The History Of OnePlus: From Boasty Startup To Respected OEM

OnePlus has had quite the storied history in such a short period of time. While you might still be able to technically call OnePlus a startup, it’s been around for a few years now and has transitioned into a flourishing brand that has been consistently putting out quality devices that fans love dearly, and OnePlus is prepared to launch its newest flagship in the near future following a reveal happening on June 20th. Before diving into the OnePlus 5 though let’s take a look back at OnePlus and the different devices it’s put out over the years, as well as the different high-rises and pitfalls of its growth since debuting its first device just a few short years ago - the OnePlus One, better known as the original “Flagship Killer.” Yes,OnePlus has come a long ways since then, now offering consistent and mostly fast updates to new versions of hardware while keeping OnePlus device users in the loop about changes to the software, and of course, let’s not forget that when OnePlus launches a phone now you can simply order it when you see fit. When it comes to OnePlus, there’s both good and bad instances that the consumer has been faced with, but that’s precisely what gives OnePlus some character and personality and what makes its short time as a company such an interesting story to tell, so let’s have a look.

The Original "Flagship Killer"

The OnePlus One was OnePlus' pride and joy for a time, not just because it was its first device, but also because it was during a time when the phone was actually fairly challenging to get a hold of. It was also when OnePlus was a brand new company and for a brand new company, OnePlus had more confidence (some might read arrogance) than most other brand new companies would have when entering into an extremely competitive market like the smartphone industry.

To kick off its campaign as force to be reckoned with, OnePlus started its rise to fame with comparisons between its first, and at the time, upcoming, phone and the top flagship phones of that year. In this case one of the examples was the Galaxy S5, as that was Samsung's current flagship smartphones at the time. OnePlus took to social media to promote its phone before it was even unveiled, showcasing the comparison of the specs and hardware it used compared to that of the other flagships, thus flaunting its yet unreleased device and essentially telling the world why it was a better choice than the competitor. Many saw this as a bold move, others saw it as arrogant since it was comparing itself to established companies, but whatever it was, it certainly stirred up some controversy and got people talking, and it more or less kept OnePlus at the forefront of people's minds, so whether or you not found the boasting endearing, the method did work. You can see an example of OnePlus' early social media marketing efforts below. This was just one of the pictures it would put up on its social media pages to attract attention.

Invites

After the OnePlus One made its official debut some few years ago, OnePlus made it immediately clear that you wouldn't be able to buy a phone right off the digital shelves as it were. You had to have an invite to place your order. This was a weird and unfamiliar tactic to U.S. consumers which many saw as negative in a number of different ways, simply because it came across as "you're not good enough to buy our products unless we say so." While that wasn't OnePlus' intention, that doesn't change the fact that some people simply couldn't get past the reality that they wanted to make an order and were basically refused the opportunity. Now, OnePlus' reason for doing this was to ensure that it was able to keep up with demand, after all, OnePlus was a new company and it was trying to minimize overhead by only producing the devices that were ordered, instead of having a large amount of devices and hoping all of them were bought up. It was definitely different and there was more than one way to acquire an invite, which would lead to being able to purchase the phone, but many of the invites were simply sent out to those who showed interest, and from there OnePlus tried to send them out in order of request, slowly working its way through all of the requests coming in. Fast forward to today and the invites are now gone and no longer needed, which is a good thing as it was one of the elements people disliked the most in regards to OnePlus devices. People didn't want to have to be invited to buy a product, they just wanted to be able to buy it like anything else they would buy online.

The Contests

It's hard to talk about any part of OnePlus without mentioning the contests. While the invites were the main way to buy a OnePlus One, and for that matter the OnePlus 2, the contests were a big thing with the OnePlus One because some of them were a little unconventional, and garnered OnePlus some more controversial attention. There was the infamous Ladies First contest which more than a few people considered sexist, with requirements to take a selfie showing the OnePlus logo that they had drawn on a piece of paper, their hands, or wherever really, and chosen winners would be given invites to buy the phone. The contest was bad enough that users had to be reminded not to include nudity in photos that were being submitted. Of course the contest didn't last long as OnePlus received too much backlash. This wasn't the only contest though. There was also OnePlus' "Smash The Past" contest in which the requirements were to smash your old phone and record it on video, then OnePlus would choose the winners and allow them an invite to buy the phone. The other detail here is that chosen winners were able to buy the phone for only $1, so naturally a lot of consumers were considering smashing their old devices. OnePlus received plenty of negative attention for this contest as well and eventually changed the contest to include allowing consumers to donate their old phones instead of breaking them on purpose.

