The OnePlus 8 series is almost here. We now know that the OnePlus 8 Pro will be under $1000, but it wasn’t that long ago that the OnePlus 6 was controversial for being the company’s first flagship over the $500 mark. How fast the smartphone market changes.
OnePlus followed initial “flagship killer” ambitions with talk about performance and speed, and now itâ€™s clear the objective for OnePlus has changed. It’s a premium smartphone maker, no longer cutting corners but taking on the big boys.
The OnePlus One was so good that it's always been hard for OnePlus to move beyond what it did to Android
The problem for OnePlus is many Android fans have long memories. OnePlus initially burst onto the scene as a disruptor, and changing that viewpoint for many is tough. It’s almost like OnePlus started too well. With the backing and know-how of BBK and sister-brand Oppo, it hit the ground running. The OnePlus One offered similar performance to the Samsung Galaxy S5 at about half the price. It wasnâ€™t perfect, and it made sacrifices you had to live with, but it was a premium device at a cost no one could believe. It’s still the favorite device of many Android enthusiasts when they look back.
Far removed from its beginnings, OnePlus is now joining the higher-end brands with higher-end phones. The strategy does seem to be working with its successful continuing push into the US, a notoriously difficult market. At times, certain OnePlus devices exceeded the prices of flagships from the likes of Samsung, Huawei, Google, and even Apple.
So, here we are. With the OnePlus 7 series and 7T series both largely well-reviewed in 2019, the first 2020 OnePlus phones will be an interesting fit.
Letâ€™s take a look at a quick history of OnePlus prices until now, and see what it tells us.
OnePlus launch pricing over time
OnePlus One – $299
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display, the specs of 2014’s OnePlus One blew people away. OnePlus gambled on a device with no expandable storage and no replaceable battery, plus just 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. While these options were big trade-offs, it still packed a punch. Reviews highlighted availability problems that were once common with OnePlus, buggy software, and poor sound. But the 5.5-inch device delighted many as a hit new brand, if you were able to source one.
OnePlus 2 – $329 ($30 increase)
The OnePlus 2 launched just over a year later with the new 64-bit Snapdragon 810, 3 or 4GB of RAM, a fingerprint sensor, USB-C, an alert slider, bigger battery, and OIS on the rear camera. While the specs of the display were the same, fidelity also increased. It lacked NFC and camera performance lagged behind the leaders.
Interestingly, the OnePlus 2 is seen as one of the worst in the OnePlus stable. The biggest blunder was removing NFC support, which OnePlus said wasn’t being used enough. Oddly. Oh, and while a USB-C charging port was a good move, OnePlus crippled its compatibility by not having it conform to USB-C standards. Oops. But valuable lessons were learned.
OnePlus 3 – $399 ($70 increase)
The OnePlus 3 upgraded the processor to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and came with 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (only), an AMOLED display, and debuted Dash Charge as a highly touted new feature. It brought back NFC and an upgraded the camera. The battery was dropped to 3,000mAh.
OnePlus 3T – $439 ($40 increase)
The OnePlus 3T was an iterative upgrade, the first short-cycle update to a previous device. It was an internal upgrade, including the newer Snapdragon 821 chipset and a 16MP front camera, along with a bigger 3,400mAh battery and a new 128GB option.
OnePlus 5 – $479 ($40 increase)
Avoiding unlucky number 4, the OnePlus 5 was the first device in the family to feature dual rear cameras. It lifted the range to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of storage. Styled closely to the iPhone 7, it added 16 and 20MP sensors and retained the all-metal design, but removed OIS. Still, it was reviewed as being worth every penny, with some catches.
The OnePlus 5 received stinging criticism for not having enough significant upgrades to justify a price 50 percent higher than the OnePlus 3. The company also caught heat for slow software updates, a “jelly stutter” effect when scrolling, and inflating benchmark scores.
OnePlus 5T – $479 (no increase)
The OnePlus 5T didnâ€™t offer significant internal upgrades, sticking with the Snapdragon 835 and 6 or 8GB of RAM, but it upgraded the display to a 6-inch model, with a 2,160 x 1,080 AMOLED screen and an 18:9 ratio, and pushed the fingerprint sensor to the back. The company also added face unlock.
OnePlus 6 – $529 ($50 increase)
The OnePlus 6 brought a new all-glass body and a bigger display with a slightly higher resolution, as well as a Snapdragon 845, a better dual camera with OIS on the main shooter and a new Sony sensor, fast LTE, better water resistance, and new software tweaks. The OnePlus 6 was the first to take part in Google’s Android beta program, for Android P, now known as Android 9.
OnePlus 6T – $549 ($20 increase for base model, higher spec editions unchanged)
The OnePlus 6T came just six months later, with the company removing the headphone jack, adding an in-display fingerprint sensor, reducing the notch size and shape, and debuting with Android 9 Pie. It offered the same specs and almost the identical build to the OnePlus 6, with the removal of the 3.5mm audio jack a controversial choice, for $549.
