OnePlus 8 Series: Aiming to Redefine Flagship Experience

The OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro smartphones are powered by Snapdragon 865 SoC.
Both smartphones include support for the 5G network by default.
OnePlus 8 Series brings display enhancements in collaboration with Pixelworks.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns in several countries, OnePlus has announced its 2020 flagship smartphones. Just like last year, there are two smartphones this year too – the premium OnePlus 8 Pro, and a compact OnePlus 8. From 5G only portfolio to faster wireless charging and immersive audio and video, the OnePlus 8 Pro brings some of the biggest upgrades to redefine flagship experience. There is a lot to talk about the new OnePlus 8 Series, so let’s quickly dive in.

Improved Design, Better Aesthetics

Both the new OnePlus smartphones share identical design featuring a metal frame sandwiched between front and back glass. To address one of the most common problems with glass back design, the company has carefully chosen CMF (Color, Material, Finish) this time around. The new phones come with a frosted glass back with a soft matte finish, which means it won’t be a fingerprint magnet and slippery like other smartphones.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro cmf

OnePlus is also offering a good choice of colors with a gradient finish. OnePlus 8 is available in Onyx Black, Glacial Green, and Interstellar Glow, whereas in the case of the Pro model, Interstellar Glow is replaced by Ultramarine Blue. The 7 and 7T featured a waterdrop notch display, whereas the 7 Pro and 7T Pro featured a pop-up selfie camera. With the new series, both smartphones feature a hole-punch camera cut out that houses the front camera.

Smooth Display with Pixelworks Inside

OnePlus 8 Pro

OnePlus introduced a 90Hz high refresh rate display with the 7 Pro, and now it is making the display even better with the new phones

. The OnePlus 8 Pro flaunts a 6.78-inch QHD+ (3168×1440 pixels) Fluid AMOLED display with curved edges. It now comes with a 120Hz refresh rate to make scrolling smoother, and touch more responsive. This means things, like navigating through the UI, scrolling through the web page, Facebook and Instagram timeline among others, will be fluid. But the key difference will be noticeable when playing games. It will allow for lower latency and smoother graphics. There is also support for Dolby Atomos to make gaming more immersive.

At the launch event, OnePlus also announced support for Google Stadia. The game-streaming service will offer access to a collection of games to play instantly. This means you’ll no longer need to wait for game downloads, installation and updates before playing them. The company is looking to aim for different needs of the users.

OnePlus has worked with Pixelworks to include the Iris 5 chipset which enables HDR10+, HDR Boost and color accuracy. This will make the video content livelier and the MEMC technology will further upscale 24fps videos to 120fps to reduce motion blur and stuttering, especially when watching sports and action-packed content.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro display

OnePlus 8

The OnePlus 8, on the other hand, gets a 6.55-inch FHD+ (1080x2400pixels) Fluid AMOLED display with curved edges, and a 90Hz screen refresh rate. It comes with Pixelworks Soft Iris software solution which enables color accuracy, HDR10+, and color accuracy. The solution also enhances the dynamic range of non-HDR content to offer a better viewing experience.

Here, the engineering efforts of OnePlus are commendable. The OnePlus 8 feels more compact compared to the iPhone 11 Pro Max which features a 6.5-inch display. This is because the OnePlus smartphone has a higher screen-to-body ratio. It is also worth mentioning that the device is more compact than the iPhone, despite having several antennas for 5G connectivity.

Key Specifications of OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro

It’s not just the design, both smartphones share identical hardware too; well, in some departments. They are both powered by a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, paired with a Snapdragon X55 5G modem with support for Sub-6GHz low and mid-band. Interestingly, in the US, Verizon will be getting a special OnePlus 8 5G UW (Ultra Wideband) device with support for mmWave. Sadly, the Pro model won’t support mmWave. But, it does come with faster Wi-Fi 6 support, which is missing on the compact model.

