OnePlus 5: Is it still an enthusiasts-focused brand?

With the release of the OnePlus 5 last night, we’re once again seeing the price hike of their phone. Not that it was an unwarranted action, we’ve seen their price going up at every iteration, but still, it was quite disappointing to see the brand that surprised everyone back in 2014 by releasing a flagship-specced phone (at that time) with literally half the price is now only $100-150 cheaper than the ‘normal-priced’ brands like Samsung, Apple, and Sony.

If this were 3 years ago, when phone technologies are still simple and normal, it would have been okay. But now, Samsung and LG have their bezel-less display and waterproofing to brag about, most of other Android flagship phones already come with 1440p display, and most importantly the brands like Xiaomi and Lenovo (with ZUK branding) have managed to keep their price lower while still offering high-end specs. OnePlus 5, while still a pretty good deal for the price, has made people scratching their heads to decide to buy one, considering the features it brought and the services that OnePlus will provide.

I personally wouldn’t mind the specs and feature sheet at all if their pricing is still somewhat competitive. But they’re bumping $40 for the base pricing for the OnePlus 5 which makes it a tough decision to buy one now considering the Xiaomi Mi6 is starting at $370-ish price range and the big players like the Galaxies and Xperias are starting at $650-ish price range. This leaves OnePlus in no man’s land between the enthusiasts’ price expectations and the average joe’s price range.

Let’s go through the missing high-end features on the OnePlus 5:

  • Lack of waterproofing
  • No Optical Image Stabilization
  • Only 1080p display
  • No display breakthrough like bezel-less display

Just looking at the above list makes you realize that those traits are usually found in current mid-range phones. Sure, the other specs is that of a high-end but they also came at a price, $479 (or $539 if you choose the higher one). At this point, I can not say that OnePlus is a cheap alternatives, it’s more like you get what you pay for. You’re sacrificing those features (and reliable support) for roughly 100-150 bucks. Clearly, it’s not bang for your buck anymore.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe the OnePlus 5 is still a fantastic phone for the price. It is providing us a new option to choose in-between. Regardless of what people said about the benchmark cheating and okay-ish camera, I still think OnePlus will be one of the fastest phone out there (just like the 3T) with their proven track record at optimizing their software, one of the most important areas in the eye of the enthusiasts. But I also think this is about the only thing that can still interest the enthusiasts in the OnePlus 5 (considering there aren’t many stock Android alternatives out there).

One other thing that constantly caught my attention is their recent marketing campaign that has resembled those of the big players in the market. Hiring Emily Ratajkowski and Amitabh Bachchan (sorry if I pronounced those incorrectly) surely isn’t cheap. They have to cover that marketing budget and put it somewhere in return, hence the price hike. The return of Emily in last night’s event brought the feeling that clearly OnePlus is now heading towards a new direction, a direction that is moving away from us, the enthusiasts.

What is funny about this is that we’ve actually seen this coming from miles away. This guy even made a video about this a few months ago. It’s clear that the brands that focus on the enthusiasts (features-packed and low price demand) won’t last long because this business model is not profitable. Still, we’re disappointed when it’s actually happening. I guess having a brand that truly cares about the enthusiasts will forever be just a dream after all.

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