The Chinese manufacturer OnePlus wanted to outperform Apple and Samsung in terms of price as a "flagship killer". Then the devices became more and more expensive. Now a 369-euro cell phone is supposed to prove that premium technology is also available at a low price.
In the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, it should have been rumbling lately. A new account appeared on the social network Instagram, which under short names distributed short videos about a new smartphone from the Chinese company OnePlus.
The account was renamed again and again, spreading rumors. Blogs and social media fans threw themselves on every bit of news, because it quickly became clear that no fictional user was faking a new product - the company actually has a new cell phone in the making.
After a few days, you could justly shake your head over the marketing mesh. Because while many products were unveiled in corona times with an online press conference or even without major festivities, OnePlus was very thick. The "OnePlus Nord", as the new device was finally named, is not even a premium product - it is the manufacturer's cheapest cell phone for years.
For OnePlus, it goes back to the roots. The company once started as a so-called flagship killer. The goal: to put the competition from Apple and Samsung under pressure with the cheapest Android smartphone possible . The recipe worked: OnePlus is now one of the top three premium device manufacturers in Western Europe - after Apple and Samsung, but at least ahead of the country's own competition from Huawei and Xiaomi.
But belonging to the premium market had become an ever greater problem for many of the loyal OnePlus fans. Because now the cell phones from China are almost as expensive as the Apple and Samsung competition. The “anti-flagship promise” was destroyed, even if the devices regularly received top marks in tests.
It is precisely to these disappointed fans that OnePlus now wants to make an attractive offer: a new device with the latest software and high-quality hardware - for 399 euros. If the plan works, it would be an affront to the competition.
"The community likes the claim," said the manufacturer in advance. And the manufacturer stirs that up himself. Already the name is based on the cardinal direction, it is said - the view to the north should point to growth and success. But can the idea also convince in everyday life?
The smartphone market has become increasingly difficult to understand in recent years. There are devices in practically every price range between 100 and 2000 euros. In the competitive middle class between 200 and 500 euros, new products have to prove themselves in three categories: with a camera that is as powerful as possible, a fluid user experience and trustworthy quality.
The manufacturer traditionally succeeds in the quality aspect. This is also the case with the new cell phone. There are no gaps, the cameras hardly protrude from the device, and all controls are robustly installed. The gorilla glass back - in turquoise or gray - gives the device a modern shine.
However, the tested version in Blue Marble does not look really classy, but rather comparatively "pop" and playful. If you value a discreet appearance, you are better served with the color gray onyx. However, high quality is a mandatory discipline, after all, Apple also sells mid-range smartphones with the iPhone SE and Samsung with its A-series, which score with impeccable workmanship.
OnePlus is therefore particularly trying to set premium accents with its camera. The iPhone SE, for example, has to make do with a single camera, but OnePlus has six cameras; four on the back and two on the front. The centerpiece of the set-up is a 48 megapixel main camera (Sony IMX586). And that's impressive.
Because this is the same sensor that is used for the OnePlus 8 - a premium smartphone that costs at least 699 euros. Furthermore, an eight megapixel wide-angle lens and a comparatively weak macro camera with two megapixels are installed. A depth sensor is also installed in the four-row. It provides information for photo effects, for example in portrait mode.
For the first time, OnePlus is also using several cameras on the front of the device. Because every fifth video or photo is taken with a front camera, the manufacturer states. A selfie lens with 32 megapixels is used on the inside, plus a wide-angle camera with eight megapixels. All cameras are supported by algorithms when taking pictures - they reduce distortion or provide better illumination. Videos can be recorded in 4K resolution at 30 frames per second and in HD resolution at 60 frames per second.
The result is really impressive. The photos are sharp and detailed, but have a hint of HDR and are therefore quite color-intensive. However, this was not noticed negatively in the test. As expected, the camera cannot keep up with the premium market (Samsung Galaxy S20 or Huawei P40 Pro), but is without a doubt one of the best mid-range lenses. The wide-angle selfies can also score points - here, a lot more fits the picture than the competition, such as the double camera in current Samsung phones.
OnePlus promises a smooth user experience thanks to its display hardware operating system configuration. The device is delivered with OxygenOS, which is placed in its latest version on the Google operating system Android 10. This has been the secret star of the devices for years.
The software works intuitively, quickly and looks much more elegant than the playful interpretations of Huawei or Samsung. Apple users can also find their way around on OnePlus devices immediately, but are pleased about the significantly more setting options. There are no annoying additional applications. The subjective test result: OxygenOS is also the best Android operating system on the market on the OnePlus Nord .
The software is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G. It is significantly faster than its predecessor and also supports the upcoming 5G mobile communications standard. It is still a net gimmick, but with that the device is future-proof. However, users have to do without WiFi 6. The display is on a 6.44-inch display with a refresh rate of 90 Hertz.
60 Hertz screens are more common in this price range. The result is a fluid user experience. One positive thing is that OnePlus uses a flat screen. If the screen ends, it is over - there are no display curves. The screen does not flicker, the resolution is flawless with 2400 to 1080 pixels for the price range, the use of resources is absolutely sensible.
This also applies to the rest of the hardware: eight or twelve gigabytes of RAM and 128 or 256 gigabytes of storage space are installed. A precise fingerprint sensor is also used. The device is only charged via the USB-C connection with the in-house WarpCharge 30T. It fills the battery (4100 mAh) to 70 percent power within 30 minutes.
If the cell phone is charged overnight, the last part of the power supply takes place shortly before being unplugged. When that happens, the device learns with increasing service life and thus protects the battery. Software updates should be available for two years, security updates for three years. This actually gives users security, because mid-range smartphones in particular often receive no or only very late updates after shorter periods. However, there is no IP certification, probably for cost reasons. However, the device is produced identically to the corresponding award-winning 8 Series.
When the devices go on sale on August 4, users can buy an impressive overall package - no mid-range compromise to the competition. The entry-level model is already available with discounts for 369 euros. The device must be comparable to the iPhone SE (64 GB version for 466 euros).
If you want to get involved with an Android smartphone or are looking for a new device with almost impeccable technology for a good price, you shouldn't miss the OnePlus Nord. For the manufacturer himself, this only leads to a small problem: the differences to the own premium models are surprisingly small. If the demand for the expensive cell phones collapsed, that would be completely justified. For the fans of the company, this also shows that OnePlus really takes its renewed “flagship killer” promise very seriously.