OnePlus Nord: The iPhone SE of Android World

The OnePlus Nord sports a 6.44-inch FHD+ display with 90Hz refresh rate.
It is powered by a Snapdragon 765G SoC with up to 12GB RAM, 256GB storage.
To keep things ticking is a 4,115mAh battery with 30W Warp Charging.

Chinese smartphone company OnePlus makes some of the most value-for-money smartphones with a self-proclaimed tagline “Flagship Killer”. The smartphones offer the right balance between performance and features, and cost significantly less than the Apple iPhones, Samsung Galaxies and Huawei smartphones. In fact, over the years, OnePlus smartphones have matured from “flagship killers to flagships”. In India, OnePlus leads the premium segment, followed by Samsung and Apple. But, in this whole process, a gap got left behind, that too in the segment where OnePlus started its journey. The latest OnePlus Nord is the company’s attempt at “going back to its roots” and competing in the hotly contested mid-premium segment.

With prices starting at around $400, the OnePlus Nord does bring a set of tradeoffs. There is no wireless charging, no IPXX rating, no stereo speakers, and no flagship chipset. But the OnePlus Nord does come with 5G connectivity. It also brings all the OnePlus goodness such as clean and customizable OxygenOS UI and Warp Charging technology. From the 90Hz screen refresh rate to 48MP quad rear cameras with OIS and dual front cameras, there is a lot to like about the Nord. OnePlus is also promising two years of Android OS upgrades and three years of security updates.

But what makes the OnePlus Nord special in its segment? Well, after using the smartphone for over two weeks, I can say that a lot is working in its favor. But before I get to the design and performance part, let me first talk about why OnePlus “Nord” exists.

What does Nord mean?

When I first heard the product name, I had two thoughts in my mind. It either had to do something with the Nordic countries or something with the Nord VPN. Maybe a phone with a built-in VPN for better privacy. But ahead of the launch, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei revealed the reason behind the product naming.

“Nord name comes from the concept of true north. We each have this inner compass that guides us. This product line reminds us to always search for our true north, and we hope it will keep reminding you of yours,” Carl Pei tweeted. So, can the Nord guide OnePlus to success? Let’s find out.

Design: Realme X50 Pro Lite in the Making

It is no secret that OnePlus and Realme share parts of the supply chain, design, and the manufacturing line with Oppo. Despite the various prototypes that OnePlus experimented with the Nord, it finally went with a design that closely resembles the Realme X50 Pro and Realme X3 SuperZoom. I do not have much to complain, except that nothing is refreshing considering the new product line and the company’s ambitions.

The Nord features a front and back glass design protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. But unlike other OnePlus smartphones that feature a metal frame, the Nord comes with a hard plastic frame with a shiny metal finish. It does not bother much to me as it makes the phone a little lighter to hold compared to other 5G phones, like the Realme X50 Pro. The front is dominated by a 6.44-inch screen, but more on that later. It also comes with a dual hole-punch selfie camera cutout on the top left. There are rounded corners on all four sides, with very thin bezels. Despite having a taller screen, the Nord feels compact and comfortable to hold.

counterpoint oneplus nord review vs realme

The placement of buttons is also good enough for easy accessibility, and they offer good tactile feedback too. The volume rocker is on the left, whereas the power/sleep button is on the right. Just above the power button is the alert slider to quickly switch between volume profiles (ring, vibrate and silence).

counterpoint oneplus nord review alert slider

Along the back is a vertical, pill-shaped quad-camera module and LED flash on the top left. The rest of the back is clean with the OnePlus logo in the center and branding at the bottom. OnePlus sent me the Blue Marble color unit for review, and it looks refreshing. There is also a Grey Onyx color.

The Blue Marble color gives the OnePlus Nord a distinct look and feel.

counterpoint oneplus nord review back

Display: 90Hz Screen Refresh Rate and More

The display runs at Full HD+ resolution, 1080×2400 pixels, and a tall 20:9 aspect ratio. The screen has a refresh rate of 90Hz, and it supports HDR10+ as well. It offers good viewing angles, vibrant color reproduction, and legibility is no issue either. The high refresh rate makes animations, web scrolling and UI navigation quite smooth.

OnePlus lets you choose between Vivid, Natural and Advanced screen profiles depending on your needs. There is also a “Reading Mode” which turns the screen into a greyscale mode. If you are reading e-books or a long article on some site, activating the reading mode will ensure less strain on your eyes.

