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Two sides to every controversy: OnePlus is getting a bad rap

It's easy (and fun) to manufacture a controversy, especially when it's about a company with a past that thrived on controversy to begin with. I'm talking about OnePlus of course, and before you decide you've heard enough about OnePlus this week I'll urge you to stop, take a few minutes and read just one more thing.

I recently wrote an article that parrots the thoughts of a lot of folks by saying not to buy a phone from OnePlus right now because of all the privacy and user data-handling concerns that seem to have surrounded the company lately. A credit card breach, some user data moving out of the phone and into the internet, and a clipboard that was being monitored by another app was just too much to swallow in such a short time and from just one company. We deserve better.

Drama and smartphones go hand-in-hand on the internet.

No company likes seeing those kinds of words written about it, especially when its side of the story isn't nearly as worrying and isn't getting out past all the noise the internet is so good at making. And I include myself and Android Central here — we make our fair share of noise whenever we think some noise needs to be made. In any case, OnePlus reached out to me and after a friendly and informative chat, I've realized a few things: not everything can be taken at face value; transparency is important; and blowing things out of proportion is awfully easy to do when an army of people are willing to do it.

Pointing a finger is easy, too. I can point one at myself and say I should have heard out OnePlus before I took to the keyboard, I can point one at all of us and say we make up our minds and tune out anything that doesn't match up with our narrative, and I can point one at OnePlus to say that all this could be avoided if it were more transparent and got in front of it all with a candid statement from the top.

It's not my place to make you feel at ease regarding privacy concerns with OnePlus. It is my place to explain my issues and why I feel differently today. After reading through a mountain of forum posts, tweets, obscure articles and subsequent retractions, it looks like OnePlus fell victim to what the internet is good at — getting outraged, then moving on when the next thing caught our attention. A big part of it is human nature. Juicy gossip is more interesting to read and share than the boring follow-up that clears the air. To that end, articles and forum threads about OnePlus stealing data or credit card numbers (both are absolutely false) get passed around a lot more than the explanation or retractions to those articles.

I can say that the two biggest issues I had were about the way the clipboard was monitoring what users were typing, and how long it took for OnePlus to respond once it realized their payment system had been breached. Turns out that the clipboard thing is part misunderstanding, part fabrication and part signal-to-noise ratio. It's done to be helpful, and users in China are faced with one company's app blocking URLs to another company's content — just like OnePlus claimed it was and nobody listened because it did not get the message out. And I've been assured that the investigation into the credit card data breach is still in full force, was a priority since it was exposed, and even if the message didn't make it through, OnePlus did what was necessary to make sure no more financial data was getting mishandled as soon as the breach came to light.

Consider this my retraction. I hope it gets as much attention as the original.

This puts me back where I used to be when it comes to buying one of the company's products. Do I trust in OnePlus? Heavens no, but I don't have implicit trust in any for-profit corporation to do anything except keep being for-profit. I just won't write the company off as not caring or being capable of managing user data when it comes to its phones. It's obvious that someone there cares, and all of this is really hard to do. It's equally obvious that even news we want to hear can be buried so deeply that we never get to hear it, and that problem is bigger than just OnePlus.

That leaves me with a new issue. It's fine to make me feel at ease by reaching out for a one-to-one chat, but that doesn't help you unless a company plans to reach out to everyone that way. OnePlus is no stranger to controversy, which makes it a lot easier to build a case against it. The company needs to find a way to get the message out when there is something important to say. While recording our latest podcast, Managing Editor, Daniel Bader, said this needed Carl Pei (OnePlus co-founder and face of the company in much of its early marketing) to come forward with the company's statement. That's a grand idea, and when you are marketing a phone to a group of people who are enthusiasts and apt to tear it all apart to find things like this, it might work. It would definitely work better than responding in a forum post that gets buried under all the accusations.

OnePlus wants you to buy a phone from them, not steal your SMS history.

