OnePlus One Revealed: A $300 Snapdragon 801 Smartphone

Let's just get the most important fact out of the way first. Yes, the OnePlus One will start at just $300. Yes, that's $300 for a Snapdragon 801 powered 5.5-inch 'no compromise' phone with all the bells and whistles of the flagship Android phones from the big OEMs. Of course, there is teeny weeny catch, in that it's $300 for the 16 GB model and the One has no microSD slot. Still, the fact that it runs CyanogenMod means that there won't be gigabytes of OEM and carrier app bloat eating up storage space. Realistically though, the more storage space you have, the better, so OnePlus will also offer a 64 GB model for only $50 more, the additional cost one would usually expect to pay for a move up to 32 GB of storage.

It's true that Google's Nexus series of phones, especially the Nexus 5, pioneered the idea of a premium Android device at a budget price, but the Nexus 5 compromised in a number of areas (battery, camera) to get to its $350/400 price point. Even then, it was assumed that Google must almost be making a loss selling a phone with the Nexus 5’s specs for so low a price, when comparable devices from other Android OEMs were almost double the cost. Now with the One, OnePlus is offering a phone with better specs that the Samsung Galaxy S5 for less than half its price.

Now that we’ve got that crass discussion of money out of the way, can we just say this - the OnePlus One is unbelievably gorgeous. The One is right up there with the HTC One (M7 and M8), Xperia Z2 and the iPhone 5 as one of the best looking smartphones ever made. It looks extremely elegant and refined, with great attention to detail, such as there being no branding on the front of the phone to distract from the screen. Also, despite it having big 5.5-inch display, the minimal recessed bezel means the physical dimensions of the One are not much bigger than other 5-inch Android phones like the Xperia Z2 so it should still be fairly comfortable to use in one hand. Our initial impressions are that OnePlus has knocked one out of the park with their very first phone! The full specifications of the OnePlus One are as follows:

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OnePlus One Full Specifications
SocQualcomm Snapdragon 801
CPU CoreKrait 400 (4-core) @ 2.46 GHz
GPU CoreAdreno 330 @ 578 MHz
Memory3 GB RAM LPDDR3 1866 MHz RAM
Display5.5" JDI LTPS IPS LCD @ 1920 x 1080 (401 ppi) w/Gorilla Glass 3
Storage16 GB / 64 GB (no microSD slot)
Battery3,100 mAh (embedded)
Camera/sFront: 5 MPRear: f/2.0 13 MP Sony Exmor IMX 214 sensor  w/4K video recording. Dual-LED flash
Expansion PortsUSB 3.0
AudioBuilt-in Stereo Speakers & Tri-microphone with noise cancellation
ConnectivityWi-Fi: Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 b/g/n/acCellular: LTE: Bands: 1/3/4/7/17/38/40; WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/8; GSM: 850/900/1800/1900MHzOther: Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
Dimensions6.02" x 2.99" x 0.35" (152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm)
Weight5.71 oz. (162 g)
Operating SystemCyanogenMod 11S based on Android 4.4
Price$300-350 (€269 - 299)

As you can see from the full specs, the One can go toe-to-toe with the latest flagship phones like the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and Xperia Z2, and in some areas it even surpasses them. Again, this is all for $300. The One has the same 2.5 GHz Snapdragon 801 8974AC SoC as the S5, the premium built quality and design of the M8, and the large 3000+ mAh battery and Sony camera of the Z2 (though admittedly with less MP). Peter Lau, CEO of OnePlus, says that his team paid attention to the "smallest details, taking a holistic approach to product design," and some of those details can be found inside the One - the PCB boards are "custom cut and engineered" and the battery was specially designed for the One. The One's 13 MP camera uses a Sony Exmor IMX214 sensor, has an f/2.0 aperture that should offer good low-light performance, and it is capable of shooting 4K video.