Software: OxygenOS with Promised Software Updates and Upgrades

The Android OS is used by hundreds of OEMs, but only a handful of them offer timely software updates. Besides Nokia HMD, OnePlus is also known to offer timely OS upgrades and monthly security patches to its smartphones. The Nord runs on Android 10 with a July security patch. And despite offering a lot of customization options, the OxygenOS 10.5 also offers close to stock Android experience with just a couple of pre-installed apps.

The UI feels super smooth, thanks to the hardware and software optimization. A lot of credit also goes to the 90Hz screen refresh rate which makes the whole experience better. The interface is smooth, and scrolling through web pages is fluid too. Another thing I like about OxygenOS is how easy it is to customize different aspects, right from accent color to the tone, system icons and fonts among others.

Then there are some interesting additions in the form of Game Space, which optimizes the CPU, GPU and RAM for a lag-free performance. There is also a Fnatic mode that supercharges the smartphone with network enhancements while activating the DND mode for a distraction-free gaming experience.

Another thing I like is the Zen Mode. In the current COVID-19 times, we spend more time on our phones, and it is important to get some digital detox. The Zen Mode does exactly that – it locks you out of your smartphone for 20-60 minutes, depending on what you choose. Once activated, you will only be able to make and receive emergency calls, and all apps except the camera will be temporarily locked.

The OxygenOS skin offers the best of near-stock Android experience with a dash of customization.

Performance: So Much More For Less

The Nord is the first OnePlus smartphone that does not sport a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800-series chipset. It draws its power from a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC, which is paired with up to 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and up to 256GB UFS 2.1 storage. Coming to performance, the OnePlus Nord may not be the fastest, but it does show what the 765G SoC is capable of. It can be comparable to the Snapdragon 845 SoC, but with a 7nm process node, the 765G is a bit more efficient too. We have already seen how smoothly the chipset performs in our Vivo X50 Pro review, and the experience is the same on the Nord too.

Right from daily tasks like surfing the internet to social media or multitasking, the Nord handles things well. The gaming experience on the smartphone is also smooth. I had no issues running games such as PUBG Mobile, Alto’s Odessey and Hill Climb 2 among others. One of the things I like here is how well optimized the battery management and thermals are on the smartphone.

The Snapdragon 765G SoC offers a good mix of performance and efficiency, along with 5G connectivity.

I played PUBG Mobile at a stretch for two hours with graphics at HD and frame rate at high. Even with this usage, the phone barely got warm, and the battery drain was just 36%. This was with the standard gaming mode. However, occasional frame lags were noticeable. OnePlus has also included the Fnatic mode, which supercharges the phone in terms of allocating more resources for gaming. It also blocks unwanted calls and other notifications for a distraction-free gaming experience. The Fnatic mode did make things smoother.

Cameras: Surprisingly Good, Especially Low-Light

Though the Nord is not a flagship smartphone, OnePlus is offering a flagship camera experience. It comes with a quad-camera set-up at the back and dual cameras on the front. The Nord is also one of the first smartphones in its segment to come with optical image stabilization (OIS) to let you capture blur-free photos and smooth videos. The primary camera is a Sony IMX586 sensor (f/1.8), which is also present on OnePlus 8. It is a 48MP sensor that captures 4×1 binned shots in 12MP resolution by default. But there is also an option to capture full-res photos that take three times more space than standard 12MP shots.

In terms of quality, photos captured from the primary camera offer good details. As it is monsoon, I did not get to test the camera to see how it performs in harsh sunlight. But with the cloudy weather and all, the camera was able to capture the greenery pretty well. Though there is no telephoto lens, the Nord does let you capture 2X digital zoom shots, and they look good. It uses the 48MP sensor to capture full-res images and the crop. Below are some camera samples.






The primary camera performs well in low-light conditions. But to get better shots, you will need to use the nightscape mode. From the photos I captured, the nightscape mode photos are sharper, brighter and look vibrant too. Though the photos look a little oversaturated, I like how OnePlus has fine-tuned the algorithms. The overall quality looks sharp and better.

“The primary camera offers good overall performance in daylight and low light.”

The other three cameras include an 8MP sensor, an ultra-wide lens, a 5MP depth sensor and a 2MP macro lens. Photos shot from the ultra-wide lens are decent in daylight, but they suffer in dim lighting conditions. The depth sensor works well in adding background defocus to your photos. Edge detection is good too, and there are no complaints there.

