Using a remote live streaming venue instead of the pre-COVID in-person press conference, OnePlus today announced the follow up to their flagship model, the all-5G-capable OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro. The introduction was not unexpected as last year’s OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro (as well as the 6 series the year before that) was introduced in the same month of April. For OnePlus, their April flagship has become a tradition of sorts; just as predictable as those of Samsung, Huawei and Apple. For OnePlus, the appeal of the no-frills/high specification/lower cost premium designs have attracted a loyal following of youthful and tech-savvy consumers. More notable at today’s announcement was OnePlus win with another major US carrier - Verizon (in addition to last year with T-Mobile). Any new brands making it to the premium lineup of a US carrier is a big deal given the long history of failed attempts (i.e. Amazon, Sony and Essential). This implicit support by another major carrier to carrier OnePlus devices in ultra-premium segment speaks volumes about the successes OnePlus has achieved over the past several years.
What else is significant in the announcement is the continuation of a complete 5G-capable lineup of flagship smartphone designs. As anticipated in previous articles, 5G has become table-stakes as the must-have feature in top-end 2020 designs. The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro is leveraging the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform which includes the X55 5G modem. The X55 began entering the market late 2019 as OEMs like Samsung and OnePlus made incremental updates to their 1st generation 5G phones with FDD capability and low band/high coverage 5G deployments from T-Mobile and AT&T. However, now the go-to premium 5G design is using the Snapdragon 865 instead of the 855+.
As with other 2nd generation 5G flagships, additional 5G band support has been added to the RF Front End. Whereas 1st generation 5G devices may support only one or two regional 5G bands, the second generation designs now offer upwards of 5 global 5G bands preparing the OnePlus 8 for true global roaming [when the service becomes available]. OnePlus also announced a special SKU (stock keeping unit) of the OnePlus 8 called the OnePlus 8 UW for Verizon’s millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G network. This model uses the base OnePlus 8 design but adds mmWave antenna modules. Priced between the base OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Plus, the Verizon UW (ultra-wide band) version will be available at Verizon starting on May 7th.
The rest of the OnePlus 8 design leans heavily on the popular industry design trends:
- 120Hz display
- LPDDR5 memory
- Multi camera system
- Wireless Fast Charging
- Bezel-less full screen design
The OnePlus 8 starts at $699 with the 8 Plus starting at $899. This price premium is quite notable given the “affordable” premium design reputation of the OnePlus brand. However, given the added 5G radio and improved specifications, this increase in retail pricing reflect the harsh reality of growing cost of competitive smartphone designs. This trend of increasing prices of flagship devices is becoming more of a burden [than it is an asset] in these uncertain COVID-19 times. Will the industry succeed with moving consumers to premium pricing or will global economics throw cold water on the increased costs? This question will be answered in the next few months.