The Empty Box Winner

For starters here, OnePlus rectified this mistake pretty fast, but it's still a noteworthy moment in the OnePlus tapestry. This particular individual was one of the winners of the Smash The Past Contest, and when the phone finally arrived that was ordered for $1, all that was inside was an empty box with a little card inside. This was a sign that OnePlus was still a really new company and its lack of experience was showing.

The Split From Cyanogen

For those that are new to OnePlus' line of devices, it might be easy to forget that at one point there was a partnership between OnePlus and Cyanogen, the company behind the popular CyanogenOS version of Android software. The OnePlus One actually shipped with CyanogenMod 11s, and then was eventually updated to Cyanogen OS, but towards the end of the year that the OnePlus One was launched in, which was 2014, OnePlus and Cyanogen had a falling out and Cyanogen reportedly terminated the business relationship between it and OnePlus via email exchanges. Perhaps the writing was on the wall for anyone that had been following the events between the two companies in the month or two leading up to this point, but for anyone else it might have been a little bit of a shock.

1.5 Million OnePlus One Device Sales

The OnePlus One certainly had an interesting start, filled with invites, controversial contests, and the uncertainty of having a phone from a brand-new company. None of that mattered though as the One was popular and it ended up being mostly a success. After months of being on sale and in the year following its official unveiling, the OnePlus One eventually reached a rather large sales number, with OnePlus boasting 1.5 million devices sold, a detail which was conveniently made public leading up to the OnePlus 2 Announcement.

The OnePlus 2 Announcement Event

No matter how you look at it, OnePlus' unveiling of the OnePlus 2 was not exactly executed well. The phone itself was a great piece of hardware but the event was held in virtual reality, meaning that attendees had to watch the unveiling through the lenses of a OnePlus Google Cardboard viewer and with the use of a special app that allowed them to tap into a live stream. Another unconventional move by OnePlus, and the concept was actually a rather cool idea, but the stream was plagued with issues of disconnects and people losing pace with the live stream, with some having to restart the stream altogether which resulted in people being behind what was actually happening live.

More Invites

Yes, the OnePlus 2 required invites as well although people were hoping this stopped with OnePlus' first phone. Unfortunately that wasn't the case and you still needed an invite to buy the phone in the beginning. By this time OnePlus was more well-known being that it was after its first year, and so plenty of people had registered to receive an invite. Eventually the OnePlus 2 went invite-free and for good, and anyone who wanted to buy one was able to do so. This didn't happen until the beginning of December in 2015, but better late than never.

OnePlus 2

The OnePlus 2 was a great device and better than the first, once again sporting top of the line specifications that included a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 16GB of storage and 3GB of RAM, or 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. It also came with a fingerprint sensor but no NFC, which meant users could unlock their device with the sensor but not use it for mobile payments. It also carried a 5.5-inch 1080p display and had a main 13-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel front camera, as well as a 3,300 mAh battery. This is also where OnePlus introduced the Alert Slider, something which has carried through on OnePlus' future phones.

OnePlus X

A little later in the year came the teasing for the OnePlus X, and eventually the unveiling. This was a way to give consumers a phone with a smaller screen size and a smaller price point. Basically what OnePlus did was shove all of the components of the OnePlus One into a smaller device, which actually made for a decent offering as it was cheaper than OnePlus One was at launch but had mostly the same hardware, save for the screen size of course, and a little bit of a different design. The phone was available for a mere $249 and while it was only available with an invite initially, it moved away from invites pretty quickly, and according to OnePlus much faster than the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 did.

