So the era of leakage, official and otherwise, is over. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has revealed the OnePlus 5, complete with a Dollar and Euro pricing (the Indian price tag will be revealed at an event on Thursday). As someone who has followed the brand from the launch of their very first device, the OnePlus One, I must confess to having slightly mixed feelings about the latest Flagship Killer. Now, this is not a review. Everything I am writing here is based on what I have seen in the official launch. And the launch itself actually.
At USD 479, there is not too much to quibble about the spec sheet. Which, of course, gets us to the matter of the price tag. Yes, this is easily the most expensive OnePlus yet and a far cry from the USD 299 launch price of the OnePlus One, but then the OnePlus 3T had been launched at USD 439 not too long ago, remember? And as our colleague Shubham Agrawal had pointed out, OnePlus does seem to be sneaking up the price chain. No, it is not in the premium price zone yet, but it is steadily getting there.
In terms of specs, though, it follows the tradition of its predecessors (barring the rather odd X), incoming with some seriously good hardware on board – there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip on board, stacks of RAM and storage, and a dual camera set up that OnePlus insists is the USP of the device. Some of our colleagues are none too pleased about the absence of a quad HD display, water resistance, and a few other features, but that is another story (literally. Stay tuned). All said and done; the OnePlus 5 is capable of going toe to toe with most Android flagships out there. On paper at least.
So why the mixed feelings, one might ask? Well, mainly because OnePlus is one of those brands that has managed to move from being just a maker of products to actually influencing a way of thinking. This was the company that talked of Never Settling, remember? Well, Messrs Pei and Lau will hate me for saying this, but there is something curiously settled about the OnePlus 5. It is as if the company has figured out a template – flagship processor, lots of RAM, close to stock Android OS, camera close to industry trends, fast battery charging… all at a relatively affordable price. It is a terrific template; I will give you that. But it is a template nevertheless – not something you would associate with a company that talks of Never Settling.
Perhaps as a consequence, the OnePlus 5 does not seem as militantly radical as previous OnePlus devices – hell, even those who laughed at the ill-fated OnePlus X have had to concede that other companies later followed OnePlus’ design example of using glass and ceramic for phone bodies. Cast your mind back to the first OnePlus – the OnePlus One. It had an OS no one else had (Cyanogen), and thanks to that Sandstone finished back, a design that was again its preserve. The OnePlus 2 saw the arrival of Oxygen OS and a more boxy design, but again the phone stood out in the crowd. In fact, so used were we to OnePlus phones being different that we were slightly disappointed with the OnePlus 3 because we thought it looked a bit like an HTC phone!
Now, the OnePlus 5 looks very good. But bitter truth be told, it does not look as different from the crowd as its predecessors did. I am not going to get into the “it looks like the iPhone 7 Plus and Oppo R11” debate – those are very handsome phones in their own right, and if OnePlus chooses to take a leaf out of their design book (either deliberately or inadvertently), that is the company’s call, really. All I can say is that the net result is perhaps, ironically, the best looking but least stand out OnePlus device we have seen. People are going to confuse this with other phones, and that we feel is not really a good place to be. The OnePlus 5 is a very good looking phone, no doubt. My problem is that it does not look too different from a lot of the competition.
And a similar feeling sneaked into one’s mind when one saw what many consider to be the killer feature of the OnePlus 5 – the dual camera set up. Yes, the megapixel tonnage on those two cameras is impressive, but the Portrait mode and use of one of the two cameras as a telephoto lens again seemed like pages from another book. No, we cannot comment on the execution as yet (that’s review territory, stay tuned), but judging from what we saw in the launch, OnePlus’ implementation does not seem too dissimilar from its competitors. And if the company has stuck to its near stock Android UI for the camera, then one suspects there might not be too many innovative shooting options available, although those well-versed with cameras can play around with pro settings and shoot in RAW as well. But again, those are options that are available in other devices too…
Which really is what is slightly unsettling (pun intended) about the OnePlus 5. Yes, it ticks a lot of the “flagship killer boxes” (super processor? Check. Lots of RAM? Check, etc.), but then OnePlus used to give us devices that were very different from the run of the mill. The OnePlus 5 is perhaps the first device from the OnePlus stable that seems more flagship than flagship killer (even the prices are going North steadily). No, that’s not a bad place to be. But it is not the sort of place we expected OnePlus to be in.
Of course, all this could be swept aside in a micro-second by the OnePlus 5’s performance and onboard innovations, which at the end of the day is what really matters. To find out if that happens, stay tuned for our review.