OnePlus is like one giant, never-ending Kickstarter campaign. It’s a company built around a credo of community-driven product development that makes every buyer of a OnePlus phone also feel a sense of ownership over the brand’s fortunes. Of course, just as with Kickstarter, that’s more of a marketing half-truth than a reality, and the new OnePlus 6T shows a company willing to defy and disappoint its most ardent fans.
A year ago, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau wrote that 80 percent of OnePlus users still used the headphone jack. Today, Lau is launching a phone without a headphone jack. More recently, company co-founder Carl Pei explained to me that the notification LED was so important to OnePlus users that its inclusion even affected the size of the OnePlus 6’s notch. Today, Pei and company are releasing a phone without a notification light.
The trade-offs that OnePlus has made are easily noticed: the 3.5mm jack makes room for a larger battery, while the absentee LED allows for a smaller notch at the top of the display. Both decisions bring OnePlus closer in line with the mass market and further away from its origins as an edgy outsider willing to make a phone dedicated to the needs and desires of an enthusiast audience. With expanded mobile operator deals across the globe and sales in T-Mobile stores and support for Verizon in the US, OnePlus as a company is signaling a stronger intent to compete in the mainstream market.
To wow consumers and phone geeks alike, OnePlus has built the fingerprint reader directly into the display of the OnePlus 6T — which is already a familiar feature in China, but not something that will have been experienced in the US before. Also atypical for the American market is OnePlus’ pricing, which starts at $549 for a sizable 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, making the OnePlus 6T the most affordable flagship you can get.