OnePlus’ mobile strategy goes from bad to worse

OnePlus logo angled on white


Eric Zeman / Android Authority

This week’s teasers and rumors about OnePlus’ upcoming launch cycle are making sure that 2022 will be a particularly difficult year for the once-brave smartphone brand. The company’s official announcement today made no mention of arguably the tastiest bite – a regular OnePlus 10. So it’s become abundantly clear that OnePlus is completely relying on the 10 Pro to power its flagship range this year. However, affordable flagships rather than super-premium products should be the bread and butter of the OnePlus strategy. In that regard, the impending global launch of 10 Pro clearly misses the mark.

This wouldn’t be the first time OnePlus has struggled to live up to its traditional “flagship killer” business model. It took a long time for the more affordable 8GB/128GB variant of the 2021 OnePlus 9 Pro to hit the market, leading some to speculate whether the variant existed in name only, allowing OnePlus to advertise a lower price than consumers would actually be able to afford. Combined with rising prices in recent years, it has never been more difficult to actually buy an affordable flagship from OnePlus.

It’s never been more difficult to get your hands on an affordable OnePlus flagship

The problem of a lackluster and overdue global launch is compounded by the fact that during our limited time with the device, we weren’t overly impressed with the OnePlus 10 Pro’s gimmicks. We reserve our verdict until our full review, but the phone doesn’t look like good value for money in the current market.

Read more: Hands-on with the OnePlus 10 Pro

Unfortunately, OnePlus has also been alarmingly quiet about a more affordable OnePlus 10. Instead, rumors point to the launch of a OnePlus 10R model in the coming months, followed by an arguably even more expensive OnePlus 10 Ultra towards the end of the year. Neither would fill the gap of a regular OnePlus 10, as 2021 taught us. Look, last year’s OnePlus 9R was a good buy, but it was an India and China exclusive and made some more compromises to push the price down. And while it was succeeded by the more powerful OnePlus 9RT, that phone had a gimmicky camera and no wireless charging. Hardly a flagship killer.

Whether there’s an audience for an Ultra model remains to be seen, but it certainly doesn’t cater to OnePlus’ affordable flagship. Between this and the delayed global launch of the 10 Pro, the brand seems more interested in chasing the Chinese high-end market than a Western one this year, so who knows if and when the Ultra version would be available to global consumers.

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

This leads us to an equally worrying problem with OnePlus’ current strategy: the sheer number of phones it’s releasing.

If you thought last year’s roadmap was a confusing mess, the 2022 lineup seems to be even worse. Multiple and increasingly erratic flagship launches are a stark contrast to Apple and Samsung. The latter has merged its two flagship series into one this year, a clear sign that market maturity means there is no longer room to sustain more than a single annual release cycle.

Related: On the Road to Success, BBK Leaves OnePlus Behind

OnePlus’ upcoming mid-range strategy looks even more complicated. Rumors point to a Nord CE 2 Lite, followed a month later by a Nord 2T. Those two models will apparently be quickly cannibalized by the OnePlus Nord CE 3 by the middle of the year. I can’t tell you the differences between the existing Nord 2, CE 2, N110 and others by heart. How OnePlus expects consumers to choose their ideal product from this increasingly unreadable Nord range is anyone’s guess.

A clear brand identity is the only way to survive in today’s cutthroat industry. What does OnePlus stand for these days?

This launch-and-pray strategy is a worrying sign for OnePlus. It’s reminiscent of HTC’s last days, with half-hearted flagships and confusing launches in a vain hope of landing something that would keep the brand afloat. We all remember how well that went, but I’m not suggesting that OnePlus is in such a dire situation. At least not yet. However, OnePlus forged its brand on a clear identity that combined cutting edge performance with value for money and a sense of exclusivity. A clearly defined launch cycle and portfolio are essential to get such a message across. But with an increasingly jumbled lineup that lacks a regional focus and lacks key products, it’s very hard to know what the OnePlus brand stands for these days.

Much has already been said about the mergers of OnePlus and Oppo teams and the subsequent withdrawal from their unified approach to software. This was our first sign of a lack of direction and identity at the company. OnePlus’ traditional enthusiasts view the company with more skepticism, and failing to deliver the phones consumers actually want could be the final nail in the coffin.

Further Reading: A History of Every OnePlus Phone So Far

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