From the first day of its existence, the Chinese manufacturer OnePlus has said that it will produce exactly the smartphones that users expect. The company believed that these devices should be fast, convenient, and at the same time significantly cheaper than the flagships. But how are you doing today?

Search for the ideal

I vividly remember the time when the OnePlus brand introduced its first smartphone to the world. Although probably not everyone remembers it, smartphones back then were not as cool devices as they are today. Their effectiveness in most cases remained highly debatable. This was due to both not very powerful components and the state of the software at the time.

All the leading players have tried to make the firmware and skins available on their smartphones include as many features as possible. Did it have any effect? Not at all. A heavily overloaded interface and increased memory requirements for storing and running programs — that’s how you can sum up this approach. What’s worse, smartphone manufacturers have gone overboard with design and system effects, so that even flagship devices don’t run perfectly smoothly.

Well, it wasn’t until a few years ago that we reached the point where you can buy a top-of-the-line Android device and see smooth animations on it. Therefore, it is not surprising that users in those days were very dissatisfied with popular smartphone manufacturers. Everyone was waiting for the debut of a device that would be simply friendly to its owner, work without failures, and have a pleasant design. They were also waiting for a smartphone that would not offer unnecessary options to anyone but would work really smoothly.

Of course, it would be best if it was a device with top features, a good camera, and just a little cheaper than, for example, Samsung or Apple smartphones. A kind of “people’s flagship” like Volkswagen in the world of cars.

The leading players did not even want to hear about the appearance of such a smartphone on the market. In turn, customers could choose either flagship devices, which work quite well, or cheap smartphones, on the culture of which it is better to lower the veil of silence.

It was in such conditions that the OnePlus brand debuted. A brand whose ambition was to prove to the big players that it’s possible to create great smartphones that not only perform very well but also are not super expensive. Because of such grandiose statements, OnePlus smartphones were called “flagship killers”. What was behind this term? This is an interesting topic worth paying attention to.

OnePlus – a killer of flagships

What exactly did the OnePlus brand want to be? First of all, it had to be a manufacturer of smartphones that would be preferred by people interested in new technologies.

In the first years of the brand’s existence, its offer was dedicated almost exclusively to those for whom the mobile industry is an object of interest. What does it mean? For example, the distribution model of the first generations of OnePlus smartphones. While today you can easily find them among the offers of large online stores, in the past you had to order on the manufacturer’s website and wait until your smartphone was finally delivered.

As soon as the smartphone arrived, what exactly could we expect? The first OnePlus strove to become flagship killers, which had a certain impact on their specifications. Inside, you could find top-of-the-line performance components, but the rest of the spec was different. In order to create a device equal to flagships in terms of performance and at the same time significantly cheaper, we had to make reasonable compromises. This resulted in a very efficient device, but with somewhat less multimedia capabilities, especially when it comes to taking pictures and recording videos.

The economy also affected the development of its own interface, but in those days it was only a plus. Those who remember the overloaded Samsung TouchWiz interfaces know what I’m talking about. Compared to them, the OnePlus software looked neat, aesthetically pleasing, and most importantly, performed very well.

What happened next? Unfortunately, the Chinese manufacturer abandoned the idea of being a “flagship killer” in favor of creating full-fledged top devices. How did they handle it? To put it mildly, they were unlucky.

How the enemy of flagship smartphones became one of them

The first premise, which heralded the desire to keep up with the wishes of the market, was the OnePlus 6 model. Why this particular smartphone? Mainly because the company decided to take inspiration from the new look of the iPhone and equipped the phone with a characteristic notch on the screen for the front camera and sensors.

Why didn’t OnePlus become a killer of flagships?

Naturally, the owners of OnePlus received a wave of criticism for this move, but it was already clear that there is no will to oppose the market leaders. OnePlus wanted to create not a cheaper alternative, but a smartphone that would compete on an equal footing and offer everything that the top models on the market do. Even if these changes do not meet the needs of the target audience of OnePlus itself.

The next step towards conquering the antipathy of existing fans was the OnePlus 6T model. The notch on the screen has noticeably decreased, but it has remained. The fingerprint scanner placed on the body has disappeared, and a reader located under the screen has appeared.

Why didn’t OnePlus become a killer of flagships?

Unfortunately, which was also done following Apple, the OnePlus 6T has been stripped of the 3.5mm headphone jack. How did the company’s supporters react? Opinions ranged from negative to extremely negative.

Shortly after these models, a smartphone that is still considered the best in the history of the brand – the OnePlus 7 Pro – went on sale. What is so unique about it that it has caused widespread interest? At least a few elements of the specification are worth saying a few words about.

Why didn’t OnePlus become a killer of flagships?

Let’s start with what the OnePlus 7 Pro looked like. It was not only a practically frameless phone but also devoid of a notch on the screen. The manufacturer decided to use a retractable front camera, which returned the curiosity of fans of the brand. What made this model stand out? High performance at that time and a beautiful screen with a refresh rate of 90 Hz. OnePlus 7 Pro was a “breath of fresh air” in the design of smartphones, so it gained quite wide popularity, even despite its shortcomings.

OnePlus 7 Pro, and it only gets worse after

Despite all the advantages, the OnePlus 7 Pro was not a full-fledged flagship, although it came very close to them in terms of price. The smartphone had 30W fast wired charging, but wireless was not in the specification. It also lacked protection against water and dust, and the quality of photos and videos for those times was not bad, but definitely not at the level of Samsung, Huawei, or Apple flagships.

OnePlus 7 Pro was the last smartphone of the company, which caused genuine interest among fans of the brand. What happened after? Unfortunately, nothing good. Subsequent generations of OnePlus were terribly boring.

It was obvious that the company is increasingly integrating with another brand of BBK Mobile’s parent company, Oppo. Suffice it to say that OnePlus’s proprietary shell has been replaced by Oppo’s ColorOS. All subsequent flagship devices of the manufacturer have become just another high-level smartphone with its own features, they work well but do not stick. That is, they do not stand out among the market leaders in anything special. They are very pleasant, and fast, but now quite expensive. Like all flagship smartphones.

It is also worth mentioning that OnePlus decided to expand its line of devices and offer cheaper models. Mid-range smartphones sold under the name OnePlus Nord have appeared on the market. There are also special accessories, including wireless headphones.

Today, OnePlus is already a pretty big consumer electronics manufacturer, but it definitely lacks what made it interesting a few years ago. This is no longer a startup with a rebellious spirit, but another large company.

The best flagship killer? It wasn’t OnePlus

Finally, a few words about a smartphone that fits perfectly into the concept of a flagship killer. However, it was probably contrary to the expectations of OnePlus brand managers, the device is not manufactured by this company. In my opinion, and not only in my opinion, a good example of such a smartphone was the Xiaomi Mi 9 released in 2019.

It had high performance, good multimedia capabilities, and not the worst software. And all this at a price of just over $500. A great smartphone, which, however, quickly disappeared from the market, because immediately after its premiere, Xiaomi’s policy regarding its upper price shelf changed. It was decided to stop the price competition and do the same thing that OnePlus did. Produce flagships like everyone else.

OnePlus failed to gain more popularity in Ukraine, although some models could sell quite well. Well, the company never had it easy. I will mention only the internal competition in the BBK group, where OnePlus is competing with Oppo, realme, and vivo. Nevertheless, the company remains in the market, and I hope that one day it will come back with something really interesting.

What do you think about this manufacturer? Have you ever used a OnePlus smartphone? I am waiting for your impressions in the comments.