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The expensive OnePlus 6 won’t go over well with fans

by Justin Herrick | April 4, 2018April 4, 2018 11:00 am PST

OnePlus will make an announcement a little earlier than usual. Rather than waiting until the summer months to introduce its latest flagship, the OnePlus 6 is expected to debut within the next few weeks. The brand’s seemingly decided to move up the launch as competitors have already put their flagships on the market or are still waiting to do so. It’s a smart move by OnePlus, but there’s just one thing that’ll put a damper on the big reveal.

Before it’s even official, we suspect fans aren’t going to like the OnePlus 6 for its price tag alone. The brand appears to be undoing something that made it popular among a fervent group of consumers in recent years. OnePlus looks as though it’s moving away from affordability, something that has the potential of alienating its loyal fan base in the process.

Leaks from reliable sources are appearing fast, but OnePlus has started revealing key details to cut them off and build hype. The phone will ship with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 and a notch at the top of the display. While the processor isn’t going to drive up costs, it’s the amount of memory and storage that should make consumers nervous.

OnePlus confirmed there will be up to 8GB of memory and 256GB of storage. You’re not getting a configuration like that for less than $650. That’s a promise, so start saving money.

Like with computers, mobile devices get many times more expensive when you add memory and storage because it’s a necessity that you can get around.

Meanwhile, the notch isn’t actually expensive for OnePlus to implement. It’ll simply borrow the overall design of the Oppo R15 to create the OnePlus 6. That’s the benefit of being owned by BBK Electronics.

The other thing is that, regardless of what goes into the OnePlus 6, OnePlus has always planned to position itself as a premium brand. Oppo and Vivo serve budget-friendly consumers perfectly in Europe and Asia. BBK Electronics, their parent company, wishes to have OnePlus be the brand of high-end hardware.

The OnePlus 6 will separate itself from every one of its predecessors. Over time, we’ve witnessed the brand show an interest in fattening its margins by increasing prices. Although OnePlus arrived in 2014 with the One as a cheap alternative to the establishment, it’s always been climbing toward the $699 mark.

Here’s how pricing has gone up since 2014:

– OnePlus One … $299 / $349
– OnePlus 2 … $329 / $389
– OnePlus 3 … $399
– OnePlus 3T … $439 / $479
– OnePlus 5 … $479 / $539
– OnePlus 5T … $499 / $559

Make no mistake: OnePlus wants more of your money. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the slow-and-steady pace of rising prices feels sneaky. It goes against everything OnePlus has stood for. OnePlus will no longer be the go-to brand for unrivaled value.

The aftermath of the phone’s launch is what we should keep an eye on. Carl Pei will make a presentation with millennial-targeted terms like “fast AF,” but that’s nothing more than OnePlus being good at knowing its audience.

What happens next in the days and weeks after will tell you exactly how the brand successfully marketed itself for the last four years while gradually preparing for today. The OnePlus 6’s price is going to reveal that OnePlus doesn’t want to be stuck with the best phone under $500. OnePlus wants to have the best phone. Period.

Everyone knows OnePlus is not a top-tier brand. It doesn’t ship a giant load of smartphones every quarter. OnePlus built an online-only community that likes feeling part of a movement to shake up the mobile industry. When the OnePlus 6 hits, that community may feel betrayed. Just like top-tier brands, OnePlus will stick its hand out for big bucks only.

The fan base that spent years supporting the #NeverSettle movement on social media will no longer have a place of their own. Instead, they’ll be herded into the mix with everyone else who has to pay north of $700 to get a cutting-edge product.

Remember, too, this is happening at a time when OnePlus doesn’t have a solid foundation of trust. The brand ran into a problem last year when a security research firm discovered OxygenOS was collecting user data and linking everything to specific accounts and devices. OnePlus took care of that, but then it was scrutinized for giving clipboard data to Alibaba-owned servers. Everything came to a head when OnePlus experienced a major security breach that exposed thousands of credit and debit card numbers.

As if consumers need any more hesitation to purchase from OnePlus, now it’s all but guaranteed the next flagship be very expensive. The average person will not choose the OnePlus 6 over the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X. Also, upcoming flagships from LG and HTC stand a better chance than the OnePlus 6 because at least they’re going to be widely available and promoted in a traditional way.

The loyalists knew this day was coming. Annually, OnePlus added to its starting price. But it was $30 here, $70 there. Watch out, because the OnePlus 6 could be released for as much as $749.

OnePlus was once the darling of affordability. You could argue that it made others in the mobile industry rethink their strategy. All of a sudden, companies like Motorola and HTC started chasing the border between high-end and mid-range. No one, though, could beat OnePlus’ value.

In 2018, that will be gone and fans will go back to being forced into buying expensive phones to get a premium experience.


Justin Herrick

Justin is easily attracted to power buttons. His interest in technology started as a child in the 1990s with the original PlayStation, and two...

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