Saturday, November 4, 2017

Looking back at the OnePlus One (and cheaper flagships generally)

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Remember the OnePlus One? Chances are, anyone who owned the phone remembers it fondly for a number of reasons (if you need a refresher, check out my OnePlus One review).

In 2015, flagship smartphones started around $600, much like today. Samsung had just released the Galaxy S5, a premium device with what many considered to be a less than premium design and overall experience.

Seemingly out of nowhere, OnePlus burst onto the scene. It stirred up a lot of news after many of its members broke off from a big Chinese manufacturer, Oppo, to form the young company. That notoriety, and an aggressive guerilla marketing campaign, brought the company a ton of eyeballs when it announced a device it called the ‘flagship killer.

The OnePlus One ticked a lot of ‘flagship’ boxes. It had a Snapdragon 801 SoC, a high quality display, an above average battery, and an accessible version of Android. OnePlus managed to go above and beyond with a larger storage option and an extra gigabyte of RAM than its biggest Android competitor: the Galaxy S5. If a company that no one had ever heard of could out-spec Samsung for less money, it was worth paying attention to.

The phone had a fairly unique design too. Baby Skin white (which is still a weird name), Sandstone Black and replacement shells added even more uniqueness and gave the phone a measure of personalization. It wasn’t without its issues, like the beleaguered invite system, but it was clear how much people wanted this phone once it was revealed it didn’t also have a premium price.

The base model cost $299, with the 64 GB storage option priced at $349. Normally these kinds of prices meant getting something closer to a feature handset than a flagship. It meant users who were okay with sacrificing some of the more specialty features that Samsung or LG phones included could get a premium experience at almost half the price.

Don’t forget that the phone got cut down another $50 too, making it one of the most affordable flagship phones of all time.

So, why are we bringing this up? With the recent leak of a new OnePlus device, we wanted to look back at the company’s original flagship and see where it came from. Also, a couple of pieces came out on Android Authority recently which dive into a problem OnePlus tried to address back in 2015 with the One: rising smartphone prices.

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