Ultra-wide-angle shots



Portrait Shots




Portrait mode photos offer a shallow depth of field, though having an option to adjust the blur intensity would have been better.

Lastly, while most OEMs use the ultra-wide camera for capturing macro photos, OnePlus has added a dedicated 2MP macro lens. But as it is a low-resolution sensor, the photos are not that sharp and vibrant. The photo quality is just passable.



Smooth Videos, But Not The Best

Now, having OIS makes recording smooth videos easier, even with 4K 60fps. Though it does not match the smoothness offered by a gimbal, the video quality is decent for handheld videos. But for better footage, 1080p at 30fps works well.

OnePlus has also included a super stable mode that uses a combination of OIS and EIS (electronic image stabilization). Though videos are slightly smoother, they are not sharp and a lot of graininess is visible too.

Good Selfies and Videos From Front Cameras

Upfront, the Nord comes with two cameras in a hole-punch set-up. The primary camera is a 32MP sensor, and it is paired with an 8MP ultra-wide sensor. Selfies look good, but the AI is a little aggressive in making the skin tone a little brighter. But it does work well in hiding the dark spots and blemishes to an extent.

The ultra-wide-angle camera is also good in retaining quality even with the drop in resolution. Below are some sample shots.


One of the interesting things about the front camera is that you can also record 4K 60fps videos. One small caveat is that you can only use the main camera for video recording, not the ultra-wide one. But that is not a problem as such, and the video recording and audio quality is surprisingly good.

4K 60fps videos from the front camera are good enough for vlogging newbies.

Battery: One Full Day, and Some More

Talking about the battery life, the OnePlus Nord is equipped with a 4,115mAh unit. It also supports 30W fast charging tech which the company claims goes from 0 to 70% in just 30 minutes. In my test, the battery rose from 2% to 64% in just about 32 minutes. Full charging took about one hour and eight minutes, which is not bad at all.

The battery life on OnePlus Nord is pretty solid.

With a mixed usage that includes heavy gaming for two hours, social media, and web surfing, the Nord easily lasts a day with about 28% battery to spare at night. Without gaming, the Nord with me lasted for a day and a half over the weekend. In terms of screen time, I constantly got around six-and-a-half hours of usage, and sometimes some more.

Conclusion: Good Things Come in Small, Affordable Package

Apple reworked its iPhone strategy to capture the lower-tier market with a value-for-money proposition with the iPhone SE. OnePlus is trying to create the same magic in the Android world. The OnePlus Nord has all the required ammunition in its arsenal to succeed. Available in the emerging markets like India, and other markets such as Spain, France and the UK, it will largely miss the North American market. But given the markets OnePlus is targeting, the Nord has better chances to emerge as a winner.

That said, the Nord is not perfect. The cameras could have been a bit better. Instead of going for a quad-rear camera set-up, OnePlus should have gone with a triple camera set-up like the OnePlus 8, while using the ultra-wide sensor as a macro lens. Having an IPXX rating for splash resistance could have been welcome. OnePlus should also work towards fine-tuning the video camera algorithms, especially with the super stable mode. A stereo speaker set-up would have been a better addition as well for a better multimedia experience. But beyond these, there is nothing much to complain at this price point.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on The Latest Smartphones

Vivo X50 Pro: A Camera Disguised as a Smartphone

The Vivo X50 Pro comes with a unique camera gimbal stabilization mechanism.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 765G 5G SoC with 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.
The phone has a dual-curved screen with a 90Hz refresh rate.

Smartphone photography has come a long way over the last decade. And while most smartphones can capture great still photos, they are not that good when it comes to videos. Despite having electronic and optical image stabilization features, you may still need a gimbal to capture smooth, cinematic footage. The recently launched Vivo X50 Pro tries to address the issue with the world’s first and unique camera gimbal stabilization. With quad rear cameras, Vivo also wants to offer a complete smartphone camera experience in a small package. But does it succeed? Well, I have been putting the smartphone through its paces for the past couple of weeks, and here is what I think.

Vivo tested the waters with V19 in the premium segment, and has seen some success. With the X50 Pro, Vivo has entered the ultra-premium segment (around $600). The smartphone features a curved screen with high refresh rate, sub-6GHz 5G connectivity, a fast-charging battery, and much more. Priced around $670, it will compete with the likes of OnePlus 8, Xiaomi Mi 10, Oppo Find X2. Each of these smartphones has different positioning and unique selling points. All competition devices come with the flagship Snapdragon 865 SoC, and feature 5G connectivity as well. OnePlus 8 also has a special UW (Ultra Wideband) variant for Verizon in the US which offers mmWave connectivity. But in most markets, the company is selling the Sub-6GHz variant.

