OnePlus has been promising for months to deliver a top-tier smartphone at a mid-range price. And it looks like the company is going to deliver on that promise. The OnePlus One is scheduled to hit the streets in mid-May, and it will sell for just $299 and up.
For less than the price of a Google Nexus 5, you’ll be able to get an unlocked phone with a 5.5 inch, full HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 13MP camera, and a 3100mAh battery.
The OnePlus One also has a few other things going for it. For starters, it’ll be one of the first smartphones to ship with CyanogenMod 11S, a custom version of Android from the Cyanogen team. While it’ll support the Google Play Store and Google’s suite of apps and services, the software is designed to be easy to customize and easy to change: If you don’t like the custom theme, you can switch to the stock look and feel of CyanogenMod or flash another ROM.
The phone supports 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, GPS, and GLONASS and it works on most GSM, WCDMA, and LTE bands for carriers around the world — although in the US you’ll likely want to stick with AT&T or T-Mobile since there’s no 3G or faster support for Sprint or Verizon.
While OnePlus has been using the tagline “Never Settle,” there are a few things that’ll leave some folks unsatisfied: The OnePlus One has a non-removable battery and it lacks a microSD card slot. There’s also no support for wireless charging.
But with a 3100mAh battery, you should get more run time from this phone than from most mid-range Android devices. And if you need more than the 16GB of storage that comes with the $299 model, OnePlus offers a 64GB model for $349. There’s no 32GB model… the company just decided that instead of adding $50 to double the storage like most companies do, OnePlus would quadruple it for the same price.
The smartphone has stereo bottom-facing speakers, a recessed bezel that helped OnePlus fit a 5.5 inch screen into a phone they say is the size of a typical 5 inch handset, and a removable rear cover that lets you swap out the back for other “StyleSwap” covers to change the phone’s look and feel.
OnePlus is positioning its first phone as a “flagship killer,” and on paper it compares quite nicely to the latest devices from Samsung, HTC, and others. But in countries like the US where customers are used to buying phones from their wireless carriers and paying $200 or less up-front while on-contract, I suspect that the OnePlus One is really gunning for the pre-paid customer and tech geek markets.
And it’s doing a pretty good job: For less than the price of a Nexus 5, you get a phone with a bigger battery, a faster CPU, more RAM, and potentially more storage. What you don’t get are software updates straight from Google. Instead they come from the folks at Cyanogen, which offers one of the most popular custom Android ROMs. That may be a plus or a minus depending on your point of view.
Google will probably introduce a next-gen Nexus smartphone sometime this year, and it remains to be seen how it’ll stack up against the OnePlus One. But right now, the One seems like the phone to beat in the the $299 price range. It’s also competitively priced in other countries, with starting prices of 269 euros in Europe and 229 pounds in the UK.