Both the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro models will be offered in two SKUs – 8GB RAM with 128GB storage, and 12GB RAM with 256GB storage. Though, there is a small difference – the compact model comes with LPDDR4X RAM, whereas the Pro model gets the faster LPDDR5 RAM. Having the LPDDR5 RAM offers a 30% faster memory speed while reducing power consumption by 20%. In short, it will offer snappy performance while saving battery life.

The battery capacity also sees a jump, keeping the power-hungry SoC and 5G network in mind. OnePlus 8 is armed with a 4,300mAh battery, whereas the Pro model comes with a slightly larger 4,510mAh battery. Both support Warp Charge 30T wired charging that can quickly top up the smartphones from 1% to 50% in 23 minutes.

Wireless Charging, and More

OnePlus has left no stone unturned in ensuring the ‘Pro’ model gives you the true flagship features. You finally have a 30W fast wireless charging feature, which can charge be battery from 1% to 50% in 30 minutes. Similar to other wireless charging phones, this one too has reverse wireless charging to charge other devices. While you will be able to wirelessly charge the OnePlus 8 Pro using the standard Qi wireless charging pad, for faster speeds, you’ll need to buy the OnePlus charging stand that will be available for $80.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro wireless charger

In comparison, the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max which costs over $200 more than the OnePlus 8 Pro, only support wireless charging speeds up to 7.5W. At this speed, they take about one-and-a-half-hour to charge 50%. Similarly, the Galaxy S20 series which starts at $999, and goes to $1,399 for the base model of Galaxy S20 Ultra, offers wireless charging speeds up to 15W.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro water resistance
Source – OnePlus

OnePlus has put a lot of effort into ensuring it lives up to the ‘fast and smooth’ tagline. The company just didn’t stop there, the OnePlus 8 Pro is also IP68 certified for water and dust resistance.

Camera Upgrades For The Shutterbugs

With every new device, OnePlus has focused on the camera performance, and the new devices are no exception. The Pro model now comes with a 48MP Sony IMX689 primary sensor (f/1.78) with a pixel size of 1.12µm. With 4-in-1 pixel binning, the camera clicks photos in 12MP resolution, but the option to click in full res is also available. The major upgrade comes in the form of a 48MP sensor with an ultra-wide-angle lens, up from 16MP on the 7T Pro model. This will allow users to capture ultra-wide photos in higher resolution, with more details. There is also an 8MP telephoto lens with 3X optical zoom and 5X hybrid zoom. One addition here is a dedicated 5MP color filter camera sensor. It let’s you add filters and artistic lighting effects to your photos right from the camera app using the mode.

counterpoint oneplus 8 pro camera setup
Source – OnePlus

The OnePlus 8, on the other hand, comes with identical triple camera setup as the 7T, but with some changes. The telephoto lens is now replaced with a 2MP macro sensor on the new phone. Besides you get a 48MP primary sensor (IMX586) and a 16MP ultra-wide-angle lens. For selfies and video calling, both smartphones come with a 16MP (Sony IMX471) front camera. It supports time-lapse and 1080p video recording capabilities. The front camera also supports the face unlock feature.

Both the 8 Series smartphones support slow-motion video recording up to 480fps, and 4K video recording at 60fps. Sadly, while the Snapdragon chipset supports 8K video recording, support for the same isn’t present here.

Talking more about videos, OnePlus has also partnered with Nokia for OZO Audio technology which brings Audio 3D, Audio Zoom and Audio Windscreen features. With Audio 3D, users can record videos with spatial sound, whereas the Audio Windscreen reduces the wind distortion in the audio. Lastly, Audio Zoom allows users to amplify sound in a video recording by zooming into a specific area.

OnePlus 8 Series Pricing: From Flagship Killer to a Flagship

As mentioned above, the new smartphones will be offered in two SKUs. The OnePlus 8 base model with 8GB RAM will be available for $699, whereas the 12GB RAM model will be available for $799. The OnePlus 8 Pro, on the other hand, will be available for $899 for the base model with 8GB RAM, whereas the 12GB RAM model will set you back by $999.

