OnePlus has released a lot of phones of interesting design and unique features in the last eight years. The Alert Slider is still a big hardware differentiator for the company, and some of my favorite designs were OnePlus phones: OnePlus 6T in Thunder Purple, OnePlus 5T Star Wars Edition, and OnePlus 7 Pro.
OnePlus’ focus on design aesthetics comes from the top. Co-founder and CEO Pete Lau often talks about how design is a key area of focus for OnePlus, and I clearly remember one conversation before the launch of OnePlus 6.
At the time, OnePlus was launching its first phone in red, and Lau said he and the design team spent several weeks considering the election to get the right shade for the device.
Ultimately, the OnePlus came with a red hue that was $ 4 more expensive than the other alternatives (no small change when working on the margins like a razor), but the result was that the Red OnePlus 6 looked absolutely stunning. It is this attention paid to detail on every aspect of the device that the company has liked for advanced users. But unfortunately, OnePlus doesn’t do that anymore.
In 2022, OnePlus’s phone portfolio can be summed up in one word: derivative. Instead of launching original designs that stand out from the crowd, OnePlus is essentially rebranding existing OPPO and Realme devices.
This is not the first time that OnePlus has turned to OPPO for design inspiration. The 2017 OnePlus 5 was almost identical to the OPPO R11, and OnePlus has always relied on OPPO to manufacture and distribute its phones.
But at the time, hardware similarities were not so important because OPPO did not have a significant global presence outside of several Asian markets. Furthermore, OnePlus’s efforts with OxygenOS meant that the software on both phones was very different.
That won’t be the case in 2022. OnePlus phones have the same software as their OPPO siblings, and now share the same design without any significant tweaks. This is especially true of the Nord N series – the Nord N20 5G launched a few weeks ago is nothing more than the OPPO Reno 8 Lite with the re-label.
Similarly, the Nord CE 2 Lite is a Realme 9 Pro knockoff with a not so good wide-angle lens, and the Nord CE 2 is a derivative of the Renault 7.
The worst offender is the OnePlus 10R; this device is a bad imitation of the Realme GT Neo 3 and has the ugliest design of all the phones I have used this year. I can’t believe the same company that gave us the OnePlus 7T just three years ago came out with this monstrosity.
The hardware here is just one part of the story; OnePlus has encountered significant problems with the integration of ColorOS with OxygenOS, and they are clearly visible on the 10R. The device is prone to lag and bugs in a way that the Realme GT Neo 3 simply isn’t – even though they’re both essentially the same phone.
What is clear is that OnePlus does not have nearly the same level of control over its portfolio under OPPO’s tutelage. As I see it, OnePlus now exists as a way for BBK to sell phones in North America.
OPPO and Realme do not sell devices in the region, so it is logical that BBK rebrands existing devices from these two entities and releases them under the OnePlus label.
As for why this is so now, not three years ago, it has to do with numbers. Realme just turned four this week, and the brand already has more than 100 million sales. OnePlus, meanwhile, is twice as old and hasn’t sold half as many units.
That’s why we see a lot of impetus around the budget and mid-range Nord series, not so much the focus on this year’s flagship OnePlus 10 series.
So if you’re in North America and need a cheap phone, OnePlus is still a good option because there are no OPPO, Realme or Xiaomi in the region. But if you are in a market where OPPO and Realme officially sell phones, you better buy directly from them.
OnePlus derivatives cost slightly less than their BBK siblings, but it’s not worth the hassle with the wrong software and unclear design. OnePlus used to produce some of the best Android phones, but that is not the case in 2022.