The other side of the One’s story is its software. The One runs a custom version of CyanogenMod, 11S, which is based on KitKat (Android 4.4). The official press images released today are our first look at CM11S, and it looks like the default settings will have the One running a custom theme with newly designed squared-off icons as opposed to the default Google icons we are used to seeing with CyanogenMod. Of course, since CM is highly customizable users will be able to apply any theme and icon set they wish. CyanogenMod also has some unique privacy features not found in other versions Android - it supports SMS encryption between the One and other phones running CyanogenMod, or other TextSecure-compatible devices. Steve Kondik, CTO of Cyanogen Inc. praised the work his team has put into the software of the One, saying that they have "brought out the full potential of the hardware and complemented it with innovative new features." One of those features is voice control that lets you wake the One with your voice, we assume in a similar fashion to how this works on the Moto X. You’ll also be able to draw gestures on the screen when the phone is sleeping to launch right into a specific app. The One can also be used with either onscreen or traditional capacitive buttons (though we’d probably go for the latter to maximize the screen real estate for applications).

Starting April 25, OnePlus is going to be running a pretty unique Phone Smash contest which will allow the first 100 buyers of the One to get it for almost nothing. Fans will be able to apply on the OnePlus site to smash their current phone (we assume on video) in exchange for a $1 One. While this contest is pretty audacious, and will be sure to generate a lot of viral marketing buzz for the OnePlus One, we do think that perhaps the phones people are willing to give up could be repurposed in a more constructive fashion (recycled or donated to charity), rather than be smashed into pieces that will probably end up in a landfill somewhere. We did just celebrate Earth Day, after all!

Now that we finally have all the details of the phone itself, there are only a few pieces left of the puzzle. First, OnePlus has said there will be a selection of interchangeable Style Swap back covers for the One, but no further information was released about them today. That said, we were told they will, unfortunately, not be available at launch, and OnePlus couldn't confirm when they will be available. However, while we can’t confirm its authenticity, a leaked image of what the covers will look like was recently posted on a Chinese site and, if it is legit, it looks like there will be a few more types of wood covers beyond the bamboo model OnePlus has already announced. The other missing piece of information is when the One will actually be available to buy. We do know that due to limited availability at launch, OnePlus will be releasing the first batch of phones to just those with invites, but we are not sure how many invites there will be, and how exactly you can go about getting one (beyond smashing your current phone up on video!). We’re pretty sure getting an invite will involve some kind of participation on OnePlus’s forums and/or social media channels, so it might be a good idea to head over to their site and sign up now. What we have been told that is that the phones for those initial customers will be "generally available" mid-May.

The OnePlus One will at first only be available online in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States, however, we’re sure a successful launch will prompt releases for other markets, too. The 16GB model will come in Silk White for $299/€269 and the 64 GB will come in Sandstone Black for $349/€299.

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  • dscudella
    And still no front facing speakers? HTC is the only one that can get that right?
  • jclgan
    13153929 said:
    And still no front facing speakers? HTC is the only one that can get that right?

    Having front-facing speakers would've increased the height of the phone, and it's already pretty darn tall! I don't mind the bottom-firing speakers at all; all I care about is that they can reach a reasonable loudness and sound good.
  • dscudella
    And still no front facing speakers? HTC is the only one that can get that right?
  • yutfgh
    If only my old Nokia brick was capable of being destroyed then I'd happily grab a $1 One. Damn.
  • Cryio
    Why does the video has the Crysis 3 menu theme? I was totally surprised when I heard it.
  • pckitty4427
    If it was 5.0" instead of 5.5", I would've found it much more tempting.
  • TheDane
    Well I don't think the design is "up there". And not using a OLED screen this is not for me. Though a good thing they ditched the front speakers, I prefer earplugs anyway and front speakers (even good ones) never come even close to 'good quality sound' anyway.
  • alchemy69
    I wonder how long they spent thinking up that name? "I know, let's call it the "One"! Brilliant, where did you get that from? I don't know it just came to me while I was making a call on my HTC"
  • Murissokah
    I was actually very impressed with the phone, and surprised to see so much criticism. Personally I'd consider this phone a match for any big brand flagship, and that at half the usual cost. Kudos to 1+, wish they'd been available a few months ago and that they consider a dual sim version.
  • shriganesh
    WTF!! It's not gonna be launched in India???!!! Too bad! It can become another Moto G!