OnePlus has launched its 5G OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro as it continues to take on premium devices with mid-tier prices starting at $699, but the company's biggest move may be more distribution via Amazon and Verizon in addition to T-Mobile.
Also: OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro: How to buy and where to find the best deals | OnePlus 8 Pro review: A top-quality 2020 flagship phone
In many ways, the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro are a continuation of the advances of the OnePlus 7, OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T line. The differences revolve around better specs, improved cameras, display advances and wireless charging that can get you half a charge in 30 minutes, just 10 minutes more than OnePlus' speedy wired charger called Warp Charge 30. The latest OnePlus duo of devices is more refined relative to the previous models.
What's changed is that OnePlus 8 will sell on Verizon and work with its ultafast version of its 5G network. OnePlus 8 Pro will work on T-Mobile's 5G network. Unlocked OnePlus will work on AT&T's 4G network, but not 5G. Powered by the Snapdragon 865 processor, OnePlus has enabled its phones to hop 5G networks. In addition, OnePlus will be sold through Amazon. OnePlus executives gave T-Mobile props for building the company's mobile footprint. OnePlus added that it will invest in 5G going forward.
The OnePlus 8 Pro is available April 29 on Verizon and Amazon starting at $899 in the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage version. The 12GB and 256GB version starts at $999. The OnePlus 8 is $699 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage version and $799 for the 12GB and 256GB configuration.
Add it up and the latest devices from OnePlus will have two huge distribution channels in Amazon and Verizon. In previous years, OnePlus devices were available on T-Mobile as exclusives and via the OnePlus site. Bottom line: OnePlus was a brand for Android enthusiasts, but wasn't commonly known relative to Apple, Samsung and brands like Motorola.
Kyle Kiang, chief marketing officer for OnePlus, described the OnePlus 8 Pro as the company's ultra-premium device with a 6.78 quad HD display with a 120hz refresh rate. "We set the standard for display technology in the smartphone," said Kiang. "It is our differentiation."
Indeed, the display is the first thing you notice on the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro and the latest devices aren't any different. Kiang said there is technology that smooths out video and upscales it to take out glitches with HDR boost in the background. Kiang's primary use case was better experiences for YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, with e-learning, remote work and video calls the norm, the OnePlus 8 Pro display will have appeal.
The cameras on the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro have also been upgraded and the Snapdragon 865 will improve low light performance and photo and video quality. The OnePlus 8 Pro includes a custom sensor from Sony and is the biggest upgrade from the company.
OnePlus' approach with premium specs at mid-tier prices resonated last year, but the economic conditions may have shifted more in its favor.
The mid-tier market became a fascination of mine last year as smartphones for work were increasingly becoming pricier. Apple and Samsung devices pushed the $1,500 mark in some configurations even as they covered more price points. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a powerhouse device with premium specs and everything you'd want in a phone, but the price initially started at $1,399.
However, Samsung has started discounting aggressively with trade-ins as well as sales. The Galaxy S20 Plus 5G is likely the best pick of the bunch. Incidentally, the S20 5G line on Samsung's site line up with OnePlus' pricing. Samsung also has a set of budget friendly devices with nice specs. Apple also covers more price points. In other words, OnePlus is facing more value phone competition than ever from larger rivals and I'd argue we're going to see significant price deflation on smartphones.
But OnePlus' approach lands amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that has led to millions of jobs lost. Simply put, technology buyers aren't going to be able to afford top-of-the-line devices at jaw dropping price points. For $1,400, tech buyers the choice between a laptop (needed for remote work) and a smartphone is going to be real. The discounted OnePlus 7 line may be a solid option for buyers too.
Also: The 10 best smartphones of 2020: 5G powers the top contenders
In addition, the OnePlus approach is to focus on what matters for upgrades may make it more of a work option. For instance, its Warp charging system can get you all-day battery life in 23 minutes without overheating the device. The company's proprietary wireless charging system gets you from 0 to 50% charge in 30 minutes. The OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro also support the wireless chargers you already have but at slower speeds.
And the OnePlus Oxygen OS is clean and adds to stock Android in a way that improves it instead of overwhelming it.
Like the Samsung S20 lineup, the OnePlus 8 Pro is packed with specs, but the OnePlus 8 may be the best option for your budget and size. The primary difference between the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro is the display size and refresh rate and camera specs.
The OnePlus 8 has a 90hz refresh rate and a smaller frame with a 6.55" display measured diagonally. The triple camera system lacks a few of the specs in the OnePlus 8 Pro. For instance, the OnePlus 8 Pro main rear camera has a 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor and a pixel size of 1.12 μm/48M; 2.24 μm [4 in 1] /12M. The OnePlus 8 has a Sony IMX586 sensor and pixel size of 0.8 μm. The OnePlus 8 Pro telephoto camera is 8 megapixels compared of 2 for the OnePlus 8. The ultra wide angle camera on OnePlus Pro 8 has 48 megapixels compared to 8 megapixels on the OnePlus 8.
You do notice that the OnePlus Pro 8 has sharper photos then its sibling due to the better camera specs, but the drop-off is more subtle than jarring. OnePlus 8 Pro does have a dazzling display, but the OnePlus 8 display is also strong.
Also: Galaxy S20 Ultra vs. iPhone 11 Pro Max vs. Pixel 4 XL: We compare specs, prices, and features
OnePlus 8 feels better in your hand and saves you $200. Increasingly the uber-spec premium smartphones also mean more bulk in your pocket. The common theme with these smartphone launches in 2020 is that the best performance meets value equation tends to be the device one rung below the top-of-the-line version.
Both devices from OnePlus are strong contenders and I'd imagine that the OnePlus 8 being sold through Verizon will fare well because it will be unique among that customer base. It will also be interesting to see how Amazon boosts OnePlus in the market.