OnePlus One = Two Good To Be True?
Google’s Nexus phones gained popularity by pairing an uncluttered Android experience with good hardware, all for an affordable price. But with the ascension of the Nexus 6 to the high perches of the premium priced Android flagships, there is now a distinct opportunity for a player other than Google to capture this market. OnePlus wants to fill the void left by the Nexus with its affordable flagship, the OnePlus One.
Founded in December 2013 by Pete Lau, who was previously Vice President at Oppo Electronics, OnePlus is a newcomer to the smartphone market. Created around the mantra, “Never Settle”, OnePlus strives to deliver premium products that focus solely on features its customers find useful. Although there are direct links to Oppo, OnePlus insists that it’s a separately run company.
OnePlus has managed to create a lot of buzz around its first and only device: the OnePlus One. Part of this has to do with the devices scarcity. The OnePlus One can only be purchased via the OnePlus website and only after receiving a special invitation. Invitations are distributed by OnePlus through promotional events on the OnePlus Forums or by social media. Additionally, each person who buys a One receives invitations they can give to friends. The invitation only system will be interrupted for brief periods starting in October 2014, during which time it will be generally available to the public.
Interest in the One is also stoked by its impressive list of hardware. The OnePlus One comes with a Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 5.5-inch 1080p display, 13MP camera, and 3100 mAh battery, matching the hardware in many current flagship Android phones. It also ships with CyanogenMod 11s, a very popular Android community ROM known for being lean and highly customizable. Even more impressive is the price; the One starts at only $299, around half the price of its flagship competitors.
OnePlus One Tech Specs
In terms of hardware, the OnePlus One compares favorably to other flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, and HTC One (M8). The only things missing are support for microSD cards and a removable battery. Speaking of batteries, the One’s power cell is larger than those found in both the LG G3 and iPhone 6 Plus, but smaller than the cell in the Samsung Note 4.
The frontal area (width x height) and weight of the OnePlus One are less than the values for the 6 Plus and Note 4. Foregoing physical capacitive buttons, the LG G3 requires less bezel area, allowing it to be shorter, narrower, and lighter than the One, even though they both have the same size screen.
Availability And Options
The OnePlus One can only be purchased through the OnePlus website once you receive an invite. Starting in October, OnePlus is offering the One to the general public for brief periods of time.
The One supports four GSM frequencies (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and five UMTS/WCDMA frequencies (850/900/1700/1900/2100 MHz), which gives it good global 2G/3G coverage. It also supports LTE bands 1/3/4/7/17/38/40. In the US, the One is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, but not Sprint or Verizon. Also, since the phone is purchased directly from OnePlus, it arrives unlocked.
There are only two different color / onboard storage options for the OnePlus One: Silk White / 16 GB for $299 or Sandstone Black / 64 GB for $349. The white version has a smooth, glossy finish, while the black model comes with a grippy texture.
Can you really get an unlocked flagship phone for only $299? Looking at its list of hardware, the answer seems to be yes. But to paraphrase Yoda, “hardware specs not make one great.” To live up to its “flagship killer” moniker, the One also needs an attractive appearance with good in-hand feel; feature rich, bug-free software; strong performance; and a long-lasting battery.