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The coolest smartphone brand partnerships, ranked
Realme recently launched a Coca-Cola themed smartphone, marking the latest in a long line of collaborations between phone brands and companies outside the tech sphere. There have been loads of these smartphone partnerships over the years, giving us some cool (and occasionally not-so-cool) products. But which collabs resulted in the best phones and/or accessories? We’ve ranked the coolest smartphone-plus-brand partnerships.
(Just to clarify, we’re not looking at camera-related partnerships like Nokia and ZEISS or HUAWEI and Leica, but rather tie-ups between mobile companies and other brands in general.)
7. OnePlus and McLaren
This wasn’t the first case of a smartphone brand teaming up with a carmaker, as we’d already seen HUAWEI/Porsche and OPPO/Lamborghini prior to this. But OnePlus and McLaren certainly delivered decent wares during their partnership.
The OnePlus and McLaren smartphone brand partnership had a strong start, but the last phone was a bit of a disappointment.
The tie-up only yielded two McLaren Edition phones, namely the OnePlus 6T McLaren and the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren models. Both devices delivered unique aesthetics in black and orange colors, but the OnePlus 6T model unarguably brought more to the table. We got 30W wired charging here (compared to 20W in the standard 6T) as well as 10GB of RAM (versus 6GB to 8GB). Toss in a special plaque, black and orange charger, and a booklet detailing the auto brand’s history, and it wasn’t half-bad for $699 at launch.
6. HUAWEI and Porsche
HUAWEI’s collab with Porsche Design kicked off back in 2017 with the Mate 10 series. However, this was often one of the more disappointing brand partnerships as Huawei’s Porsche-branded flagships usually only featured a different design and a sky-high price. But we did sometimes see more than a token effort.
Perhaps the apex of this deal was 2018’s Mate RS. This handset featured a massive price hike over the P20 Pro, but you got wireless charging, a QHD+ screen, two fingerprint scanners (one unreliable in-display sensor and one rear scanner), more storage, and a thin bezel in lieu of a notch. Otherwise, the most you could hope for on subsequent Porsche releases was an upgraded secondary camera with a wider aperture. Still, the Mate RS makes up for the otherwise overhyped partnership.
5. Xiaomi and Hello Kitty
The Xiaomi Civi series of smartphones is largely aimed at women, so the combo of the latest Civi 2 handset and a cute brand like Hello Kitty makes sense. And the China-only Xiaomi Civi 2 Hello Kitty Edition definitely works in practice.
The combination of the cute Hello Kitty brand plus color-changing materials made for a quirky limited edition phone.
A bunch of Hello Kitty faces adorned the back of this phone and turned red in sunlight thanks to a photochromic back. It’s not the first time we’ve seen rear covers that change when exposed to sunlight, but it’s still really nifty. You’d also get a themed cover and stickers, so it’s not the most impressive special edition overall, but the phone itself is unique.
4. Samsung and Pokemon
Samsung joined forces with Pokémon in 2022, bringing several nifty accessories to consumers. For starters, we got a really cool Poké Ball carrying case for Galaxy Buds earbuds. But we also got accessories like a Pokémon cover for the Galaxy Z Flip 4 and a watch strap for the Galaxy Watch 5.
The biggest downside to this proposition is that we didn’t get any proper special edition phones here. It would’ve been neat to see a Pikachu-themed Galaxy Z Flip 4 or PokéDex-style Galaxy Z Fold 4. But some might argue that a cover case is a much better idea.
3. Realme and Coca-Cola
Our most recent smartphone/brand partnership came via Realme and Coca-Cola earlier this year. This took the form of a budget Realme 10 Pro 5G with a two-tone black-and-red color scheme on the back. But the software customizations really make this one stand out thanks to a custom UI, custom ringtones, and even the sound of a can of Coke being opened as a camera shutter effect.
The extras aren’t anything to write home about, such as a custom SIM tray tool shaped like a Coca-Cola bottle cap, the Realmeow mascot, and stickers. But it’s still a great special edition phone for the ~$255 price tag.
2. OnePlus and Marvel
OnePlus actually collaborated with Marvel on at least two phones over the years. We got the OnePlus 6 Avengers Edition back in 2016, featuring a glass back with a Kevlar-like pattern underneath it, as well as a great-looking Iron Man case and a random medal.
The OnePlus 10T Marvel Edition brought some fantastic accessories, although the OnePlus 6 Avengers model had a better design.
However, the OnePlus 10T Marvel Edition stepped things up by including a similar Iron Man case as well as a Captain America Shield Pop-Socket, and a Black Panther phone stand. Neat. Just a pity that the actual phone itself didn’t look like anything special.
1. Samsung and Star Wars
There are token brand partnerships, and then there are tie-ups that go above and beyond. Thankfully, the latter is exactly what we saw with Samsung and Star Wars in 2019.
Samsung offered a Star Wars Edition Galaxy Note 10 Plus in a red and black color scheme, complete with Kylo Ren imagery and a Light Saber-like S Pen. And yes, the phone made a Light Saber sound effect when you removed the S Pen from its storage slot. This customization extended to the software, giving us a custom UI, wallpapers, and more. The addition of extras like a case and custom Galaxy Buds only sweetened the deal even more.
There were plenty more partnerships over the years, with OnePlus and Cyberpunk, Iqoo and BMW, and OPPO and Gundam being three honorable mentions. What’s your favorite collaboration?