OnePlus: A history lesson

Where did the brand get its start and where is it going?

OnePlus has become one of the best brands in the Android market; however if I’d mentioned the company in a room full of people three years ago I may not get anyone to recognize the name. In that short amount time things have changed quite a bit.

We wanted to take some time to spotlight the manufacturer and shed some light on the history behind OnePlus.

Where’d it all start?

OnePlus was brought into existence in December of 2013. Co-founders Peter Lau and Carl Pei both left their posts at Oppo Electronics to produce a new line of smartphones under the OnePlus banner. The company immediately had high aspirations, but the approach is what set them apart.

Lau and Pei felt that the Android market had a real opening for the “power-user” that wasn’t properly being represented by the Nexus line. The result was a very community-driven campaign that reminds me of how users respond to Linux on the desktop.

There were forums of OnePlus employees polling what users were looking for in a phone. And then there was CyanogenMod. The pinnacle of hobbyist Android ROMs was the default software available on the first generation OnePlus One.

This choice really got the users that OnePlus intended to perk up. CyanogenMod was popular among Android users, and especially Nexus owners, as the go-to option to install your own slice of Android. You had an almost endless option of UI customizations you just couldn’t find anywhere else.

Never Settle

In that same nerd haven methodology, was the Never Settle and Flagship Killer advertising. Both tied to the hardware and the over-the-top specs for the price of the OnePlus phones for generations of devices from the upstart. Never Settle has consistently translated to more internal RAM, storage, and modern CPU versus most phones on the market.

With a Flagship Killer mentality, OnePlus attacked the budget-minded market with truly impressive specs for only $299 for the original OnePlus One. This created a value proposition that gave you 90% of what a flagship offered but at around half the price.

Aura of Exclusivity

Another unique element of the OnePlus lore is the invite. For the first two generations of the company’s smartphone launches, you could only order the phone via an invite from another user or contest entry.

This led to a bit of a frustrating experience for those unable to secure an invitation. However, if you did snag one, you had this immediate nerd gratification of being “one of the chosen.” With that club, OnePlus cultivated a true cult following that helps the brand to this day.

Is there an elephant in the room?

Let’s talk about what many quick Google searches will uncover. OnePlus is not your normal startup. It’s often referred to as a subsidiary of the large Chinese firm Oppo Electronics. And while the Oppo is a major financial back, and hardware supplier, of OnePlus both companies, claim it’s only a partnership.

The line can still be blurry between the two. All the iterations of OnePlus hardware are closely related to phones previously released by Oppo. However, the consistent design language that OnePlus has curated sets it apart from its hardware cousins.

Evolution Continues

OnePlus continues to build on the heritage it instilled. With the latest launches of the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, the company has entered a new age of true flagship specs that still come in much more affordable than the competition.

While the Flagship Killer now makes flagships, it still has a loyal following that swears by the brand. You could even argue it still caters to its original users with the even newer OnePlus Nord that brings many of the same internals of the 8 and 8 Pro to a much cheaper package.

OnepPlus has startup roots and has slowly built a following that many perceive as some of the best phones you can buy running Android. We hope this article can help shed some light on new users of just who and where the OnePlus brand came from.

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