This was a pretty massive day for OnePlus, even if the planning for it was rather last-minute due to Apple. Today, the company announced the OnePlus 6T, its latest Android smartphone that's obviously the best one yet, and given how extensively the device leaked in recent weeks, it also came with few surprises. The unsurprising nature of the reveal also encompassed the OnePlus 6T's availability details, though it didn't diminish their importance. Naturally, the subject at hand here is that for the first time ever, a OnePlus handset will be sold by an American carrier. Not just any operator, at that; the third-largest one in the country - T-Mobile.
By winning a distribution partnership with the self-proclaimed Un-Carrier, OnePlus succeeded where many others failed, outmaneuvering much-better-funded Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi. Whereas Huawei is effectively blocked from large-scale stateside business due to its close ties to Beijing and Xiaomi's U.S. launch is an Apple lawsuit waiting to happen, OnePlus is now set to enter the world's largest flagship market with one of the most aggressively priced high-end handsets in the world. If there ever was a perfect opportunity for the company to attract mainstream popularity in spite of its frugal marketing efforts that come down to encouraging users to advertise its products for free, it's this one.
Not even the most hardcore OnePlus fans will (probably) argue the claim that the firm made some major mistakes in recent years but given its consistent growth, it certainly got more things right than not. Since its late 2013 inception and the 2014 OnePlus One, every following Android smartphone from the manufacturer became its fastest- and best-selling one, largely due to the fact that its brand recognition got stronger and its distribution network continued to expand, even as global handset demand started stagnating and even falling as of last year. The firm continued the same strategy this year with new carrier deals in Europe but the addition of T-Mobile to its list of partners is by far the biggest win it recorded in recent times. With over 75 million subscribers, the Bellevue, Washington-based company already has a massive pool of customers, many of whom will encounter the OnePlus 6T in the coming months, whether in one of its 5,600 stores throughout the country that will carry the smartphone or online.
Combining that increased exposure with the fact that the OnePlus 6T will also be the company's first device to work on Verizon's 4G LTE network, it's not difficult to predict that the firm has another massive hit on its hands which will outsell every one of its previous products. To call that development significant would be an understatement; while popular among the tech-savvy crowd in many parts of the world, OnePlus is still a niche brand. The OnePlus 6 released earlier this year was its fastest-selling device to date, moving a million units in a matter of three weeks. That figure is nothing to scoff at but fades away in comparison to tens of millions of flagships the world's largest manufacturers are selling on an annual basis. And if your only product is of the high-end variety and you're not a financial powerhouse like Huawei, you can't become a major player in the industry without the backing of at least one major U.S. carrier, which makes the T-Mobile partnership so significant.
Not only did T-Mobile agree to sell the OnePlus 6T, the company is also preparing an extremely aggressive offer for its buyers, guaranteeing over half off on the base model of the handset. Regularly priced at $549, T-Mobile customers will be able to purchase the handset for as little as $249 with an eligible trade-in. Some 30 smartphones are encompassed by the promotion, including all previous devices from OnePlus. Half-off deals and trade-in programs are far from a rarity in the U.S. but for T-Mobile to attach such a value-oriented promotion to a product from an entirely new partner, the company certainly had to have placed a lot of confidence in OnePlus's potential, regardless of how good of a deal it managed to negotiate otherwise. As T-Mobile proved time and time again under John Legere's leadership, it understands growth, which also happens to be OnePlus's specialty, so this certainly seems like a match made in tech heaven.
Ever since its beginnings, OnePlus clearly aimed to transition its portfolio from a collection of flagship killers to a series of high-end devices that perhaps won't save you hundreds of dollars but will still deliver an extremely tempting proposition for anyone interested in getting the best mobile performance on the market without paying the highest possible price. That's precisely why all of its releases after the OnePlus One experienced a so-called "price creep," which prompted some criticism, though it's hard to argue these aren't some of the most value-oriented handsets in their respective categories. Android flagships are generally geared toward an abundance of features and no-compromise performance, so the sole fact that OnePlus is doing them while still retaining a semblance of focus on value is a major selling point that no other manufacturer with a significant U.S. presence currently offers. In that regard, the company is now on course to carve out a niche of its own, but one with a massive commercial potential.
So, all puzzle pieces are now in place for OnePlus to finally enter the mainstream market in the U.S. and show American consumers why its products are so popular in many other parts of the world. Whether the company ends up seizing that opportunity or not remains to be seen but given its track record with growth, there's little doubt that the OnePlus 6T will at the very least break all internal performance records, both in the U.S. and abroad. While the two companies are yet to comment on the planned longevity of their relationship, their Monday announcement clearly implied the collaboration that's starting with the OnePlus 6T is meant to continue, further strengthening the stateside foothold OnePlus is now poised to seize. The only question that remains is who will be the biggest loser of this turn of events, i.e. whose sales will suffer because many more Americans will soon start buying OnePlus smartphones.