OnePlus, the indie darling of smartphone makers, is developing a 5G smartphone for release next year, and is now working with U.S. carriers to bring its phones to more customers. PCMag reports that the company expects to be one of the first 5G mobile phone makers, with a product available during the initial year of U.S. 5G availability.
Based in China, OnePlus became famous for offering iPhone-rivaling phones at markedly lower prices. Its current flagship, OnePlus 6, offers a 6.28-inch AMOLED screen in an iPhone X-like glass-bodied design, including higher-resolution front and rear cameras than Apple’s. Yet it starts at only $529, roughly half the iPhone X’s $999 base price. And unlike some other Android phone makers, OnePlus has deliberately refused to load its phones with bloatware, one of several performance and experience factors that have endeared it to customers.
Until now, OnePlus’ biggest challenges in the U.S. have been its up-front pricing and lack of availability in carrier stores, where the majority of phones are sold. The OnePlus 6 was $50 more expensive than the OnePlus 5, and $30 more than the OnePlus 5T, with each price jump reducing its competitive value over rivals. Since OnePlus only sells phones directly through its website to U.S. customers, without installment plans or carrier subsidies, every price increase cuts off more potential buyers.
Forging a relationship with carriers can solve both issues, as carriers can offer instant national distribution — including the ability for customers to go hands-on with devices before purchasing them — as well as installment plans that reduce up-front prices for consumers. According to PCMag, OnePlus is already selling phones through some European carriers, and since it’s using Qualcomm chips, could conceivably support any U.S. carrier. The OnePlus 6 is known to work properly on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s GSM networks, which are basically the same as 4G networks all over the world, but OnePlus has not said which U.S. carriers it’s working with.
Specifics on the company’s first 5G phone are similarly thin at the moment, but the company used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 in the OnePlus 6, and will likely use a next-generation Snapdragon X50 family modem in its first 5G phone. As the 5G standard was only just finalized, the list of 5G device makers will certainly continue to grow in the lead-up to smartphone releases in early 2019.