OnePlus Z ‘Thing’ is a thing. Here are the features it needs (and doesn’t need) – CNET


The OnePlus X from 2015.

Josh Miller

Over the past few days, OnePlus has been teasing “something new.” At the time it was suspected that the Chinese phone-maker was cooking up a new midrange phone, following its April release of the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro. This was later confirmed on Tuesday when CEO Pete Lau reported that OnePlus is announcing a “new, more affordable smartphone product line.” The phone will be available in India and Europe first before coming to the US and it doesn’t yet have a name. For the time being, the company is dubbing the project “OnePlus Z Thing” via a private Instagram account and rumors are speculating the device may cost as low as $299.

Only once did OnePlus launch a cheaper phone that was separate from its flagship and rebooting this endeavor would be notable for the company. Debuting in 2015, the OnePlus X was a beautifully designed $300 phone that had midtier specs compared to the OnePlus 2, which was also released the same year. It was meant to be a one-off phone for the company and a successor was never mentioned. 

But earlier this year, rumors of an 8 Lite surfaced. And now that OnePlus confirmed such a device is happening, it’s good to see the company return to its roots and do what made it popular in the first place — selling well-made phones at far lower prices than its competitors. While it’s true that current OnePlus devices still sell for hundreds of dollars less than Apple, Samsung and Google, it’s been hard for OnePlus to keep prices low. Compared to other brands, OnePlus has had one of the highest increases in cost from model to model.

Juan GarzĂłn/CNET

Case in point: the latest OnePlus 8 Pro itself. It has 5G, a 120Hz display and reverse wireless charging. It starts at $899 but the higher 12GB of RAM/256GB model costs $1,000. The company also showed off the Concept One at CES 2020, a phone with a “disappearing” rear camera that tints black when not in use. Though it’s only a concept phone, as the name suggests, the company is working on applying this feature to future devices. 

In a 2018 interview with CNET, CEO Pete Lau said that OnePlus was a “flagship focused” company. Creating another OnePlus X would mark a sort of “compromise, which we don’t like to do in terms of specs.”

But since then, the ship has long sailed for OnePlus to release only one or two phones a year like it used to. Last year, it released what it considered only variants of its OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T marquee phones. But it released so many versions of these two devices for different markets that CNET felt compelled to write up an explainer just to keep some of them straight. (In addition to the 7 Pro and 7T, there was the OnePlus 7, 7 Pro 5G, 7T Pro, 7T Pro McLaren and 7T Pro 5G McLaren. Phew.) 

Adding a mid-range device wouldn’t be too complicated yet (assuming OnePlus doesn’t release even more variants of the OnePlus 8) and it would be an opportune time to do so as well. Apple and Samsung launched $400 phones of their own, the iPhone SE 2020 and the Galaxy A51, respectively, and Google’s Pixel 3A doubled the company’s Pixel sales with a sequel expected this year. 

So what would OnePlus’ version of an iPhone SE, Galaxy A51 or Pixel 3A have? Since it’s been so long since the OnePlus X came out (it didn’t have LTE and you could only get it initially through an invitation, way back when OnePlus used to do that), there’s a lot of room for improvement. Ideally, it’d cost around $300 to truly stand out from the $400-phone crowd (there are rumors that the Pixel 4A could be as cheap as $350). And it definitely doesn’t need the flashy orange and leather design that come with a McLaren partnership. Here are some other features it could include.

OnePlus Z ‘Thing’ wishlist

  • 5- to 5.8-inch display or around that size
  • Multiple-rear cameras 
  • Headphone jack
  • At least a 3,500-mAh battery
  • In-screen fingerprint reader
  • Water resistance?
  • Wireless charging?

And to keep costs low, it’d be fine to do without certain extras.

OnePlus Z ‘Thing’ definitely doesn’t need

  • 5G
  • 90Hz or 120Hz screen
  • A pop-up selfie camera
  • Disappearing, electrochromatic camera lens

What do you think? What would you want to see in OnePlus’ new mid-tier line? Let us know in the comments below.

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