OnePlus 7 Preview: Premium Android Innovation On A Tight Budget

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Editor's note: This article will be regularly updated with new information on the OnePlus 7 — both official teasers and credible leaks, rumors, and insider claims — as it becomes available in the run-up to the release of the upcoming Android smartphone. The last update was made on May 13.

In about a month or so, Chinese phone maker OnePlus is expected to announce its next Android handset in the form of the OnePlus 7, once again trying to undercut the very best smartphones the industry has to offer.

The company usually spends about four weeks teasing its new release prior to officially unveiling it and this spring's marketing campaign has yet to truly kick off, so the OnePlus 7 is most likely to hit the market in mid-May. For added context, the OnePlus 6 debuted on May 22.

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Despite an overall lack of teasers from the Shenzen-based manufacturer, a decent amount of details about the OnePlus 7 can already be divulged for a variety of reasons, so what follows is a comprehensive recap of those meant to illustrate what kind of a phablet you can expect to see from the self-proclaimed "never-settle" firm in the coming weeks.

A look inspired by… you know the drill

The most obvious change the OnePlus 6T successor is expected to debut from a design standpoint comes in the form of a front-facing camera emerging from within the handset's insides. The pop-up module in question allows for the elimination of a display notch found on the last two OnePlus handsets, much like it does on the OPPO F11 Pro, a recently released Android device from OnePlus's sister company that totally wasn't used as a template for the OnePlus 7. No sir, it was not because nothing of the sort ever happened in the past.

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The front-facing camera design expected to be adopted by the OnePlus 7.

Some new colors are expected as well, with OnePlus being likely to focus on gradient finishes as the latest trend in the smartphone industry this time around. Black-Yellow, Black-Purple, and Cyan-Gray are some of the options being rumored right now, though it's unlikely all three of those will be commercialized. A regular Midnight Black model is on the cards as well but it remains to be seen whether the Mirror Black color is set to make a return this spring.

The 3.5mm audio jack won't be anywhere to be seen, according to virtually every credible leak out there, which isn't a surprise given how the Chinese company already received a lot of flak for taking it away last year and continues to defend the controversial decision to date.

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The inclusion of a pop-up camera and the firm's continued reliance on OPPO's templates should allow for a device with an even more impressive screen-to-body ratio compared to the OnePlus 6T which featured an 86-percent one. On the other hand, the removal of the screen cutout is bound to see the company return to 19:9 (2:1) image formats, so its next Android phablet shouldn't be as elongated as the previous two while still being more than suitable for one-handed use.

That's perfectly observable in a number of real-life leaks of the device that appeared on the World Wide Web so far, showing a relatively nondescript handset with minimal bezels and a uniform body.

Specced to kill… mostly

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The usage of the Snapdragon 855 is almost a given, as is the existence of a base model with 8GB of RAM. OnePlus 7 storage options are more difficult to predict, 256GB seems like a realistic starting point, assuming the Chinese handset maker continues improving its products in every respect on an annual basis.

A custom implementation of Android 9 Pie bundled as yet another OxygenOS build will almost certainly be on board as well, as will a dual-camera setup on the back. The imaging capabilities of the new device lineup will probably be one of its rare few aspects that won't be able to compete with the very best peers seeking consumer attention this spring. That's not to say industry watchers are expecting a bad mobile camera from the OnePlus 7, just one whose relative prowess is along the lines of the company's device. In other words: good, not great.

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All things considered, the OnePlus 7 should be specced identically to the very best Android flagships being sold today and pair that kind of hardware with a lightweight operating system based on Android 9 Pie. That combination should allow for a highly responsive user experience geared toward performance that will be particularly attractive to mobile gamers and is bound to be work wonders on the battery life front as well.

One highly specific rumor from January suggested the possibility of the OnePlus 7 using UFS 3.0 flash memory which would be a tremendous upgrade over the last model and virtually every other handset on the market but seeing how not even Samsung, currently the only viable manufacturer of such storage modules, has yet to embrace this type of technology with its own Android smartphones, OnePlus is extremely unlikely to beat it to the punch.

No news on the charging front – for better or worse

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In terms of battery life and related features, don't expect the OnePlus 7 to offer wireless charging. Quite frankly – it won't and the firm won't even attempt pretending anything else to be the case as part of its teaser campaign.

OnePlus is adamant to stick with its often-reiterated point about how its customers want the very best tech there is and while it can't deliver that kind of a quality level on the wireless charging front, it continues to push Dash Charge as such a superior solution. Beg your pardon – Warp Charge. Yes, Dash Charge is a thing of the past as of last year due to some pesky copyright disputes.

The most accurate OnePlus 7 concept renders to date, based on credible leaks and rumors about the device.

A surprising (existence of an) approach to 5G

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For one reason or another, OnePlus pledged to among the first handset manufacturers in the world to embrace the fifth generation of wireless networks. Not only was no one expecting it to do so at all but what ended up being even less anticipated was the firm's decision to break its mobile portfolio into two separate lineups for 2019; the main family should still see the releases of the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7T over the course of this year but what's now also coming is an entirely separate series of 5G-ready devices.

