The price hike to $529 for the 64GB OnePlus 6 sparked debate around OnePlus’ tagline “affordable” flagships. The company didn’t mention the word affordable at all during the launch of the OnePlus 6, which focused on performance and speed. With prices jumping from $299 to $529 over four years, it’s clear the objective for OnePlus has changed.
The OnePlus One was so good that it's always been hard for OnePlus to move beyond what it did to Android
The problem for OnePlus is that bursting onto the scene as a disruptor is a tough act to follow. With the backing and know-how of BBK and sister-brand Oppo, it hit the ground running. The OnePlus One offered similar performance to the Samsung Galaxy S5 at about half the price. It wasn’t perfect, and it made careful sacrifices, but it was a premium device at a cost no one could believe. It’s still the favorite device of many Android enthusiasts.
While there’s now no question whether the OnePlus 6 is a true flagship, OnePlus is moving on from being a disruptor to joining the higher-end brands at a smaller discount to the players like Samsung, Huawei, Google, LG, and Honor, among others.
Honor in particular is trying to create devices to disrupt OnePlus — the Honor 10 launched just one day before the OnePlus 6, coincidentally (or not) also in London, for 399 euros — 120 euros (~$141) cheaper than the OnePlus 6. It promptly sold out in Europe, according to Huawei.
So was the $50 increase for the OnePlus 6 justified? Let’s take a look at a quick history of OnePlus prices and see what it tells us.
OnePlus launch pricing over time
OnePlus One – $299
With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM, a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD display, the specs blew people away. With no expandable storage or without a replaceable battery, the 16 or 64GB non-expandable storage options were big trade-offs. Reviews highlighted limited availability, software bugs, and low sound.
OnePlus Two – $329 ($30 increase)
The OnePlus 2 launched just over a year later with the new 64-bit Snapdragon 810, 3 or 4GB of RAM, a fingerprint sensor, USB-C, an alert slider, bigger battery, and OIS on the rear camera. While the specs of the display were the same, fidelity also increased. It lacked NFC and camera performance lagged behind the leaders.
OnePlus 3 – $399 ($70 increase)
The OnePlus 3 upgraded the processor to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and came with 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage (only), an AMOLED display, and debuted Dash Charge as a highly touted new feature. It brought back NFC and upgraded the camera. The battery was dropped to 3,000mAh.
OnePlus 3T – $439 ($40 increase)
The OnePlus 3T was an iterative upgrade, the first short-cycle update to a previous device. It was an internal upgrade, including the newer Snapdragon 821 chipset and a 16MP front camera, along with a bigger 3,400mAh battery and a new 128GB option.
OnePlus 5 – $479 ($40 increase)
Avoiding unlucky number 4, the OnePlus 5 was the first device in the family to feature dual rear cameras. It lifted the range to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset, with 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64 or 128GB of storage. Styled closely to the iPhone 7, it added with 16 and 20MP sensors and retained the all-metal design, but removed OIS.
The OnePlus 5 received stinging criticism for not having enough significant upgrades to justify a price 50 percent higher than the OnePlus 3. The company also caught heat for slow software updates, a “jelly stutter” effect when scrolling, and inflating benchmark scores.
OnePlus 5T – $479 (no increase)
The 5T didn’t offer significant internal upgrades, sticking with the Snapdragon 835 and 6 or 8GB of RAM, but it upgraded the display to 6-inch model, with a 2160 x 1080 AMOLED and an 18:9 screen ratio, and pushed the fingerprint sensor to the back. The company also added face unlock.
OnePlus 6 – $529 ($50 increase)
The OnePlus 6 brings a new all-glass body and a bigger AMOLED display with a slightly higher resolution, as well as a Snapdragon 845, better dual camera with OIS on the main shooter and new Sony sensor, gigabit LTE for the first time, better water resistance, and new software tweaks. The OnePlus 6 can also currently take part in the Android P beta program.
What does it all mean?
Over the years, OnePlus hasn’t been shy about adding to the price as the platform adds more features. The biggest individual jump was from the OnePlus 2 to the OnePlus 3, which added new internals and a better and brighter OLED display, along with the Dash Charge debut. That all resulted in a $70 price hike. The next biggest was $40 between the 3T and the 5, when dual cameras were added.
What do you get exactly for the extra $50?
The $50 increase between the 5T and the 6 represents the second biggest jump for the company over time, and it’s fair to ask questions about exactly what you get for this, but the new Snapdragon 845, addition of OIS, and a bigger aspect ratio (although with a hideable notch) are all worthwhile improvements. Plus, there’s the pre-order bonus of the $69 set of Wireless Bullet Earbuds.
OnePlus 6T / 7 pricing?
The next two steps for OnePlus seems clear. Although the 6 has a glass back, it doesn’t have wireless charging, and it’s missing IP certification. Perhaps the 6T will offer that, along with other small tech improvements in about six months from now. The company may wait for the Snapdragon 855, or bring out just a small update and plug the OnePlus 7 with the 855 SoC, IP certification, a redesigned or even notch-less screen, and a display that is higher than 1080p.
Overall, the 6 is a jump in specs and price. Crossing the $500 threshold for the first time saw the end of OnePlus pushing the affordability angle, instead focusing on speed and “everything you need.” Once the affordable flagship, OnePlus might need to bring back the OnePlus X to really make valid claims to affordability again.
Bonus: OnePlus vs Samsung Galaxy
OnePlus’ phones have often been compared to Android’s leader in flagships, Samsung. Samsung’s pricing is always complicated by their close ties with carriers, and the Edge models complicate this further. A quick comparison of pricing is below.
The base cost OnePlus has gone from less than half (47 percent) of the cost of the contemporary base Galaxy, to three-quarters (73.5 percent) of the same price. Those trend lines suggest further closing.
Will OnePlus be able to truly compete with Samsung in the next generations if the price gap closes further? Let us know what you think in the comments.