OnePlus have confirmed that their two existing platforms, HydrogenOS and OxygenOS, are merging in order to release new software updates and security patches sooner. The OxygenOS 3.5 platform, currently available to OnePlus customers, is to form the foundation of the new combined software going forward. OnePlus have also combined the platform development teams and the reason why Community software builds have been released is to start to release software based on their combined efforts. The Community builds are to help OnePlus understand what software, user interface, color options work and what does not. OnePlus had this to say about the rationale behind combining the two platforms and in releasing Community builds: "The main benefit of combining our team resources is to speed up software updates. We know we have some room to continue improving there, and this is an important step in the right direction." In other words, OnePlus are well aware that they are struggling to release security patches and software updates for their relatively small portfolio of devices.
Of OnePlus' four models currently available, two are based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, the original OnePlus One and the later OnePlus X. These devices are almost certainly not going to receive an official update to Android 7.0 Nougat as Qualcomm have not released updated GPU drivers for the Snapdragon 801. However, these two handsets could still be receiving the security patches that Google are releasing for Android 6.0 Marshmallow. OnePlus 2 is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and the OnePlus 3 is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. Currently, OnePlus have been building, testing and developing two operating systems and do not appear to have the necessary resource.
Let's share a few words as to why OnePlus currently maintain two software builds, HydrogenOS and OxygenOS. The long and short of it is that OnePlus maintains different software platforms because the OnePlus range of devices are sold across the world, and Western smartphone tastes are very different to the Chinese and Asian markets. In very simplistic terms, these eastern markets typically have an Android user interface that excludes the app drawer and uses lots of pastel colours and large icons. Transitions between different screens are increased in complexity; this is HydrogenOS. By comparison, OxygenOS' near-stock look and feel is quite stark. The recent Community builds have started to blend together these two elements, so we are seeing the dialer use a different range of colors with more of a pastel tint to them. The notification shade has adopted large buttons, similar to a MIUI type of ROM. In essence, we are seeing OnePlus place some identity into the Community builds.
Is this a good thing? For those customers buying the OnePlus 3 as a proxy for the Nexus, on the face of it this might not be a good thing. However, OnePlus actively support the ROM development market and have one of the best bootloader warranty policies in the market: customers are free to try other ROMs, and there are plenty available. For customers not wishing to go down this route, their Community ROMs contain a theming and color engine, so a different custom theme could be all that is required. And perhaps most of all is that OnePlus are adapting their OnePlus software to cope with customer feedback and criticism. That software updates are taking too long to arrive is something that the team have identified and are working on improving this. At the same time, we may see a ROM that could appeal to users all over the world. Most of all, if you are a OnePlus customer, they value your feedback on your device.