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Is the new Oppo the end of the old OnePlus?

Oppo Find X3 Pro Vs OnePlus 9 Pro
Oppo Find X3 Pro Vs OnePlus 9 Pro (Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

One of the more surprising Android stories of the past week was the news that, after the two companies combined their research and development efforts a few months back, OnePlus would be undergoing a "deeper integration" with Oppo. The latter, which depending on who you asked over the years, was either OnePlus's parent company, sister brand, babysitter, casual acquaintance, or completely unrelated competitor, will apparently exert more influence over OnePlus going forward as part of this integration. That's as a result of the positive impact the two have seen from earlier resource-sharing efforts. (In other words, the strong performance of the OnePlus 9 series, particularly in European markets.)

While both OnePlus and Oppo fall under the umbrella of Chinese giant BBK Electronics — whose other tentacles include Vivo and Realme — the exact relationship between the two has been shrouded in some mystery. Over the years, the official line from OnePlus reps has been that it and Oppo merely shared the same investors. However, after leaving the firm, former employees would often speak of a much closer relationship, with some even claiming they were effectively the same company.

Over the years, the similarities between the brands' products only fuelled speculation, including fairly obvious copy-paste jobs like 2017's OnePlus 5 and Oppo R11.

OnePlus 5 vs. OPPO R11

However, things were in the past. Going forward, the link between OnePlus and Oppo is going to become a lot more public-facing. And that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise given the past OnePlus release cycle events. In mainland China, for instance, the OnePlus 9 series run Oppo's ColorOS out of the box.

OnePlus started as a tiny brand and a darling of smartphone enthusiasts. But as I've pointed out before, nobody gets into the phone business aiming to stay small. The past Oppo/OnePlus release cycle clearly demonstrates the firms' lofty goals for the OnePlus brand — the OnePlus 9 Pro is one of the best Android phones of the moment, beating Oppo's flagship in terms of charging speeds and camera performance. Looking at the two brands' combined line-up, you could make a strong case that OnePlus is now the premium brand.

And if OnePlus is to continue to compete at this level, challenging Samsung with its high-end offerings, it makes sense to pool resources with Oppo as much as possible. As OnePlus pushes forward with more advanced optics in its phone cameras, it makes sense for it not to be doing that in a vacuum.

As CEO Pete Lau writes:

With this deeper integration with OPPO, we will have more resources at hand to create even better products for you. It will also allow us to be more efficient, for example, bringing faster and more stable software updates for OnePlus users.

The scale of Oppo could help OnePlus solve its software update problem.

It's no surprise to see software singled out in this way. Outside of current-year flagship phones, OnePlus does not have a good reputation for its updates' quality or timeliness. Several major updates have been pulled due to bugs over the past year. OnePlus Nord owners were left waiting almost half a year longer than OnePlus 8 users for their Android 11 upgrade. And that's to say nothing of the garbage-tier update prospects for phones like the Nord N10 and N100.

In terms of short-term positive impact, this is the biggest area where the scale of Oppo should help.

But Lau's statement has also raised concerns among fans that the popular OxygenOS UI might be making way for ColorOS at some point in the future — particularly considering Oxygen has already been retired in China. Lau has unambiguously denied that this will be happening, saying, "OxygenOS will remain the operating system for global OnePlus devices outside of the China market."

Oppo Find X3 Pro Vs OnePlus 9 Pro

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

Let's remember, though, that OxygenOS is ultimately just a brand name. The future form of OxygenOS, and its relationship to ColorOS, remains to be seen. And Android Central has heard that another design overhaul will be coming with the OxygenOS 12 release. Writing in his Nord CE review, AC Asia Editor Harish Jonnalagadda says:

OxygenOS 11 delivers a clean interface that doesn't include too much bloat. That said, OnePlus is flexing its design muscle, and OxygenOS 12 will introduce a radical overhaul of the interface once it rolls around later in the year. So if you're buying into OnePlus because of the interface, you should wait for a little bit to see just what's in store with OxygenOS 12.

That doesn't mean OnePlus will just slap a coat of paint on ColorOS 12 and call it OxygenOS. But it does suggest that, as OnePlus's software is no longer developed in a bubble, we may see more similarities in terms of feature set and even some design elements between its UI and Oppo's. Other BBK brands like Vivo and Realme are already moving in this direction.

OxygenOS will live on, but what will it look like?

More ColorOS influence in OxygenOS wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Since the Western versions of Oppo's software became more polished over the past year, I've enjoyed using ColorOS on phones like the Find X2 Pro and Find X3 Pro. But OnePlus also needs to balance the relationship with its fans and their attachment to the way OnePlus phones look and feel. Lau, it seems, is well aware of this:

We will continue launching OnePlus products, holding events (hopefully in person soon), and engaging directly with you for feedback through the same OnePlus channels as before. OnePlus' commitment to you remains the same.

