It might be hard to believe, but today is the sixth anniversary of OnePlus’ founding. Former Oppo vice president Pete Lau and former Oppo international markets manager Carl Pei founded the company on December 16, 2013. On the occasion of OnePlus’ birthday, we thought we would go over the major milestones — both positive and negative — the company has seen in the past six years.
To say that OnePlus has disrupted the smartphone industry would be an understatement. In six years, the brand has gone from a tiny company with one device to a major global player in the premium smartphone market in India and commands a mighty presence in other parts of the world. It’s been able to do all this while keeping its products relatively cheap as compared to most of the competition and without diluting its brand value.
However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for OnePlus. There have been a few missteps along the way such as marketing snafus and even entire products that probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day. But the company soldiers on.
On OnePlus’ birthday, let’s take a look at the six biggest hits (and six biggest misses) the company’s had over the past six years.
Hit #1: The OnePlus One
What can be said about the OnePlus One that hasn’t already been said? The One is frequently cited as one of the best smartphones of all time, with folks the world over still using it to this day as their daily driver.
When the One dropped in 2014 (only four months after OnePlus’ birthday), it offered almost all the major specs one would expect from a flagship smartphone but at around half the price. Sure, it didn’t come with the greatest camera nor did it have the latest features such as a 1440p display or a fingerprint scanner, but it was fast, durable, and attractive.
Of course, the invitation system was frustrating for buyers and OnePlus did a pretty poor job when it comes to customer support, but the One was a bonafide hit for the brand. Coming right out of the gate with a smash like the OnePlus One was a big win for the company and set the stage for its future success.
Hit #2: Oxygen OS
The OnePlus One shipped with Cyanogen OS, a commercial version of the popular Android fork known as CyanogenMod. We’re going to get into the troubles with Cyanogen Inc. later, but we can be thankful for Cyanogen OS for one simple reason: it forced OnePlus to deliver us Oxygen OS.
When things at Cyanogen were getting messy, OnePlus knew it needed to ditch the brand for future devices. In 2015, it started developing its own close-to-stock Android skin which gained the name Oxygen OS after OnePlus held a naming contest online. Shortly before the second OnePlus birthday, the company pushed out Oxygen OS as an optional upgrade for the OnePlus One.
At first, Oxygen OS was very close to stock Android with only a handful of additional features. Over time, though, OnePlus has made the skin into one of the best on the market. It’s a mostly bloat-free experience with tons of customization features and a snappy, beautiful UI.
Oxygen OS is so beloved by OnePlus fans that many refuse to switch brands simply because they don’t want to deal with an anemic stock Android experience or be burdened by the bloated messes of many other OEM skins.
Hit #3: The OnePlus 3T
Although the OnePlus One will always have a special spot on the list of historically important Android smartphones, the OnePlus 3T will likely be remembered as the best device OnePlus has ever offered.
Initially, fan reaction to the OnePlus 3T — released right before the third OnePlus birthday, barely six months after the OnePlus 3 — was mixed. On one hand, fans liked the idea of a slightly better OnePlus phone on offer, but those who had just forked out for the OnePlus 3 felt a pang of regret on not knowing that a better choice was going to come so soon.
However, any misgivings were quickly forgotten once people started to use the OnePlus 3T. Keeping the same sleek, metal design of the OnePlus 3, the 3T bumped up the processor, battery, and front-facing camera specs, while also adding a new internal storage option of 128GB.
In fact, OnePlus continued to support the OnePlus 3T all the way up until this year, with the device receiving a final update to Android 9 Pie. For the record that’s a whopping four different Android versions launched for this one device (Marshmallow, Nougat, Oreo, and Pie).
Hit #4: Dash (and later Warp) Charge
OnePlus fans love to complain about the lack of wireless charging on any OnePlus smartphone so far. When pressed on this, OnePlus representatives always use the same excuse: fast wired charging is far better than wireless charging.
While that is an example of the company telling fans what they should or shouldn’t want (which we’ll get to later), it’s not an invalid claim. Fast wired charging is incredibly helpful, and OnePlus’ decision to focus on that over slow wireless charging was likely the right move.
Related: How fast charging really works
When OnePlus debuted Dash Charge — its proprietary fast-charging system it licensed from Oppo — with the OnePlus 3, it promised “a day’s power in half-an-hour.” It boasted you could charge the OnePlus 3 from 0% to 60% in about 30 minutes.