Counterpoint OnePlus smartphones Pricing Strategy

Sure, the OnePlus phones are expensive, and they are no longer the flagship killer that would cost 1/3 compared to the Apple and Samsung phones. But over the years, OnePlus has been gradually moving up in the premium category, and the price hike was justified with the addition of new features. In the current case, IP68 certification and Wireless Charging are the features that help OnePlus level the game with Samsung and others. Here is a graph showing how the prices of OnePlus phones scaled up over the years.

Challenges in India Amid COVID-19 lockdown

India is a major market for Chinese smartphone makers. In 2019, OnePlus took the lead position in the premium smartphone segment with a 33% market share. However, with the COVID-19 lockdown and its effect on the industry, we expect OnePlus shipments to see a decline of 11% YoY in 2020.

Commenting on lockdown and sales impact in India for OnePlus, Counterpoint research analyst Karn Chauhan said, “In the premium segment, price elasticity is least important as other factors like brand loyalty and status are more important. However, users shifting from low to mid-price tier are unlikely to take a bigger jump to the premium segment, especially with incomes negatively impacted by COVID-19.”

““However, for INR 30K – 40K price segment, we believe the demand will decline for this segment. The consumer demographics of this price segment mainly consists of students and aspirational middle class, who might delay their purchases for the near future,” he added.

With this lockdown, the high-class and upper-middle-class will be the least hit. Companies like Apple and Samsung will likely benefit from this trend. Though, OnePlus may also benefit from the price decline of its older generation 7T models.

Talking about the new OnePlus launch, Counterpoint Research Director, Tarun Pathak said, “From a sales perspective, the launch quarter will surely be impacted. For instance, in India, around one-third of the company’s annual sales happen during launch Q2 quarter. To offset this, OnePlus will need to aggressively scale up its efforts in Q3 and Q4 where we think demand will be shifted in India due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Given the brand image and good exposure to online, OnePlus can look at different ways to push sales, especially those related to upgrades as it has a loyal userbase. This will also be the first time when OnePlus new launch sales will overlap the launch quarters of Samsung Note and Apple iPhone refresh too. We are expecting a strong competition in India’s premium market in Q3 and Q4 2020.”

Challenges in the US, and Globally

In the US, OnePlus was the third-largest 5G smartphone vendor in 2019 with a market share of 11%, with Samsung taking the top spot and LG taking the second spot. Currently, with the COVID-19 outbreak, roughly 60% of carrier stores are closed in the US. But as a lot of OnePlus users are tech-savvy, who can buy online, the sales may not see much of an impact. Also, having 5G smartphones on two of the largest carriers in the US – Verizon and T-Mobile, could help OnePlus gain some additional market share.

“Globally we believe that OnePlus has the right mix of products. Embracing the 5G trend earlier will turn out to be a good learning curve for the brand. The latest OnePlus 8 series with 5G only portfolio will make a strong point for OnePlus to expand into more channels within the EU and NAM. We have already seen this in its association with Verizon in the USA. Carriers/channel partners in the EU and NAM will see this as an opportunity to diversify their portfolio beyond Samsung and Apple. Sure COVID-19 will impact the sales as it overlaps its launch quarters. However, in the EU and NAM, the online channels are still open which will help the brand to push some of the sales, unlike India, where it is likely to be impacted more,” Pathak added.

Upping the Game to Redefine Flagship Experience

Until now, OnePlus had its focus on being the “Flagship Killer” but that changes now. There are three core areas where OnePlus 8 Pro is looking to challenge the competition. The 5G only portfolio, along with Wi-Fi 6 means users get the latest and fastest connectivity solution. Secondly, users consume a lot of content – from videos to movies, games and web surfing. A display with a faster refresh rate, along with SDR to HDR conversion opens gates for an immersive experience. And lastly, a wired and wireless charging solution 2x faster takes it ahead of the competition. The $900 entry price is where OnePlus triumphs in aiming to redefine the flagship experience.

BONUS! Podcast

My colleagues Karn Chauhan and Maurice Klaehne share their thoughts and insights on the OnePlus 8 Series potential and outlook.

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