The OnePlus smartphone offers a 90Hz screen refresh rate, premium design and triple rear cameras at the back. The company has worked with Pixelworks to offer better viewing experience in the form of HDR10+ support, better color preproduction and more. The Mi 10’s USP is the 108MP primary camera developed with Samsung. It also features a too of the line hardware, and comes with 30W wired, 30W wireless and 10W wireless reverse charging support.

counterpoint Vivo X50 Pro Competitors

The Oppo Find X2 offers a 120Hz screen refresh rate, Snapdragon 865 SoC with 5G and 65W fast charging. Unlike the competition smartphones that feature a glass back, the Oppo smartphone comes with a ceramic back. Besides, the smartphone also offers  a versatile triple camera setup at the back.

Lastly, the Android ultra-premium segment cannot be complete without a Samsung smartphone. The South Korean smartphone giant has the flagship Galaxy S20 which comes with a Snapdragon 865 or Exynos 990 SoC, which is region dependent. The smartphone also comes with 5G connectivity in markets where the next-gen connectivity, and in markets like India, you get 4G LTE model. It features wireless charging, 120Hz screen refresh rate and more.

Now, coming back to the Vivo X50 Pro, there is a lot to talk about, right from the design to the display, performance, and cameras. But with photography being the highlight, I will start with that.

Vivo X50 Pro Cameras: A Setup with Multiple Possibilities

Smooth and Stabilized Videos With a Catch

The X50 Pro comes with a quad-camera system at the back. The primary camera has a custom Sony IMX598 with f/1.6 aperture and a gimbal camera mechanism. Vivo says, “It uses double-ball suspension mount and mechanical movement to achieve flexible 3D stabilization and can cover angles 300% larger than traditional OIS.” It compensates for the jerks when you are moving to deliver smooth and fluid footage. While that is mostly beneficial when recording videos, the gimbal also comes handy when clicking still photos, especially the handheld long exposure night shots.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro gimbal camera system

Talking about the quality, the video footage I recorded was smooth. But it worked well at FHD and HD resolutions with 30fps. As it is mechanical stabilization, it should even work when you are recording 4K videos at 60fps. But the footage was not as smooth as you would get with Full HD or HD resolution. Vivo has also included an ultra-steady mode which uses software-based processing algorithms to deliver even smoother footage, and it worked well. The audio quality is also good and clear. There is an Art Portrait mode for videos that has two features — one that adds bokeh effects to your videos, and the other that keeps subject in color and the background in black-and-white. These are fun modes to try.

Video stabilization with the ultra-steady mode is much better than typical OIS.

But there are two small problems that I would like to highlight here. When you have the phone attached to the gimbal, panning along the X-axis is smooth as the motor makes the gimbal move along your movement. But the same is not easily possible with the Vivo X50 Pro, and jerks and jitteriness are visible while panning and with movements if they too sudden. Secondly, the auto-white balance goes for a toss most times, something that Vivo needs to fine tune. Below is a sample footage.

Still Photography: Worth A Shot

Wide, Ultra-Wide and Periscope

The 48MP primary camera sensor uses a 4×1 pixel binning technique to click 12MP default photos. These are about 4MB in size. There is also a separate option to click full 48MP photos, and they are about 10-12MB in size. Talking about the quality, the camera performs surprisingly well. In daylight, it captures great details and the dynamic range is good too. The AI makes the colors look vibrant, but a bit of purple fringing is noticeable, especially if you look at the clouds in the sample shots. This is likely because the AI is going a little aggressive, but that should not be a big deal-breaker.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro 5g review cameras

The primary lens is paired with an 8MP (f/2.2) super-wide-angle lens with 120-degrees FoV, and an 8MP (f/3.4) periscope telephoto lens (135mm). The setup lets you click photos from 0.6x to 60x zoom levels. Photos captured from the ultra-wide lens look good, which is unlike most smartphones where ultra-wide photos show a big drop in quality compared to the primary sensor. Moving on, the 8MP telephoto lens lets you capture photos with 2X and 5X optical zoom, 10X, and going up to 60X digital zoom. Photos with 2X, 5X and 10X zoom look sharp and detailed. While the camera does support 60x digital zoom, I would not recommend that as details are completely lost, even when clicked from a tripod. Below are some camera samples from the three lenses.





















