With an aim to penetrate deeper into the European market, Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus will debut new high-end smartphones on Thursday. The brand could also unveil its plans to bring the OnePlus 7T as well as the OnePlus TV to Europe.
At an event in London, OnePlus’ co-founder and chief executive officer Pete Lau and team will show three devices – the OnePlus 7T Pro, a McLaren Edition and a 5G variant of the OnePlus 7T Pro. The brand has been launching “T” variants each year, a sort of mid-cycle upgrade, during its fall events. Starting with the OnePlus 3T in 2016, it started launching new flagships every six months.
The OnePlus 7T Pro, which will replace the existing OnePlus 7 Pro, may feature three cameras on the back, a slightly improved Snapdragon 855 Plus processor and a 90Hz display. The name Pro implies that the phone is targeted at power users and creative types. A 5G capable variant of the OnePlus 7T Pro will also be announced at the event. Britain is among a handful of European countries where 5G networks are already live.
Another smartphone will be a McLaren edition of the OnePlus 7T Pro, which is rumoured to be OnePlus’ most-expensive smartphone till date. It is said to have a similar design as its predecessor, featuring a glossy black rear, a carbon fiber pattern under the back glass, a fluorescent orange strip around the bottom edge of the phone’s edges, and ships in an orange McLaren-branded packaging.
Canalys analyst Matthew Xie told indianexpress.com that he expects OnePlus to focus on OnePlus 7T Pro, together with a McLaren edition device and a 5G variant at Thursday’s event. “OnePlus always plays a ‘Flagship Killer’ role, by offering best-in-class specs. The OnePlus 7T Pro will offer Snapdragon 855+ chipset, upgrading from 855 in the OnePlus 7 Pro. We should also expect to see Android 10 and Warp charge 30T onboard. Owners of OnePlus 6 /6T or vintage models are the likely upgraders,” he said.
Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, does not expect OnePlus to launch a radically designed smartphone at its fall event. The brand’s “T” release products are “iterative designs with slightly better features,” he said.
“OnePlus has always delivered an update every six months so this launch is in line with its usual launch cadence. However, given the incremental changes in smartphones these days, it may find it needs to revisit this approach in future,” warned Wood.
While the OnePlus 7T Pro may not have a major impact on the smartphone market, the launch is crucial for OnePlus to increase its footprint in Europe. OnePlus, along with other Chinese smartphone players, are desperate to challenge Apple and Samsung to grab market share in high-spending Europe.
There is no doubt that OnePlus has a loyal following and the brand has been successful in a market like India where it is among the top-selling premium phone brands, it needs to make a far more significant push in Europe if it wants to be a global player. And with Huawei delaying the sale of its Mate 30 series because the handsets have no access to Google services under a US trade ban in Europe, its biggest market outside of China, OnePlus could benefit in the premium smartphone market.
“OnePlus has a strong following amongst technology enthusiasts but it’s still a pretty small player in volume terms compared to rivals such as Samsung and Apple,” Wood reminded. “It will either need to keep its costs down and its margins tight while remaining a niche, but popular player, or it will need to really ramp up its marketing and product development spend,” he explained.
But just like every other smartphone player, OnePlus is under pressure to innovate. The plateauing of smartphone sales is a reality, and there is extreme competition across price points. If you have bought a smartphone, chances are you will continue to use it for at least three years.
Wood agreed that the OnePlus need to “deliver some stunning products at great prices” to stay competitive.
At a time when other smartphone makers are experimenting with new form factors, OnePlus has remained silent about its plans to launch a foldable phone in the market. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, has already launched a foldable phone. The Galaxy Fold, priced at $2000, folds like a book with a regular 4.6-inch screen on the outside and unfolds to reveal large 7.3-inch to use it as a tablet on the outside. While the phone brings a new form factor to the forefront, the foldable tech still raises questions about durability and a use case.
(Disclaimer: The author is in London on behalf of OnePlus India)