OnePlus Bets Big on 10T to Take Premium Segment Share

OnePlus invited the global media and analyst community to its in-person global launch event for the new OnePlus 10T in New York City this week. This is a big marketing push for OnePlus, which now has over 22 million community members. Recently, it expanded its partnerships with organizations such as the UFC and Boston Marathon to create more brand awareness of OnePlus in the US, a market where it has been struggling to gain recognition beyond its techie fanbase due to Android giants like Samsung and Motorola having decades worth of more mindshare now.

OnePlus 10T and Counterpoint Logo

The new OnePlus 10T comes in Moonstone Black and Jade Green

The launch event was spread over two days of presentations and meetings with the OnePlus leadership team. The first day focused on a high-level global business update, highlighting continued growth in sales in North America and India, as well as showcasing the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and the new OxygenOS 13 (first coming to the 10 Pro and then the 10T later this year). The second day was the actual launch event of the OnePlus 10T with some additional announcements such as a new partnership with Worlds 2022, a tournament for the League of Legends e-sports season; OnePlus expanding its presence in Thailand and Malaysia through new model launches; and a new 80W car adapter.

Refocusing the brand’s messaging to a two-device strategy

The last “T” variant of the OnePlus series was the 8T. The 9 series skipped the T variant, which is generally a more mid-range flagship smartphone. Ever since OnePlus made a more concerted effort to go for the premium price bands with its devices starting with the OnePlus 6 in 2018, it has had a hard time sending a clear message as it went with a line-up of four premium SKUs. The different options and price points, and even special editions (McLaren edition, Cyberpunk edition), sent a confusing message to consumers, especially new ones who do not have a lot of brand awareness of OnePlus and might find the plethora of offerings too much to take in.

History of OnePlus flagship launches from 2014 to 2022

With the latest OnePlus 10 Pro and new OnePlus 10T, this messaging has been streamlined and simplified for the consumer. With the OnePlus 10 Pro, you get a high-end flagship with all the bells and whistles, while with the OnePlus 10T, you “evolve beyond speed” to get a slightly lower-priced model that is optimized for gaming and quick battery charging. This is helpful for consumers who don’t know the OnePlus brand and need quick-hitting facts to get a powerful initial impression of both OnePlus as a brand and as a device. OnePlus does not currently have the luxury of having multiple SKUs like Samsung, which can fall back on its brand awareness to get consumers interested in devices. A lesson that the OEM is implementing with the 10 series.

Competitive pricing but at a cost

However, issues with pricing remain. The OnePlus 10T sits at a very competitive $649 with the latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 150W (125W in North America), 6.7’ OLED screen with 120 Hz refresh rate, 4,800mAH battery, vapor cooling system, 50MP main/8MP ultrawide/2MP macro camera, up to 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. Some spec sacrifices had to be made, of course, to achieve the lower price, with the most talked about one being the lack of the alert slider. The Hasselblad software and branding is also missing, as well as the telephoto lens, wireless charging, and the dynamic 120 Hz refresh rate that the OnePlus 10 Pro has.

Summing it all up, the OnePlus 10T’s big differentiators include:

  • Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip: Boasts an improved Qualcomm Adreno GPU with up to 10% faster GPU clock speeds and support for HDR gaming, with a 30% improvement in GPU power efficiency.
  • Next-generation 3D cooling system: A cryovelocity vapor chamber with eight dissipation channels to help with overheating issues that have plagued previous OnePlus models.
  • HyperBoost gaming engine: Includes a GPA Frame Stabilizer that reduces frame rate fluctuation when gaming. GPU Load Control improves the efficiency of graphics rendering.
  • LSTouch: Gives a 1,000 Hz instant touch sampling rate to improve responsiveness when gaming.
  • 150W SUPERVOOC charging: Enables the 4,800 mAh battery to charge fully in only 19 minutes, with 1,600 battery cycles guaranteed with battery health staying above 80%. In the US, the charger will come in a 125W variant. OnePlus also frontloads the first 10 minutes of charging, promising enough charge for a full day.
  • Improved camera performance: Except for the 2MP macro lens, which is a downgrade, the 10T comes with a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with optical image stabilization (OIS), a new Nightscape 2.0, and improved HDR performance.
  • 360-degree antenna system: Fits the 10T with 15 antennas to help with signal strength, especially when gaming and holding the phone horizontally.
  • OxyGenOS 13 (when it is finally available for the 10T): Sports an Aquamorphic design aesthetic with an always-on display and AI system booster to help memory management for more stable performance. It also comes with Snapdragon Sound-enabled spatial audio, and Dolby Atmos, faster audio switching and pairing, and a new sandbox privacy feature called Privacy Safe 2.0.

With the launch of the 10T, OnePlus also dropped the price of the OnePlus 10 Pro by $100 to $799 in the US, putting the two devices just $150 apart. For comparison, the OnePlus 9 Pro and 9 were priced at $969 and $729 respectively at launch, which was better in terms of price differentiation. But then there were issues with messaging around the ideal users for each device. Now, with the very close pricing for the OnePlus 10 Pro and 10T, there will likely be some confusion for users, who often use price as a differentiating factor between models. This will be especially true for those who want to go for the 16GB/256GB OnePlus 10T variant which will cost $749, just $50 less expensive than the 10 Pro base model.

OnePlus 10 Pro and OnePlus 10T

The OnePlus 10 Pro and OnePlus 10T side by side

Going back to flagship-killer roots

OnePlus is doing its best to take up the flagship killer moniker once again with the OnePlus 10 series. While this messaging was not fully expressed at the launch, it was clearly there if you read between the lines and as you look at the two devices and the price points they are offered at. Talking with OnePlus, it promised that the flagship-killer point would be more emphasized in its upcoming marketing campaigns.

A better path forward

OnePlus is still a young company in the US and is certainly still growing. According to Counterpoint’s Market Monitor Service, its US market share has hovered around 2%-3% in recent quarters. Much of the initial growth was largely due to the impact of low-end LTE and 5G devices such as the N100, N200 5G and the N10 and N20 series at T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile. The missing piece for OnePlus for further growth lies in the expansion of its premium market share, where the OEM has struggled in the past. The OnePlus 10 T and 10 Pro give the OEM a much better shot at gaining some share from other Android players like Google or Samsung. Even iPhone users may find some interest as OxygenOS 12 began making nods to iPhone software via a similar Control Center swipe-down feature to access the OnePlus Shelf. OnePlus is also trying to work more with T-Mobile reps, having even invited some to the launch event to help bring more brand awareness to those boots on the ground who advise and sell phones to customers daily. OnePlus’ path to success won’t be easy in the US market, but the new two-device premium and gaming approach, combined with its big marketing pushes in both e-sports and sports, feels more purposeful than previous launches. We continue to monitor OnePlus closely.

Maurice Klaehne is a Senior Analyst with Counterpoint Technology Market Research, based out of Boston, USA. He has spent more than five years working as a market researcher and strategy consultant heavily focused on emerging markets and uncovering new growth opportunities for his clients which include business service, CPG, healthcare, and life science companies. Maurice holds a Master’s in International Development and Management from Sweden’s Lund University, and an undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Development from Canada’s McGill University. He is a native German speaker and also speaks fluent French.

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