This is much more useful to the average smartphone user than wireless charging, especially when you take into consideration that even the fastest wireless systems on the market today are still at around half the speed.
Eventually, OnePlus got into a trademark dispute in the EU over the Dash Charge name and subsequently rebranded it as Warp Charge. But the system is just as good and has only become more powerful over time, with the OnePlus 7T capable of going from 0% battery to 50% in just 20 minutes.
Hit #5: Top dog in India
Right around the fifth OnePlus birthday, the company received some great news: according to Counterpoint Research, OnePlus had become the highest-selling premium smartphone brand in India.
You read that correctly. That means OnePlus sells more premium smartphones in India than Samsung, Apple, Huawei, or any other smartphone manufacturer around the world. With India being one of the biggest and fastest-developing smartphone markets on the planet, this achievement is a big deal.
Incredibly, OnePlus has been able to hold on to its status as India’s top dog for all of this year. Meanwhile, its brand recognition and market share are increasing in many other parts of the world, including the UK, the US, and Europe. But this achievement in India will always be one of the company’s most significant milestones.
Hit #6: The OnePlus 7 Pro
Earlier this year, OnePlus launched a new kind of OnePlus device: a “Pro” model. Up until then, the company only released a primary flagship and then a “T” upgrade model, with the notable exception of the budget-minded OnePlus X. The OnePlus 7 Pro, in that sense, was the first of its kind.
Although the idea of OnePlus releasing a device that was sure to be even more expensive than the OnePlus 6T — which was its most expensive phone ever when it landed shortly before the fifth OnePlus birthday — the 7 Pro more than earned its regard as one of the best smartphones of 2019.
Not only was the phone beautiful and a technical marvel, but it also featured the debut of one of the industry’s biggest hits of the year: the 90Hz display refresh rate, which OnePlus markets as Fluid AMOLED. It also was the debut of the UFS 3.0 storage standard in a smartphone as well as the first device to hit North America with a pop-up selfie camera.
If nothing else, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a prime example of OnePlus transitioning from a company that delivers modern flagships at low prices to a company that is the first-to-market with innovative features.
Miss #1: “Smash The Past” and “Ladies First”
You’ve got to hand it to OnePlus: the company has no problem with taking risks when it comes to marketing. Between its bizarre TV ads and interesting attempts at viral marketing, OnePlus is a company that has always thought outside the box between its founding and today, the sixth OnePlus birthday.
However, two of its early marketing attempts backfired horribly for the company. The first was called “Smash The Past,” which came out right around the release of the OnePlus One. The marketing stunt encouraged users to film themselves literally smashing their current smartphone to bits in exchange for buying the One for just $1.00. Unfortunately, people misunderstood how the promotion worked and hopefuls with no chance of winning ended up smashing their phones in error. In the end, only 100 people out of the 140,000 entrants got a One for a buck.
Not long after the misfire of the “Smash The Past” campaign, OnePlus debuted another ill-advised campaign called “Ladies First.” The campaign encouraged women on the OnePlus community forums to post a photo of themselves alongside a OnePlus logo which could possibly have netted them an invite to buy the OnePlus One. Non-participants (read: mostly males) on the forums could then “Like” these photos. I’m sure you can already tell how this turned out.
Miss #2: Launching with Cyanogen OS
CyanogenMod — which eventually morphed into Lineage OS — was a custom Android ROM you could download and install on your unlocked smartphone. Since it was beloved by the custom ROM community, fans got incredibly excited when OnePlus revealed the OnePlus One would have Cyanogen OS (a commercial version of CyanogenMod) pre-loaded.
This not only represented a huge win for Cyanogen Inc., the company behind Cyanogen OS, but also for the custom ROM community in general. Unfortunately, things took a turn pretty quickly.
Cyanogen Inc. was plagued with poor leadership that made some truly bad decisions. One of the biggest of these blunders was signing a deal with a OnePlus competitor that would see Cyanogen OS as the exclusive operating system on Indian handsets from this competitor. At the time, this was pretty much universally seen as Cyanogen screwing over OnePlus.
Related: Cyanogen: Where did it go wrong?
Of course, the silver lining here is that this forced OnePlus to develop Oxygen OS (see earlier section), so it all turned out OK. However, OnePlus should never have worked with Cyanogen in the first place as the company had a hotheaded CEO who had no experience and everything to prove. At one point, he even boasted that Cyanogen would eventually take control of Android from Google. Yes, he was that kind of crazy.
