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Looking back at the OnePlus One — $300 phones have come a long way

OnePlus turned the value flagship segment on its head, and it all started with the OnePlus One.


OnePlus makes some of the best Android phones on the market, and it’s hard to imagine that the manufacturer launched its first phone just six years ago. The OnePlus One debuted on April 23, 2014, and OnePlus managed to build a lot of hype around the device ahead of its launch. In that sense, not much has changed in the last six years.

The OnePlus One was an important phone in the larger Android ecosystem, because it furthered the idea of value flagships in Western markets. The OnePlus One wasn’t the first affordable flagship; Xiaomi was already on the rise in China by that point, and devices like the Mi 3 — which was introduced in September 2013 — allowed the manufacturer to increase its presence in its home market.

And while Xiaomi made its foray into India with the Mi 3 and eventually went on to become the largest phone manufacturer in the country, the OnePlus One stood out because of the fact that it was sold in Western markets.

OnePlus introduced U.S. customers to the idea of value flagships.

With Xiaomi, Huawei, Lenovo, and other Chinese manufacturers primarily focused on Asian markets, OnePlus sought out the U.S., UK, and other Western countries from the very beginning. It is this focus on global markets that allowed OnePlus to amass such a sizeable mind share in the smartphone segment over the last six years, one it is now leveraging as it turns to the budget segment with the Nord N10 5G and N100.

As a refresher, the OnePlus One offered a 5.5-inch Full HD LCD display, 3GB of RAM, 16/64GB of storage, 13MP camera, 3,100mAh battery, and a Snapdragon 801 chipset. While those specs seem quaint now, the fact that it launched at $299 for the 16GB version and $349 for the 64GB model garnered it a lot of attention from enthusiast users.

For some context, Samsung’s flagship at the time — the Galaxy S5 — was also powered by the Snapdragon 801 chipset, but came with 2GB of RAM and 16GB/32GB storage options, and retailed for $649.

The low pricing allowed the OnePlus One to become an immediate hit, and the company’s forums were soon flooded with invite requests (remember those?) as fans clamored to get their hands on the device. I picked up the 64GB version after securing an invite a few weeks after the phone’s debut, and the first thing that struck me was the finish: that Sandstone Black finish really was a standout option.

The OnePlus One catalyzed the value flagship segment, and in turn OnePlus became the go-to company for anyone looking to get the best value. While hardware was one part of the story, OnePlus’ success was because of its software.

The OnePlus One ran CyanogenMod out of the box, and OnePlus introduced its own OxygenOS skin with later devices. Its focus on delivering a clean software without any bloatware was a radical idea at the time, and it cemented the company’s position with power users.


Six years on, the value flagship segment looks very different. Manufacturers pay much more attention to aesthetics, and the internal hardware has come a long way. But the core tenet of value is still unchanged thanks to phones like the Redmi K20 Pro and Realme X50 Pro.

While most affordable flagships focus on hardware as the differentiator, Google went in another direction by offering a flagship-grade camera with the Pixel 4a. The phone isn’t the fastest in this category, but the camera on offer and three years of guaranteed Android updates make it a standout choice, and the fact that it is available for just $349 is just the icing on the cake.

There are plenty of other options that deliver a similar value. The Galaxy A71 5G is particularly noteworthy for its vibrant AMOLED screen, 5G, 64MP camera, and sub-$500 pricing.

These phones do a great job reminding us that we don’t have to shell out over $1,000 to get a device with a stellar camera or the latest hardware. And that wouldn’t have been possible today were it not for the likes of the OnePlus One.

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 shows off impressive numbers in preliminary benchmarks

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor was announced on December 2, 2020. The high-end SoC is set to power some of 2021’s fastest smartphones with Qualcomm promising up to a 25% improvement in CPU performance and 35% improvement in graphics processing. Now, we’re getting our first look at benchmarks from the beastly Snapdragon 888, and at first looks, it is quite impressive.It should be noted, that all these benchmarks come directly from Qualcomm running on an unspecified reference phone. Not to mention, that benchmarks don’t always tell the full story in performance. Just be aware that the following numbers are lab tests under the best conditions and not real-world performance numbers.Let’s kick things off with the AnTuTu score, where the Snapdragon 888 turned in a score of 735439. For reference, the Galaxy Note 20 powered by Snapdragon 865+ currently has a score of 603352 according to AnTuTu’s rankings. As you can see, that’s quite the improvement, and it currently outranks the top phone on AnTuTu, which is the Huawei Mate 40 Pro with a total of 661059.Next up, we have the Geekbench scores, where the Snapdragon 888 scored a 1135 in single-core speeds and 3794 in multi-core with the reference device. To put that in perspective, the top-ranking Android device according to Geekbench is the OnePlus 8 with a single-core score of 886 and multi-core score of 3199 running the Snapdragon 865 SoC.The all-new Snapdragon 888 easily leaves the Snapdragon 865 and 865+ in the dust, and this is exactly what we’d expect to see from Qualcomm’s latest and greatest chipset. Of course, as I mentioned above, these scores come from an ideal lab environment. Once we see some phones running the Snapdragon 888 in real-world conditions, we can expect to see how the benchmark scores from Qualcomm’s reference device hold up.Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to wait long. Samsung’s Galaxy S21 series of phones are launching January 14, 2021, and they are expected to run the latest Snapdragon chip, as is the OnePlus 9 set to be revealed in March 2021.

