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5 things we want to see from OnePlus in 2022
2021 was a transformative year for OnePlus in more ways than one. The company extended its reach well beyond its original ambition of becoming the de-facto option for enthusiasts, introducing several entry-level and mid-range models for the mass market. And, from budget-minded smartphones to OnePlus fitness bands and even a smartwatch, we finally started seeing the beginnings of a larger ecosystem at play.
Backing this transition was a long-expected, deep integration with Oppo that essentially transitioned the enthusiast’s choice into a sub-brand for the much more mainstream-focused Oppo. It’s been a contentious integration, and the final nail in the coffin came with the company’s decision to merge the much-loved Oxygen OS with Oppo’s Color OS.
Suffice it to say, 2021 represented a new beginning for the brand. However, if you were hoping to see a clear focus for the future, you’d be mistaken. Instead, we got a rather muddy co-mingling of brands with identities that are just a bit too similar. Numerous eulogies have been written about Oneplus “settling down,” but what’s more telling is the outcry and exodus of long-term fans.
As OnePlus steamrolls ahead with its diversified portfolio and the scale of Oppo behind it, it brings up the very real question, what does the future of OnePlus look like? While the company works towards figuring out that question, here are five things that we hope to see from OnePlus in 2022.
1. A distinctive brand identity
At the top of our 2021 wishlist for OnePlus was our hope that the brand would be a trendsetter. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite happen and OnePlus continued its strategy of playing it safe with a tried-and-tested formula of predictable hardware. However, now that OnePlus is playing in both true flagship territory, as well as the highly competitive entry-level segment, it’s imperative for the brand to differentiate itself from the competition.
BBK-backed Oppo, Vivo, and Realme already have a solid footing in one or more of those segments. Moreover, all three players excel at the value propositioning, and that’s before we consider the behemoth that is Xiaomi. Simply put, undercutting on price isn’t going to be enough for OnePlus to leave a mark in the entry-level category.
Considering we’ve already seen OnePlus co-opting existing designs from Oppo, it becomes even more important to find a unique selling point. Otherwise, it risks being classified as yet another me-too budget phone maker amidst a myriad of options. While finding the right balance of performance, price, and clean software are table stakes, we hope to see the brand distilling the ethos of the OnePlus experience. Yes, that includes bringing marquee features like the alert slider to lower price points instead of removing it, OnePlus!
Similarly, specifications alone don’t cut it anymore at the upper end. Improving on charging speeds is a step in the right direction, but we’d like to see bolder design choices, as well as hardware differentiation in 2022.
2. Flagship-grade software
Software is the glue that binds the user experience together. It’s the heart of what makes a phone great. In OnePlus’ case, software has been a recurring bone of contention for us, and that’s a problem that can’t be solved by throwing faster hardware at it. Be it bugs, general usability, or lackluster camera optimization, it is rare to see a OnePlus smartphone without software issues at launch.
While we saw some improvements in camera optimization this year, thanks to the partnership with Hasselblad, there are other areas where OnePlus continues to falter. Be it long-standing bugs with the notifications system, overly aggressive battery management, or the bug-ridden Android 12 rollout, it’s clear that OnePlus has a long way to go before it achieves software excellence.
With hardware becoming commoditized across the board, the software is one of the few areas where a company can truly leave a mark and hook users in. Moreover, as value is no longer a USP for increasingly expensive OnePlus flagships, every single bug stands out compared to the ultra-refined software on Samsung or Apple phones. In 2022, expecting OnePlus to double down on software quality assurance is the bare minimum we can hope for.
3. Amped-up imaging
Cameras sit near the top of the list of factors buyers consider when purchasing a flagship phone. OnePlus has traditionally done well with camera sensors. Between the primary 48MP sensor and the rather excellent 50MP ultrawide camera, the OnePlus 9 Pro shipped with the right tools for the job.
However, the 8MP telephoto shooter is getting rather long in the tooth. It would be great to see OnePlus pulling in from Oppo’s camera expertise and introduce periscope lenses. Moreover, truly differentiating features like the neutral density filter built into the OnePlus Concept One, or perhaps a variable aperture, could help OnePlus gain a leg up over the competition.
4. A cohesive ecosystem push
OnePlus has been gradually carving out a niche in the connected ecosystem space. In India, the company sells a range of smart TVs. Meanwhile, the company’s fitness and audio products have also debuted in the US and Europe. We rated the recently launched OnePlus U1S as a well-thought-out large-screen television for everyone. However, the same couldn’t be said for the OnePlus Band or the OnePlus Watch.
Both the fitness tracker and the semi-smart watch were bug-ridden and bereft of features. While the OnePlus Band suffered from poor battery life and limited accuracy, the OnePlus Watch was yet another disappointing fitness watch. Adding insult to the injury, the watch was essentially a rebranded Oppo Watch.
In 2022, we hope OnePlus can return to the drawing board and bring out products that can step beyond derivative alternatives. The wearable market, for example, is ripe for disruption. Other than Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 and some fashion watches, there aren’t many options for a well-designed, Wear OS-powered watch that is available globally. With Samsung’s exclusivity for Wear OS 3 coming to a close in 2022, OnePlus could swoop in with a value proposition that combines quality specs with the upgraded operating system.
Moreover, it wouldn’t be a bad time to introduce a broader portfolio of products, à la Xiaomi. While a smart robot vacuum cleaner might be too far out of the company’s comfort zone, smart speakers and streaming sticks could complement the company’s expansion into the extended IoT space.
5. Well-segmented product lines
From one phone per year to a convoluted mess of a lineup that barely resembles its original ethos, OnePlus has come a long way. Look, I get it. Wanting to step into the budget category absolutely makes sense from a business point of view. However, clubbing lackluster budget phones into the same category as the rather excellent mid-range Nord series is a serious blunder.
In fact, the argument could be extended to the entire lineup. The relatively insignificant price differences between the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9R, as well as the Nord 2 and the Nord CE, breed confusion among buyers.
With the top-end phones gunning for flagships, perhaps it’s time for the company to rejig the Nord as the spiritual successor to the “old” OnePlus. This would also entail spinning off the entry-level phones into their own category. It definitely wouldn’t hurt OnePlus to come out with an equally aspirational brand name that better represents the value-focused positioning without alienating fans of the Nord series.
You tell us: What do you want to see from OnePlus in 2022?
What do you want to see most from OnePlus in 2022?
Better strategic choices and general improvements to long-standing issues are the bare minimum we want from OnePlus in 2022. But what about you? Let us know what you think OnePlus should focus on going into 2022. Better still, let us know in the comments section if you’ve got thoughts on some of the biggest changes you would want to see from OnePlus in 2022.