This week marks the seventh anniversary of OnePlus. The company was set up on December 17, 2013 by Pete Lau and Carl Pei, who met during their time at OPPO. From the very beginning, OnePlus had a clear directive: make the best Android phones, and sell it for significantly less than the competition.
The strategy allowed OnePlus to gain a foothold with the enthusiast community, and it built on that initial momentum to become one of the leading phone manufacturers in the world today. The OnePlus 8 Pro is a refined flagship that takes on the best that Samsung and Google have to offer, and the OnePlus Nord charts a bold new direction for the company in the mid-range segment.
For all that OnePlus delivered on the hardware side of things, there have been several failures along the way. So let's take a look at the key milestones along OnePlus' seven-year journey, and some of its failings. If you're more interested in looking back at OnePlus' phones, I rounded up all the devices the company has launched in a retrospective post.
All you need
Setting a new bar for performance
The OnePlus 8T is a performance beast, with the phone rocking Qualcomm's Snapdragon 865 chipset along with 5G connectivity. It also has 65W wired charging, runs Android 11 out of the box, and has a sublime 120Hz AMOLED screen. As an overall package, it is hard to beat.
OnePlus milestones: Hardware wins, beating Samsung, diversification
OnePlus One disrupts the smartphone industry
The OnePlus One debuted in April 2014, but in typical OnePlus fashion, there was a lot of hype around the phone before its launch. OnePlus started teasing details about the hardware a few months before launch, and while it was an unknown entity back then, it was able to muster a lot of interest for the device because of its focus on the enthusiast community.
OnePlus wasn't the first to release a value flagship, but it was the first to launch one in global markets, particularly the U.S. The OnePlus One launched with a Snapdragon 801 chipset, 5.5-inch 1080p display, 13MP camera, and a 3100mAh battery, and it started off at just $299 — undercutting regular flagships by half.
The OnePlus One became an instant hit with the community, and it catapulted OnePlus into the spotlight as a value player.
OxygenOS sets the benchmark for third-party software
OnePlus launched the OnePlus One with Cyanogen OS, but for the OnePlus 2, it switched to the in-house OxygenOS. The early iterations of OxygenOS had their share of bugs, but the interface itself was close to pure Android, and it offered plenty of customization options.
The focus on clean software set OnePlus apart in the industry. With most Chinese manufacturers offering bloated skins with overt customization, OxygenOS was a breath of fresh air. Like the value-focused hardware, the clean software endeared OnePlus to power users, and it allowed the company to stand out.
Dash Charge paves the way for charging innovations
Dash Charge made its debut on the OnePlus 3 back in 2016. At the time, the 20W fast charging system was a revelation, with the OnePlus 3 able to go from zero to 60% in just 30 minutes. The underlying tech itself for Dash Charge was licensed from OPPO, and OnePlus continues to do that to this day.
Dash Charge was an immediate hit with OnePlus fans, and the distinctive red cable allowed the company to further solidify its identity. The 20W Dash Charge was unchanged until the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition, where it evolved into Warp Charge 30T.
OnePlus offered the 30W fast charging standard on most of its 2019 and 2020 phones, with the OnePlus 8T introducing a newer 65W charging tech dubbed Warp Charge 65.
Raising the bar for value flagships with OnePlus 3T
2016 was a pivotal year for OnePlus, because that was when the manufacturer sorted out issues with both hardware and software. The OnePlus 3T epitomized these learnings, with the phone delivering an industrial design backed by stellar performance and clean software that's devoid of any bugs.
While the OnePlus One put the company on the map, the OnePlus 3 series allowed the company to go up against the best that Samsung, LG, and Xiaomi had to offer at the time and come out on top.
Standing out with limited editions
Another differentiator for OnePlus was its collaboration with Disney and McLaren to release limited edition variants of its phones. It started out with the OnePlus 5T Star Wars edition, and the Disney partnership continued with the OnePlus 6 Avengers model.
OnePlus then shifted gears and launched a limited-edition OnePlus 6T McLaren variant, and followed it up with the 7T Pro McLaren edition.
For this year, OnePlus has partnered with Polish game studio CD Projekt Red over a Cyberpunk 2077 edition of the 8T. The device is limited to China and unlikely to release in global markets, but that may change in the coming months. I'm excited to get my hands on a unit, and will share my thoughts on the device soon.
Becoming the number one premium phone maker in India
For all the attention that OnePlus gets, it sells less than five million units globally. That's because of the fact that it focuses its attention mainly on high-end phones, but the strategy has allowed OnePlus to overtake Samsung in India's premium category.
OnePlus edged out Samsung over two years ago, and it has maintained its position at the top of India's premium segment ever since. India continues to be OnePlus' largest market, accounting for over a third of its global sales.
To maintain its position in the country, OnePlus regularly offers its flagships for significantly discounted prices over other markets. The 8 Pro launched in India for ₹54,999 ($748), while the same device in the U.S. started off at $900.
Carrier partnerships in the U.S.
OnePlus hit an important milestone during the launch of the 6T: it struck a partnership with T-Mobile. The 6T was the first OnePlus phone sold directly at carrier stores in the U.S., and that allowed OnePlus to target a significantly wider userbase.
It's not possible for any phone manufacturers to make inroads into the U.S. market without carrier backing, and by securing a deal with T-Mobile, OnePlus started gaining momentum in the U.S. with mainstream buyers. OnePlus also inked a deal this year with Verizon over the OnePlus 8, and while the carrier deals are in their infancy, OnePlus is looking to continue the momentum with its budget Nords.
Focusing on flagships with the OnePlus 7 Pro
The OnePlus 7 Pro was an important device for OnePlus, because it was signaled the company's ambitions to take on Samsung and Google in the flagship segment. Although OnePlus offered devices with high-end hardware from the beginning, its phones missed out on a few extras and were catered to value flagship buyers.
That changed with the OnePlus 7 Pro. The device featured a stunning all-screen design with a retractable camera module, 90Hz AMOLED screen, standout hardware, decent cameras, and a large battery. The 7T Pro continued the trend, but it was this year's OnePlus 8 Pro that truly managed to stand out thanks to IP68 rating and wireless charging.
Changing the view with the OnePlus TV
OnePlus made a bold bet on the TV segment last year with the Q1 series, launching the QLED TVs in India. The TV had a unique design and undercut the likes of Samsung and LG in the country, and it allowed OnePlus a foothold in a new category.
A year later, the Q1 Pro is still going strong. It continues to be one of the best QLED TVs in its category, although it is facing increased pressure from the likes of Xiaomi. OnePlus followed up the Q1 with the mid-range 55U1 and budget Y series.
A new direction with OnePlus Nord
With OnePlus shifting focus to the flagship segment, there was a distinct void in the sub-$500 segment. OnePlus filled that void with the introduction of the OnePlus Nord, the company's first mid-range phone in three years.
The Nord delivered the best hardware features from the likes of the OnePlus 8 for several hundred dollars less, and it had 5G connectivity along with a 90Hz panel and decent cameras. The fact that it launched at just ₹27,999 ($380) in India made it an instant hit, with the Nord becoming the best-selling device in its segment in 2020.