ZTE Axon 20 5G, world’s first phone with under-display camera, now available for purchase

Today, ZTE is making history by being the first smartphone maker to offer a phone with a camera under the display. You might remember, ZTE first launched the Axon 20 5G back at the beginning of the month with the price still being a big question mark.We now know what ZTE is charging for this world’s first smartphone, and it’s surprisingly reasonable at €449/£419/$449. Plus, you can have it in any color you want, as long as that color is black.Now, besides the 32MP front-facing camera hidden under the 6.92-inch 90Hz 1080p display, there’s not too much to get excited about with the Axon 20 5G. It’s powered by the mid-range Snapdragon 765G, 8GB of RAM, has 128GB of storage with an expandable microSD card slot. It also packs in a 4,200mAh battery, and comes with Android 10 out of the box.The back of the device houses a quad-camera setup with a 64MP main shooter, 8MP wide-angle camera, 2MP macro, and 2MP depth camera.As you can see, besides the front-facing camera, fingerprint sensor, and speaker hidden under the display on the device, the Axon 20 5G is unremarkably average. Early reports are also revealing that the front-facing camera is also exceedingly sub-par. Going so far as to say that the phone is best if you don’t plan on taking selfies.That shouldn’t be too surprising, as this is brand new technology and even getting a camera to take semi-decent photos from behind the display is a feat in itself. However, it appears other brands working on this technology weren’t ready to ship a phone with photos of this quality yet, while ZTE was more concerned with being first.If you want to be one of the first in the world to experience a phone that’s all screen and nothing in between, you can order the ZTE Axon 20 5G starting today.Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as going directly to the ZTE website. First, you’ll need to be in one of the countries where the phone is available. Spoiler alert, the U.S. isn’t one of the countries. It’s mainly in countries across Europe and Asia.Then, you need to join the New Vision Club to receive an invitation code. Afterward, you can input your code on the ZTE website to complete your order and receive the Axon 20 5G along with a pair of ZTE LiveBuds TWS earphones.With this being the first commercially available phone with a camera hidden under the display, demand will most likely be high. So, if you’re wanting to get your hands on one you better hurry.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro leaks: Samsung ditching the beans

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live launched back in August, with their distinctive bean shape. Now, we have the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro upcoming, probably launching alongside the Samsung Galaxy S21 series. Here are some things that we might see in the newest True Wireless offering from Samsung.Design and ColorsIn a leak from Evan Blass, we were able to see the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro in full as well as their color options. First, we can see that Samsung has decided to drop the beans seen on the Galaxy Buds Live. You can see the case has a squircle design with a USB-C port. This leak also shows many microphones which will likely help with ambient sound and voice detection, enabling audio passthrough.In addition, the Galaxy Buds Pro will come in two more colors besides the Phantom Black shown in the leak – Phantom Silver and Phantom Violet. SpecificationsPhonearena dove into the FCC database and found what they believe to be the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro under the model number SM-R190.The listing describes earbuds with a 60mAh battery in either bud with a 500mAh case, which will result in 22 hours of battery life with ANC on. This case can be charged by either USB-C fast charging or wireless charging.The Galaxy Buds Pro will also feature active noise cancellation, IP68 water resistance, Bluetooth 5.1, and touch controls.FeaturesRecently, a Reddit user known as gamer0mega reportedly got their hands on a pre-release APK for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Here are the features they uncovered:3D spatial audio with head tracking for Samsung One UI 3 and up devicesVoice detection that turns volume down when it hears a conversationLeft/right hearing adjustmentAmbient sound modeANC modeBixby wake-up sensorThere is little known about the price of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, but it is likely that they will run around $200

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