Zoom shots up to 10x hybrid zoom offer good details.

Super Night Mode Captures Bright Photos in Low Light

Vivo has also included a Super Night mode that captures a burst of photos at different exposure levels and combines to offer bright photos even in very dim light. I clicked a few sample shots and was impressed with the quality. Though they have less noise, at times, the colors look a bit oversaturated and unnatural. A few tweaks and optimizations to the algorithms could likely improve the quality.

Vivo has also included four different styles for the night mode, which highlights specific colors in the scene. For instance, Black and Gold give prominence to the blacks and lights in the photo. Similarly, with the Green and Orange mode, these colors get more prominence. There are Blue Ice and Cyberpunk color options too. These are some filters that you would find on apps like Instagram or in photo editing tools like Adobe Photoshop Express. They add a nice touch and feel to your photos before you share on social networks.




The night mode also lets you capture the moon. While it has been cloudy in Mumbai, my colleague who is based out of Jammu was able to capture a moon shot, and it looks good.

vivo x50 pro moon shot

Low-light photos are good but can be better with software optimizations.

Portrait Mode: Better than a DSLR?

The first-ever smartphone with a dual-camera system (HTC One M8) introduced a depth sensor to add DSLR-like bokeh effects to your photos. And since then, portrait mode has been available on single-camera setups (using AI) and on smartphones with multiple camera setups. The X50 Pro comes with a dedicated 13MP (f/2.46) portrait lens (50mm equivalent). Vivo has also included Bokeh 2.0 mode, which lets you adjust the aperture between f/0.95 and f/16 for background blur. But is the quality better than a DSLR?

I shot two photos, one on the X50 Pro and the other on an entry-level DSLR (Canon EOS 700D), with a prime lens. Of course, the DSLR wins in getting the skin tones right, whereas the X50 Pro (with AI on) smoothens the skin and makes the tone brighter. But the overall quality is not that bad, and the edge detection is good too. There is still sometime before we could completely replace our DSLRs with smartphones, but we are getting closer.

The portrait mode works well to keep the subject in focus while keeping the background blur.

Macros offer Good Details

The 8MP super-wide-angle lens also doubles as a macro camera to let you capture close-up shots. And I like the details it captures. In the two-sample shots, I clicked photos of a fly, where you can see good details of its eyes, wings, and even the hair. In the second picture, I tried to capture a moth, and yet again, the details are quite sharp and clear.



Macro shots are detailed and vibrant.

Selfies are Good, But Can Improve

The smartphone also features a 32MP (f/2.45) front camera in a punch hole setup. It clicks photos in full resolution and the quality is good. It is just that by default, the AI goes aggressive with skin tone softening and smoothening. But not many complaints there as people like to share such photos on social media.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro 5g review front camera

I wish Vivo had given one-click toggle to turn the AI on and off. Right now, you need to manually reduce the level of buffing, skin tone, whitening, and more. There are portrait mode and art portrait effects, like the video mode, and they work well. Below are some sample shots.

Gorgeous Design and Sleek Profile

Smartphone makers are increasingly focusing on the design and build aspect. As glass backs are fingerprint magnets and turn out to be slippery, smartphone makers are trying out different things. I have said this before, and would like to say again, that the frosted glass back looks classy. Even the colors used are refreshing. Vivo had sent me the Alpha Grey color variant.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro 5g review back

Design-wise, you get a metal frame sandwiched between front and back glass. What is interesting here is despite being a 5G-ready smartphone, its overall profile is sleek and slim. The glass is curved on the edges, both at the front and back, offering a good grip.

The Vivo X50 Pro offers a luxurious look and feel and is probably one of the slimmest 5G phones.

Performance: It is not the Hardware, But the Software That Matters

The Vivo X50 Pro is a flagship smartphone, and with that tag, expectations rise too. For some, the design and camera feature stand out, but they are disappointed with not having a flagship tier chipset. But I have mentioned this in my Vivo V19 review, and I will say here too. It is not just about having the flagship hardware, but OEMs must optimize the software for a smooth performance. And I think Vivo has cracked that well.

The X50 Pro comes with a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G octa-core SoC, paired with 8GB (LPDDR4x) of RAM and 256GB (UFS 2.1) storage. On the software front, you get Android 10 with July 2020 Android Security Patch FuntouchOS custom skin on top. With the specifications out of the way, let us talk about performance. I have been using it for about three weeks now, and so far, the experience has been good.