 

OnePlus 3, Invite-Free

With each passing year OnePlus seemed to come out with better and better phones, and the OnePlus 3 was not one to deviate from this trend. It was however deviating from one trend that had been present up until this particular release, and that's launching the phone with an invite system that would require consumers to have one before they could purchase the device. Finally, OnePlus was at a point where they felt the invites were no longer needed and would allow anyone to buy the device as soon as pre-orders and orders were live. This was a big change for OnePlus, despite how small it may seem, even if only for the fact that the invites had been such a controversial factor for them since its start as a company. Not only that, but OnePlus brought back the NFC for the OnePlus 3 and kept the fingerprint sensor, which meant that consumers of the phone could actually use mobile payments, as well as use the fingerprint sensor to authorize them, something which OnePlus had overlooked with the last two flagships. The Alert Slider once again made a return here, and it was also powered by the one of the best processors at the time, the Snapdragon 820. The rise of the OnePlus 3 didn't last forever though, as OnePlus Launched another phone just a few months later as a way to give consumers an updated processor. This was the OnePlus 3T.

OnePlus 3T - A New Coat of Paint & A Faster Processor

Following in the footsteps of the OnePlus 3, the OnePlus 3T was more or less the same device, but it came with a brand new color and a newer processor, the Snapdragon 821, which kept it more in line with the top flagships of the time. Sure the OnePlus 3 was still available and it wasn't even that old, but OnePlus wanted to give consumers more than one option here as the OnePlus 3 was a little bit less in the price tag department. Giving consumers an option to spend a little bit more to get a newer, and slightly better processor or spend less and essentially get the same phone with a slightly older processor put the decision into the customers' hands and this made for a good tactic by OnePlus, as it caught earlier consumers who didn't want to wait, as well as any consumers who had been on the fence about the OnePlus 3 only to be rewarded for their patience with a new option. More than the processor, the OnePlus 3T carried the same 6GB of RAM as the OnePlus 3, a fingerprint sensor/NFC combo for mobile payments and security, the Alert Slider, Dash Charge, and so much more when it comes to great features.

OnePlus 5

The OnePlus 5 will be OnePlus' latest and greatest soon enough, as it's set to unveil the device on June 20th officially. While not everything about the phone has been confirmed OnePlus has shared a few points about what will be included. The first of these confirmations when it came to the hardware was the processor. OnePlus has confirmed the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor as the CPU choice for its upcoming flagship, and this means it will have the most up to date processor for the time. It's also going to have a Full HD display so it seems that OnePlus has made the decision to stick with 1080p for the screen resolution. This might bother some users, but it should be great for the overall power consumption and battery life of the phone. There is still a lot to be discovered about the OnePlus 5, like what the screen size will be officially, when it will actually launch, what the launch regions are and how much it will cost in each region. OnePlus has also been pretty quiet on a lot of other specs like battery capacity, camera quality (though the phone will have a dual camera design on the back), and more, so there is at least some mystery left to keep the reveal exciting and intriguing. For those that like to have a visual, the final design has reportedly been confirmed and the image you see above is said to be the official phone design. Once more, the Alert Slider is back, as if OnePlus would actually get rid of one its most loved features.

Wrap Up

It's always interesting to look back on some of the most loved brands to see how far things have come. OnePlus may still be a young company compared to some of the other brands out there which have a huge following of fans and customers, but in that short time it has grown into a brand which puts out consistently great devices and has gathered a loyal following of users, and rightfully so, especially now with the way OnePlus has been quick to push out updates for the software and keep in communication with its consumers via the OnePlus Forums. OnePlus has certainly hits a few bumps in the road and there was definitely a time where people were doubting OnePlus' future success, but OnePlus seems to have stuck it out time and time again and is well on its way to putting out the next great device. Never Settle.

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About the Author
2015/07/13-1.jpg

Justin Diaz

Head Editor
Lover of food, craft beer, movies, travel, and all things tech. Video games have always been a passion of his due to their ability to tell incredible stories, and home automation tech is the next big interest, in large part because of the Philips Hue integration with Razer Chroma. Current Device: Google Pixel.