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From hardware to camera: OnePlus takes wraps off flagship phone of the year

Device was unveiled today at 9:30 PM IST in the US; OnePlus 5 will be open to all buyers

Arnab Dutta  |  New Delhi 

OnePlus 5
OnePlus 5 Photo: Android Police

After gaining its foothold in the premium smartphone market in India, Chinese start-up OnePlus took the wraps off its sixth model, the OnePlus 5, late on Tuesday. Co-founder Carl Pei left no stone unturned in putting speculations about the much-awaited flagship to rest starting9:30 PM IST through a recorded webcast from the US. From praises for its dual camera by American model Emily Ratajkowski to expert comments from Qualcomm’s executive chairman Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, the hour long presentation had no dearth of celebrities. And the slate grey device was delivered by his favourite dog, on screen.

While the official India launch is still two days away, Tuesday’s event was an attempt to satiate the curiosity of thousands of prospective buyers and smartphone enthusiasts across the world.

OnePlus, which started its journey in December 2013, gained popularity in India with its very first device, the OnePlus One, which launched in mid-2014. The following models — OnePlus 2 (released in August 2015), OnePlus X (November 2015), OnePlus 3 (June 2016), and OnePlus 3T (November 2016) — have managed to maintain the momentum in India. As per Match quarter data from Counterpoint Research, the brand held the third spot, after and Apple, in India in the above Rs 30,000 price segment.

Growing popularity, backed by praise from the users of its devices, has helped OnePlus quickly shed the tag of a newcomer and aided in building its brand. Unlike many other popular Chinese players such as Xiaomi and Lenovo, OnePlus focused on challenging premium brands such as and Apple, both in India and abroad. 

Analysts such as Tarun Pathak from Counterpoint Research believe that while the momentum is with OnePlus, if the brand manages to tide over the months leading up to Diwali (in October), it could just turn out to be the flagship smartphone of the year. Analysts, globally, are of the same view. 

The basics: Hardware

Incubated for over three years, the OnePlus 5 comes with a Snapdragon 835 processor - unlike most of the models from its competitors currently available in the market. The newest chipset from Qualcomm was initially exclusive to for its Galaxy S8 series and thus was out of reach for most flagship handset makers, except HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. This could give it a clear edge over its rivals.

The OnePlus 5 will be available in two variants – one come with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, while the second one will have 8GB of RAM with 128GB of storage. Both configurations push the envelope in the current market. Standard premium features such as a 5.5-inch quad HD Amoled display, and a dash charging battery feature could turn out to be the other selling points for the device.

As expected, Pei spend most of time explaining OnePlus 5’s dual back cameras meant to bring the photography experience closer to a DSLR cameras. The 16 and 20 megapixel cameras at the back have been custom-made Sony to capture more light and increase focus speed by 40 percent, among other advantages, as “smartphone camera is “the most important feature”, he said. While Oppo has been positioning its dual selfie camera as a unique selling proposition to Indian consumers, two primary cameras are still rare — only flagship phones, which cost around Rs 50,000 and above, have them.

Incidentally, OnePlus CEO and co-founder Pete Lau posted a shot believed to be taken with the OnePlus 5 two days ago on his Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter) handle to showcase its superior picture quality. As Lau had claimed, the OnePlus 5 is the “thinnest flagship phone” from his stable.

OnePlus 5 specification sheet
OnePlus 5 specification sheet. Courtesy: Slashleaks

OnePlus 5 camera details
OnePlus 5 camera details

Availability: Buyers are not bound ‘by invitation only’

OnePlus, which sells only through the online channel, has tied up with e-commerce giant Amazon for the Indian market and has already received over 7,00,000 notification alerts since June 7.

Initially, OnePlus stuck to its ‘by invitation only’ strategy – which effectively meant that someone who wishes to buy its handsets would have to secure an invitation from one of the existing buyers of OnePlus' devices to be able to purchase the brand's products. However, starting with the OnePlus 3, the firm has drifted away from this strategy. The rationale being its growing local supply and the competitive nature of the local market, where abundant choices often prove detrimental to such a prohibiting stance.

So, if you missed out on your chance to buy a OnePlus device before, rest assured that this time, you will surely not miss your chance. 

And finally, the Price:

While it is a topic of debate as to whether the Indian middle class has opened up to the global trend of consumerism – paying a little more (at times it is not that little as per our parameters) for a better experience. Getting something extra at a lower price continues to attract buyers in the country, across sectors. One of the key success mantras for OnePlus, like many other top brands like Xiaomi or Mi, has been its value for money proposition.

While the firm's last offering, the OnePlus 3T, was priced at Rs 29,999 (starting price for the 6GB RAM/64GB ROM version), the OnePlus 5 is anticipated to have a starting price of Rs 32,000 (for the 6GB RAM/64GB ROM version). Its price in the US is set US$ 479 (Rs 31,980). The 8GB RAM/ 128GB ROM version is expected to be priced higher – at the range of Rs 37,000.

These prices are still much lower than those of premium models such as Apple's iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Currently, the 128GB version of the iPhone 7 is available on Amazon India at Rs 56,980. The 32GB version is being sold for Rs 42,999. The Galaxy S8 (with 4GB RAM and 64GM ROM) is available on Flipkart from Rs 57,900.

OnePlus 5, smart phones
OnePlus, which started its journey in December 2013, gained popularity in India with its very first device, the OnePlus One, which launched in mid-2014.

First Published: Wed, June 21 2017. 08:50 IST