Is OnePlus trying to do too many things at once?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Back in 2014, when global smartphone sales were still growing at a pace only rivaled by wearables and smart speakers today, a little company called OnePlus made its market debut with a very ambitious effort to "kill" mainstream flagships by offering top-shelf features at a virtually unbeatable price point.

The OnePlus One was far from perfect (or easy to come by), the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X that came out the next year were pretty terrible, but starting with 2016's OnePlus 3, the China-based outfit gradually built up its profile, global presence, and reputation, fairly quickly transforming from a neophyte determined to prove its worth to an underdog brimming with potential and finally a force to be reckoned with on a world scale nowadays.

According to a report released by Counterpoint Research just last month, OnePlus leads India's premium market segment quite comfortably, beating out both Samsung and Apple. Another report conducted by the same firm earlier this year showed the company was vastly improving its US numbers as a logical consequence of its first-ever major carrier partnership. While those are merely two regions, they also happen to be two of the world's three largest smartphone markets.

Clearly, we're no longer dealing with an industry underdog, but the question is how much more can the company expand and how fast. Consumers will obviously provide the answers, but because the holidays are a time for reflection... and prediction, I'd like to give OnePlus a few pieces of advice for 2020:

The time is still not right for a OnePlus Watch



Yes, global smartwatch shipments are growing like crazy, which may lead you to draw false parallels with the smartphone market of 2014. The main difference is every mobile device vendor's numbers were going up five or six years ago, unlike what's currently happening in the Apple-dominated smartwatch market. OnePlus can't possibly hope to compete with Apple in terms of life-saving wrist functionality or afford to spend as much time as Samsung developing its own software platform and extensive product portfolio from scratch.

Instead, if a OnePlus Watch is indeed coming next year, it will most definitely do so running Wear OS, battling for the industry's scraps with all those great but largely obscure Fossil-made devices. You could argue that the company needs to enter the arena while there's still room for newcomers, but I think the resources would be better used elsewhere, at least for the time being.

Focus on the OnePlus 8 lineup first and foremost



With an ever-expanding smartphone family comes ever-expanding responsibility. Especially when you're working hard behind the scenes to achieve US carrier ubiquity. If you've ever wondered why Verizon doesn't carry a lot of handsets from smaller brands, it's not only because the nation's largest wireless service provider doesn't like said brands. It's also because getting a phone certified for Big Red use (not to mention getting Verizon to actually sell a product in its stores) is a notoriously difficult and time-consuming process for companies not named Apple, Samsung, LG, Motorola, or Google.

So, yes, if the OnePlus 8 Pro is indeed headed for Verizon, the company might want to keep the unnecessary distractions to a minimum. Especially if T-Mobile and Sprint (or the "New T-Mobile) are also supposed to release the same 5G-enabled device, which is almost certainly the case. Speaking of the OnePlus 8 lineup, I can't help but wonder if we really need both a "regular" and a Pro variant when the two are so similar according to all that recent gossip. Granted, the OnePlus 8 Pro could be a little too pricey to fly solo to stores, but...

Less is often more



It's not always easy to pinpoint what makes a company successful in a cut-throat industry like the one OnePlus joined back in 2014, but in this particular case, it's pretty obvious one of the big reasons why the small outfit made such huge and rapid progress was its tight and laser-focused product portfolio. But after switching from a single-model to a two-variant yearly release schedule in 2016, OnePlus unveiled no less than four main handsets in 2019.

The number is even larger if you separately consider all the 5G-capable and McLaren-branded subvariants, and yet the company reportedly plans to further extend its lineup in 2020. A OnePlus 8 Lite may not sound like a bad idea given the gradual price hike of the company's high-end phones in the last couple of years, but the previous mid-range effort was such a colossal flop that its sequel (of sorts) caught us completely off guard when it leaked a few weeks ago.

