OnePlus explains why it moved away from stock Android

Oneplus Nord Vs Pixel 4a
Oneplus Nord Vs Pixel 4a (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • OnePlus is moving OxygenOS away from a stock Android design to one that hews more closely towards Samsung's OneUI.
  • The company says the move is part of a desire to improve stock Android.
  • OxygenOS's redesign is intended to improve one-hand usability on large devices, a space the company says Google's own software isn't good at.

OxygenOS is getting a redesign with version 11, and it has proved to be controversial with fans. The software is moving away from what one could see as a system inspired by Google's stock Android to one that more closely resembles other Android OEMs.

OnePlus today shared the reasoning behind that, writing on their official forums (opens in new tab):

As screens increase in size, so does the unused white space. We wanted to make the most of that space while keeping the interface easy to use. We conducted A/B testing with our users to determine the best size of the headline, and found that 65% prefer slightly smaller headlines. Also, 80% of users tested preferred titles with subtitles rather than without. The result is a new headline-body hierarchy that streamlines information delivery in OxygenOS 11.

The company further noted that the changes were also being done to adapt Android to one-handed mobile use:

We also know that stock Android hasn't been optimized for one-handed usage on a larger display, so we set out to make it easier for you to use. We analyzed how people use phones and looked at anthropometric data to design a UI for more comfortable one-handed use.Since people hold their phones at the bottom, it's naturally more difficult to reach the top of the phone. The updated layout of OxygenOS 11 now moves the touch controls closer to your thumbs for easier access as soon as you open a menu.

OxygenOS's one-handed design

Source: OnePlus (Image credit: Source: OnePlus)

As far as design philosophies go, it's not a novel one. Samsung's OneUI was created with the same reasoning in mind, and Huawei's EMUI magazine redesign was also built to be more suitable for one-handed use. As phones grow bigger, Google's stock Android indeed lacks many of the adaptions that OEMs have made to accommodate them — including features Apple's more restricted iOS offers.

Despite all that, OnePlus stands to disappoint fans, many of whom have chosen it for its stock Android-like looks and even affectionately refer it as stock+. While OnePlus has never been shy about trying to improve on stock Android, some forum users have expressed that they find a visual change like this a bridge too far.

Michael Allison
  • I listened to this clip years ago when it came out. It's a truly incisive analyst and prediction of what companies like OnePlus do and become.
  • This was another clip along the same lines about OnePlus. By the same guy. I'd highly recommend listening to him to any enthusiast.
  • I'm not sure how to feel about this update but I do believe that one handed mode and always on display were things that needed to happen. Here's to hoping that this is a refreshing update for my 6T.
  • Just make 1 handed phone. Not need mode. If I handed phone with 99% display area, no need bigger screen. No need modify stok android. No need give salt to its loyal customer.
  • While the OnePlus launcher is to my liking, their failure to correct an extremely buggy Android 10 update for 5T owners is deeply disappointing. Nearly 3 1/2 months since its release, OP seems to be ignoring millions of owners
  • Probably not millions but yeah. Still bad.
  • I know how I feel, but I'm going to gander at the iPhone coming out. Im sick of all these changes and do we really need a reblown ui? BTW I want a smaller phone not a bigger one opo. Oneplus is turning into a Samsung wannabe, I'm done. Sometimes simpler is better. Remember the TV grid, and it worked. Go check out a firetv.
  • I don't mind OnePlus changing the interface as long as it's not at the expense of timely updates. If this change means that from now on their updates will take as long as Samsung's, FORGET IT!
  • "as long as Samsung's", you mean, getting security updates even before Google's iPixels and taking just 1 or 2 months to deliver system updates that contain 3 times more features than stock Android?
    Yeah, I'm pretty sure that'll be a compromise no one will bother to make.
  • "OnePlus stands to disappoint fans, many of whom have chosen it for its stock Android-like looks and even affectionately refer it as stock+." They're more likely to gain more customers than they'll lose over this.
    Unlike what Google fanboys like to tell themselves, most people don't want nor like stock Android. They prefer functionality. And that, stock Android doesn't have. The only sin OnePlus is committing here is not having moved away from it sooner.
    On the other hand, now that they understand where user hands actually reach, maybe it's time to stop making only oversized phones.
  • Exactly! Stock Android sucks. I like features so I go either Samsung or LG. Maybe now I'll check out 1+.
  • Looks like OnePlus PR messaging is in full force.
  • One handed operation is a good way to drop your phone and not get much done. It is a third rate parlor trick.
  • I have recently paid £900 for my OnePlus 8 Pro because it is stock Android and because it is not a Samsung whose interface I find difficult and counter intuative so I'm not happy.
  • So basically you overpaid for crap. You could have put a bit more for Samsung, got better hardware, more software features and an SD card slot. Also a better screen and had wireless charging.
  • Wear OS (previously Android Wear): stock Google software. Total failure in marketplace. Android TV: stock Google software. Total failure in the marketplace beyond smart TVs. ChromeOS: stock Google software. Did you know that Samsung tablet sales (21.7 million) exceeded ALL Chromebook sales (17 million) last year? Meanwhile Google is STILL trying to refine UI issues in ChromeOS when it is in touchscreen/tablet mode, despite launching said mode way back in 2015. Google Home/Nest Home: stock Google software. #2 in the marketplace, but A) the gap between them and #1 Amazon is HUGE and B) they are only #2 because there is no #3. Apple's sole product in this area COSTS $299 BUT LACKS PORTS AND A SCREEN plus Microsoft and Samsung decided not to even put products out.
    Chromecast: stock Google's only hardware success ... solely because it was so cheap. When Roku and Amazon matched its price point, its market share plummeted like a stone. Guess what folks. No one likes stock Android. Or to put it more broadly, no one likes Google product design. Had Google not allowed OEMs like Samsung to make changes, Windows Mobile would be #2 right now with Android alongside RSS Reader in the Google graveyard. You would have tons of Windows Mobile sites debating endlessly over whether Samsung or Nokia make better Windows phone and tablets.
  • The only people who like stock Android are the VERY vocal minority of Google-obsessed fanboys that we see on any post about anything Android related. I'm glad Google has Android, but I really don't understand the obsession with most other Google software. Outside of Gmail and the Google app itself, there's hardly anything about any Google app that makes them stick out from literally any other comparable app, and stock Android has always been the most bare bones. Google can't even succeed at a single messaging app, yet people still flock to them as if they given us any reason to have faith in their apps.
  • My mind is blown at how many people are actually complaining that the UI is being redesigned to make it easier and more comfortable to use just because it's not identical to boring, unimaginative stock Android.