We can do our part, too. Yes, OnePlus has had its fair share of bad press, but that doesn't mean you should ignore one side of any future fiasco in the making. For example, OnePlus forum users are concerned (opens in new tab) about an app called MKey that's part of the Oreo update for the OnePlus 5T in India. It asks for permission to use the phone, send SMS, read contacts and media. It should, because it's a keyboard designed to make it easier for multi-language users employing India-specific fonts — and it can send SMS messages. It's like an emoji keyboard but not written for fun as much as utility. OnePlus explained what the app in question was and what it can do directly to the forum-goers who had those questions. The explanation was (and still is) ignored and claims of shipping data for Indian customers to China are still being thrown around. If you see an article that makes these claims, ask the author to talk to OnePlus.

And OnePlus, I'm asking you to talk to your customers. Don't just respond in kind with a forum post or a PR message on your blog, because that's not working. If we, as Android fans and enthusiasts, do our part, you'll need to do yours.

I'm still not ready to call the OnePlus 5T the best phone you can buy, but it is a phone you'll probably love if you do buy one. And OnePlus is trying hard to protect your data even if it has a difficult time convincing the internet at large.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

67 Comments
  • Good one you for updating your thoughts and having the courage to say your perspective has shifted. As well as admitting that you might have jumped the gun with the first article. Takes guts and we don't see enough of that in our world today.
  • I bought the OnePlus one phone when it first came out, great phone, a month ago I bought the OnePlus 5T , it's absolutely the best phone I've ever owned battery life, let's just say seldom do have to charge it, I'm going almost 2 days and when I finally need to change the phone it's like half an hour and that pretty much gives it a full charge. So fastest charge in the planet, lighting speed to open with face detection, twice as face as iPhone x. Great camera. I could go on but I think that you get the picture. :)
  • Got myself 5T as well. Top phone, selfie camera is good. Only bottleneck is main camera, that is weaker than one in Samsung. Otherwise, perfect phone. Long battery life, very responsive and bloatware. Never settle.
  • I bought one and I love it!
  • Such a great looking phone that unfortunately I will never own
  • I will never own one. Are you kidding me..lol...You can go right now and get a Note 8 from $750-$800 from multiple vendors. That is a better value.😉
  • Nah, no thanks. I have no way of justifying wasting almost a grand on a phone. I'll get the One Plus and still have spare money to buy more stuff I want.
  • Who said you have to spend a grand? Plenty of deals out there
  • Very true I used to own all the OnePlus phones up till the OnePlus 3, after that I just shut down and got me a Note 8 for $600 last black friday Which is fab. Oneplus phones do not really represent good value anymore, they're hyped beyond reality and basically they're OPPO phones with a different logo attached. OnePlus hasn't introduced anything new to its phones since dash charging which came out in the OP3. And constantly releasing a T version to correct all your errors in the original phone os beyond excusable. Poor cameras, wonky screens and plagiarised designs not to talk about constant bugs and updates and security issues with your personal data being donated to the People Republic doesn't exactly inspire confidence. And then doctoring benchmarks and paying for favourable youtube reviews just put me off.
    The only good things are Dash charging and speed but then most phones cheap or premium have those features these days. If you're coming from a cheaper phone or want to downgrade then the OP5/T is your phone.
  • Not to say that Oppo is bad!
  • Where can I get a brand new note 8 for that cheap? Thanks,
  • Everyone will come across unplanned events. Some really embarrassing. And your right Jerry - It all depends on how you handle it. As a developer, I transposed a number incorrectly - and I mean one number out of hundreds or thousands that I wrote within that program. It was a professional weight lifting program. The bad part of that was this guy's daughter didn't get to go up on stage with her father together to get the trophy in front of that crowd. I had to get down on my knees and apologize to that little girl next time I saw her.
  • I don't see what the problem really is. It's Android!!! We Love Android because what ever we don't like about it--we change it. So you don't like the way its take on Android deal with your privacy? Easy! Just get rid of its stupid Oxygen or Hydrogen or Monosodium Glutamat OS and use OmniRom instead. OmniROM is the best Android OS on the planet.
  • That doesnt solve problems with sloppy credit card security
  • Good to hear that. Kudos to you for this article. Publicly accepting a changed stance for an author is difficult, but you have done what seems is right.
