Opinions have been flying back and forth about the OnePlus 7 Pro which was recently launched. Some consider it to be a terrific device, some consider it to be less so, and still others are undecided as to just how good it is. But everyone is certain about one thing: the OnePlus 7 Pro poses a considerable threat to all premium players at its starting price of Rs 48,999 in India, which is premium by OnePlus standards (although it did have a special OnePlus 6T McLaren edition priced in that zone not too long ago).
But that does not mean that in its pursuit of the premium, OnePlus has forgot about its core user audience. The audience, indeed, that made it great and a force to reckon with – the ones who wanted a great Android device without spending too much money. Sure, the 7 Pro would strike many of them as being too expensive – in fact, there have been mutterings about the increasing price of OnePlus devices, which had started out as being in the vicinity of Rs 20,000 but were in the Rs 40,000 (with some editions and variants even more expensive) by the end of 2018. It was this section that was fearing the worst when OnePlus went into marketing overdrive promoting the 7 Pro, from quoting its display ratings to showcasing its cameras as being good enough to be used in National Geographic. A new OnePlus era was dawning, it seemed, one in which OnePlus would be mixing it up with the likes of Samsung, Google and Apple.
They need not have feared. OnePlus might have taken a step into the premium price zone, but it certainly has not abandoned the one that made it famous – the flagship killing one. The less talked about, less hyped and soon to be released OnePlus 7 (first impressions) fits right into it. So much so, that some would even feel that it poses the greatest threat to the OnePlus 7 Pro itself.
That statement might seem a little ridiculous on the surface. After all, any one considering a Rs 48,999 phone is unlikely to consider a Rs 32,999 phone (that’s the price of the OnePlus 7), right? Well, that is the very logic that OnePlus turned on its head when it launched the OnePlus One, almost five years ago. The idea was not to match a flagship device spec for spec and on design terms, but to deliver enough of a flagship experience to make consumers wonder if the premium they were paying for a higher priced device was worth it. It was in essence to sow a seed of doubt in the minds of those looking at a premium device, even while targeting those who could not really afford one. And it did this by matching some of the core hardware and software of the premium crowd, most notably things like processor, RAM and UI.
And the OnePlus 7 does exactly that.
No, it does not have the bells and whistles (ironically a term that OnePlus itself poked fun at in its promotions) that its Pro brother has. We are not even talking about the design aspect because we have not seen the device yet, although we have been told that it is in essence “a OnePlus 6T with better hardware.” Still, it does not have that magnificent curved 6.67 inch AMOLED edge to edge display with a 90Hz refresh rate, and makes do with a more routine 6.41 inch AMOLED one (and with a notch too). It does not have the triple camera arrangement that the Pro has on its back (it only has dual cameras with no ultrawide sensor), and neither does it have its pop-up selfie camera. Finally, it has a smaller battery and does not have the super fast Warp Charging that the Pro brings to the battery charging party.
But in classic OnePlus tradition, it is what the 7 does bring to the table that is interesting. It has a 6.41 inch full HD+ AMOLED display, which is not top of the line but which cannot be scoffed at either. And powering it will be perhaps the best mobile processor around, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, along with 6GB or 8GB of RAM, more than you would find on a Pixel and most flagships. And while it does not have an ultrazoom camera on the back, it has the main 48-megapixel sensor that its Pro brother does, and so what if its selfie camera does not pop up, it has the same megapixel count. In battery charging too, it comes with Fast Charge (earlier known as Dash Charge) which is slower than Warp Charge, but is fast enough for most people. It also has a similar in-display fingerprint scanner and comes with a super fast face unlock. They have similar connectivity options and both lack a 3.5 mm audio jack and expandable memory slots. Crucially, both the Pro and its plain sibling come with the same software – Android Pie with Oxygen UI on top. Given that both devices share broadly similar processor and memory arrangements, they are likely to perform at similar speeds for most tasks.
Which is why I suspect the OnePlus 7 will not threaten the OnePlus 7 Pro. No, the price gulf between them is far too large. But it is more likely to grab volumes, simply because it is “more of a OnePlus” in the classic sense of the word than the OnePlus 7 Pro is. It is the underdog which might not look as svelte or have as many moves as the champ does, but packs just as mean a punch. In a touch of sublime, sub-brand irony, it does to the OnePlus 7 Pro exactly what that worthy does to the likes of the Galaxy S10 and the Pixel 3 – it floats on to its radar, gently reminding consumers that, “Hey, I might not have everything that the biggie has, but I still have a lot. And at much lower price too.”
Make no mistake, the OnePlus 7 Pro is a premium flagship killer. But the OnePlus 7 is a flagship killer. In Godfather terms, it is the Michael Corleone to the 7 Pro’s Santino (Sunny) – quiet, not as talked about, and happy to be underrated. And yet, like Michael, it is likely to come out on top in the long run. Because like him, while it is not as visible, it is more accessible. There is a difference therein. A subtle one.
Not that OnePlus would be worried. After all, it is the same family.