Luckily, OnePlus has mostly been able to steer clear of problematic partnerships such as this ever since.
Miss #3: The OnePlus 2
While it would be difficult to classify any OnePlus smartphone as objectively “bad,” the OnePlus 2 is pretty much considered to be the worst of the lot. Although it carried over a lot of the designs and features of the enormously successful OnePlus One, some of the changes introduced with the OnePlus 2 were either too minor to get excited about or actually a step backward.
The biggest blunder of the OnePlus 2 was the elimination of NFC support. OnePlus defended the move by saying that not enough OnePlus users took advantage of NFC features, so there was no need for the chip in the device. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine why OnePlus would think like this, considering contactless payments were beginning to gain steam and Apple launched Apple Pay a full year earlier.
Another blunder was including a USB-C port on the device (one of the first commercial smartphones with the now-ubiquitous port). While USB-C should have been one of the star features of the phone, OnePlus elected to use a cable and adapter that did not conform to the USB-C standard. As such, the cable didn’t work with many third-party devices, preventing users from doing simple things like transferring data from their phone to a laptop.
Luckily, OnePlus was able to bounce back from this fiasco quickly with the launch of the OnePlus X, followed by the well-received OnePlus 3. However, it was touch-and-go there for a bit.
Miss #4: “Never Settle” turns into “Settle Sometimes”
Since the first OnePlus birthday, the motto for the company has been “Never Settle.” The slogan encourages smartphone users to always demand the highest caliber of products and to “never settle” for anything less.
However, over the years, the motto has been used against the company when it does things that go against what its very vocal community wants. Here are just a few examples:
- Removing NFC support from the OnePlus 2.
- Refusing to introduce wireless charging in any of its handsets.
- Telling users to “learn to love the notch” on the OnePlus 6.
- Eliminating the headphone jack from the OnePlus 6T even after mocking other OEMs for removing it.
- Refusing to pursue IP certification for any of its handsets.
- Steadily increasing its prices with each new device.
There are many other examples out there. The bottom line is that the “Never Settle” motto sometimes appears to be all talk without any action to back it up.
Miss #5: Android 10 rollout blunders
Back in the late summer of 2018, OnePlus made headlines by bringing Android 9 Pie to the OnePlus 6 in just over 40 days. At the time, this made the company one of the fastest to deliver the latest Android update to a non-Pixel handset.
The OnePlus 6T, released shortly after, came with Android 9 Pie out of the box, making it the very first phone on the market with that distinction.
However, things didn’t work out so well for OnePlus this year with its rollouts of Android 10. Although it announced a rollout of Android 10 for the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro only 18 days after the launch of the new operating system — thus beating its previous feat by a huge margin — the rollout started and stopped multiple times. The rocky start was due to multiple bugs and issues with the stable release.
Later on, OnePlus announced Android 10 rolling out for the OnePlus 6 and OnePlus 6T. Those rollouts also started and stopped a few times due to bugs and other problems with the software.
It appears that, in its efforts to keep up its reputation as being one of the first to deliver Android updates, OnePlus took things too far and started putting speed over quality control. While OnePlus fans greatly appreciate that their devices usually see the latest version of Android before nearly anyone else, they will gladly wait a little longer if it means the update is fully functional.
Miss #6: The 7-series phone overload
At most OnePlus birthday parties over the past six years, the company has celebrated the release of either one or two phones. This year, however, the OnePlus birthday party will have more phones to celebrate than ever before.
In 2018, OnePlus released three smartphones: the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 6T, and the slightly different OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition. With that in mind, here are the phones OnePlus released this year:
- OnePlus 7
- OnePlus 7 Pro
- OnePlus 7 Pro 5G
- OnePlus 7T
- OnePlus 7T Pro
- OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition
That is six different devices all starting with “OnePlus 7,” which is incredibly confusing. Things get even more confusing when you find out that only certain devices are available in certain areas of the world making it difficult for consumers to buy confidently.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like things will be any better in 2020. We already have rumors of OnePlus planning to release a regular OnePlus 8, a OnePlus 8 Pro, and a new variant, the so-called OnePlus 8 Lite. If it also throws in more 5G variants, McLaren variants, and “T” upgrades later in the year, its portfolio will be even more confusing.
Those are our biggest hits and misses to celebrate the sixth OnePlus birthday. Are there any hits or misses you think should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!