During my usage, I tried to push it through the limits – right from clicking multiple photos and recording videos, to connecting with friends on social media and even gaming for long hours. And I must say, the smartphone runs smoothly. The 7m process node for the SoC offers the right mix of power and efficiency, paired with an optimized OS. The custom skin is vastly improved over the previous iterations as well.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro 5g review gaming

Even gaming performance was smooth with PUBG Mobile offering added features like 4D vibrations and optimized graphics. Other games like Marvel’s Contest of Champions and Asphalt 9: Legends run smoothly too. Even after continuously gaming for an hour and a half, the smartphone remains very cool, and the battery drain is just about 22% during the same length of time.

Gaming performance on the Vivo X50 Pro is super smooth. Thermal management is great too.

Vibrant Display, Good Battery Life

Another interesting thing about the X50 Pro is its display. You get a 6.56-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED (Samsung panel) with dual-edge curves. The screen has a refresh rate of 90Hz and a touch response rate of 180Hz. High refresh rate makes system navigation and scrolling a smooth experience.

The screen is also HDR10+ compliant, which gives better display viewing experience when watching content from video-streaming services.

counterpoint vivo x50 pro 5g review front

The screen offers good viewing angles, with punchy color reproduction. Sunlight legibility is also good, and I had no issues viewing the screen content under sunlight. It can hit a peak brightness of 1300 nits, but I never had to stretch that far, considering the weather has been cloudy for the past few weeks.

Binge-watching content on the X50 Pro was a pleasure.

Coming to battery life, the smartphone is armed with a 4,315mAh battery, with support for 33W fast-charging. The battery charges from empty to 40% in 15 minutes and close to 60% in 30 minutes. Full charging takes about 75 minutes. However, the software is well optimized for efficiency. During my usage, I constantly got around six hours of screen time. And even with heavy usage, I would get a minimum of four hours and thirty minutes of screen time. With typical usage, the phone easily offers an all-day battery — my testing included one hour of gaming, two hours of maps navigation and clicking some photos. After all this usage, I still had a 22% battery left by the end of the day.

Conclusion: An All-Rounder Smartphone for the Photography and Videography Enthusiast in You

Half of the year 2020 is already over and having tested multiple devices in these seven months, I am surprised how good smartphones have become. It is good to see that the smartphone makers are focusing on different aspects of user needs with their portfolio. The Vivo X50 Pro offers a refreshing design and good camera experience along with smooth overall performance. It also comes with reliable battery life. Support for 5G also makes it future proof in countries like India. In regions like China and Europe, where 5G is already present, it makes a good value proposition.

As an overall package, it is easily the most refined smartphone Vivo has shipped so far. Though I have not tried the X50 Pro Plus, the X50 Pro has a lot to offer to photography enthusiasts. It will also likely appeal to the vloggers who shoot most of their video footage on the phone. So, whether you are a travel or food vlogger/blogger, you would not get any better still and video camera experience at this price point.

That said, the camera is still not as great as an iPhone or Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S/Note. Vivo needs to fine-tune the algorithms to improve quality. Also, while the gimbal stabilization is steady, it just comes close to using an actual gimbal, but not better yet. But it does well for a first attempt, and what Vivo has managed to achieve here is commendable.

Also Read: Strategic Reviews and Insights on The Latest Smartphones

Podcast: OnePlus 8 Series – Flagship Killer to a Killer Flagship

OnePlus has launched its latest flagship smartphones in the US, UK, China and Indian markets. There are two devices – the premium OnePlus 8 Pro and a compact and affordable OnePlus 8. Both smartphones draw their power from a 7nm Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 SoC, and feature 5G connectivity. But what OnePlus has managed to do in the display, battery and charging department is impressive.

The new smartphones now come with a better display in collaboration with Pixelworks. The company has also added 30W fast wireless charging on the “Pro” model, which isn’t available on competitor flagship smartphones. There is also IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. The new and improved features on the “Pro” make for a good upgrade, from a “flagship killer to a killer flagship.”

In the latest podcast, “The Counterpoint Podcast” host Ritesh Bendre, research analysts Karn Chauhan and Maurice Klaehne share their thoughts and insights on the OnePlus 8 Series potential and outlook.

Hit the play button to listen to the podcast

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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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