Thursday, 17 April 2014

Phone of the year? OnePlus One


It's going to be really hard for me not to have the OnePlus One as my main phone this year. This phone's announcement is in exactly 7 days from now (I swear to you that it was 7 days when I started writing this).
+OnePlus  is a Chinese startup founded by former +OPPO vice-president +Pete Lau, (those who know me know that it's one of my favorite companies), who resigned a little bit after launching the OPPO N1 in Q4 2013, and his philosophy is simple to understand, but difficult to achieve: "Never Settle" is his motto.

Oppo N1 with it's rotating camera module.
As a company, just as OPPO before it (which in my opinion has lost some of it's original spark, letting their customers down with the KitKat upgrades) it seems that their intention is to work with and for the customers. They appear to want to make them an active part of the development and decision making process, while trying to keep most of their customers happy in the progress. This was reflected in the price-point they aim to, the operating system they chose (more on this later) and recently, with a forum contest (one of many) in which you uploaded the best picture you've taken and they chose the best three. Those winners were sent a camera prototype of their future flagship, so that they took pictures with it. They finally chose the best among those pictures to be part of the official world-wide packaging. Innovative and awesome.

Since their foundation they're full-steam ahead on the creation of their first flagship: the OnePlus One (yeah, that's a troubling name...) and truth be told, they're promising a lot.

Maybe too much.

And that's why I'm so excited since I first found out about this. That moment where there was not so much to be known about the device, more than the intentions of the company. They stated they could make "beautifully designed devices with premium build quality, with a great price in comparison to the competition".

This translates to a device that has better specs (on paper, at least) than the most important flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the new HTC One. It has a newer revision of the same processor, 50% more RAM (which translates to an entire extra gigabyte, that's like, a lot), 16 and  64 GB versions (with the odd omission of the 32 gig version), a 6 lens camera that's apparently very good, with 13 megapixels and the latest sensor from +Sony (that I think it's the same we can find in the new OPPO Find 7a), and a massive 5.5" 1080p  in a 5" phone body. To prove it, they declare there's a OnePlus One under this Sony Xperia Z1 (which is not the smallest 5 incher, but it's still amazing...):
The only dirty trick they can be pulling is that the One is narrower but a lot taller than the Z1, which I doubt, because the Z1 is already kind of tall.

OnePlus was created as a global company from the beginning, and that promises a great worldwide availability since it's launch. They already confirmed all the countries they'll be launching in. Global also implies that Europeans don't get mugged with the dollar/euro conversion, and that takes me inevitably, to it's price.
When will Argentina be there? "Neveeeeeer!" is heard form behind :(

Pete Lau first said that "the OnePlus One will cost less than 500 dollars" and added "less than 500 dollars does not mean 499, but less than 400". For the guys in Europe, it will be less than 350 euros and for the guys in the UK, less than 290 pounds. Just wow.

So flagship. Much cheap. Wow.

Looking at other flagships with similar specs being priced around U$S 650, or even U$S 700, having a device with this kind of hardware at almost half price is, at least, something to doubt about, be filled with joy, cry and scream, among other things.

You then add to all that, serious design, great materials and first-class build quality (like the HTC One, the OPPO Find 5 or the iPhone) and it's plain unbelievable. There are some leaks that suggest that it's design will be really nice:

For a long time, this is the only thing us fans had to dream about...
and there's also an image that seems to confirm that design:

There's also this image that leaked TODAY, and confirms some of the previous lines in the sketch. Let's hope the huge branding stays a prototype exclusive.
But not everything in life is hardware, raw processing power or specs. OnePlus acknowledged that, announcing that it's device won't have a propietary Android fork, (like Samsung does with TouchWiz, HTC with Sense or LG with it's Optimus UI), but instead, it will come bundled with CyanogenMod 11S naturally based on Android's latest version as of today: Android 4.4.2 KitKat.
Official and exclusive CyanogenMod 11S for OnePlus and it's One.
As many of you must know, Cyanogen Inc. is a software development company (since not so long ago) that made a name for itself creating the famous CyanogenMod in the past, when they were just a group of enthusiasts dedicated to modifying and improving Android in any way possible. They managed to add features (that were later implemented in other ROMs or even by  Google itself for it's stock operating system) and improve the overall performance of the system, along with a great stability and speed to release new versions. Just add the wide array of devices they support to the mix, along with the available ports made by the community, and we're talking about an inmense device spectrum coverage.

One of the favorite things for enthusiasts about Nexus devices is their performance, style and speed of updates. All those things are part of CyanogenMod, because right after the new Android source code is released by Google, they start working on the update of their own system (and for the OnePlus One in particular, they guarantee two full years of updates. That in the gadget world, is a lot). Visually they respect the design almost entirely, and speed and stability are a priority.

Cyanogen Inc. and it's new identity.
If you also add some special software treats from Cyanogen Inc., you won't have a hard time to think about a system that's desired by everyone. What's known so far is that there will be some sort of special battery optimization (called "Mystery battery tech" that apparently is a hardware and software mix), and an "always-on/always-listening" function that makes us think about the excellent Moto X from Motorola. I'm sure there are things they have not even revealed yet (for example, if the lock-screen from the picture is the most radical change visually, or if there are some other surprises in that area. I must confess that I like what I'm seeing).

I think the guys at OnePlus know very well what it's doing. They know they're entering an extremely competitive market, where everyone has their product (and want their slice, the bigger the better). They have a lot to brag about (I know they didn't make this, but they promoted them. I must confess that at first I hated them for this low move. "Who do this unknown dudes think they are?" I thought), but they also have lot's of promises to keep.

Will they? It's kind of utopic but, don't ask me why, I believe in them. And that's why this post starts as it does. It's difficult to fail when you're checking SO MANY checkboxes. If the real product is as they claim, you can't be not wanting to buy it. They have a great chance to claim all the glory, but also, to fall really deep, to never get up again.

The first one would be obtained by unmasking the other companies, selling a flagship with great specs with a really low price (almost half of what other companies charge for almost the same or worse, although I know most of it goes to marketing), or with great software (showing they take the opinion of the customers into account), just to point some examples.

The second one could happen if after filling their mouth this much, everything, or even a little thing, is a lie. This wouldn't have happened if they didn't brag about all this, and just surprised everyone with whatever they launched. They would lose whatever credibility they could have gathered along these months.

What's more important is that there are only 7 days left until they official announcement. Only 7 days are left until we can see the OnePlus One right to the face and arrive to conclusions about most of the promises. There are only 7 days left for me to confirm my purchase, or to start looking somewhere else yet again.


Sources:
  • OnePlus forum
  • GSM Arena (OPPO N1 and OnePlus One under Xperia Z1 images)
  • BGR.com (OnePlus One leak and sketch images)
  • Engadget (CyanogenMod 11S leaks)