OnePlus yesterday took the wraps off the OnePlus 2, and really, it was surprising in how much it was unsurprising.
The OnePlus 2 does add some badly needed features, catering to the fact that China is no longer OnePlus’s largest market – and a newfound emphasis on the United States.
OnePlus 2 updates the Snapdragon SoC and also adds a better camera, and LTE Band 12 – ensuring support for the latest T-Mobile and AT&T networks. It’s VoLTE ready, but won’t use VoLTE on either network until a standard is actually implemented.
But the big problem for the OnePlus 2 is that it is now in a far different market than the original OnePlus.
OnePlus delivered a Snapdragon 800 on a budget $299 price-point. Several similar offerings followed. The $329 OnePlus 2 delivers Snapdragon 810 performance – but with far different rivals.
With Amazon’s Fire Phone routinely offered below $200, Moto G delivering 5.5-inch displays for far less, and Moto X now spawning two powerful versions – one with Snapdragon 810 and the other with the octo-core Snapdragon 615, OnePlus 2 is now in a vastly different competitive environment.
I had hoped the OnePlus 2 would have gone for the innovative tact, offering 20 band LTE, ensuring compatibility with VoLTE on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon late this year. All technically possible, but not something in the handset maker, or carrier’s interest. OnePlus could have gone there, but didn’t. Oh, and breaking as this went to press – Motorola Mobility just did.
See, now that all the carriers have shifted to a leased-phone model, there is much greater demand (and thus, greater competition) for the OnePlus target customer stateside. That may have meant more potential for OnePlus – but instead – it means now eight corporate juggernauts competing for a customer base that is not growing as quick as the competitor entrants. LG has been preparing budget variants of its iconic LG G series, which still harkens back to Google’s own Nexus 5 – that competed head-on with the original OnePlus.
Google in fact is the only player that has abdicated this space, opting instead for premium market segments, and filling gaps in their portfolio. Full disclosure: I do from time to time hammer out contracts with Google (or at least, try to). Nothing I know from that work, or have signed my soul away in NDAs otherwise, would help this article one iota either way.
The one major saving grace for OnePlus 2 is dual-SIM support. OnePlus may find its niche in having a high-end phone that delivers dual-SIM services. Most handsets that support two SIM cards are budget prepaid offerings – focused on budget consumers that load-balance two different plan buckets for getting the cheapest service possible. In America, however, AT&T and T-Mobile both lack top-tier coverage in many markets. Savvy consumers may want a powerful phone that lets them use both networks. Here, OnePlus may find enough of a customer base to keep going until VoLTE crosses over to Sprint and Verizon.
And while Type-C is new and innovative, and the future, it actually may hinder phone users initially until Type-C accessories become pervasive. Type-C will be much more dominant in tablets and PCs, initially, where the benefits are far greater up-front. Initially, for phone users, Type-C will be a hassle as you’ll have to carry around dongles/accessories to use most people’s chargers.
I just don’t see OnePlus 2 as groundbreaking. In fact, I kinda felt sorry for OnePlus. And that’s a big problem for OnePlus in, what is now, a much more cutthroat environment.
But it could be worse. You could wake up this morning being an ex-OUYA employee.