OnePlus has always had a knack for creating a bit of a stir in the market. From their slogans and aggressive marketing campaigns to their actual product release and everything in between, OnePlus has never shied away from giving its competitors a jab every now and then. While they may have been relatively quiet on this front ever since Carl Pei left his position, OnePlus has apparently decided to borrow his playbook for the upcoming OnePlus foldable.
OnePlus has all but confirmed the name of its next foldable phone, looking at none other than Samsung, a staple of the foldable phone market, just hours before the Z Fold 5 and Z Flip 5 were unveiled. Stealing Samsung’s thunder isn’t the easiest thing to do, and OnePlus needs to be more complicated than trying to do it with a tweet. But with Samsung getting a little too comfortable sitting in its armchair, I’d like to argue that OnePlus might have the opportunity to really cause a disruption with its upcoming foldable.
Foldable phones have gained a lot of steam
Before we get started, it should be noted that the market for foldable phones is not as empty as it was not so long ago. While Samsung sits comfortably at the top of the chain in the West, many brands have chipped in with their own efforts, including no less than Google itself with the Pixel Fold. Still, for the most part, every foldable phone on offer is a bargain, with Samsung being the closest to an uncompromising experience. That said, such diversity in the market has shed more light on Samsung’s potential weaknesses, particularly in its Z Fold 5, something OnePlus could pounce on to stake its claim.
First, the perception of the Z Fold series’ form factor has changed dramatically, with more people now looking down on the narrow front screen instead of praising its compactness and one-handed usability. In other cases, this increased competition helped Samsung garner more praise for other aspects of the phone, such as its screen specs. If OnePlus is really going to compete in this market, the best thing it can do is take cues from the other brands. Being late to the party isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it has its advantages too – just ask Apple.
Seizing the opportunity for a weakened competition
Source: Smart price
Despite the emergence of several brands in the foldable market, only a few of them reach the US market. Apart from Samsung, the only phones OnePlus has to compete against are Motorola and Google. Availability is actually among the most underplayed aspects that could really make or break a deal for many people. A big part of Samsung’s success, especially when it comes to foldable phones, is because there are fewer brands to contend with compared to other markets. Oppo’s Find N2 and Xiaomi’s Mix Fold 2 shook up the industry with their unique blend of functionality and aesthetics.
Unfortunately, however, they are still China-exclusive phones, despite attracting a lot of interest in developed markets such as the US and UK. On the other hand, Samsung’s phones are always available globally right from the start, helping them in their fight to be the best foldable phones you can buy. But even after Oppo launched the Find N2 Flip in the US a little later, it’s hard to argue that it gained a lot of steam. Each market naturally presents its own challenges. However, in the case of OnePlus, it would be very strange to see OnePlus shy away from the US market instead of seizing the opportunity of weakened competition.
The camera is a key factor for any phone, including foldables.
Moving on to another key factor in OnePlus’ trajectory: camera performance. Traditionally, the cameras in OnePlus phones have never been exactly impressive enough to compete with the best smartphone cameras like the Pixels and iPhones in the world. That said, foldable phones have tended to be a level below their mainstream flagship counterparts, including Samsung, the benchmark for foldable smartphones.
Part of that is because of the hardware challenges of implementing a top-tier flagship camera system, a challenge that OnePlus actually has to tackle as well. But on the plus side, the potential gap between OnePlus and Samsung won’t be as big to bridge, which might make OnePlus’ mission a bit easier. But if OnePlus wants their phones to have any real traction in the market, this is a key area OnePlus needs to improve on its phone.
Recently, OnePlus has made good progress in this department, with the OnePlus 11 having a more than decent camera setup for its price range, giving phones like the iPhone 14 and Galaxy S23 a run for their money. Still, OnePlus may need to do a bit more in this regard to reach the status of an elite contender. If OnePlus does that, Samsung’s dominant position could be jeopardized.
Pricing will be key to OnePlus’ success
Last but not least, OnePlus must carefully price its foldable phone. In fact, foldable phones come with a higher price tag, especially those in the form of the Z Fold 5. While clamshell options like the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Motorola Razr+ tend to start in the $1000 range, it’s not the form factor that we expect from OnePlus.
That being said, should OnePlus price its OnePlus phone a bit too high, it would be a very tough hill to climb to compete with Samsung. It is, after all, Samsung’s 5th generation foldable phone, even if it doesn’t look like it, whereas OnePlus is just about to enter the market. Should OnePlus price its first foldable phone closer to Samsung’s range, it needs to be as close to a no-compromise phone as possible.
OnePlus has its own ace up its sleeve
However, it’s not like there’s much OnePlus needs to do to achieve an uncompromising foldable phone. Looking at its previous phones, OnePlus has nailed many of the key features. In terms of build and design, OnePlus phones have been among the best phones of late, with the OnePlus 11 aesthetic really reminiscent of premium flagship phones while sticking around the unique side alarm slider (fingers crossed that it doesn’t disappear again at the OnePlus Open).
The screens on OnePlus phones don’t disappoint either, with the OnePlus 11 sporting an excellent QHD LTPO 3.0 panel with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a flagship Samsung panel, although OnePlus skimped on some screen specs to achieve the lower price in year.
Software and performance are also among the strengths OnePlus can play to, with OxygenOS ranking high among Android skins. OnePlus has also announced that it will commit to four major Android updates and five years of security updates, further raising its stock on the software front and beating Google itself. This is more or less the same long-term software support that Samsung has, although OnePlus may need to improve a bit on how quickly these updates come.
We are in dire need of a challenging candidate who wants to go
Source: Smart price
With all that in mind, OnePlus might not have much to do to shake up the foldable phone market. However, every little detail counts if OnePlus is to claim its foldable phone for the masses. Challenging the top dog will always be difficult. But in the case of OnePlus, there might be a chance to see a real contender shake up the foldable phone market, something consumers have badly needed to see for quite some time, especially in the US.
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