OnePlus Clover: Why OnePlus is launching a budget phone in 2020 (and why it will succeed)

OnePlus Nord vs OnePlus 8
OnePlus Nord vs OnePlus 8 (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

OnePlus is working on an entry-level phone codenamed Clover that will make its debut later in the year. The phone will launch in the U.S. and other global markets for around $200, and comes with a 3.5mm jack, 720p display, 4GB of RAM with 64GB of storage, and a massive battery.

An entry-level phone goes against OnePlus' ethos of delivering the best possible performance on all of its phones. In fact, during the launch of the Nord, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei said that the reason the company went with a Snapdragon 765G chipset instead of the Snapdragon 800 series was because the performance with the 765G is on par with flagships.

Well, that's not the case with the Snapdragon 460, the chipset that's powering the Clover. The chipset is fine in the context of entry-level chipsets — it has four Cortex A73 cores and four A53 cores — but it doesn't come anywhere close to the Snapdragon 765G, let alone Qualcomm's flagships series.

In a nutshell, OnePlus needs affordable phones to drive sales and increase market share.

So why is OnePlus launching an entry-level phone now? It could be as simple as gaining market share. For all the attention that OnePlus gets, the company sells only about 5.5 million phones a year — less than what Google manages with its Pixels. And with the company going up against the likes of Samsung and Apple with the OnePlus 8 series, it needs to have affordable phones if it wants to maintain any kind of sales momentum.

Don't get me wrong; the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are fantastic devices, but they launched at the wrong time. With the global pandemic and the ensuing economic hardships, there just isn't a big enough market for $1,000 flagships. So OnePlus is looking to the mid-range and entry-level segments. The entire point with the Nord is to make OnePlus phones accessible to a wider audience, and OnePlus is just building on that premise.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 7T

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

There's also the fact that OnePlus didn't launch the Nord in the U.S., with the company instead stating that it will release a follow-up model in the country. We won't likely get to know why OnePlus chose not to release the Nord in the U.S., but with Clover set to make its way to the country, there will be an alternative for those looking to get OnePlus hardware on a budget.

Clover could just turn into a carrier play in the U.S., but it goes up against Motorola and Nokia.

That said, it is puzzling that OnePlus would launch an entry-level phone in the U.S. instead of a mid-range 5G-enabled option. The Nord would have been the ideal phone for the U.S., but OnePlus must have felt that it couldn't get the margins it needed without increasing the price too much.

Then there's also the fact that doing so would have risked undercutting the OnePlus 8, which has been the go-to option for carriers like T-Mobile and Verizon instead of the costlier OnePlus 8 Pro. At $700, the OnePlus 8 is still a decent option and fits into the same category as the Galaxy A71 5G (opens in new tab), whereas the $900 OnePlus 8 Pro encroaches on the Galaxy S20's turf. That could be the reason why carriers chose to go with the OnePlus 8 as the 5G-enabled option from OnePlus this year.

So in that context, it is plausible that OnePlus is looking at the $200 segment as a potential alternative to its flagship offerings. The Clover is definitely coming to the U.S., and it could end up being a carrier play where the likes of T-Mobile or Verizon could offer the device as a free or bundled option when you're picking up a new plan. However, there are a lot of great phones in this segment, and with Motorola and Nokia dominating the category, we'll have to wait and see if OnePlus can make a dent here.

The specs on offer with Clover are underwhelming (something I didn't think I would say for a OnePlus phone), so it will come down to the positioning and just how aggressive OnePlus decides to go with the pricing. Between this and the software changes with OxygenOS 11 and a wearable push, OnePlus is certainly looking very different to the company that embarked on its "Fast and Smooth" journey with the OnePlus 7 Pro last year.

Ultimately, it doesn't make a lot of sense for OnePlus to dilute its brand by rolling out an entry-level phone, but it looks like the manufacturer is chasing sales figures as it tries to become a mainstream player. OxygenOS and guaranteed software updates could be the differentiator for OnePlus here, and while the strategy is counter to what OnePlus has stood for so far, it may just work out for the company.

OnePlus Nord

OnePlus Nord

The OnePlus Nord has all the features you care about at a more affordable price. There's a 90Hz panel, 48MP primary camera at the back, dual 32MP + 8MP cameras at the front, 30W wired charging, and rock-solid internal hardware. Combine that with clean software and you get a great overall value.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • This is not something for people in the us unless it's like for cheap disposable and not future proof
  • Agreed, although the very large battery may turn heads and get people interested. Overall, underwhelming.
  • My guess is sales have tanked since they went high end.
  • They were always high end, but now they're priced high-end there isn't really a reason to buy over other devices.
  • With a 460processer kind of the bottom of the barrel for One Plus? Although with a 6ooomamp 🔋, maybe charge it once a week? Do we really need a 460processer in a One Plus phone? What's up with that?
  • Just close a deal with V, A or T and have their sales people push it, as hard as they push Apple, and success will be guaranteed.
  • Seriously, why do the clickbait thing? 1. OnePlus has already stated that they will release a Qualcomm 690 phone in the US in Q4. When that happens, it will be one of the cheapest 5G phones available in the US. 2. Qualcomm has 5 series: 800, 700, 600, 400 and 200. So the 460 - a 2020 chip that is better than the MediaTek P60, P30 and obviously Qualcomm 200 chips - is a very solid choice for phones in this price range. 3. Yes, there are phones in this range with Qualcomm 600 series chips. But those phones usually have 3 GB of RAM and bad software. The combination of 4 GB of RAM and good software - that will actually get updates - means this phone will run better than the 600 phones in this range. Add it all up and instead of "ruining their brand", the people who get this phone will realize how much better it is than cheap phones usually are. Which means they will start buying their more expensive phones too.
  • There is a low-tier and mid-tier market for smartphones globally (embrace it, or lose out on the 💰!)
  • This phone will fail because of the crappy specs on offer, you can get better phones for $200 with better screens and chipsets even a used iPhone at the same price would be better in every way than this cheap OnePlus junk. This has convinced me more so that I made the right choice of going back to iPhone, because Apple does not compromise like Android does with lower prices.
  • Except that iPhone's and Android's are 2 different things. Glad you went back to why not go to their forums also and leave Android alone???
  • He can't help it.
    Maybe someone will buy this phone for their kid and let them learn to be responsible with a 200.00 phone before shelling out more.
    Just a thought.
  • I thought you wouldn't come here once you got the iPhone..... Move along
  • I'm beginning to think you are just a bot. The phone isn't even out yet. No one has even seen the device, the software, or anything else. Only a few basic specs. Yet Beno-the-iphone-user who isn't in the market for an entry level android phone already knows other phones are better so people in the entry level market, buying entry level phones won't buy this one. There are other things to consider. For one example, an adult with a OnePlus flagship may want an entry level phone but with a similar interface to their own phone to give to their child. As good as a used iphone may be, a parent with an android likely won't want a used iphone for their child, no matter how good the used iphone is.
  • OnePlus is doing the same thing that Google is doing with the Pixel line...they are finally realizing that people are tired of paying $$$$$$$ just for a phone that lasts "maybe" 2 years! These overpriced monstrosities that have been thrust upon us the last few years are not least not at the rate the OEM's need them to. Samsmug has already had an entry level, and a mid-range offering for some time now to compensate for lower "flagship" sales, and Google, OnePlus, and even Apple are realizing that that is where their longevity in the market resides.
  • I would've strongly preferred the Oneplus Nord than this budget option. I would prefer an older Pixel, Moto, or Nokia than a Oneplus at this price point. Way too underwhelming.