In one of the eagerly awaited launch events of the year, the OnePlus 5 was launched yesterday in India. This is a far cry from the relative obscurity during the launch of the Oneplus One back in the day. Clearly, a lot has changed since then, and the market and OnePlus both have matured. However, where does OnePlus’ newest flagship fit into the smartphone hierarchy today? Is it good enough to survive the increasingly hard-hitting competition? Is it truly the flagship killer it once was?
Let us have a closer look and answer all these questions and more.
A Quick Rundown Of The Specs
Back in 2014 during the launch of the original One Plus One, the phone was lauded for its flagship level specs and no compromise attitude. The OnePlus 5 continues this trend in style. The phone comes in two variants – one with 64 GB non-expandable internal memory with 6 GB RAM, and the other with 128 GB non-expandable internal memory and 8 GB RAM. Both variants will feature Snapdragon’s flagship Snapdragon 835 SoC paired with the Adreno 540 GPU. It also features a dual lens camera, a fingerprint sensor and a 1920×1080 AMOLED display with a pixel density of 401 ppi. However, glaring omissions include the lack of any biometric sensors, no bezel-less or curved display, stereo speakers or waterproof certification.
The OnePlus 5 Is Evolutionary, Not Revolutionary
It is clear that Oneplus 5 is a powerful phone with flagship level hardware. Nevertheless, it is not the revolutionary offering like its original predecessor was. In terms of raw power, the OnePlus 5 matches, and even beats other flagships of 2017. However, looking beyond pure specs, the OnePlus 5 has very few new features on offer. It features a very similar industrial design as its predecessor, the OnePlus 3T and other yesteryear flagships like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 7. The display is disappointingly low resolution compared to the competition, who are beginning to offer 500+ ppi displays. There is also distinct of the latest flagship features such as a retina scanner, stereo speakers or the incredibly popular bezel-less display.
All of this puts the OnePlus 5 in an awkward limbo situation. While in years past, the OnePlus flagships promised a “no compromise experience”, the same cannot be said for the OnePlus 5. It is clear that significant compromises were made to keep the price low. As such, the new OnePlus is no longer a “flagship killer” as much it is a flagship substitute.
Price Creep Is Hurting Oneplus
The original One Plus One was lauded for its immense value proposition; it was as good as other flagships of that day, but it cost almost 50% less! However, the prices of the OnePlus phones have been rising gradually after every iteration. The One Plus One retailed starting at $299 during its launch. The OnePlus 2 retailed at $329. The retail prices of OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T further increased to $399 and $450. This trend has continued with the OnePlus 5, which now costs $479. As a consequence, it is much closer to the price of its other competing flagship Samsung Galaxy S8, which is around $750.
Does it mean OnePlus is bowing to the realities of the smartphone market and business challenges? To stay profitable and continue to innovate, they have had to raise prices. As they have expanded over the past few years, they also have had to invest more in things like customer care and R&D. However, since they do not have the mammoth budgets of the companies like Samsung and Apple, they are unable to include the innovative new features that these companies are cramming into their flagships.
As it stands, the motto of the company – “Never Settle” – is no longer accurate. The OnePlus 5 is a compromise; there is no doubt about that. However, that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
OnePlus’ Market Standing
Despite their history of offering incredible value for money products, OnePlus could not crack the list of top 5 smartphone manufacturers in terms of smartphone shipments. This is, however, not a fair comparison since OnePlus is relatively a new company, with limited presence in the world. In spite of that OnePlus do have a stronger presence in countries like India. Disappointingly, even in India, OnePlus has remained out of the top 5 as of Q4 2016. The gradually rising prices mean that in a price sensitive country many Indian consumers are being priced out of the OnePlus flagships. In a market where the budget and mid-range segments dominate sales, OnePlus is operating in the premium segment.
It is clear that OnePlus needs their newest flagship to succeed. However, to do that, OnePlus must embrace their new identity. The OnePlus 5 is no longer a flagship killer phone, yet it still provided a very good value proposition. It features top of the line specs, without many of the more premium bells and whistles sported by today’s other flagships. It fulfils the niche of budget-conscious consumers looking for a somewhat premium phone. Without a doubt, it remains one of the best smartphones in its class, but it no longer competes with the ones above it, likes of Samsung Galaxy S8 or Apple iPhone 7.
We’ll just have to wait and see whether the industry and consumers approve this new direction OnePlus seems to be heading in.
For those who have an appetite of Oneplus 5 review, here is a Unboxing and Camera review of Oneplus 5 by GeekyRanjit.