the day, the Pro will attract a lot of attention, and mostly positive one for sure.

The 7 Pro is not just a vessel for the latest Snapdragon chipset, as previous OnePlus phones were. It's an innovative phone ready to impress consumers with curved screen edges, a mechanical pop-up selfie camera, and most importantly – a 90 Hz display. To be fully honest, the 90 Hz is probably the only technology of the three that is here to stay, as the other two are part gimmick, part temporary solution, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that OnePlus has a model that is exciting here and now, and that is no small thing for a company of its caliber.

No OnePlus 7 for the US market is a smart move


Making the 7 Pro and having that intriguing model was important, but that was only the first stage of plan. The second stage was to come up with a smart distribution plan, and here I again think OnePlus solved the puzzle very competently.

Globally, OnePlus has released the 7 Pro, and will soon release the more affordable 7. This way, the majority of its customers should be pleased, as they still have that low-cost option that will again grant them the signature OnePlus experience, with the latest high-end processor and all that, at a price that is objectively much lower than other similarly spec'd models.

OnePlus 7 Pro

OnePlus 7 Pro

Dimensions

6.4 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches

162.6 x 76 x 8.8 mm

Weight

7.27 oz (206 g)

OnePlus 7

OnePlus 7

Dimensions

6.21 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches

157.7 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm

Weight

6.42 oz (182 g)

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T

Dimensions

6.2 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches

157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm

Weight

6.53 oz (185 g)

OnePlus 7 Pro

OnePlus 7 Pro

Dimensions

6.4 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches

162.6 x 76 x 8.8 mm

Weight

7.27 oz (206 g)

OnePlus 7

OnePlus 7

Dimensions

6.21 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches

157.7 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm

Weight

6.42 oz (182 g)

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T

Dimensions

6.2 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches

157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm

Weight

6.53 oz (185 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page

OnePlus' expanding line-up of phones. For the first time ever, the company will be actively selling three different models.

In the US, however, OnePlus will only be selling the 7 Pro. Before cheap phone lovers jump in with their torches and pitchforks, we must also point out that the company will also keep selling the perfectly capable OnePlus 6T, at a slightly reduced price. So if you really want to get an Android phone that is still plenty powerful and also dirt cheap, you'll have your option.

However, being a developed and saturated market, US consumers are much more likely to reach for the 7 Pro either way. Especially given the specificity of purchasing phones through US carriers, selling the OP7 in the States would have been pointless. Well, not really pointless, but you know – OnePlus is making some moves to push you into buying the 7 Pro. The cheaper OP6T is cheap and it's there if you need it, but really, the price difference isn't that big, meaning that most people would rather go for the newer and more expensive 7 Pro instead. How is that not smart?


At the end of the day, OnePlus has staged things in such a way that everyone should be happy. Demanding customers will be getting their cutting-edge 7 Pro, value purchasers will be having options, and OnePlus will be successfully repositioning itself for the future, without causing any meaningful damage to its brand.

OnePlus is done trying to kill flagships, and done racing to the bottom. It's transformed into a more mature competitor that will try to win market through clever innovation and partnerships. Some may feel nostalgic for the old OnePlus days, but in a very real way, the company is staying true to its original promise.

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25 Comments

1. kplayon

Posts: 55; Member since: Mar 02, 2018

Could One plus meet the same problems as Huawei?

3. Boast_Rider

Posts: 535; Member since: Sep 14, 2017

Nope. Huawei got banned not because of their phones, but because of the network equipment they sell. Those routers(among other things) use closed source software, and hence can't be verified of spying on you. Android phones on the other hand are fine, since the OS is open source and pretty easy to verify and check for any kind of shady stuff happening. If OnePlus starts selling routers tomorrow though, all bets are off.

12. Fred3

Posts: 521; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

That's just the icing on the cake but the REAL reason is cause who the founder, CEO is and his history.

23. iushnt

Posts: 3097; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

EMUI is not open source.

24. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

If you really think Huawei isn't sharing its source code with telecommunication providers or security agencies, you're wrong. Huawei would do anything, including hand over source code, to make sure they are in the running for equipment on this scale.

4. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

I definitely wouldn't worry about that. OnePlus is a way smaller player than Huawei, so I doubt anyone will be bothered with them anytime soon. Plus, Huawei has way deeper (and proven) roots in the Chinese government and is also making network (including 5G) equipment, which is the bigger deal.

7. japkoslav

Posts: 1505; Member since: Feb 19, 2017

Sure they can, if they will be too much successful, they sure can appear on the blacklist as well. Don't worry, those who will issue the ban will figure the reasons why ... later.

8. User123456789

Posts: 916; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Xiaomi and BBK siblings are safe.

2. User123456789

Posts: 916; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

It was a midrange body with flagship CPU, like Pocophone. Of course price would rise when they started to put stuff other were doing already. Some people really believed other brands could sell their flagships for $450, but did not want to. Now they know it os impossible.

5. Boast_Rider

Posts: 535; Member since: Sep 14, 2017

"It was a midrange body with flagship CPU, like Pocophone." That's not true. Poco compromised on basic flagship features, like a premium body, or an OLED screen, or a decent design. OnePlus phones were noticeably upmarket compared to poco. They are more in line with Xiaomi's own mi series, which sit above poco or redmi series. I'm not saying they competed with Samsung's S line or iPhones or pixels (they didn't and they couldn't due to price).