A lot has changed since the OnePlus X, of course, but now brand dilution is threatening to become a real problem. An exceedingly fragmented product roster can make the OnePlus name lose its charm in the eyes of long-time hardcore fans, not to mention other possible unintended consequences of such a move, like mediocre software support. OnePlus is already fumbling its Android 10 updates after doing a stellar job rolling out Pie goodies for eligible devices, and something tells me things will only get worse if the company starts cranking out new phones every few months or so.

Keep your AirPods rival simple



Unlike the OnePlus Watch, I don't think releasing a true wireless version of the OnePlus Bullets earphones in 2020 is a bad idea. The Bullets headphones are the main reason for that, existing for a while now in multiple editions, including with no wire to connect them to your handset. That means the company may not need to spend a lot of time and resources developing an AirPods killer, which obviously has to be affordable to stand a chance in an increasingly crowded and incredibly competitive market.

Ideally, OnePlus would take a page from Samsung's playbook and bundle its sleek new Bullets with absolutely no wires with the 8 Pro at no extra cost, at least temporarily after launching the two products. If it does that, the company can probably expect to make a name for itself in an exploding market projected to get even bigger (much bigger, in fact) that's also far easier to penetrate than the smartwatch segment. And no, OnePlus doesn't need the fanciest design or most groundbreaking features for its first-ever true wireless earbuds to succeed. The simpler, the cheaper, the better.

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24 Comments

1. Rocket

Posts: 736; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

Yes, they need to fix all little problems on their phones before releasing more devices.

5. Nutcase4u2

Posts: 53; Member since: Oct 15, 2015

Not to disagree with your comment at all, but curious to hear what you feel the little problems are? I would say that including wireless charging and a slightly better camera would make the OnePlus phones basically perfect in my eyes. As it stands the camera is more than acceptable and the fast charger gets me juiced up in the time it takes me to shower, so wireless charging and camera improvements feel nit-picky to me.

13. Rocket

Posts: 736; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

The op7 pro has/had ghost touches, unresponsive screen, Bluetooth/wifi connection issues and a few more. Writing this on my op7 pro

20. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1185; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I've been using OnePlus as my daily driver for a year and a half now. Here's my experience; Pros : 1. Insanely Fast 2. Charging speed 3. Fast updates Cons : 1. Average camera 2. Bad/cheap vibration motor 3. Ocational UI glitches 4. Oxygen OS is a love or hate affair. If you love stock android, you're going to love Oxygen OS even more. I never liked stock Android so I don't like Oxygen OS at all. 5. Though updates are fast, they're often buggy especially on the slightly older models. 6. Price - it's no longer a value for money flagship. Price difference between OnePlus and Galaxies/iPhones is decreasing every six months. I switched from a Galaxy and been using OnePlus ever since but now I can't wait to go back to Samsung again.

25. jacky899

Posts: 434; Member since: May 16, 2017

The camera is not just average. It hangs in there with the Note 10 and current Iphones. Just take it to a local store and take comparison photos yourself and you will see. From my comparisons photos capture more detail than the Galaxies and Iphones.

2. pokharkarsaga

Posts: 561; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

Their profit margin appetite is growing every year.

3. User123456789

Posts: 1360; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

I think the title "flagship killer" was a mistake. It was cheaper because it lacked many stuff other had. It was a midrange with 8xx cpu.

4. Nutcase4u2

Posts: 53; Member since: Oct 15, 2015

I don't think flagship killer is too far fetched. The OnePlus 7 Pro has just about everything that the flagship devices have, aside from wireless charging. And I don't understand how you could possibly equate "8xx cpu" as a mid-ranger. The OnePlus runs faster than any other phone on the market, all with a 90 hertz AMOLED screen. And no notch to top it all off. I get it, the price has increased over time, but so has the number of features packed into their phones. It's still the best deal for your dollar that can be found on the market today.

7. User123456789

Posts: 1360; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

It is more about the previous generations. Mainly 3 , 5 and 6. There is a Galaxy A with 855. It does not make it a flagship. Pocophone is a midrange phone with 845.

