The OnePlus 6 makes things really tough for the company’s next phone

Prasid Banerjee | May 21, 2018, 07.25PM IST

You've probably heard rumblings about the evolution of OnePlus. Once a tiny enthusiast-centric company, it accounts for a major portion of India's premium market now. But with that, OnePlus has turned into a mainstream brand, almost the same as most others. And the OnePlus 6 is the final point in that transition.

I've been using the phone for just about a week now, and while it's an excellent phone, at Rs. 39,999 (nearly $600), OnePlus is creeping dangerously close to the flagship-segment.

That puts the company in a position it hasn't been in so far. Its charm has so far been in the fact that its products aren't just good, but are also sold at considerably cheaper prices. So, when OnePlus compromises a feature or two, users don’t really question it.

However, that's more difficult when prices are high. Though one could easily argue that this pricing is still quite competitive, buyers in OnePlus’ best market (India) don't take these prices lightly. And it's tougher for the company to explain why features like wireless charging and waterproofing are missing here, even in global markets.

According to OnePlus, your phone charges too slowly with a wireless charging right now, and the company doesn't see the merit in it. While that may be true to some extent, adding wireless charging to a phone also increases the production cost of the device.

The same is true for waterproofing or QHD screens. While one could argue that the features aren't absolutely necessary for smartphones, they do add to the cost of the device.

Why is this relevant?

The reasons why this is relevant are twofold. Firstly, it's evident that OnePlus is working really hard to keep the end product's price as low as possible. However, the window of this possibility is closing in on the company, and even a few thousand rupees more would make it impossible to argue against peripheral features like wireless charging. For instance, the special Avengers edition OnePlus 6 offers no significant upgrade over the others, but is priced at nearly Rs. 6000 more (about $80).

On the other hand, if the company is to charge more for its phones, which it almost certainly will next year, it has to add new features. These features could either be groundbreaking and developed in-house, or it could adopt the top features in the industry. Either way, the company will have to add to its costs, and hence increase prices.

So, OnePlus either loses its high-value image, or tries to compete directly with Google, Apple and Samsung at similar prices. OnePlus' discourse around its devices has mostly been around its community so far. The company has always said that its phones are based on feedback from the community. However, that doesn't explain why the OnePlus 6 has the same features as most other phones today, notched display included. The company seems to agree with the rest of the industry, as long as it can keep the costs down.

The new phone has a top-end chipset, a notched AMOLED display, good battery life and other features that everyone has, but at a lower price point. Barring the dash charge feature, there's really nothing that only OnePlus can bring, and that's not a feature that can sell a phone on its own.

Essentially, while it's fine that OnePlus wants to follow industry norms at lower prices, 2018 may be the last year it gets to make compromises. Next year's device will almost certainly cross the Rs. 40,000 barrier (nearly $600), and consumers won't entertain compromises in that range.
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