Just last week we broke the news that the One, the first smartphone from Chinese start-up OnePlus, will retail for under $400. Today, the company has announced the first specification of its "perfect phone."
The One will be powered by Qualcomm’s venerable Snapdragon 800 SoC. While the SD800 is the most powerful SoC currently available, it’s still a bit of a surprise to us, given that the 801 was just announced at MWC, and especially so because a number of other vendors will be powering their 2014 handsets with this enhanced version of the 800’s architecture. Peter Lau, head of OnePlus, put up a post on their forum explaining why they chose the 800:
Reading through the forums and our social media, there are differing opinions among you when it comes to which components make up the perfect smartphone. But when it comes to the processor, you overwhelmingly prefer a Qualcomm chip. I agree, my engineers agree, and we have chosen the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, a 2.3 GHz quad-core chipset with 4G connectivity and an excellent performance/power consumption ratio.
We spent countless hours trying out the latest CPUs. Ultimately, it was clear that the Snapdragon 800 provided the best speed, battery consumption and heat management. It also allows us to get our product in your hand faster, with the highest optimization. We didn’t want to announce our product, only to be able to ship it six months later.
Are there newer CPUs on the market? Yes, and the higher number may have given us a slight marketing advantage while not providing any noticeable change in performance. But ‘Never Settle’ doesn't mean we tip the scale to one extreme, and let our users suffer the imbalance. We’re completely confident that this is the best choice to deliver a product with the best overall user experience and performance on time for Q2.
As you can see, it seems the main reason why OnePlus went with the 800 over the 801 is availability. While the likes of Sony and Samsung have both announced SD801-powered smartphones at MWC, those release dates haven’t been confirmed. If OnePlus still intends to deliver the One in Q2, and for under $400, it makes sense to go with a slightly older, but still powerful SoC. One thing that we did ask, since there is some confusion as to which model numbers of the Snapdragon SoC are considered 800 and which are 801, is if the One will use the original MSM8974 chip or the MSM8974AB (with the faster GPU clock) that some are still calling an 800. OnePlus did confirm it is the MSM8974, which is found in phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet, and the Google Nexus 5 (winner of our Elite award and our current favorite phone).
Along with the big SoC announcement, another tidbit of news has surfaced out of the OnePlus forums, namely, the CyanogenMod team has committed to supporting the One for two years. The team also addressed some of the complaints regarding the CyanogenMod version of the Oppo N1, stating: "we are working more closely with OnePlus than we did with Oppo."
With the N1, the CyanogenMod team was brought in just two months before the N1’s release, giving them very little time to build a CM 10.2 ROM for it. With the OnePlus One they "have been brought onboard even before hardware was finalized." The post also vaguely mentioned new CyanogenMod features that will debut with the OnePlus One.
Lastly, Carl Pei, the director of OnePlus Global, along with a few members of the CyanogenMod team hosted a Reddit AMA last night, where even more info about the One was released. On the hardware side, the OnePlus One will have a "slightly better screen/body ration than the Nexus 5," stereo speakers, and an LED notification light. The battery will use a "mystery technology" that OnePlus will be revealing soon, and the phone will come with either 16 GB or 64 GB, with the 64 GB model costing no more than what a 32 GB version would have cost. On the software side, the CyanogenMod team said that the One will have "some flourishes here and there that are not 'pure'… but you’ll have the option of which look and feel suits you best". Of course, the One will be fully hackable, with an unlocked bootloader, meaning that rooting and installing custom ROMs will not void your warranty, and OnePlus will be providing support to other developer communities outside CyanogenMod, such as Paranoid Android.
From the image that OnePlus provided to us, it looks like the next spec announcement is set for Sunday March 9th, and it will be followed by three more announcements. If the company sticks to the same schedule as previous announcements, with one on Sunday and one on Wednesday, the final announcement may take place on March 19th - the very same day that Oppo is supposed to reveal its new Find 7 smartphone. This should make things interesting. Check back with us on the 9th when we’ll have more news about the OnePlus One.