OnePlus’s emphasis on design aesthetics comes from the very top. Co-founder and CEO Pete Lau talks a lot about how design is a key area of OnePlus’ focus, and I clearly remember one conversation before the launch of OnePlus 6.
At the time, OnePlus was launching its first red-colored phone, and Lau said he and the design team had been pondering the pick for several weeks to get the right shade for the device.
Ultimately, OnePlus went with the red tint which was $ 4 more expensive than the other alternatives (a slight change when working on razor-thin margins) but as a result the Red OnePlus 6 looked absolutely stunning. It was this attention to detail in every aspect of the device that attracted advanced users to the company. But unfortunately OnePlus doesn’t do that anymore.
In 2022, OnePlus’ phone portfolio can be summed up in one word: derivative. Rather than launching original designs that stand out from the box, OnePlus is fundamentally rebranding existing OPPO and Realme devices.
This is not the first time OnePlus has gone to OPPO in search of design inspiration. The 2017 OnePlus 5 was almost identical to the OPPO R11, and OnePlus has always relied on OPPO to manufacture and distribute its phones.
But at that time, the hardware similarities did not matter much as OPPO did not have a significant global presence outside a few Asian markets. Moreover, OnePlus’s efforts with OxygenOS made the software on both phones very different.
This is not the case in 2022. OnePlus phones share the same software as their OPPO siblings and now have the same designs without any significant tweaks. This is especially true of the Nord N – Nord N20 5G series, which was launched a few weeks ago, it is nothing but the renamed OPPO Reno 8 Lite.
Likewise, the Nord CE 2 Lite is a counterfeit Realme 9 Pro with a wide-angle lens which is not that good, and the Nord CE 2 is a derivative of the Reno 7.
The worst culprit is the OnePlus 10R; this device is a lame imitation of the Realme GT Neo 3 and has the ugliest look of any phone I have used this year. I can’t believe the same company that gave us the OnePlus 7T just three years ago has come out of this monstrosity.
Hardware is only one part of the story; OnePlus has encountered serious problems with the integration of ColorOS with OxygenOS and these are clearly visible on the 10R. The device is prone to lag and errors in a way the Realme GT Neo 3 just isn’t – even though both are essentially the same phone.
It is clear that OnePlus does not even come close to the same level of control over its portfolio in the care of OPPO. As I can see, OnePlus now exists as a way for BBK to sell phones in North America.
OPPO and Realme do not sell devices in the region, so it is obvious that BBK is rebranding the existing devices of the two entities and releasing them under the OnePlus brand.
Why is this the case now and not three years ago, it has to do with numbers. Realme just turned four this week and the brand already has over 100 million sales. Meanwhile, OnePlus is twice as old and hasn’t even sold half as much.
That’s why we see a lot of momentum this year around the budget and mid-range Nord series, and we’re not so focused on the flagship OnePlus 10 series.
So if you’re in North America and need an inexpensive phone, OnePlus is still a good option as there are no OPPO, Realme or Xiaomi in the region. But if you’re in a market where OPPO and Realme officially sell phones, you’d better buy from them directly.
OnePlus derivatives cost a little less than their BBK siblings, but it’s not worth the hassle of dealing with buggy software and poor designs. OnePlus has made some of the best Android phones, but that’s not the case in 2022.