  • Unless there is 4 character limit "MKEY" is not a very descriptive name, you should expect EVERYONE to be worried if it required SMS permissions, if people were worried that's OnePlu's fault (shot themselves in the foot)... Other than that I expect the mobile blogs I read to tell me both sides of the story. I have just brought my first OnePlus 5T and in general its a great device, but their security doesn't inspire confidence right now.
  • OnePlus should make this right by a generous discount on the next upgrade model to all of those that were effected. This yearly credit monitoring is simply a bandage that let's them off the hook easy
  • Next time you shouldn't jump to conclusions based entirely on rumors. Why you didn't contact OnePlus first to get their side of the story is ridiculous. That's practically rule number 1: always get both sides of the story. Speaking of which, one reason Oneplus doesn't get their story out is because people just start writing crap (like you did) and start spreading misinformation so the truth gets drowned out. That being said, good on you for writing a retraction, but this wasn't much of a retraction. You pretty much still blamed OnePlus for everything in the entire article.
  • There is no one else to blame. Perhaps you could blame the consumers for making the purchases.....
  • As someone who has been affected by the data breach {which is much more than just credit card numbers by the way} I can tell you that being the victim of fraud is not a rumour. Oneplus have sent me one email 3 weeks ago telling me that I was affected and nothing since. There was no full disclosure that all of my details from their site had been stolen and no further news on their offer of credit monitoring. It feels very much like it had been brushed under the rug in the hope that we will all just go away. If companies screw up then they should have the decency to put their hands up and deal with it otherwise expect some bad press. Whilst I really like the phone, being probably the best I've ever had, I just can't recommend that anyone buy anything from Oneplus at the moment and that is a real shame.
  • Agreed. I will NEVER buy anything from one+. Fool me once.....
  • Sir we are in the same boat. I mean the EXACT experience that you just mentioned. I have and OP5 at the moment, but not sure I will have anything newer as it pertains to OP if they dont make this situation right
  • Yes, OnePlus did have a data breach. Along with a crap ton of other companies recently and government agencies. I don't know about you, but I live in the US and I've had my ID leaked by several different government organizations/groups over the years. Then you've got Experia, Visa, et cetera. Do you have any intention of leaving the US? Of not using a credit card? In the grand scheme of things, a credit card breach isn't too bad because you aren't responsible for fraudulent purchases made. The government leaks are worse because they contain social security numbers, addresses, birthdates, et cetera. But yes, for sure OnePlus was hacked. In any case, I wasn't referring to the credit card leaks -- I was referring to all the false rumors about oneplus harvesting data and trying to steal communications data from US customers -- which is patently false. This wasn't a piece focused about the data breach though, the author was writing about the rumors.
  • Exactly! the response is a tepid one. Just apologize and make sure it doesnt repeat.
    But their bad behavior is institutional, almost.
    Raft of leaky apps.
    repeatedly getting caught.
    "my bad" doesnt cut it.
    One plus is hopeless.
  • So whilst you are writing an article apologising for a recent article there's yet another app found to be potentially sending data to OnePlus' servers, why are such issues only apparently effecting OnePlus why are no other smartphone manufacturers continually getting caught out in the same way, why release yet another app with a potential data leak issue? If you look at OnePlus' own forum it's fairly clear they've handled the credit card data theft appallingly poorly with customers.
  • My wife and I want reasonably-priced but capable phones. We owned unlocked iPhones early on, but refuse to pay over $500 for a decent phone. She had a OP X, I have a OnePlus One and a 3T. The OPO still works fine, but ended up with a bad Cyanogen version so it's not my main phone. Also have on original Nexus 5, which also works ok. We find the OnePlus products to be great phones for the price.
    Thanks for writing this, because it illustrates, as you state, what Internet is often about and that what you read is always only a part of the truth.
  • My wife and I want reasonably-priced but capable phones. We owned unlocked iPhones early on, but refuse to pay over $500 for a decent phone. She has a OP X, I have a OnePlus One and a 3T. The OPO still works fine, but ended up with a bad Cyanogen version (my fault for trying to install Oxygen) so it's not my main phone. Also have on original Nexus 5, which also works ok. We find the OnePlus products to be great phones for the price.
    Thanks for writing this, because it illustrates, as you state, what Internet is often about and that what you read is always only a part of the truth.
