With the arrival of the OnePlus 5, the company graduates from ‘startup’ status. So where does it go from here?
OnePlus had a great 2016. Last year, the company that made its name Never Settling settled into its groove. It gave us two of the best Android phones of the year at competitive price points and built vital carrier relationships while also catering to its core “unlocked” customer base. And it finally figured out software and OS updates, while steering clear of the bravado and PR blunders that had plagued earlier release cycles.
Countless smartphone hardware startups have fallen by the wayside in the time that OnePlus has existed, making the success of the company in 2016 all the more remarkable. Sure, OnePlus remains a lean organization compared to an HTC or LG, but it isn’t really a startup anymore. So where next?
It wasn’t long ago that you’d need an invite to buy a OnePlus phone.
From what little we know about the “5” so far, it seems like OnePlus isn’t rocking the boat too much. Leaked renders show a 3T-like design with dual cameras. There’ll be a fingerprint scanner on the front, which likely means a standard 16:9 display, complete with “forehead and chin” bezels. And of course, a Snapdragon 835 running the show.
That fits the established pattern of OnePlus phones to date. The manufacturer hasn’t needed to do anything outlandish with its hardware. Indeed, the “cheaper flagship” space that it’s operated so successfully within has restrained it from doing anything too crazy with the chassis or its innards. As a result, OnePlus has remained focused on the core experience of using the phone, and avoided the gimmicks that have ensnared many rivals.
More: What we know so far about the OnePlus 5
Instead of modular add-ons or 4K screens, the differentiator for OnePlus is the brand itself — community-driven, with fans shaping the direction of OnePlus’s software, and being a major part of any new phone launch. And over the past couple of years, OnePlus has been able to successfully scale up this approach, even while forging deals with carriers like O2 and Elisa in Europe.
2017 could be OnePlus’s strongest year yet.
Over the next twelve months, OnePlus will need to navigate its “post-startup” phase and grow its business further, but without alienating the early adopters who helped it get where it is. It’s likely there’ll be more carrier deals in the works, as OnePlus nips at the heels of larger, traditional manufacturers like HTC and Sony. The challenge will be to become more mainstream without losing sight of its enthusiast-driven core. It’ll be a tricky balancing act, but if OnePlus can pull it off, there’s every chance 2017 could be its strongest year yet.
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