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Chinese OnePlus Smartphone a Shot Across the Bow of Other Manufacturers

November 2014

By Tom Stibolt, MD, Mobile Musings Column Editor

Over the past 20 years, the price of technology has been decreasing steadily. From computer chips to memory to hard drives, a lot more can be purchased for a lot less. This trend has been less noticeable in smartphones. For example, the iPhone 6 costs more than the original iPhone. Much of this increase is hidden by the fact that cell phone service providers provide phones at a reasonable cost but then collect the difference in increased contract fees over a couple of years.

Google and Motorola have bucked this trend somewhat, but now a Chinese startup company is trying to completely change the model. The company is called OnePlus and they are now delivering their first phone, the One.

The OnePlus One has a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of internal RAM, 16 or 64GB of internal storage, a 13MP Sony rear facing camera with a dual LED flash and a 5 MP front facing camera. It sports a 5.5-inch, In-Plane Switching display with a resolution of at 1080 x 1920 pixels. It has a 3100 mAh battery, stereo speakers, 802.11ac Wifi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a seven-band LTE radio. All of this is included in a phone that retails for $299 or $349, depending on storage capacity. This is the full price and does not include a contract.

The phone is constructed with a plastic back that is quite solid. It runs CyanogenMod, which is a public domain version of Android with a very simple user interface. It comes with a large number of Google apps already installed, including the latest camera software. CyanogenMod is all about customization of looks and features, and, as such, it is hard to think of an option anyone would want that isn’t tucked away somewhere in the settings. It is easy to change the way the status bar looks, how quick settings are displayed, what buttons go where and the look of your navigation bar. The list goes on and on.

The downside, of course, is support. If your phone breaks or you have problems with the software, you can’t simply go to your cell service provider. Likewise, it is uncertain what the aftermarket value will be. For instance, iPhone upgraders typically can sell their old iPhones at a good price.

This is a first for a Chinese phone company to be going after the global market. One third of the company’s employees are, not surprisingly, in China, but another third are in Europe, and a third are in the U.S.

Those who have used the One say that it is quite fast. A few complaints have surfaced about the camera which seems to not provide images as good as most high end phones currently produce.

The OnePlus One seems to be a shot across the bow of other smartphone manufacturers. Even if OnePlus does not sell as many phones as Apple, Samsung or HTC, they will be a force in pushing prices lower.

Last Reviewed: September 2017