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OnePlus is entering the fold
The company announced at MWC that it's making a folding phone - and it could be a hit, at least in the US.
OnePlus is making a folding phone. The company confirmed the news during a panel at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona dubbed “Fast & Smooth to Beyond” where Kinder Liu, President and COO of OnePlus, said the device will “have the signature OnePlus fast and smooth experience.”
“It must be a flagship phone that doesn't settle because of its folding form, in terms of industrial design, mechanical technology, and other aspects. We want to launch a device that aims to be at the pinnacle experience of today’s foldable market.”
No other details on the mysterious device were given. During the Cloud 11 launch event a few weeks ago, OnePlus quietly confirmed its first foldable would ship in the third quarter of this year, so it sounds like they want to be at the forefront of New Tech Season.
Still, everything about the device itself remains a mystery, from its folding style to the specs to its software.
This leaves a lot up to the imagination, and as I tend to do with any upcoming smartphone, I’ve been thinking about what a folding OnePlus phone would look like. I have my opinions on the direction the company has taken over the years, and I certainly have a few thoughts on the evolution of its software, OxygenOS. Regardless of how good I think the phone will be, it has a golden opportunity to gain serious marketshare in the foldable market.
It’s definitely in its infancy, the foldable market. Samsung was first to ship a useable folding smartphone with the release of the Galaxy Fold in 2019. Since then, we’ve seen a number of companies enter the ring to duke it out with the South Korean tech giant including Huawei, Honor, Motorola, and Oppo, OnePlus’ sister company. In the United States, though, it’s only been Motorola opposite Samsung, fighting for marketshare with its lackluster Razr reboot.
Globally, the market is slowly but surely maturing, and both consumers and the companies that make them are figuring out what to do with foldable phones. But the US is a completely different animal - standard brick-like phones are far more popular than anything that folds, and there’s a general angst about the durability and longevity of flexible screens that keep North Americans from buying these types of devices, not to mention their high price points. Flip phones like the Galaxy Z Flip seem to be catching on because Samsung figured out how to make them trendy, while the jury’s still out on how popular phones that fold out into tablets like the Z Fold 4 can get.
We don’t know what kind of foldable phone OnePlus is going to ship, whether it’s a tall screen that folds in half or one that folds horizontally to become a small tablet. Whichever category they decide to enter, at least in the United States, it’s going to have an incredible opportunity make a name for itself.
Right now, the only folding phones worth buying in the States are the Galaxy Z series, which are also some of the only folding phones you can buy. The Motorola Razr is bad enough to not even count it, and many global competitors haven’t bothered to test the waters in North America at all.
OnePlus could be among the first to really put up a fight against Samsung. Picture it: a folding phone with a lower starting price than Samsung, blazing-fast charging, a beautiful AMOLED screen (or two), flagship-level performance, and all-day battery life. OnePlus has shipped these exact criteria on phones in the past (most recently on the OnePlus 11), and if they bring them to a folding phone, it could be a recipe for serious success.
Google is also rumored to be releasing a foldable Pixel this year, so competition is going to get very stiff very fast. But OnePlus proved with the OnePlus 11 earlier this month that it’s fully capable of shipping smartphones that are solid alternatives to the big dogs, even if they come up short in a few areas.
Admittedly, the United States hasn’t been OnePlus’ biggest source of success. Due to the traditioanl smartphone landscape being as overcrowded and competitive as it is, it’s hard for any brand not named Samsung or Apple to gain marketshare. OnePlus has felt this time and time again with their flagships, but they could have better luck with more niche products like foldables (similar to how they’ve had glimmers of success at the low-end of the market).
As long as the software is stable and the price is right, I think OnePlus has a solid chance at being a key player in the foldable market. It’s going to be a lot tougher overseas where competition is already crazy, but in the States, there’s plenty of room for companies to step in and start taking marketshare away from Samsung.
I’ll be keeping a close eye on rumors swirling around OnePlus’ foldable, and you better believe I’ll cover everything the day it’s formally announced. Stay tuned - 2023 is gearing up to be a big year for folding phones.
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