OnePlus talks OnePlus 10 Pro, OxygenOS, and foldables

OnePlus gave We and other publications an opportunity to sit down with three executives from OnePlus/Oppo last week to talk about brands, strategy, and development. The executives in question were Pete Lau, founder of OnePlus and chief product officer of Oppo; Chris Shu, vice president and head of product strategy and cooperation of OnePlus and Oppo; and Gary Chen, head of OS Product. The three of them gave us a short presentation about OnePlus and Oppo, as well as their respective futures. We were then allowed to ask questions, and this is what we learned.

OnePlus 10 Pro

The oneplus 10 pro has a distinct rear camera module.

This year, OnePlus made a major departure from its traditional release strategy. In January, the OnePlus 10 Pro launched in China, with the rest of the world (and specifically the U.S.) left wondering, “what about us?” OnePlus has made great strides over the last few years in terms of making inroads with carriers in the U.S., so this diversion seemed quite odd indeed. That confusion was not lost on OnePlus and the execs explained their reasoning, which we’ll get into shortly.

But the big news is that the OnePlus 10 Pro is coming to North America, Europe, and India by the end of March. As a reminder, the latest OnePlus flagship runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, and sports 8 or 12 GB of RAM and up to 521 GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Hasselblad is still working with OnePlus (and Oppo) on the camera technology, which includes a 48-megapixel main sensor, 50 MP 150-degree ultrawide sensor, and 8 MP telephoto sensor. But why did it launch in China so much earlier than everywhere else?

China-first strategy

The U.S., Europe, India, and China are all key markets for OnePlus, but two factors combined to cause one large problem for the company. The first was carrier certification. While unlocked phones are the norm pretty much everywhere else, phones are sold through carriers in the U.S. That’s the long and short of it. You either work with a carrier (or preferably carrier) or you don’t sell phones here. That’s why the release of the OnePlus 6T on T-Mobile was a pretty big deal a few years ago.

OnePlus basically had to make a choice — launch everywhere late, or launch in different places at different times.

But carriers require a lot of hoops, testing, red tape, and paperwork before they’ll allow a phone to be sold in their stores and on their network. That takes a lot of extra time (and money) to clear all those hurdles. Meanwhile, in other markets like China, no such certification is necessary.

The second part of the problem for OnePlus is that in the past, while it had to wait for carrier certification before a huge worldwide launch, a number of Chinese competitors were launching their phones before OnePlus. So OnePlus basically had to make a choice — launch everywhere late, or launch in different places at different times. Neither is a great choice, but it’s obvious this year which choice they made.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the choice, but I’m somewhat biased living in the U.S. market. I get what OnePlus is doing here, but that doesn’t mean it was less weird. Now that it’s been explained, it’s understandable, and the fact is, the strategy worked. OnePlus says that the OnePlus 10 Pro became “the fastest-selling smartphone on several Chinese e-commerce platforms, generating 100 million yuan in the first second of open sales.” (I would have thought it would take longer than one second to check out with the phone, let alone enter a credit card number, but who am I to argue with a blog post?)

New features coming

Oneplus will also launch 150-watt supervooc charging to a oneplus phone in the second quarter of this year.
Andy Boxall/We

Chen, once the OxygenOS lead at OnePlus, now has the reins of both OxygenOS and ColorOS. Both operating systems come from a unified code base. The good news for OnePlus fans is that OnePlus is committed to keeping OxygenOS and ColorOS as two distinctly different software experiences. Furthermore, all global OnePlus devices will continue to run OxygenOS. So if you were worried about the potential demise of your favorite Android skin, worry no more.

I have mixed feelings about this. While OxygenOS is beloved among OnePlus faithful, maintaining two different software teams seems to make things overly confusing, especially internally. But OnePlus has a full portfolio of products, so it makes sense that those products could run the same operating system that’s separate from Asian-focused market products. It’s great to hear that OxygenOS will continue to be around, but OnePlus would not commit to how long that will actually be.

This choice is further validated by OnePlus working with Google and the OnePlus Community to deliver its trademark “Fast and Smooth Experience” and “Burdenless design.” This relationship with Google becomes important later in the story, so stay tuned.

