What you need to know
- The next device in the OnePlus Nord series is the Nord CE 5G.
- It will make its global debut in India on June 10.
- OnePlus is also launching a new TV in the U series at the event, with new wireless earbuds inbound later in the year.
OnePlus is increasingly focusing on the Nord series to bolster its sales momentum. The OnePlus Nord debuted nearly a year ago and is still one of the best cheap Android phones available in 2021; it continues to sell incredibly well in markets like India.
OnePlus says that sales in India increased by 200% in Q4 2020 — following the introduction of the Nord — with that number rising to 300% in Q1 2021. Clearly, the Nord as a product resonated with users in the country, and OnePlus is now aiming to follow it up with a new launch in the series, the Nord CE 5G.
The Nord CE 5G will make its global debut in India on June 10, and OnePlus will also introduce a new TV in the U series at the event — with new wireless earbuds slated to launch later in the year (likely with the Nord 2). OnePlus is calling it a "summer launch event," and ahead of the announcement, I attended a media roundtable with OnePlus CEO Pete Lau to learn more about the company's plans for the Nord series and its strategy going forward.
While we didn't get many details on the hardware front, Lau said that the Nord CE 5G will embody the "characteristic of the Nord series" and that the product will "deliver beyond expectations." Leaks point to a camera housing that's in line with the OnePlus 9 series, with large rings around the camera modules.
As for why OnePlus ventured into the mid-range segment with the Nord series, Lau noted that it was to make its devices more accessible to a mainstream audience. With its numbered flagships starting at over ₹40,000 ($550), OnePlus needed a more budget-focused option, and that led to the Nord.
"Looking at the overall Indian market, the ₹30,000 ($412) price level and above account for just 5% of the total market. That means over 90% of the market can't have access to OnePlus products," said Lau. "Thinking about this, I looked back at the OnePlus One and how significant it was that we launched it for ₹22,000 and how well it resonated with the market at the time."
"Over time, as flagships have gotten more expensive, only a certain amount of the market was addressable. Our core principles is to deliver excellent products and experiences, and we want to have more people in the market to have access to our products," said Lau. "The Nord CE will be a very good example of this, and it will be an excellent overall product for the Indian market."
Of course, the focus on the Nord doesn't mean OnePlus will ignore its numbered flagship series. Lau noted that the OnePlus 9 series was "very well received" in India (but didn't share any sales figures). "OnePlus flagships created a strong reputation in terms of design, overall performance, fast screens and smooth software experience, and building on this core, we have pushed our cameras to the next level with Hasselblad," said Lau. "We will continue investing to deliver next-level cameras."
While the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the semiconductor industry, Lau said that OnePlus' launch plans had not been affected. "A big part of this is that we have been able to plan and forecast with our partners. Our launches in the future should also not be affected."
Lau revealed back in 2019 that he wanted to build a connected ecosystem of products, with the launch of the OnePlus Q1 being the first step in that goal. That was followed by the U and Y series TVs, wireless earbuds in the form of the OnePlus Buds and Buds Z, and a foray into wearables with the OnePlus Band and, more recently, the OnePlus Watch.
Lau said that IoT is a "central part" of OnePlus' strategy and that the company will continue to roll out new ecosystem products. "We are really excited to build out this IoT ecosystem and have a core focus on the ecosystem launching first in India," said Lau. "This is very much a strategy that we are excited to continue and strengthen, and enable even more people in India to try out OnePlus products."
With OnePlus now offering products in diverse categories, Lau summed up the company's positioning. "Our flagships will look to push the industry standard in every way possible. Alongside our flagships, our Nord products will look to offer users the fastest, smoothest, and best overall OnePlus experience possible. Adding to this, our IoT strategy will look to drive the creation of as many seamless user experiences as possible."
OnePlus switched up its software strategy last year, with OxygenOS 11 introducing a bold new design aesthetic. Then came ColorOS 11, and it was clear that there's a lot of similarities between the two interfaces.
OnePlus is now using ColorOS on its phones in China, but Lau reaffirmed that it would not be the case for global markets. "The core of OxygenOS will be further strengthened, and this will include different foundational advantages like AI to enhance the UI," said Lau. "China is a unique market, but for global markets, OxygenOS will remain standalone going forward."
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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.