9. User123456789

Posts: 916; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

OP6t = midrange with 845 Pocophone = low end with 845

13. Fred3

Posts: 521; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

The main reason why their prices was cheap is cause they bought the bad batches of everything but once Oneplus started to have more of a supply and demand and more money made off of their phones, so they're getting better supplies as shown with their hardware looks alot better while the Pocophone looks and feels like the old Oneplus

6. redmd

Posts: 1935; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

Asus Zenfone 6 is the new Oneplus. Definitely bang for your buck.

11. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

Yep. The Zenfone 6 is an incredible value and arguably better than the 7 pro. What I find interesting about this article is it fails to mention that nothing has really changed for Oneplus fans around the world. The 7 Pro is really a US model whilst the regular 7 is an upgrade of the 6T. Oneplus has never been officially sold in the States until recently so wtf is there to complain about?

10. CEDEOTB

Posts: 415; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

If the Pocophone F2 turns out like the Redmi K20 it'll be a hit, but Pocophone also sounds like a dumb name to be big in the US Market.

14. dumpster666

Posts: 73; Member since: Mar 07, 2019

has everyone forgotten about oneplus 7? it's still top notch and cheap as before.

15. Techsasch

Posts: 7; Member since: May 20, 2019

That's a bit silly to say if they are selling the one plus 7. Still has new features and if you don't want to buy the OnePlus 7 pro than don't . And get the never settle version and stop winging

16. Cat97

Posts: 1890; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

OnePlus will have a bad year, mark my words. They ventured to think that they are popular enough in order to be chosen for their features instead of price. Big mistake. Others will take their place immediately, look at the ZenFone 6, incredibly well-rounded and much cheaper than OnePlus 7. Plus US presence !

17. vgking9699

Posts: 194; Member since: Mar 01, 2019

Not a good idea to buy a OnePlus phone anymore , cuz now just like huawei, OnePlus could soon be banned from android and googles other software

18. Techsasch

Posts: 7; Member since: May 20, 2019

You have no idea what your talking about . They don't just randomly ban companies. Huawei had bad history in America check it before you make comments like that. OnePlus is never replace Huawei they are different they listen to their users and have great update rate and Working close with Google to ensure that stays this way. So why would Google van them ?

19. airoid

Posts: 128; Member since: Dec 13, 2016

I still have op1 in half-baked working condition. It cost $299 because it is cheap made. You get what you paid for. It got all kind of problems: low volume, touch issues, 3rd grade yellowish screen etc. It is a typical cheap-fake Chinese made.

20. superguy

Posts: 453; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

I disagree that not marketing the OP7 in the US and Canada is a smart move. It's a really dumb move. Regardless of it being a $700 phone, people were skeptical of various features - worrying they were either gimmicks or they'd suck. A lot of people questioned the pop up camera since no one ever did that. Fair enough. However, there's been a lot of pushback on things like curved screens. Ok, so many have known about what the 7 Pro was bringing to the table for a while now. For those that didn't like it, they figured they'd at least have an option in the vanilla 7. Even being a refreshed 6T, it still got a number of upgrades that made it worthwhile for anyone coming from a 6 or older. Instead, we find out that the North America gets the same old 6T, while everyone else gets the 7. So OP lowers the 6T's price $30. Big freakin' deal. Not even 5%, and you're still on last year's SoC. Meanwhile, the rest of the world gets the 7. So OP snubs North America. Now those who would have bought a 7 aren't going to buy a slightly cheaper 6T. As we can see, most have moved on to other options, looking toward Asus Zenfone 6, Redmi K20 and a few other interesting options. People who held off buying a 6T knowing the 7 was coming were sorely disappointed. A 5% discount is crap. I would have thought that if there was a glut of 6Ts out there, which clearly there is or OP wouldn't be trying to dump them on North America, I would have thought those would have went to a more price sensitive region that would be harder pressed to afford the 7. Or perhaps they were worried about NA not buying the 7 Pro otherwise, so they try to force the option with a cheaper 6T. Whatever, the reasoning, it makes no sense. I would have bought a 7 as my 6 met an unfortunate death. I could have bought a 6T awhile back without having to wait. But no, I've moved on. Instead of OP getting something from me for a 7, now they'll get nothing. So I'll vote with my wallet and look for other options.

21. mel0524

Posts: 73; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

OP OP7pro is asking too much for this flagship that lacks some of the features that they suppose to have to be called flagship! on the other hand Asus will be the new flagship killer for U.S. once is release here for $500 starting with dual sim and dedicated memory card slot! I will be all on it than OP7pro. If OP did the deal like tmobile deal last year for 50% off, if you trad-in old phones then this will be a big hit but they decided to cut that deal on tmobile network. Now I think it will be lower upgrades for OP7plus customers

22. tangbunna

Posts: 480; Member since: Sep 29, 2016

Long live Hype!

25. mel0524

Posts: 73; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Just saw and played for 10mins on this op7pro at tmobile store today, it has beautiful amoled screen but is not for all users like me. The curve screen is exactly identical as samsung s8+ / s9+ screen curvature ( that i hate ) difference is just full screen withour notch. It looks like made by samsung ( in my opinion ) I will past this op7pro until op will make flat screen without notch, that hoping is for op7T or op7T pro lol for now i will go for the real flagship killer at the moment and that us asus zenfone 6 :) with all the goodies that lack on op7pro ( but no amoled ) & no screen finger print scanner BUT with all this 1. 3.5 jack YES! 2 dual sim support w/ dedicated sd slot WOW! 3. 5000mah battery WOW! 4..flat screen I do not mind the LCD screen

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