  • "ended up" ?? you act like you can't just flash your OPO with the latest LineageOS, which of course you can easy as pie.
  • Maybe he does not want to mess around "flashing" and rooting phones. I would stay clear of One+ and go with a mid range phone from sony etc.
  • Very true I used to own all the OnePlus phones up till the OnePlus 3, after that I just shut down and got me a Note 8 for $600 last black friday. Oneplus phones do not really represent good value anymore, they're hyped beyond reality and basically they're OPPO phones with a different logo attached. OnePlus hasn't introduced anything new to its phones since dash charging which came out in the OP3. And constantly releasing a T version to correct all your errors in the original phone os beyond excusable. Poor cameras, wonky screens and plagiarised designs not to talk about constant bugs and updates and security issues with your personal data being donated to the People Republic doesn't exactly inspire confidence. And then doctoring benchmarks and paying for favourable youtube reviews just put me off.
    The only good things are Dash charging and speed but then most phones cheap or premium have those features these days. If you're coming from a cheaper phone or want to downgrade then the OP5/T is your phone.
  • As someone who owns ever Note and OnePlus phone that comes out...save me the BS. bragging that you got a Note 8 at $600 as though it is suppose to be on the same level of price as OP phone is a joke. You know good and well it was part of some "activate on TMobile/ATT/Verizon" BOGO non-sense. You failed to mention if it was a Samsung S8 PLUS w/ 128GB which would be equivalent to my OP5T price wise. Crickets right? And trying to say releasing 2 phones a year is some way to "correct" is laughable at best. Does BIXBY ring a bell? Plagiarized designs and you are rocking a SAMSUNG. pot calling the kettle black.
  • My friend had a 3 that kept randomly rebooting after the Oreo update, even going back to Nougat wouldn't fix it. Lol Never settle... He ended up getting a Samsung cuz he was sick of the problem
  • One piece of trash to another piece of trash.
  • I really feel that it’s not easy to feel sympathetic when there’s some new controversy looming every week in regards to OnePlus. And honestly, I’m really starting to feel that their phones are steadily losing in the value game. Yes, they still offer quite a bit for less than the equivalent competition, but it’s not like it’s significant either. The OPO was great in that it was from $299 and you got exceedingly great bang for your back (especially if you paid extra for the 64GB version with the Sandstone back) But the OP3 was perhaps the last one that kept the ethos of great hardware for a wonderful price. The 3T climbed past the $400 mark but it was still solid value. But the 5 kinda rubbed me the wrong way. It went past the $500 mark for the 128GB model and while the 64GB 5T is just under $500, the 128GB model is inching closer and closer to $600 territory, only $50 shy of when the U11 launched at, which can be considered a proper flagship. At that point, we’ll have to evaluate OnePlus as a flagship competitor when they inevitably charge flagship-level prices.
  • Spare me the DRAMA, you wrote and titled your article "I can't buy a phone from OnePlus until it cares about privacy and security" for one reason...drama and the CLICKBAIT that comes along with it. Guts? none in the slightest. As long as you push out a couple of ONEPLUS articles every week or so....all the better. it's like DEBATE CLUB 101...one day you are "pro" and the next "neg", all up to the editor at large. well played.
  • It's interesting how competition is attacking oneplus. 1st they're spreading in all tech social media that oneplus is collecting unauthorized data, coz they're Chinese and Chinese people are stealing your data. 2nd now they're spreading the tech channels with insecure payments. Coz they're Chinese and Chinese people are all hackers, since baby born. Nothing else to add, it's just interesting to study case the anti marketing the competition is providing... They are chasing the lead of INSECURE GROUND. Coz we all know that China is like that. Stupid (and antique) strategies for stupid people
  • What nonsense what other smartphone manufacturer as had a major security breach where countless number of their customers have had their credit card details etc stolen, the breach due to a fundamental error in their security systems in that they record the CC details on their website.. Plus OP are shooting themselves in the foot continually releasing apps which send customers data back to China, I'm starting to wonder whether they are state sponsored hence why the handsets are such good value hence why they are constantly releasing data leaking apps on each OS update.
  • Hahaha. true. This is TOTALLY oneplus' fault. as a 1+ customer, it's infuriating as heck
  • I kind of assume most of my data is out there somewhere. I use Google and other cloud based storage. GPS is always on ect ect.
    Many many companies have had issues with security and if Oneplus was a US or UK company I'm sure it wouldn't seem like such a big deal.
