It has been less than a day since it was unveiled and the OnePlus 3T, the successor – and indeed the replacement – of the OnePlus 3 is already making the news. And not based on reviews either – the units have not yet made their way to our offices or to those of many of our colleagues. No, the talk in tech town is already about what the phone represents to OnePlus, and whether it is a masterstroke or a stutter.
The very fact that such discussions are taking place reflects how far the company has come in a relatively short span of time (remember, it released the OnePlus One in 2014). It is a period that has been OnePlus not only establish itself as one of the leading players in the “high specs and performance at relatively low prices” segment (we really think a segment like that should exist now), but also, as our colleague pointed out in a recent article, slowly start making its way up towards a slightly more premium segment. The OnePlus 3 did not cost the earth, but it cost just a little more than the OnePlus 2, which in turn had cost a little more than the OnePlus One. In the middle of all this, there was the short-lived OnePlus X, which in its own glassy-ceramic way, hinted that OnePlus might indeed be eyeing segments premium.
There are many of us who indeed felt that the OnePlus 3 was perhaps the most formidable device to issue forth from OnePlus’ portals – it seemed to have hit the rare sweet spot between price and performance. So much so that just about every flagship that was subsequently launched found itself drawn into a battle with it, often coming off worse for the experience. Which of course, begs the question that many are asking: did OnePlus need to replace it altogether in the short span of five months? And in doing so, also violate its unprinted principle of “one flagship device a year”, risking the ire of many of those who had invested in the OnePlus 3?
The official line for the OnePlus 3T is that the brand has simply continued in its quest to deliver a great experience to its users. As the copy on the site goes:
Impressive specs mean nothing if you don’t have a great experience every time you pick up your phone. The OnePlus 3T delivers the best user experience, thanks to the latest hardware upgrades and carefully tested software enhancements.
There are those who have found a hint of irony in the statements already. “They say impressive specs mean nothing in the first sentence and then talk of the latest hardware in the next,” a OnePlus 3 user told us. “I cannot help but feel that this was an upgrade just for the sake of it. There was nothing wrong with the OnePlus 3.” Indeed, the company itself seems to have paid the OnePlus 3 the ultimate compliment by not touching its design by even the smallest bit – the 3T is a dead ringer for its predecessor if you discount the new shade of gunmetal in which it is available. It has the exact same dimensions and weight if reports are to be believed: 152.7 mm x 74.7 mm x 7.4 mm and 158 grammes.
There are changes, of course. The 3T comes with a newer and more efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, a larger 3400 mAh battery, a new version of Oxygen OS and a massive 16.0-megapixel front facing camera. Oh, and now there’s a 128 GB version too for those not content with 64 GB. Which is all to the good, and justify the USD 40-80 price hike in the device. Except that, barring perhaps the battery, none of these upgrades actually address any pain point in the OnePlus 3 (which had very few as it is). We can understand someone coming out with an upgraded version shortly after launching the original where the new edition irons out some of the rough spots of its predecessor. But processor speed was never an issue with the OnePlus, neither was the selfie camera. And well, some had complained about battery life but they had loved how fast the OnePlus 3 got recharged, courtesy the Dash Charge feature – incidentally, Dash Charge is the feature most highlighted in the OnePlus 3T as well on the device’s page. “In essence, the OnePlus 3T has nothing to fix, because there was nothing broken in the OnePlus 3,” says an executive from a rival company.
And it is this “incremental upgrade” feeling that is annoying some OnePlus loyalists who feel that the company could have opted to hold itself back for a while and offered a more comprehensively changed OnePlus 4 next year, or if not, at least made some radical changes to the device, like a higher resolution display and/or better sound. There is also a feeling that the phone will have a relatively short life as flagship given the fact that the company is very likely to come up with the OnePlus 4 in June or July 2017. And this in turn takes some of the “buy a flagship that remains in place for one year” sheen off the device, benefits which both the OnePlus One and OnePlus 2 enjoyed, for all their eccentricities.
The fact that the OnePlus 3T replaced the OnePlus 3 has also fanned rumours that the latter might have been facing logistics issues or that perhaps its sales were not as great as its reviews merited. And while the price increase does move the phone closer to the premium segment, it still keeps it well clear of it – with its specs, the OnePlus 3T remains closer to classic OnePlus “lots of great stuff for not too much” territory than the premium heights of the Samsung Galaxy S series or the iPhone. No, this is still very an affordable flagship warrior, albeit slightly more expensive than its predecessors.
All of which is making some wonder if the OnePlus 3T might actually be a classic case of a company blinking in the face of competition, and trying to stay in the spotlight. After all, since the launch of the OnePlus 3, we have seen a number of new Android devices, a few toting the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor (most notably the new Google Pixel phones). The irony, of course, is that almost all of them have been more expensive than the OnePlus 3, which classically should have allowed the phone to hold on its rather significant edge over the competition. So what exactly inspired the OnePlus 3T? We don’t know yet at the time of writing. We also have no idea of just how significant an upgrade the OnePlus 3T is to the OnePlus 3. What we do know is that there are a number of OnePlus loyalists who are wishing that the company had not opted to implement its Never Settle line on its current flagship this early.
The OnePlus 3T has arrived (not in India, though). But it already has a lot of convincing to do.