OnePlus has teased the launch of a flagship smartphone scheduled for November 15, a rather surprising move considering the company, in its short existence, has launched only one flagship a year. The upcoming smartphone, expected to be called OnePlus 3T, improves upon the company's existing top model, the OnePlus 3, in meaningful ways, without too much of a price increase. And that's just plain unfair to those who bought OnePlus 3 when it launched earlier this year.
(Also see: OnePlus 3T Release Date, Price, Specifications)
OnePlus 3 is a pretty good smartphone, offering great specs, beautiful design, spectacular camera, and smooth software. However, the OnePlus 3T is likely to be better, offering a faster processor, better camera, more storage, Android 7.0 Nougat onboard, and new colour options. All these new features will reportedly cost buyers an extra $80 (roughly Rs. 5,000).
Now, the extra Rs. 5,000 is a pretty big ask of the price-conscious Indian customers, but it will still be a heartburn for OnePlus 3 buyers, who will see an upgraded model in the market just months after they shelled out Rs. 27,999 for their swanky new smartphone.
(Also see: OnePlus 3 Review)
Had the OnePlus 3T been launched as the original 2016 flagship and not a mid-cycle upgrade, the company would have been forced to price it under Rs. 30,000 in India keeping the consumers' sensibilities in mind. Launching OnePlus 3T at more than Rs. 30,000 - an important psychological price point for many Indian buyers - would have likely resulted in a loss of sales, which no company can afford in the current scenario. In comes OnePlus 3 with a price tag of Rs. 27,999, all problems solved.
Of course, there are other factors at play here. It is unlikely that Qualcomm would have been able to ready Snapdragon 821, the new chipset powering OnePlus 3T, ahead of its own schedule to accommodate the Chinese smartphone startup, at least at a scale that can satisfy the initial demand for the 2016 OnePlus flagship. Therefore, this burden fell on the Snapdragon 820 processor, a pretty powerful piece of silicon that also keeps the top smartphones by Sony, HTC, Motorola, Xiaomi, etc.
Display panel shortage is said to be one of the reasons for the launch of OnePlus 3T. The company used the Optic AMOLED panels in the OnePlus 3, but is rumoured to move back to IPS LCD screens with the next model in its portfolio. If it happens, it will be a surprise since company co-founder Carl Pei had earlier stressed that Optic AMOLED screens are superior to LCDs and that OnePlus will continue to use them in the near future.
If OnePlus is indeed switching back to the LCD screen, it will be an indicator of a shortage of Optic AMOLED panels, which has been in the rumour mills for a while now. It is unlikely that this shortage, if that is indeed the case, would have happened without the suppliers intimating the company about the issue well in advance. The launch of OnePlus 3T, of course, will solve the problem. The small number of Optic AMOLED screens that OnePlus gets from its suppliers will continue to be used for the current flagship model, while OnePlus 3T will have the LCD panels, which are more widely available.
So was the OnePlus 3 a stop-gap phone before the company could deliver OnePlus 3T, the flagship it really wanted to make? That, no doubt, will be the question on every OnePlus 3 buyer's mind.