It’s great to hear that OxygenOS will continue to be around, but OnePlus would not commit to how long that will actually be.

OnePlus is also pushing hard on two other experiences coming this year. The first is the Hyberboost Gaming Engine, which focuses on three things. The first is the GPA Frame Stabilizer, which basically works to keep frame rates more consistent in games, reducing fluctuations in frame rates during gameplay. Then there’s O-Sync, which according to OnePlus, increases the sync speed between the processor and the display. This means the device reacts quickly and “reduces touch response times by up to 30 milliseconds.” An milliseconds count when you’re trying to not get your head blown off. Finally, GPU load control will improve rendering efficiency, which can mean up to an improvement in power consumption of 36% when gaming.

OnePlus will also launch 150-watt SuperVOOC charging, similar to what we’re seeing from Realme, to a OnePlus phone in the second quarter of this year. That’s not a typo. OnePlus is promising 150 watts of charging, which will charge a 4,500 mAh battery from 1% to 50% in just five minutes. OnePlus says that a battery with this charging technology can survive 1,600 charging cycles and still retain 80% of its charging capacity. For reference, 1,600 charging cycles would mean you charge your phone twice a day for just over two years and two months. (PSA: Don’t charge your phone that much. Put it down, there’s a whole world out there to enjoy.)

Foldables?

Browser view on the oppo find n.
Andy Boxall/We

Where the roundtable discussion took an interesting turn was during the Q&A that followed. Before I get too much further, it’s important that I emphasize that at no time did OnePlus announce any kind of foldable device. But during the Q&A, Alex Dobie of Android Central asked Lau about the collaboration between Google and OnePlus when working with OxygenOS. Lau replied by saying that OnePlus works closely with Google to codevelop a number of improvements including “how to bring new features to foldable devices.” I quickly raised my hand.

I asked Lau to expand on that collaboration because OnePlus to date does not have a foldable phone, so why would OnePlus need to work with Google to bring new features to foldable displays. Lau explained that collaboration between OnePlus and Google is more “visionary” and “long-term” and that they have worked on features for foldables, as well as Google’s “Better Together” initiative. In the future, we’ll see the results coming to products from Oppo and OnePlus.

Considering Oppo and OnePlus share R&D resources and Oppo’s R&D department produced a folding smartphone, it’s not a leap to think that OnePlus has some things jotted down on a cocktail napkin somewhere.

So while we cannot take that answer as confirmation that OnePlus has a foldable in development or even on the way, it’s not hard to imagine what a foldable from OnePlus might look like. The Oppo Find N is a wonderful little foldable device that in some ways is better than Samsung’s third-generation Galaxy Z Fold 3. Whether or not OnePlus will release a foldable to the public is in doubt, but it’s not a stretch to think that any phone manufacturer serious about the future of smartphones is at least experimenting with the technology.

Considering Oppo and OnePlus share R&D resources and Oppo’s R&D department produced a folding smartphone, it’s not a leap to think that OnePlus has some things jotted down on a cocktail napkin somewhere. Personally, I can’t wait to see what OnePlus brings to the foldable table, especially considering its expertise in software development.

Wrapping it all up

The oneplus 10 pro in volcanic black.

So there’s a lot of good news here. First, we will see the OnePlus 10 Pro before the end of next month. Of course, We will be going hands-on with the device when it arrives. OnePlus is continuing its relationship with Hasselblad as well, so we’re especially excited to see what the cameras can do.

Second, OnePlus as a brand is not going anywhere. Indeed, in 2022, OnePlus looks to expand into markets like Canada, Mexico, Africa, and the Middle East. It’s looking to add 10 million more members to its Red Cable Club loyalty program ,which already has 20 million members.

It will be interesting to see how the continued “Oppo-fication” of OnePlus continues to develop. So far, OnePlus has gone to great lengths to stay a separate brand while benefiting from Oppo’s resources. Keeping OxygenOS and ColorOS separate is a great sign because OxygenOS is likely the chirping canary in the coal mine of Oppo. So far, the canary is doing fine, but it remains to be seen how it will do in the long term.

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