The next wireless connectivity standard is so new and so unavailable that even much larger manufacturers are often being laughed at for even considering pushing 5G-enabled Android smartphones into the mainstream. Why is OnePlus following suit is anyone's guess. Sure, OPPO is doing it and the company's first 5G smartphone probably won't be that much different to what its sister firm already presented at Mobile World Congress in late February, yet the niche appeal and overwhelming competition (relative to the minuscule demand) appear to make any 5G bet a lost cause for OnePlus in 2019.

There's little chance of the company not being aware of that so it's to be assumed it sees a 5G investment, even if such a move only comes in the form of a rebranded OPPO prototype, as a worthwhile marketing vehicle for promoting its brand and further reinforcing the idea it's always on the cutting edge of consumer-grade mobile tech, a notion that's dubious at best (not accounting for its software which was always both original and top-notch).

So, while the OnePlus 7 certainly won't offer 5G support, expect it to be announced either alongside a peer that will, or at least rather close to it.

Price hikes? Was there ever any doubt?

Not a single high-end OnePlus device (read: let's pretend the OP X never existed, like OP is) released without a price hike in the past and there's no reason to believe the OnePlus 7 will mark the end of that trend. The Shenzen-based company was never shy about voicing its long-term product vision in the past, explaining how it wants to seize a significant market share with extremely aggressively priced devices before gradually increasing its margins so as to be able to commit to more meaningful innovation.

That isn't to say the OnePlus 7 will be priced identically to something like the LG G8 ThinQ but it won't be that far off, either. Based on previous incremental price hikes introduced by the company, it's reasonable to assume the new lineup will start at around $569 in the United States, i.e. €569 in Europe.

The development will be the biggest test for OnePlus's competitiveness to date seeing how everyone from Samsung to Huawei started doing "affordable flagships" in the last year or so after the Chinese maker demonstrated sustained success with that strategy. So, while it's obvious something like the OnePlus 6T provides far better value than the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Fold, the OnePlus 7 will actually be competing with the likes of the Galaxy S10e and Honor View 20, thus being far from a clear-cut win in the value race.

Expect the OnePlus 7 to once again be available directly from T-Mobile in the U.S., whereas even more carrier partnerships seem to be on the horizon in other parts of the world as well.

In any case, the release of the OnePlus 7 will mark the end of the first major period of the year for the smartphone industry seeing how no other (truly relevant) flagship is expected to launch in the West until late summer, so the onus is on the Chinese firm to deliver something worthy of attention.

Update, April 15th: The OnePlus 7 is launching on May 14th, one known industry insider claimed earlier today.

April 23rd: the aforementioned launch date is now official. It also appears the device lineup will be more diversified than usual and consist of a regular OnePlus 7 and a significantly more powerful OnePlus 7 Pro.

April 24th: the largest price jump in the lineup's history may be on the horizon, according to a new leak. At the same time, the series will include at least three mundane colors, one insider claims.

April 26th: the OnePlus 7 Pro will have three rear cameras, its creators confirmed.

April 30th: the OnePlus 7 Pro is set to launch with the industry's first Fluid AMOLED panel. Details are scarce but it appears we're looking at a screen with a variable refresh rate of up to 90Hz. The aforementioned rumors about a massive price hike have also apparently been comparing the OP6T to the OP7 Pro, whereas an OP6T/OP7 comparison would be much fairer.

May 1st: OnePlus's new motto may go something along the lines of "you can't have too much RAM" as new leaks point toward a 12GB RAM version of its next Android phablet being in the works. A Warp Charge car charger is now expected to launch alongside the device as well.

May 2nd: Here's our best look at the new handset to date as the smartphone just leaked in what appear to be some official-looking press renders.

May 3rd: In a bizarre series of events, OnePlus launched a miniature marketing campaign boasting about being too cheap for obtaining IP certification for the OP7 range but claiming its series can totally survive water submersion; naturally, it warned customers not to put that theory to the test intentionally.

May 6th: Both Android phablets in the series wil offer stereo speakers, as per new insider claims. At the same time, the Chinese manufacturer confirmed it's finally embracing QHD+ resolutions with the OnePlus 7 Pro, adding that the smartphone will be rated for playing HDR10+ content. Then there's the new Almond color (pictured above) which appears to be part of the new product family.

May 7th: The pop-up camera and the bezel-free design it enables may end up being exclusive features of the OnePlus 7 Pro, as suggested by a new leak illustrating the regular OnePlus 7.

May 9th: New details about OP7 accessories appeared in yet another credible leak. At the same time, T-Mobile started boasting that ts customers will be the first consumers in the world with an opportunity to buy the incoming Android devices.

May 13th: The full list of pop-up events where consumers will be able to buy the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro as early as tomorrow, around a week ahead of their official releases, is now live.