OnePlus's new OxygenOS 13, launching with Android 13 later in 2022, will be co-developed with Google and OnePlus fans, bringing a cleaner software experience that's closer to stock Android. But the company isn't settling for a mere visual refresh — there are new features coming to the next version of OxygenOS thanks to that closer partnership with Google.
In a group interview with Android Central and other publications ahead of today's numerous OnePlus announcements, we asked OnePlus software lead Gary Chen what features the company was working on with Google for inclusion in OxygenOS 13. Speaking in Chinese through an interpreter, Chen told us that the co-development initiative with Google will include new privacy and security features, as well as the overall design — although since the software is in the early stages of development there's not much they can say about the latter at present. (We'd interpret that to mean OxygenOS 13 taking on a visual style closer to Google's Material You — something clearly lacking in current builds of OxygenOS 12.)
But the most interesting tidbit from Chen gives us our first hint of OnePlus entering a new category of smartphone — foldables. Specifically, he says, OnePlus is working with Google on the company's flagship devices, including foldable phones, and the new features that can be introduced for them in OxygenOS 13.
OxygenOS 13 will be based upon Android 13, which is expected to launch publicly in fall 2022. The new Android release will include all the work started in the interim Android 12L version to make the OS work better on large-screen devices like foldable phones. Based on Chen's remarks, it sounds like OnePlus will be taking full advantage of Android's new foldable features, and working closely with Google to build upon what's in the base OS for a future foldable product.
In response to follow-up questions around a possible OnePlus foldable, company founder Pete Lau was keen to highlight the breadth of Oppo and OnePlus's partnership with Google, including its Better Together initiative for Android, Chrome and accessories. (The implication there being that foldables are just one of many areas of collaboration with Google.) And Oppo, of course, recently launched its own foldable device, the Find N in China.
Nevertheless, Chen's remarks refer specifically to foldable features, co-developed by Google and OnePlus, for OxygenOS 13. That strongly suggests a OnePlus-branded foldable could be in the works for release in 2022 or 2023.
While this is the first time anyone as OnePlus has explicitly commented on developments around foldable phones, the company's foldable ambitions have come to light previously through design patents. In late 2021, a double-hinge tri-fold design was unearthed by LetsGoDigital, showing a phone that folds out into a large widescreen tablet.
A design patent is a long way off being a real physical product, however, and it's not clear what form a OnePlus foldable might take. There are certainly plenty of different form factors for it to choose from.
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Alex was with Android Central for over a decade, producing written and video content for the site, and served as global Executive Editor from 2016 to 2022.