The Chinese company lost its co-founder, Carl Pei, in 2020, and it has endured a rocky merger with Oppo over the past year. No one outside the company knows what the future of OnePlus will look like, but its latest smartphone, the OnePlus 10 Pro, seems to hint at what this new OnePlus era will be like.
OnePlus is in a period of upheaval
OnePlus is part of a large conglomerate of smartphone companies under the BBK umbrella. Similar to how General Motors runs a bunch of automakers, all BBK brands pick from the same parts bin and make similar products, but they target different markets. OnePlus' BBK sister companies Oppo, Vivo and Realme are focused on China, and iQOO is focused on India. OnePlus has been the western wing of BBK. The OnePlus One's launch countries were the US and Europe, which made a lot of sense. The three largest smartphone markets are, in order, China, India and the United States.
Now that the Oppo merger is underway, it's hard to say that OnePlus is still focused on the West. The OnePlus 10 Pro debuted three months ago in China and is only now coming to US shores. Even after this time, the device will not be released in the United States with all features intact.
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The main way OnePlus differentiates itself from its competitors is with "Warp Charge", the company's proprietary fast charging technology. The OnePlus 10 Pro improves on this technology by bringing 80W Warp Charging. But OnePlus hasn't made a new 80W Warp Charger for the US market, so US customers have to settle for last year's charger, which is only 65W. Nothing stopping OnePlus from making an 80W charger that works with the US 120V power system; the company simply did not.
Most smartphone manufacturers only allow themselves to deviate from the norm when it comes to the design of the camera block. OnePlus opted for this enveloping design.
Enlarge / Most smartphone manufacturers only allow themselves to deviate from the norm when it comes to the design of the camera block. OnePlus opted for this enveloping design.
OTHER BENEFITS 65W fast charging, wireless charging, in-screen optical fingerprint sensor
BBK already owns three other China-focused brands, so OnePlus' focus on China could signal a slight pullback from the US market. The Oppo merger also looks like a rebuttal to OnePlus' original strategy. OnePlus was once big enough to be an independent company under BBK, and now that's no longer the case.
The merger of OnePlus and Oppo also creates a difficult and unclear future for OnePlus software. OnePlus and Oppo each have their own Android skins. OnePlus traditionally stays close to Android's design and adds additional features (although the company has moved away from this strategy over time). Oppo's Color OS, like many Chinese Android skins, is the envy of Apple and looks like a counterfeit version of iOS.
In July 2021, OnePlus and Oppo announced that they would merge their opposing Polar Android skins, claiming the move would help the companies produce faster updates. In December 2021, we got our first glimpse of this unified direction with the Android 12 update for the OnePlus 9, and it was something of a disaster. Last month, Oppo and OnePlus announced that the software merger had been called off.
So no, OnePlus didn't make the software for the 10 Pro in a month; it was mainly created under the old plan. Nobody knows what the Android 13 update plan will look like for this phone, but you'll get three years of major software updates. Blowing up your software division and then trying to rebuild it a month before a device launch is disruptive, and I can't say I expect major updates to go smoothly while OnePlus figures out what that he wants his software to be.
It is in this context that we offer you our opinion on the OnePlus 10 Pro. The annual smartphone update cycle doesn't stop for anyone, even if your business is in the middle of a restart.