OnePlus has done an amazing job of creating a niche product that catered to the enthusiast scene. I am a OnePlus user, but I’m also a technology journalist and an early adopter of tech. Top hardware with a competitive price was where OnePlus started. OnePlus has left the Flagship killer tagline a few generations ago. So it’s not surprising that the OnePlus 8T along with the significant changes in OxygenOS 11 point to OnePlus heading for the mainstream.
The OnePlus Nord was the first step in this direction and it’s clear they’re looking to continue this journey with the 8T.
The OnePlus 8T appears to be having an identity crisis.
Writing this I’ve been very conflicted and this is mainly because of the affordability of the Pixel. OnePlus has long dropped it’s flagship killer
The OnePlus 8T has all the makings of a flagship smartphone that can go toe to toe with any of its competitors. The display is best in class, with 120Hz and a JNCG (Just Noticeable Color Difference) ratio of under .55. The 65W charging means that the charger in the box will also work on compatible laptops. It’s fast, 1-100% in 39min, they’ve included 12 thermal monitors to make sure the phone stays at safe levels. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor with 5G, 12GB of RAM &256GB of UFS3.1 storage and WiFi 6 compatibility. The Quad camera has their widest wide angle yet at 123degrees. This camera set up can take on any of its competitors and the improved Nighttime more works on the main lens and is very impressive!
Catering to their value seeking, spec hunting core audience, the OnePlus 8T has it all! This early adopter attitude of the brand never really worked out in terms of sales.
Even with this shopping list of high-end specifications all neatly checked off, the OnePlus 8T shows signs of going mainstream with its software, but it’s clearly a one foot in one foot out moment.
From the beginning, OnePlus focused on a clean user interface devoid of any bloatware. They catered to technology elitists who sought to have the best technology. This is what other Chinese brands were doing, but their software is what initially set them apart.
The OxygenOS 11 update is the biggest visual overhaul in OnePlus’ history and is designed to make the interface approachable to a wider set of users.
According to OnePlus they believe that people use their phone in two ways: short bursts lasting just a few seconds to check an incoming notification or look something up, and settling in for a longer duration to consume content. The changes in OxygenOS 11 are designed to facilitate the former use case; with the bold colors making it easier to parse information at a glance.
The feeling that OnePlus has not committed fully to the mainstream is apparent on 8T. This high end phone has to go after the power user but its software is making concessions to go after a wider audience.
OxygenOS 11 represents a big shift for OnePlus.
The brand feels well known with enthusiasts but the reality is, its market share is tiny. They’re aiming to change that by turning their attention to the mid-range and budget segments, and the software plays a big role in making the company more enticing to a mainstream audience.
So in that context, the design changes in OxygenOS 11 make a lot of sense. The enthusiast community, though outspoken, is small, and the company is focused on delivering meaningful changes to all of its users.
What remains clear is that OnePlus has kept what makes OxygenOS 11 attractive to enthusiasts: a high degree of customization of Android.
Flat design 2021 trend is on point with the OnePlus 8T’s flat display.
Fingers crossed, that the flat display on the OnePlus 8T is a sign that we’re finally seeing an end to this pointless innovation. Curved screens cost more than flat screens and that extra cost is a waste for a few reasons: accidental screen touches, glare on the sides and they’re more expensive to make waterproof.
Curved screens are a gimmick that marketing teams love! That OnePlus has dropped the curved display on the 8T feels like more than just a cost saving measure and more of an embrace of a 2021 design trend.
The Growing Pains of Going Mainstream
OnePlus is clearly trying to learn from the failure of the Google Pixel to go mainstream. One you add too many features, the average user gets uncomfortable. This sits at odds with the core philosophy that OnePlus has held since the start, so it’s no wonder I felt conflicted when I sat down to start writing this.
If you really are going for the mainstream, which OxygenOS 11 seems to suggest, then they’ll need to adjust their point of view on wireless charging and including bleeding edge features that just drive up the price. This is a huge divergence from their user base and this is in fact why OnePlus launched the Nord. However, the OnePlus 8T feels like a phone in conflict, one foot in the mainstream, one foot catering to it’s existing user base.