Opinion: Is the "OnePlus 3T" Really Necessary?

OnePlus 3 AH NS

Next week, OnePlus is expected to announce their next flagship smartphone. It would effectively be their fourth flagship (with the OnePlus One, OnePlus 2, and OnePlus 3 happening prior to this launch) and fifth smartphone overall when you factor in the OnePlus X. And it comes just months after launching the OnePlus 3, hence the “T” added to the name, as it is not a full-on new device compared to the OnePlus 3. But one has to wonder why OnePlus is launching another flagship, especially so close to the holiday season. Now the rumor mill has given us plenty of information about this new device, as it typically does, and it appears to be basically the same device as the OnePlus 3 but with the upgraded Snapdragon 821 processor. Which is actually confirmed, as Qualcomm announced it earlier this week on Twitter. Stating that something new is coming from OnePlus and that it is running the Snapdragon 821, which is their latest flagship processor and it’s already available in a handful of smartphones like the Google Pixel/Pixel XL, Xiaomi Mi Note 2, Mi MIX, and the ASUS ZenFone 3. OnePlus later followed up and basically confirmed what Qualcomm had already stated. None of the other specs of the device have been confirmed, however, but they have leaked.

The OnePlus 3T is rumored to sport the same 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display, with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. It’s said to also offer a 128GB model. The device is also rumored to sport an improved camera, using the Sony IMX398 sensor around back, and there will be a 3000mAh battery inside, most likely. Otherwise, the specs are identical to the OnePlus 3. But the price tag isn’t. The rumor mill has pointed to the OnePlus 3T sporting a $479 price tag, that’s $80 higher than the price tag that the OnePlus 3 launched with. It’ll also be their most expensive smartphone to date. And with the amount of specs that are different here, it’s hard to justify spending another $80 for the OnePlus 3T right now. Which leads us back to our topic, is it necessary? Not really, especially in a smartphone market that is already pretty saturated with devices.

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It’s very likely that OnePlus is releasing this new model because they want to stay in the news, especially around the holiday season. It makes perfect sense, really. Let’s face it, if you’re company is making headlines during the holiday season, then it’s likely that more and more customers are going to buy your product. Especially when you’re a smaller company like OnePlus. But the OnePlus 3T may not get the response that OnePlus is hoping it’ll get. The OnePlus 3 received rave reviews over the summer when it was first announced. There was very little that reviewers could find wrong with the device. And there’s not much OnePlus could do to make it an even better device, especially when you factor in the price tag here. And releasing a slightly updated smartphone with an even higher price tag, definitely won’t bode well for the company. We’ve seen what happens with other smartphone manufacturers when they re-release a smartphone with very little changes. Sony knows it all to well, as that has been a big reason why their devices have not sold well. They release two flagships a year, and they are virtually the same device.

Now if OnePlus wanted to stay in the news during the holiday season, there are other ways they could have done this. They could release an all-new flagship smartphone. Maybe a smaller device, that is still high-end, with the same specs as the OnePlus 3, but with a smaller screen and battery (since there’s less space inside). Sort of like a OnePlus X (which they did last year, and vowed they wouldn’t make a sequel to) but a bit more high-end. This would get people excited, especially since the only real “small” flagships that exist are the Google Pixel and the Sony Xperia X Compact. Both of which are more expensive than the OnePlus 3 is. They could also discount the OnePlus 3. Which they likely will still do for Black Friday, but it definitely won’t garner as much attention as a brand new smartphone would. And that’s true for any smartphone maker, really. Not just OnePlus.



Let’s take a minute to talk about the Snapdragon 821. It’s not a huge improvement over the Snapdragon 820, as the name suggests. It’s still a 14nm processor, with a slight speed boost. One that is so slight that it is only a 10% increase from the Snapdragon 820. Definitely not a big improvement, to say the least. The Snapdragon 820 has two dual-core clusters, one that runs at 1.6GHz and the other at 2.2GHz. Now the Snapdragon 821 has the same clusters, but they are clocked higher at 2GHz and 2.4GHz. It’s even running the same GPU, in the Adreno 530, but it is a bit faster in the Snapdragon 821 at 650MHz versus 624MHz in the Snapdragon 820. So we’re looking at minor improvements all around with this chip. But the big question here is, whether users will really feel a difference in a device with the Snapdragon 820 inside versus the slightly newer Snapdragon 821? Likely not. In fact, for the most part, users don’t feel the difference between a Snapdragon 600-series chip like the Snapdragon 652 and a higher-end Snapdragon 820. Because the chips are so powerful already.

With Qualcomm preparing to launch a new chip fairly soon – as they typically do in the first part of every year – it also leaves a lot of us scratching our heads wondering why OnePlus is even bothering to release a new smartphone now, and not wait for the newer chip that should be a much bigger advancement over the Snapdragon 820. It’s tough to say, and OnePlus is the one that is in the business of making and selling smartphones, not us. So they probably do know better about what’s going on, and definitely know more about what processors are coming out and when they are coming.

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OnePlus is still a pretty small company. They just got rid of the invite system earlier this year, and started being able to sell their devices normally. As in allowing users to go to their site and buy it when they wanted to instead of having to wait to get an invite to buy it. And launching two flagships in less than a year is a pretty big deal. It’s going to be interesting to see if the rumor mill is right about the OnePlus 3T or not. There’s always a possibility that it could be wrong, as we have seen that happen a few times already, actually. It’s also always nice for a company to announce a new product and it actually be a legit surprise to everyone that is there to cover the device. That doesn’t happen that often, but it is nice when it happens.

At this point, OnePlus is expected to announce the device on November 14th (November 15th in China, remember China is 13 hours ahead of the US on the east coast). So we’ll know what OnePlus has planned for the remainder of the year in just a few short days. Hopefully they’ll be ending 2016 on a high note with something that everyone will want to buy. But as it stands right now, the OnePlus 3T doesn’t seem all that appealing.