OnePlus 3 = Four Features That Makes It a Flagship Challenger

In this ever commoditizing and crowding smartphone market on an average 145 new brands entered each year over the last 2 years. However, on an average only 3  of those grow in terms on mindshare and marketshare, many of them struggle and even exit within 24 to 30 months. OnePlus is one of those 3% which has “made it stick” since its inception and market entry in summer of 2014. OnePlus, a Shenzhen based firm, an offshoot of one of the fastest growing Chinese brand Oppo backed by the parent BBK group, founded by the  ex-Oppo execs, Pete Lau and Carl Pei, is one of the most talked about smartphone startup over the past two years. It sizzled with its highly affordable flagship launch in summer of 2014, OnePlus One with a $500+ level flagship level hardware specifications at an aggressive $300 price tag and innovative go-to-market with “invite only” sales creating a huge buzz and pent-up demand. OnePlus One sold more than 1.5 million units in the first year of launch which is a significant feat for a startup.

With the momentum started with OnePlus One, OnePlus launched couple of models OnePlus Two and OnePlus X in its second year of operations i.e. last year which saw a modest growth over the earlier flagship, though well received in some markets such as India where the two models sold over half a million units between April 2015 and March 2016 according to our Model Sales Tracker research. OnePlus was the number three brand with 10% market share in the US$250-US$600 wholesale price segment in India for the full year 2015 behind Apple and Samsung. India has become one of its most important market in Asia after Europe which also contributes to fair amount of sales.

The third generation of OnePlus has begun rolling out this summer and is so far the best OnePlus flagship in terms of industrial design, hardware specs as well as the software performance. There are four key things which makes OnePlus 3 a serious challenger to flagships from Samsung, Xiaomi, HTC and other Android brands.

1. Industrial Design & Hardware Specifications

  • The departure from plastic, styleswap covers in previous generation OnePlus to metallic design  is a welcome departure coupled with a thinner 7.3mm design makes the device feels true flagship and in a sense on par with HTC’s design language.
  • Though one might argue there is nothing novel about the design language but it is more than enough for the price segment OnePlus is targeting.
  • The thinner metallic design though feels slippery at times but with a thin bumper or cover feels great. The selection of Super AMOLED display makes up for the choice of Full HD resolution on a big 5.5″ screen compared to competitors which are now featuring much higher resolution 2K displays for similar display size. The Super AMOLED stands out compared to LCD based 2K display.
  • OnePlus packs the most premium tier internal chipsets from Qualcomm’s flagship and market leading SOC Snapdragon 820 to UFS 2.0 based 64GB NAND Flash (almost 3x faster than eMMC 5.1 standard along with the most advanced 6GB DDR4 RAM on the market making it a powerhouse of a phone from specs perspective. The advanced memory integration along with Snapdragon 820 makes it super snappy, buttery smooth and highly optimized premium hardware on the market.
  • OnePlus also features a very responsive and quite accurate Fingerprint sensor unlocking the phone with just a feather touch. From personal preference perspective, I prefer the fingerprint sensor on the rear to be more user friendly than on the front especially for the phones with 5″ are greater display size.
  • OnePlus sports a high resolution 16MP rear camera sensor with f/2.0 lens and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) capable of capturing brilliant high quality photographs. The 8MP Front camera doesn’t disappoint great for selfie lovers
  • The overall experience feels very snappy when combined with the UFS based storage. The sensor is also capable of shooting 4K videos though at 30fps and 1080p at 60fps.
  • The photographs are great but it is competing against the Huawei’s P9, Mi Pro’s dual cameras which adds a unique and differentiated dimension to photography. F
  • However, the camera UI needs significant work and needs to add more features to compete with other premium grade smartphones from Samsung or Huawei or Apple.
  • Experienced some AF related bugs when needed those quick snaps, hopefully OnePlus was squash those in the next software updates.
  • Following are some of the images I captured in Switzerland using OnePlus 3 which are pretty good, quite sharp, great balanced colors and actually looks better on the device than on monitor screen.

2. Battery & Charging

  • The “Dash Charge” branded charging technology provides some evidence of Oneplus still works closely with Oppo and is quite dependent to offer Intellectual property.
  • The Dash Charge technology (5V 4A) is adaptation of Oppo’s popular proprietary VOOC flash charging technology.
  • This technology like Qualcomm Quick Charge is built into the phone, the charger adaptor which ensures charging  the phone in a flash with just 30 mins charging boosts the total battery charge to almost two-thirds capacity.
  • OnePlus’s Dash Charge tech addresses a key pain point for today’s smartphones which are sporting larger high resolution battery hogging displays but at the same time getting thinner facing battery capacity constraints to be packed into the sleeker form-factor.
  • The battery life on OnePlus 3  on normal to heavy usage has lasted for more than a day and its great for a 3000mAh battery which is considered a good size these days for phablets.
  • The USB Type-C addition is important from user-experience perspective as well as its scalability to get newer Type-C based features and accessories in future


Source: OnePlus

3. Oxygen OS

  • The Oxygen OS offers a breath of fresh air over the boring stock Android and other gaudy Android skins we have seen on other Android phones
  • The customizations done within the Oxygen OS are quite meaningful and nothing extravagant.
  • Following are some of the customizations  from on-screen and off-screen gestures to buttons (on-screen or hardware) to notifications (LED, wake up, etc) to display and UI color modes.
  • While I personally liked the Cyanogen OS powered OnePlus One and OnePlus Two which ditched the Cyanogen OS for the first gen Oxygen OS was filled with bugs, the second generation Oxygen OS is much more better, smoother and user friendly.
  • Some features which I would like to be added would be “always on display”, the pin lock should automatically login instead of pressing “enter” after entering the pin, better camera app

4. Pricing & Go-To-Market Strategy

  • Sporting all the high-end specs and performance after using for a month, OnePlus 3 doesn’t disappoint infact has exceeded expectations in many department considering the size of the company and growing into a challenger brand
  • The go-to-market strategy has improved as the company now quite understands the supply chain and can better forecast the demand thus removing the invite system and rolling it boldly across more than 35 markets globally.
  • We would though recommend in some markets such as India, USA tying up with offline Large Format Retail (LFRs) or so called Big Box Retailers (BBRs) would be important to drive up the visibility for the OnePlus 3 starting at $399, setting up experience zones in some malls or cool places where young crowd gathers would be an important next step.
  • Striking key partnerships with comics or movies or sporting characters or content for a limited edition device would also drive some visibility and brand equity in near future.