    Still not good though and if I was one of the people effected I would be really pissed.
  • agreed. we're leaking data. we trust faceless corps too much. but this one's sneaky. 1+ isnt doing themselves any favor by their stupid responses. repeatedly getting caught is a red herring
  • It's 10 years since Chinese baby milk formula was found to be contaminated with melamine. Still to this day the majority of baby formula bought in China is imported because the Chinese people themselves are making up their own minds about who they trust.
    It's all about Trust. A commodity that, once lost, is almost impossible to re-establish. Baby formula for a Chinese parent or the next phone I buy will be a choice based on Trust. I agree with Jerry that we can't ever have complete faith in any For Profit company..... Anymore. But a decade ago we weren't having these conversations. We believed we could trust and rely on Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry etc. Why was that? Could it be because they were designed and manufactured in countries where we lived and where we worked and where we felt we could trust those companies' products because they were made by the people who would be buying them themselves?
    Has Globalization and the exclusively For Profit motivation of global companies got us to where we are today. How many of us would like to work in an Apple factory in China? How many components in every other phone companies' products are made in similar factories? I'm not xenophobic about China.We can't take anything on Trust anymore. We can't do without the products from these companies. We can't trust any governments to protect and safeguard us from these global companies. We've become hooked on their digital bait and are floundering like a fish on a hook. The best we can hope for is to be thrown back into the pond and wait to be caught again.
  • Here is how I see it:
    If install social media apps like Facebook, instagram, Twitter- you expose your phone.
    If you go online - you expose your phone .
    There is no way around it... Might as well get the best specs for your buck - aka- buying One Plus (I own OP 3)
  • OnePlus makes great phones, it's just the trickery behind the scenes being the problem
  • yes, that's true. BUT, what 1+ is doing is patently wrong too.
    they are stealing data, after claiming not to do it after they got caught the 1st time.
    that, IMHO is damning.
  • Ok, this is good.
    But it's still a lame apology. It still makes it so that OnePlus has something to do to make up for. I don't know. On the other hand, of course, Android Central neither has any reason to make an apology for the internet of things. Still. If you're going to right a piece like this, go the whole way. It is apparent what happened here - internet hysteria - and this is clear even to those taking part. It would have been nice to just step up and say so. People would have noticed. This just sounds like you all trying to stay ahead of the game...for yourselves. It reeks of manipulation. Shaping attitudes. Managing leadership. It feels inauthentic. My two words.
  • Looks like someone got yelled at for deterring people from buying a product that is heavily advertised by AC, lol Seriously, AC starts looking more and more biased. First, you point out flaws in phones (Pixel 2 XL, 1+ and so), and then, when topic gets hot and everyone knows about it, you start to negate everything. Yes, sometimes you're too judgmental (the screen of Pixel 2 XL was clearly an overblown thing), but at least a part of the issue at hand is not. So what if 1+ PR Division contacted you and told you some corporate bullshit? You should know better. Data leaks happen, but 1+'s way of dealing with them is just ridiculous. So yeah, this definitely does not change my mind. 1+ phones are cheaper for a reason. Think twice when buying anything suspiciously cheaper than comparable products of renowned brands. There's a high chance that the price difference comes from somewhere more than just the brand.
  • I agree with everything you said.
  • Galileo was put on trial by the Church for saying that the Earth moved around the Sun. He was ordered to recant.
    He recanted as ordered but afterwards had too much integrity to lie when asked if he'd been wrong and the Church view was correct. He was put on trial a second time and his punishment was House Arrest for the remainder of his life. As he left the courtroom he was heard to say
    "And still the Earth moves" I've read Jerry's recantation carefully several times And still the Earth moves.
  • This is a good follow up, especially when there is so much misinformation online and no follow up, when I read on One Plus having a credit card data breach and a potential backdoor, I believe it was just unintentional but still very unfortunate. It's great to know they are following up and investigating still. I'm still to now wondering about what happened to the wanna cry victims, or who did it, and the las Vegas shooter motives, so follow up is always wanted. When I heard TCL Alcatel idol is also having some weird apps reading your data, it gives lesser confidence to get a non samsung, non pixel, non LG, non HTC, non Apple, non Moto device. Maybe just hold off on ZTE, Huawei, Vivo, Oppo, TCL phones till everything clears up right.
