OnePlus is determined to be the driving force behind 5G – but that doesn't mean you won't be able to buy a 4G version of the OnePlus 7 in 2019.
OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed to TechRadar that the company plans to release a 4G variant of its phone alongside the 5G toting version for those who don't want support for the next-generation internet connectivity.
Lau told TechRadar at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit 2018, "Because 5G will be very much for a small unique portion of enthusiasts, we'll have a 4G product also developed and available in parallel."
The price of the handset is set to be more expensive than we've been used to from the brand, with Lau saying "my forecast is the cost will be between $200 and $300 higher for the 5G device. That's not necessarily a problem for our users as [5G] is what they're after.
"We've never set out to make a product cheaper for the sake of being cheaper. It has very much been a transition of the unique business model.
"Because of what that has been able to offer, many people will see the existing OnePlus flagship offering in comparison to other flagships being a much more reasonable price."
Releasing a 4G version of its next phone alongside the more expensive 5G handset will allow the company to keep competitive while also offering the next-gen internet connectivity to those who want it.
Lau solidly believes the innovation of 5G is a thing followers of the brand want and soon, so that's why the brand is pushing hard on its mission to get a 5G phone on sale.
"From the OnePlus community users perspective, this is very much something they have an interest in taking up as early as possible. Everyone sees it as something that's disruptive, and they want to have the technology as well as a better understanding of how it can be used" said Lau.
"There's no brand more suitable to dive into the 5G space hard and early than OnePlus. It's hard to know if other brands would have a user base that would go after a 5G device early on, but for us it's pretty clear."
"There's no brand more suitable to dive into the 5G space hard and early"
Pete Lau, OnePlus
OnePlus has confirmed it plans to bring the first 5G phone to market in Europe with a special partnership with EE in the UK. There wasn't any specific news for the US or a worldwide launch, and that's because the company hasn't decided on its route in other countries yet.
"We don't have a set plan in place, and it's something that's very much determined by carrier network and carrier status. 5G for us is a very important strategic direction and it's something we feel we can do a lot with in this space, so we will be discussing this as a strategy with more carriers to see what can be realized."
Lau couldn't confirm the name or a release date for the company's first 5G phone, but considering it's going to be the first to market in Europe it's likely this is the company's next phone. If that's the case, it may be the OnePlus 7.
A 4G-only version of the OnePlus 7 makes sense, and there are lots of upgrades in the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset – which is set to feature in the company's next flagship phone – that can be utilized without harnessing its 5G capabilities.
Lau wasn't able to confirm any other features we will see on its upcoming phone, but he's excited about the other upgrades that are open to use on the Snapdragon 855.
"Camera improvement on the front of AI processing and what's capable there is what's the most exciting thing for me," Lau said.
"It's very strong on the AI front, so the [Snapdragon 855] is going to have a lot of exciting possibilities."
Gaming is another area of the phone set to be upgraded with the Snapdragon 855. The company has an improved Elite Gaming mode that allows for better graphical capabilities as well as high-speed multiplayer gaming using 5G.
These upgrades haven't encouraged the company to exploring the idea of a dedicated gaming phone though.
Instead OnePlus wants to make a suitable flagship device that is capable of high-end gaming, but isn't a specific product like the Razer Phone 2 or the Asus ROG phone.
"We will continue to have a very concerted central focus on performance and creating an experience that's fast and smooth. And so, we won't create a device that's specifically developed as a gaming device.
"We will focus on continue to create devices that are seen as excellent and comfortable for gaming but we also want them to be very good as your daily driver. That's what we see as key for our user base."
Still focused on smartphones
The push toward 5G is a major development for the Internet of Things - devices that are connected to the internet like smart home appliances or smart speakers.
Just because OnePlus is pushing ahead in the 5G space doesn't mean the company is set to expand into a company that makes lots of devices for all over your home.
"We will still remain focused on what we've always focused on – and that's making a great flagship smartphone device. But we will pay close attention to the impact of 5G and how significant it will be for the Internet of Things.
"We'll stay focused on what we do best, but follow closely and evaluate to understand in terms of what potential there is for creating greater value for the user that's utilizing devices that are central to their internet connected life."
That doesn't mean the company isn't interested IoT as a whole, it just doesn't want to create lots of devices itself. Instead the company would rather see something a little different that doesn't add pressure to the company to develop other products.
"For us, and moving forward, we would rather work towards having an open platform where other devices could communicate and link to the platform and have this sort of ecosystem rather than building out a ton of things on our own."
The one device the company is currently working on that could arguably fit in that smart home space is the previously announced OnePlus TV. That was announced back in September 2018, and the company isn't much closer to a release since its inception, but it's still something the company plans to do.
Lau said, "[OnePlus TV] is in the exploratory phase. After the announcement I went back and talked to the team and said 'OK let's focus on the product. Let's not get distracted by other things and I'm also not going to put a deadline pressure on you.'
"It's going to be about getting the product right. [The team] have a very aggressive plan that they've put in place for themselves, but from my perspective, I don't want them to be over aggressive and instead I want them to get the product right."