OnePlus announced earlier today that it will launch the first phone powered by the Snapdragon 855. The phone will initially make its debut on UK carrier EE’s 5G network before becoming available in global markets.
While the phone slated for a launch in the first half of 2019 — before end of May, according to CNET — it won’t be marketed as the OnePlus 7. OnePlus is instead looking to offer the 5G phone as its own distinct series, meaning the company is diverging from its two-phone release cadence.
In an interview with The Verge, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed that the company was indeed working on a 4G-only device (which will likely end up being the OnePlus 7) in addition to the 5G phone, and that the latter will carry a $200 to $300 premium: “It’s hard to know because there’s a lot of specifics still to look at, but it’s likely in the neighborhood of $200-300 more.”
So if we assume that the OnePlus 7 debuts at a $20 to $30 premium over the $549 6T, OnePlus’ 5G phone could end up costing anywhere between $770 to $880. Lau said the company is working on the 5G device “regardless of the price” because of consumer demand, and that the technology offers a unique set of challenges, like global roaming:
5G is an important trend with its own tremendous challenges… we’re working to understand the technology as quickly as possible.
5G will be particularly difficult to have a device that covers all of the world, or even most of the world’s networks.
OnePlus’ 5G implementation is based on the sub-6 spectrum that’s used by EE, and not mmWave — which is what U.S. carriers like Verizon and AT&T are focusing on. As such, it’s unlikely OnePlus’ 5G phone will make its debut in the U.S. Even if it does, it may end up working on just a few carriers like T-Mobile, which is leveraging the 600 MHz spectrum to build a part of its 5G network.
Lau said product decisions also factored in when it came to choosing between mmWave and sub-6 for the 5G modem. OnePlus is obsessed about design, and with mmWave requiring multiple antennae to be integrated into the chassis, Lau said it was “impossible to make a nice-looking phone:”
On the product level, it’s much more complex than 4G, so a significantly higher level of challenge, especially millimeter wave. It appears impossible to make a nice-looking flagship device, for now.
However, there may be a silver lining if you’re looking to get your hands on a 5G-enabled phone next year. Acknowledging OnePlus’ markup is on the higher side, Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon said that other manufacturers could forego profits in lieu of market share:
You may see some OEMs try to monetize as much as they can their existing customer base… on the other hand you may see folks try to gain share and use price as one of those tools.
Would you guys be interested in paying over $800 for a OnePlus 5G phone?