  • Problem is follow up/investigation seems to look like "sweep it under the carpet" until the heats off to a lot of effected OP customers who've just been left to resolve the problems themselves with their CC providers. As far as posters saying your location etc gets shared with Google, I sense that's slightly different than OP secretly sending your personal data to their servers, if they don't want a customers data why do they keep obtaining it secretly? There's too many "mistakes" now for this not to be deliberate,?
  • After reading all these comments, i wonder if they are sent and stored on a Chinese server!!!
    I don't trust this company if they gave me their phone for free.
  • They are in the same boat as Apple and their battery update fiasco.... they should ha be been up front about this from the start and it doesn't look as shady.
  • Like I mentioned elsewhere. People started yelling fowl at apple because they thought they were trying to slow down the phones to make people upgrade. Meanwhile they offer 5 year update cycles on their devices. If this were true (trying to force people to upgrade), why don't they just take the quick and cheapshot method of NOT giving devices updates like most every android phone manufacturer? That would be the correct way to do it. Samsung releases a phone and you are lucky to get one update. As well as MOST others too. stop trying to make it seem like apple is the devil. It's very clear they are not. One Plus screwed around with their customers private data....and then was fool hardy when they had a credit breach. Those two together are FAR worse than apple trying to give their customers all day battery. One Plus deserve whatever comes to them from this. And by most of the comments here...it's going to be a rough future. Again, Fool me once!!!!!
  • I don't think he's saying Apple's the devil, just that they should've been upfront about their process and programming ... like One Plus.
  • Yeah. Where did he get I was saying one was worse than the other. I was saying they both caused trheir own problem by not being transparent on issues they both know look damn shady when kept under wraps.
  • So, Jerry, would you buy a OnePlus phone today?
  • Pygmy, I can answer for Jerry. NO. He said in his previous article. and i am sure that still stands. However, advertising income reigns supreme so therefore, we have this turn around article!
  • I know what he said. However, he claims this is a retraction, so I’d lik some clarification with regards to what he means by that. Is he retracting the entirety of the (still posted) other article? That would seemingly include his “no buy” on OnePlus devices. If it doesn’t, what is he actually retracting? How much of this will be reflected in the post tomorrow about the new Red OnePlus 5t announcement?
  • Also, why is the original story still on the front page of the site, yet this one is nowhere to be found?
  • Sorry Jerry, but you penned that first piece for a reason ... If OnePlus can't "get it together", I don't think they can be trusted right now.
  • So it's not fair to hold a company accountable for it's errors? It's unfair to point out that consumers might want to wait to trust a company until it resolves it's previous mistakes, and makes it right with its current customers? You told the truth. If any other company made the same errors I would expect the same response. AC is written for consumers and fans right? Then your first article did what it was supposed to do , inform us.
  • **** 1+
  • If I wanted to throw money away, I'd just give my credit cards to some rando on the street. F-OnePlus. I'll never trust them or buy their products. People had their credit card info stolen from OnePlus's servers. How can you write a retraction now? People lost money.
  • Jerry might have changed his mind but I am not, not going to buy any phone from any Chinese brand, no Chinese app, nothing. I am Chinese by the way.
  • I appreciate the story...I feel that Oneplus still needs to start acting like they belong with the big companies though. Once they stop making all these idiotic mistakes, I'll consider buying from from again. I think people are defending them too much. Sometimes NOT being in the news is the best thing.
  • NOPE. No more to One Plus. One too many scandals to be caught, their half assed apologies ensure they are guilty as f. I've defended 1+ in the past. but last few months have made me sell my 1+ devices an jump ship. It's too bad that we got carried away, thought they were too good to be true.
  • One only has to go back in time to the beginning of OnePlus (2013), to confirm almost everything OP management has stated was eventually proved to be untrue. They denied they were owned by OPPO, until someone took the time and effort to check official Chinese Government records, which clearly showed OPPO indeed held full ownership of OnePlus. Since that time, it's been one lie or misleading statement after another, with management vehemently denying problems, until they were clearly proven wrong. Clearly, any statement from OnePlus is NOT to be believed.