Will 10 Pro Provide Premium Push to OnePlus’ US Dream?

OnePlus’ 10 Pro model originally launched in China in January 2022, but people stateside had to wait for the device until its global launch on March 31. This time around, OnePlus went with a single flagship device and some hardware choices that cut the full retail price by $100 compared to its predecessor, the OnePlus 9 Pro. The device becomes available on April 14 at T-Mobile and retailers such as, Amazon and Best Buy.

A short review

 The good

 There are already plenty of reviews of this device out there since it launched in the beginning of 2022, so this will touch upon a few things only. I have now had the device for over a week and can tell OnePlus has definitely made improvements on the camera via its partnership with Hasselblad. Pictures are less saturated and more natural. The same camera sensors from the 9 Pro are used in the 10 Pro so you can really tell the difference that software can make. OnePlus has not confirmed if these software updates will be available for the 9 Pro. In addition to the camera, the 5,000 mAh battery and 65W charger are terrific. Being able to charge your device from 0% to 100% in roughly 32 minutes is amazing. The 80W version of the charger even shaves off a few more minutes, but the US electrical system does not support that kind of power, unfortunately. The 65W charger can also double up as a laptop charger. The device feels fast and snappy thanks to the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and 6.7” QHD+ (3216 x 1440 pixels) resolution on a 120Hz Fluid AMOLED with an LTPO panel.

Counterpoint Research Will OnePlus 10 Pro Provide Premium Push to OnePlus’ US Dream?

The bad

 Spec-wise, the phone truly can compete head-to-head with flagship devices from Apple, Samsung, Google and others. However, there are two minor downgrades that the device has compared to the 9 Pro. The latest version does not include mmWave and only supports sub-6 5G bands. It is certified on both T-Mobile and Verizon’s 5G networks but can only run on AT&T’s 4G network as it will not pursue certifications from this carrier. Secondly, OnePlus is only offering one memory and RAM configuration model in the US, the 128GB and 8GB RAM variant, which will disgruntle some users wanting the higher variants that are available in other countries.

On the software front, OnePlus is promising three major OS updates and four years of security updates, which falls slightly short compared to Samsung. While OnePlus and OPPO are developing their own OSs, they do share a unified OS code base, which has led to some design choice issues related to the latest OxygenOS 12 software. Icons and fonts feel more heavy and rigid instead of the minimalist design of OnePlus. The widget shelf that OnePlus implemented often gets opened accidentally when you try and swipe down from the top of the screen.

US market and OnePlus: Still just a prepaid contender?

Ever since OnePlus launched with US carriers, it has offered a premium smartphone for consumers. This strategy has been largely unsuccessful due to the stranglehold Apple and Samsung have in the premium market. OnePlus has had much better success in the sub-$300 space with its Nord series, especially the N200 5G in Metro by T-Mobile. In fact, due to LTE chip shortages in 2021 combined with T-Mobile’s push to upgrade its lower-end base to 5G, OnePlus grew its market share to almost 10% in Q2 and Q3 2021 for both prepaid and postpaid sales combined. Overall, OnePlus sold 2.5 million Nord series devices in 2021, the vast majority of them through T-Mobile channels.

OnePlus Share in T-Mobile

With the OnePlus 10 Pro, the company is again making a bid for premium market share. The $899 price is competitive, putting it at the same level as the Pixel 6 Pro and $100 cheaper than the S22 Plus. No other OEM includes a powerful 65W charger. T-Mobile is currently offering the OnePlus 10 Pro for new and existing customers for free with an eligible trade-in on Magenta MAX, or 50% off with an eligible trade-in on any postpaid plan with 24-month bill credits.

From a discussion with OnePlus during a pre-launch briefing, it seems the company is ramping up its marketing efforts for the US market in 2022. In February, The Boston Marathon announced that OnePlus would be the official smartphone and key sponsor for the 2022 Boston Marathon. For the past several years, OPPO was the sponsor. OnePlus has promised more such announcements to come in 2022, which is all that can be said for now. These initiatives will certainly help OnePlus gain more visibility in the US, where it remains relatively unknown. A larger mind share will help the brand in postpaid sales where brand perception and trust are larger purchase decision factors compared to the prepaid market which is more price focused.

It was a good move on OnePlus’ part to go with an even more streamlined premium option for its 2022 flagship strategy. There is no “base” version like in the OnePlus 9 or a “T” version like it had with the OnePlus 8T. This makes it less confusing for consumers who don’t know the brand well yet. T-Mobile continues to be a strong partner for OnePlus given the (un)carrier’s history of being more less dominated by Apple and presenting consumers with more Android smartphone SKUs. However, the device will unlikely make a big impact on the premium space, especially since Samsung launched its S21 FE and S22 devices earlier this year. OnePlus may also lose out on some of its core customers due to the limited SKUs and OxygenOS 12. But for new potential customers, the strategy makes sense for the long run.

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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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