This week's "merger" announcement is a big opportunity for OnePlus, which is now far removed from the tiny enthusiast-focused brand behind 2014's OnePlus One. If it can leverage the extra scale of Oppo in terms of R&D and software development and speed up firmware updates while also keeping its fans happy, it could go from strength to strength in 2022.

But as it navigates its integration with Oppo, it should be cautious not to lose even more of the magic that made it a fan-favorite brand in the first place.

Alex Dobie
Alex Dobie

Alex is global Executive Editor for Android Central, and is usually found in the UK. He has been blogging since before it was called that, and currently most of his time is spent leading video for AC, which involves pointing a camera at phones and speaking words at a microphone. He would just love to hear your thoughts at alex@androidcentral.com, or on the social things at @alexdobie.

14 Comments
  • Why do people still buy OnePlus phones? The charging tech?
  • Subconscious brand loyalty. Why do people buy Samsung phones? Same answer.
  • To be fair, at least Samsung phones (at the high end) have some USPs. Honestly in the current market, I don't think anyone should buy anything but a Samsung phone or a Pixel. Which is a very sad state of affairs.
  • For once I agree, but my next Android phone will definitely be Pixel for sure, the Pixel launcher has always been my favourite launcher as it's clean, uncluttered and bloatware free!(Samsung's UI is too cluttered for my tastes) and software as I like to get updates quickly and while Samsung has vastly improved in their updates, having to wait until near the end of each month for updates just isn't good enough, to be fair Samsung has been beating Google in pushing out security patches of late. I have a cracked OnePlus 7T that I'm not even sure I'll bother to get it fixed as I've mentally moved on already from my S20 FE to a Pixel already.
  • Interested in selling the cracked 7t? I’m on a fixed budget and my note 5 is seen better days, looking for a halfway decent upgrade that works that wouldn’t break the bank. Thanks
  • Samsung has been beating Google in pushing out security patches of late So, Samdung is pushing them out faster than the first Monday of the month? For the past year, the first Monday of the month, I have received a security update on my 4XL. Since I do not own, nor ever own, a Samdung phone, I have no idea when they release the google security fixes. But find it hard to believe they are faster.
  • I've had several that have come at the end of the PREVIOUS month (I.e. May patch in late April). Also, "Samdung"? How old are you, twelve?
  • I would never buy a Samsung phone, overhyped, overpriced and until recently bloated and in some ways still bloated.
    I got myself a OPPO A72 a few months ago, it is a good phone, certainly for the price. Sure it will not compare to high-end phones, but that is because it is not a high-end phone, it is a budget phone and at £160, which is what I paid for it in the U.K it offers a lot. The camera is pretty good, not so sure about the amount of lenses on the back, never liked that idea, and I am not a fan of the 20:9 ratio and the larger size, but all phones are like that now.
    Color OS is ok, it does what it does well and is pretty close to standard Android. The phone is plastic on the back, but I have a case on it, so not a problem, it is built well, certainly for the price. When I ordered it a friend of mine who was using a Iphone SE, like the look of it so much she ordered one there and then when we were in the car ready to go shopping. she loves it, large screen, great for GPS and navigating, great battery life.
    i have never used a Oneplus, but certainly nothing wrong with Oppos..
  • charging tech? you stick a cable in it and it charges
    I have a magnetic plug stuck in my Oppo and the cable just connects to it.
  • I like OnePlus phones. Reason? Easy to root and make it work for you. Hate locked phones...
  • Last two OnePlus phones I bought to root and never bothered. There's really no practical reason to root anymore. I'm on a Pixel 5 now which I believe is equally easy to root but haven't bothered. Adblocking? There's plenty of ways to do that without root. Titanium Backup? If you aren't tinkering 24/7 it's a non-issue. I always found that or TWRP backups were hit & miss in that yes it'll get you back up and running fast but I always felt it wasn't as clean as a clean restore ViperAudio? We're talking sound out of a cell phone...I run dedicated DACs and high end gear at my house who cares what a cheap phone DAC can accomplish. Themes? Android 11 easily cycle from dark mode to light Xposed and other tweaks...have fun with cat & mouse games and loss of GPay or Widevine DRM etc.
  • OnePlus have gone downhill fast, especially with updates of late and the merger with Oppo will accelerate OnePlus' decline into irrelevance.
  • ColorOS reminds me of TouchWiz just urgh. Not interested in an Android launcher that's a mess. A major draw of OnePlus is the clean launcher!
  • I won't be buying another OP phone due to their software updates and (still) lackluster cameras. I own the Oneplus 1, 3T, 6 and 7T but that's it for now. For Android it's just Samsung and Pixel here in the US. At last I'm running LineageOS 18.1 on the OP1 and 3T and my family is still using them.