9. rouyal

Posts: 1598; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

There are a lot more “flagship” features missing from Oneplus phones than wireless charging, and a lot more to be considered flagship, imo, than raw processing power. Though I suppose oneplus phones could be considered their own flagships because its the only phones they make.

14. wickedwilly

Posts: 776; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

iPhones were still considered flagships when they did not have wireless or fast charging as well as lacked an IP rating, class-leading camera and had a low-res, poor screen to body ratio screen display.

6. andrewc31394

Posts: 311; Member since: Jun 23, 2012

really wish they stuck with making only 1 or 2 phones a year. quality over quantity

10. rouyal

Posts: 1598; Member since: Jan 05, 2018

Yup. One phablet and one compact/normal size like the big boys they try to imitate.

8. ijuanp03

Posts: 689; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

The real problem is they are creeping into the flagship price category with mediocre camera quality. That is not a flagship killer anymore.

11. Poptart2828

Posts: 505; Member since: Jan 23, 2018

One plus is BBK's entrance to the North American market. They are already successful in flooding the Eastern markets with quality products so I think One plus subsidiary can manage just fine.

12. jjface

Posts: 270; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

They also don't have a clear sense of direction as well as trying to do too many things at once. Typical of Chinese manufacturers.

15. CEDEOTB

Posts: 479; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

They'll keep pumping money into all these products and their flagship phone will still have a mediocre camera.

17. AlienKiss

Posts: 323; Member since: May 21, 2019

I was interested in OnePlus phone until I found out it didn't have the SD card slot, waterproofing, wireless charging. Basically, the OP really is a mid-range phone with a high-end processor, just like User123456789 said. I'd rather pay more and get the whole features pack. Sorry, but not everyone is obsessed with buying cheap alternatives when I can actually go buy the original this wannabe wants to emulate.

19. tokuzumi

Posts: 2005; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

The OnePlus X was one of my favorite phones! Camera wasn't that great, but I loved everything about it. Felt like a quality device, with decent weight from the glass front and back. Perfect size, too. It ran flawlessly, and did whatever I asked of it. Only reason I'm not using it is because the screen broke.

21. TadTrickle

Posts: 144; Member since: Apr 08, 2019

I don't believe you even memtioned that they're doing TV's now as well

22. Tukur36

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 21, 2019

The number of phones released by Oneplus this you is a little too much. Keeping up with the numbering is getting more confusing. Lunching Oneplus regular and the T variety is ok. A midrange varient can also be accommodated fro the beginning of the year.. 3 phones per year is more than enough.

23. Solarius

Posts: 17; Member since: May 24, 2019

OnePlus is a brand to follow because these products are really high quality, I bought the OnePlus 5 and it is still as fast and updates are part of their major policy and they are right because brands like LG or Sony and HTC have sinned on the updates and find themselves forgotten by consumers, they lacked the display worthy of the high-end and it is done since the OnePlus 7 with screen Samsung quad HD and refresh 90 hertz, OnePlus is really the high-end killer

24. willk

Posts: 25; Member since: Jun 12, 2015

I currently have the Note 10+. Previous I had the OnePlus 7 Pro. What a mistake I made. The Oneplus 7 Pro was so much more stable and reliable. I have more dropped calls with the 10+. The Smart Lock worked 100% with the 7 pro vs 50% with the 10+. I find this the most frustrating thing about the 10+. Body unlock, device unlock or location unlock. It doesn't matter. Really sucks with the 10+. Fingerprint log in much more accurate and faster with the 7 Pro. Maybe the 10+ has better low light photos but the 7 Pro has 3x optical vs 2x optical for the 10+. I'm stuck with the 10+ because I got a special deal with T mobile where I get so much refunded every month to my account for 24 months.

26. pktong

Posts: 3; Member since: Dec 28, 2019

very informative post

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