OnePlus has released many phones with interesting designs and unique features over the past eight years. The alert slider still indicates the company’s larger hardware, and some of my favorite designs have been the OnePlus phones: the OnePlus 6T in Thunder Purple, the OnePlus 5T Star Wars Edition, and the OnePlus 7 Pro.
OnePlus’ focus on design aesthetics comes from the top. Co-Founder and CEO Pete Lau often talks about design as a key area of focus for OnePlus, and I vividly remember a conversation before the OnePlus 6 launch.
At the time, OnePlus released its first phone in red, and Lau said he and the design team spent several weeks discussing options to find the right color for the device.
In the end, OnePlus settled on a red that was $4 more expensive than the other alternatives (not a small change if you’re working on ultra-thin bezels), but the result was that the red OnePlus 6 looked absolutely stunning. This attention to detail in every aspect of the device is what made the company so popular among users. Unfortunately, OnePlus doesn’t do that anymore.
In 2022, you can sum up the OnePlus phone portfolio in one word: derivative. Instead of releasing original designs that stand out from the box, OnePlus is fundamentally changing the existing OPPO and Realme devices.
This isn’t the first time OnePlus has turned to OPPO for design inspiration. The 2017 OnePlus 5 was almost identical to the OPPO R11 and OnePlus has long relied on OPPO to manufacture and sell its phones.
But at the time, the similarities between the devices weren’t too great because OPPO didn’t have a huge global presence outside of some Asian markets. In addition, OnePlus’ efforts with OxygenOS meant that the software on the two phones was very different.
That wasn’t the case in 2022. OnePlus phones share the same software as their OPPO siblings, and they now share the same designs without any noticeable changes. This is especially true of Nord N – the Nord N20 5G series launched two weeks ago is none other than OPPO Reno 8 Lite.
Similarly, Nord CE 2 Lite is a fake Realme 9 Pro with a not so good wide angle lens. North C2 which is derived from Reno 7.
The worst culprit is the OnePlus 10R; This device is a poor imitation of the Realme GT Neo 3 and has the ugliest design of any phone I’ve used this year. I can’t believe the same company gave us the One Plus 7T just three years ago, it came out so horribly wrong.
Hardware is only part of the story here; OnePlus had major problems integrating ColorOS with OxygenOS, which was clearly demonstrated in the 10r. The device is as prone to lags and errors as the Realme GT Neo 3 – even though it’s basically the same phone.
What is clear is that OnePlus does not have nearly the same level of control over its portfolio under OPPO’s supervision. The way I see it, OnePlus now exists as a way for BBK to sell phones in North America.
OPPO and Realme do not sell devices in the region, so it makes sense for BBK to rebrand existing devices from these two entities and launch them under the OnePlus brand.
Why this is the case now rather than three years ago is all a matter of numbers. Realme just ranked fourth this week, and the brand has already racked up more than 100 million sales to its name. At the same time, OnePlus is twice as old and has sold less than half as many units. To be fair, most of the devices Realme sold were in the budget category, while OnePlus focused its attention on high-end phones, which goes a long way toward why the manufacturer hasn’t released solid sales numbers in an eight-year date.
It’s also why we’re seeing a lot of momentum in the budget and mid-range Nord series and we’re not focusing too much on the flagship OnePlus 10 series this year. OnePlus first announced last year that it had sold 10 million phones, with the majority of those sales coming from the Nord and Nord N series.
So if you’re in North America and need a budget phone, OnePlus is still a good choice as there are no OPPO, Realme or Xiaomi in the area. But if you are in a market where OPPO and Realme sell phones officially, you’d better buy directly from them.
OnePlus derivatives cost a bit less than their BBK siblings, but that’s not worth the trouble of buggy software and lackluster styling. OnePlus used to create some files for the best Android phones, but that’s not the case in 2022.