OnePlus has come a long way in a short time. Since being founded in 2013 by Pete Lau and Carl Pei, it’s made a real name for itself for high-end smartphones that do things a bit differently.
Here we trace how OnePlus got there and how it's managed to cultivate a fan-base every bit as fanatical as Deadheads and Directioners, who'll cross the globe and queue up overnight to get their hands on its handsets.
To help find out, we caught up with David Sanmartin, Head of Marketing (Europe) to get the inside line on how the brand went from a cult concern to a phone-manufacturer with genuine mainstream appeal.
OnePlus debuts with the OnePlus One
It all started here. Unveiled on 22nd April 2014, the OnePlus One was touted as the “Flagship Killer" because of its quality construction and high-end features.
Starting at £229 for the entry-level phone, it was less than half the price of the newest iPhone and sold over 1.5m units.
From the outset the OnePlus One was solely available on an invite-only basis. And you could only get an invite from someone who’d already bought one, or if you won a competition or participated in the OnePlus community.
Supply was limited, so the invite system prioritised the most loyal fans.
Demand for the phone skyrocketed, making the OnePlus One among the most infamous Android devices of all time.
OnePlus 2 lands
Just over a year after the success of the OnePlus One, the company brought out the OnePlus 2, with a familiar blend of in-demand features and an attractive price point.
Within a week of the launch, the OnePlus 2 had already accumulated over 2 million reservations.
A few months later, OnePlus released its first mid-range handset, the OnePlus X, retailing at just £269. It mostly had the same features as the original OnePlus One, but with a few updates and a complete redesign.
End of invite-only policy
Up until this point, OnePlus phones were available on an invite-only basis direct from OnePlus and from select bricks-and-mortar shops, if you were quick.
However, both the 2 and the X were released on general sale a few months after launch, signalling the end of OnePlus’ invite-only system.
By the time the next OnePlus phone arrived you could even pick it up on a monthly contract from O2.
OnePlus 3 and 3T garner rave reviews
As our own review attests, the OnePlus 3 was a real watershed moment for the company and was dubbed its best-ever smartphone.
It held onto that title for less than six months, when it was followed into the marketplace by the 3T.
The OnePlus 3 debuted the company’s own Dash Charge fast-charging tech that, for us at least, is best in class. Thanks to innovative, exclusive technology, it’s able to deliver over 60% of a full charge in half an hour.
Just as importantly, Dash Charge won’t make your phone heat up. So there’s no impact on performance if you’re using the phone while you’re charging it up - even if you’re using GPS or playing games.
Want to know more? Watch the clip below in which model-turned-movie-star Emily Ratajkowski talks you through it.
Here comes the science bit. Concentrate…
The 3 and 3T were powered by OxygenOS. In a nutshell, it’s a version of Android that’s been tweaked and customised by OnePlus for use on its handsets alone.
Although it’s still simple to get to grips with (if you’ve used Android before, you’ll feel very much at home), Oxygen gives you much more scope to customise the layout and look of your handset. So you can have your phone, your way.
So did the rethink for the 3 and 3T work? Were consumers buying it? They were.
In fact, the OnePlus 3 was so popular that the company actually had to temporarily halt sales in Central Europe to keep up with demand.
Sanmartin said: "When we were launching the OnePlus 3, I was hosting a pop-up launch event here in London.
"We arrived the night before the event to start setting up the venue, and a fan had already arrived and was waiting.
"We chatted with him for hours, and it turns out he had travelled over 1,500 miles across Europe to be there.
"It's moments like these that remind us that we're not just a smartphone company. It might sound a bit cheesy, but it's more like a big family.”
At the time of writing, the 3T is still available. But stocks are reportedly running low, as all eyes turn towards the new OnePlus phone that’s purportedly landing in June.
The phone-maker’s next handset, the OnePlus 5, will be announced on 20th June. Head to OnePlus’ official livestream at 5pm (UK time) and you can watch the grand reveal for yourself.
If you believe what you read, key features will include OnePlus’ best camera so far, a huge, long-life battery, better performance and a much improved screen.
And the smart money’s on it coming in at a price point that continues to undercut the competition too.
UPDATE:The OnePlus 5 has been officially unveiled, teaming what's claimed to be the highest resolution dual camera set-up of any smartphone with super-slim dimensions and some great new additions to OxygenOS.