OnePlus 7 â‚¬559/$630 ($80 increase), OnePlus 7 Pro $669/â‚¬709 (new)
2019’s OnePlus 7 series packed the OnePlus 7 and the high-end OnePlus 7 Pro, a first premium offering beyond the usual release.
The OnePlus 7 retained some of the brand’s traditional upgrade choices going for value and performance, while the OnePlus 7 Pro went for a statement about premium ambitions. The pair were a mix of flagship killer, and killer flagship, respectively.
Both offered the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 SoC, while the Pro went with higher-end triple-camera with a 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, pop-up selfie camera, 90Hz panel and Warp Charge. The more standard 7 model offered the same 48MP primary camera, but stuck with a 5MP secondary sensor, while other features like UFS 3.0, RAM Boost, Zen Mode, and gaming modes made it across.
OnePlus did also offer a 5G model in the 7 Pro 5G. This version had limited availability and it was more of a test device ahead of 2020 5G models.
The prices are a little tricky to line up. The OnePlus 7 wasn’t made available in the US, just the 7 Pro. The 7 Pro has US pricing and seems cheap compared to the price in Europe, but that’s because sales tax in the US is applied afterwards. (In Europe, a VAT tax is applied pre-purchase, and shown in the RRP.)
So, how do we compare? Given we only saw OnePlus 7 pricing in euros (â‚¬559), that’s effectively all we can go with. That equals $630 in greenbacks, but there’s a pretty good argument that an actual release would’ve been lower, considering US retail pricing goes without tax. But, we’ll never know because OnePlus didn’t do it.
7 and 7 Pro: Flagship killer, and killer flagship.
OnePlus 7T $599/â‚¬599 ($30 decrease/â‚¬40 increase), OnePlus 7T Pro â‚¬759/$836 (â‚¬40 increase)
The introduction of the OnePlus 7T series added a round of refinement over the 7 series. The major differences in the internals were upgrading both 7T models to the Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset. The OnePlus 7T Pro stuck with the vertical camera arrangement, and added 2GB more of RAM and ticked the internal storage up to 256GB. That’s about it: the changes were so small that OnePlus didn’t bother releasing the 7T Pro into the US.
However, the OnePlus 7TÂ had a significant upgrade by taking 7 Pro’s major features: the 90Hz refresh rate screen and the triple-camera setup on the rear, now in a circular design.
Yet pricing again is a little tricky. In the US, the 7T launched for $599. Based on comparable pricing to the OnePlus 7, that shapes up as a good deal and the graph below shows a big dip in pricing. In Europe, the OnePlus 7T launch price was â‚¬599, or â‚¬40 more than the OnePlus 7.
The OnePlus 7T Pro wasn’t made available in the US. In Europe, launching at â‚¬759, the 7T Pro saw a price rise of â‚¬40 over the 7 Pro, to cover the internals upgrade and refinement. (Converted: US$830, at the time of launch.)
What does it all mean?
First, a chart! Here’s a look at those prices, from OnePlus to OnePlus 7T Pro:
It’s been almost a steady rise in prices from OnePlus over the years, from the $299 OnePlus One in 2014, to 2019’s OnePlus 7 and 7T series.
OnePlus hasnâ€™t been shy about adding to the price as the platform adds more features. The $70 jump from the OnePlus 2 to the OnePlus 3 was the first big jump. The second was the $120 rise from the OnePlus 6T to the OnePlus 7 Pro.
The later OnePlus 7T (non-Pro) emerged in the US at a great price comparatively: $50 more than the OnePlus 6T, but $70 less than the 7 Pro, but with many of those features borrowed.
All of that lead to my colleague (and habitual OnePlus upgrader) C Scott Brown to try and untangle exactly what OnePlus was doing in his piece titled: Buying a OnePlus phone used to be simple, but thatâ€™s changed in multiple ways.
The OnePlus 8 series, launching on April 14, is sure to be the most expensive yet. OnePlus is unlikely to be able to manage another flagship killer even in its non-Pro device. I’m not even sure our chart of prices can help predict how much more the 8 series will be.
Why? OnePlus told us 5G is now coming to the OnePlus 8 series via the latest Snapdragon 865 SoC. It also revealed the 8 Pro will pack LPDDR5 RAM as standard, and UFS 3.0 storage, as well as proprietary fast wireless charging. That all means big money.
OnePlus competitors like Xiaomi have been forced to raise prices to cover the costs with the latest Snapdragon processor. The Mi 10 went for â‚¬999, which is rich gravy from any brand, let alone Xiaomi. Meanwhile, flagships from Samsung may give us an idea of the potential upper limits of US pricing: the very recent Galaxy S20 retailed for $999, S20 Plus for $1,199, and S20 Ultra for $1,399 in the US.
Specs, competition, and a $1000 limit: the OnePlus 8 Pro is going to be costly.
What we know is that OnePlus has said neither of the expected phones will be above $1,000. But $999-on-the-dot for the 8 Pro model seems possible. In Europe, we could see a â‚¬999 Pro model, too, or nearly Â£900 for those in the UK. In India, that looks like Rs. 70,000, which was the same as the Galaxy S20.
We’ll find out more at the OnePlus launch on April 14.