For the tech connoisseur, OnePlus doesn’t need any introductions. Since its founding in 2013 by former Oppo VP Pete Lau, OnePlus has come a long way from being the hip brand to launching the most attractive phones in 2019. The company recently launched the OnePlus 7T Pro for a starting price of Rs 53,999 just weeks after introducing the OnePlus 7T at Rs 37,999 for the base model.
While the company has transitioned into a big name in the tech industry and often used in the same sentences as Google, Samsung and Apple, there have been some promises made by OnePlus which have been broken in the past. This is the tale of unkept promises Oneplus made when it was a growing startup focusing on consumers and transparency which we’ve come to see the very least of after it became just another huge tech entity.
Precisely two years ago, OnePlus was caught invading users’ privacy by sending data back to servers in China. The issue was found to affect the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus 3 series smartphones but to this date, OxygenOS on OnePlus phones have the “join our user experience program” toggle inside settings.
Unknowingly, users with the option enabled can get their telephone numbers, MAC Addresses and WiFi information collected, thus putting the security and privacy at risk. At the time, it was also found that the OnePlus server collected information on when the user opened or closed apps on their, locked or unlocked the phone and even turned the screen off. While co-founder Carl Pei declared that OnePlus takes its privacy seriously, there was no solution to the data that was already collected.
Credit Card Security incident
While OnePlus phones since their inceptions have been devoid of bloatware, the same cannot be said about the device security. Last year, the company admitted that over 40,000 users of OnePlus phones might have been exposed by a leak that compromised the users’ credit card details. While the company promised a chargeback in the event of any fraudulent transactions, there has not been a long-term solution to the issue as of yet.
At the time when a OnePlus phone is as expensive as an iPhone or the latest Pixel phone, neither of its latest phones, be it the OnePlus 7T or the OnePlus 7T have a dedicated security chip. In contrast, Apple offers a security-focused Secure Enclave system which boots separately and makes it difficult for hackers to decrypt sensitive information. Google has its very own Titan M chip (source: CNET) which provides stronger encryption features, safety against cyberattacks and protect user’s sensitive data. The latest OnePlus phones, for the same price as its competitors, lack such a feature in a day when security and privacy remain of utmost importance.
Another Security vulnerability
In November 2017, a backdoor was found inside many OnePlus phones which could allow users root access without even unlocking the bootloader. The vulnerability was present in the form of an app called Engineer Mode which was buried into the OS. While developed for factory testing and troubleshooting, the app was discovered to be exploited to execute GPS checks and hardware scans. The tool was found to allow an attacker root access to almost any OnePlus phone and to this day, Engineer mode on Oneplus phone exists, meaning the company hasn’t yet obscured the security of its phones enough.
Top tier price but does it offer top tier features?
Over the year, OnePlus has stressed on Never settling and in most scenarios, it didn’t. But with its recent phone launches, although the prices have started matching high-end phones, there are are some features that we might expect when paying a premium price. For Rs 53,999, would you not expect your phone to be water-resistant like the iPhone 11 or the Pixel 4. While both the phones from Apple and Google can withstand up to 30 mins underwater, the latest OnePlus phones neither promise such a water resistance nor promise any kind of water resistance.
For a brand which pushes its customers to never settle, it now seems like OnePlus is clearly following the likes of Apple and Google in making a move away from the headphone jack. This is interesting since no more than two years ago OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said “Sometimes, industry trends go against our core beliefs” when he stressed that the headphone jack is here to stay. At the time, Lau also confirmed that nearly 80 percent of users use in-jack headphones. He said, “our assessment was no, this design [replacing the 3.5 mm jack with a USB-C port] decision was not worth taking away our users’ freedom to use their favourite earphones and accessories”. “Never settle” sounds like a permanent promise, doesn’t it?
Failing to provide true 3x optical zoom
When the OnePlus 7 Pro was launched, the company claimed that one of the sensors in the triple-camera unit will be able to capture a picture with up to 3x optical zoom. It was later found out that the telephoto lens maxes out at a rather low 2.2x, nowhere near what OnePlus promised during the phone’s launch. What this means is the telephoto lens inside the OnePlus 7 Pro is actually using a 57mm lens in contrast to the 78mm lens that the company claimed. This 57mm focal length of the lens brings down the zoom factor from 3x as advertised to 2.2x in real life.
The OnePlus 7T Pro features the same camera configuration but again the company promised a 3x optical zoom. Does it have one? We’re yet to know.
From a Flagship killer a year to five phones in 12 months
OnePlus’ first product was the highly anticipated OnePlus One which was labelled as the “2014 Flagship Killer”. It’s successor, the OnePlus 2 was unveiled in July 2015 and the same year, the company launched the OnePlus X as the budget phone. While both phones suffered negative comments, the OnePlus 2 at least had successors. That is when the company started its T-revolution, by launching a phone with an upgrade over the model that it released early in the year. OnePlus later followed with the OnePlus 3 and 3T in 2016, 5 and 5T in 2017; and 6 and 6T in 2018.
That changed this year when OnePlus unveiled the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro in May 2019 and later followed it up with the OnePlus 7T and OnePlus 7T Pro in September and October. What this means is that since the launch of the OnePlus 6T on October 2018, OnePlus has launched four more phones, a total of 5 phones under 12 months. While there already are abundant choices for smartphones to buy at different price points, the fact that OnePlus itself is offering five different phones within a year sparks confusion in the minds of users. The company has thus failed to deliver one flagship killer a year, a promise it made since its inception.
A Flagship killer no more but just another phone to empty your pocket
Speaking of the flagship killer title, it’s quite clear that OnePlus phones have jumped the rails to the flagship territory and so are the prices of its latest offerings. There was a time when OnePlus phones were available for around Rs 20K. Even for around Rs 30K packed quite the punch to their high-end counterparts. But with the OnePlus 7T series, not a lot can be called ‘reasonable’ for Rs 40K, not to forget the prices of the new OnePlus 7T Pro models which almost hit the 60K landmark.
There aren’t less alternative to the OnePlus phones as well. At Rs 58,999, users in India can get their hands on the iPhone 11 instead of the OnePlus 7T Pro. Gamers can opt for the Asus ROG Phone 2 which offers a 120Hz display and 6000mAh for just Rs 37,999. Interestingly enough, the new OnePlus 7T Pro faces serious competition from its own predecessor, the OnePlus 7 Pro. The difference between the two is minute, ‘minute’ being the keyword when a customised Snapdragon 855 SoC with higher clock speed and 85mAh more battery is what differentiates between the two phones.
After finding these many unkept promises, we can clearly say that OnePlus isn’t the same company it once was. While there is a lot to praise about their smartphones, there are some things that don’t meet the eye. Promises aside, the mere fact that OnePlus has changed its philosophy from “what the consumer wants” to “what the consumer needs” in a span of five years questions why people keep giving this company money. Has OnePlus has abandoned its core values of honesty and transparency or like any other tech giant, started ignoring its own customers?