OnePlus popped up about five years ago, talking a big game about shaking up the phone industry. Those early attempts to get attention were pretty cringeworthy, but the company has matured over the years and started producing extremely competitive phones. The prices are higher than they once were, but OnePlus is still clocking in less expensive than the phones from Samsung, LG, and Google. This approach is working, too. OnePlus points to new numbers from IDC that show it among the top five premium smartphone makers in the US.
According to the Q4 2018 numbers, OnePlus is now the fifth largest smartphone maker in the US market for phones costing more than $500. That puts it up there with Samsung and Apple. However, OP’s overall ranking is lower when you factor in cheap phones, which still sell in large numbers as flagship phones get ever more costly.
OnePlus’ journey to this point has been meteoric, but it hasn’t been free of drama. OnePlus started with the OnePlus One, a phone that offered nearly flagship-level specs for just $299. In those early days, OnePlus used an invite system to limit costs. That made the phones harder to buy, but it tried to get people excited by running contests that encouraged people to break their old phones and women to post selfies. Yeah, those were bad ideas.
Not all the bumps in the road were OP’s doing, though. It launched with the Cyanogen OS build of Android, but Cyanogen canceled that partnership just months later. That sent OnePlus scrambling to develop its own version of Android. It came up with Oxygen OS. The first few builds were a bit rough, but it’s evolved into one of the best OEM Android skins on the market. Today, all of OnePlus’ phones are powered by Oxygen OS.
All OnePlus phones from OnePlus 3 onward were available without invites, but still only unlocked. The price also started to creep upward. The company still claimed strong sales, particularly in India.
The OnePlus 6T launched late last year, and this is what catapulted the company into the upper echelons of premium smartphone makers. At $550, the 6T is still several hundred dollars less expensive than other high-end smartphones, and the compromises to reach that price are relatively minor. It’s also available on T-Mobile, OP’s first US carrier partnership. The unlocked version works on Verizon as well.
In the coming months, OnePlus is expected to release the OnePlus 7 with a notchless slider design. A separate 5G smartphone for select US carriers may also be in the cards.