Almost a month ago, smartphone maker OnePlus debuted its first foldable smartphone, the OnePlus Open. Besides being the company’s first foray into the foldable space, it’s among the best foldable phones around. It does not compromise at all when it comes to specifications, performance and shooting capabilities.
While there’s so much to like about the OnePlus Open, it has one pretty big downside – its high price. The Open costs $1,700, which, while not outlandish for a flagship foldable, is very expensive for a smartphone maker that has yet to make its mark on the North American handheld market.
No matter how good a premium device is, and the Open is great, many consumers prefer to go for more affordable smartphones. So the decision for OnePlus to push hard into a somewhat limited premium market is fascinating. PetaPixel spoke with OnePlus North America CEO Robin Liu about Open and how it fits into the company’s broader long-term plans.
How does a premium foldable device fit into OnePlus’ goals?
“While the foldable market is still new to consumers, especially in North America, we believe now is the time for OnePlus to have a foldable that provides stiff competition in the US and Canada,” said Liu PetaPixel via e-mail. “We know from our research that consumers, especially power users, are paying top dollar for current foldables; in some cases, double the price of a flagship phablet for a single display.”
The enormous task facing OnePlus in the North American market, dominated by Apple, Samsung and Google, is not lost on Liu.
“We face the challenge of being a smaller player looking to make a foray into the foldable market – but the plan is to break through with the launch of the OnePlus Open.”
While innovation is expensive in terms of research and development and, perhaps most damningly, in terms of the opportunity cost of eschewing one option in favor of another in the rapidly changing smartphone landscape, it’s something OnePlus pushed extremely hard with Open.
In fact, Liu believes OnePlus’ bold approach to the foldable market, which includes a very thin design that doesn’t preclude having flagship-level cameras (something the competition has so far failed to do), goes far beyond the Open.
“We knew that when we launched OnePlus Open in North America, we would increase our brand awareness and also encourage more people to try us for the first time or even switch back to OnePlus from other Android phones. The launch of OnePlus Open significantly increased our brand awareness in region, and we want to build on this momentum and all the successful launches we had in our 2023 portfolio.”
OnePlus apparently sees the OnePlus Open as a kind of flagship product that anchors the entire portfolio. While not everyone will be able to afford the Open or even necessarily want it, the fact that it exists makes people more aware of all of the company’s smartphones.
Flagship feel and features in a foldable smartphone
The OnePlus Open represents a very big swing for the company, and for what it’s worth, not only has the company made solid contact, but it’s also hit home.
It’s far too early to know if people are noticing the success, but OnePlus is confident that it has delivered the best foldable smartphone on the market.
“Over the years, the technological landscape has changed rapidly. With each new development, we observe, we listen and we adapt,” explains Liu. “We believe that users should be at the center of these developments, and we focused our efforts around that concept. With the progress we’ve made, we’ve addressed the issues plaguing current foldable phones – from durability to the mid-fold, to the software optimization and of course the camera.”
“But with the OnePlus Open, we feel we’ve taken the best parts of OnePlus—our premium hardware and fluid software—and used them to create a foldable experience that will challenge the status quo and drive innovation forward in this unique form factor.”
For mobile photographers, the Open’s impressive foldable design, new OxygenOS version built from the ground up for foldables, and the phone’s impressive performance are amazing, but the star of the show is the all-new camera system.
Where other foldable devices have typically received hand-me-down camera systems that don’t even match a company’s best single-screen devices, the Open takes what worked in previous OnePlus devices and goes even further. Among the big news is the Sony LYT-T808 image sensor of 48 megapixels.
It is important to note that the LYT-T808 is different from the Sony LYT-808, which Sony Semiconductor has also released this year. The LYT-T808 features a two-layer transistor pixel, also known as pixel-stacked technology, which dramatically increases full well capacity (FWC).
“This revolutionary camera technology dramatically increases the full well capability of the ‘T’ sensor. FWC is a numerical measure that represents how much light is captured and stored by the sensor’s photodiodes. (LYT-808) nearly doubles FWC compared to sensors without Pixel Stacked Technology, says Liu.
“In this case, the FWC for the Sony LYT-T808 sensor is rated at 40,000e, with the LYT-808 rated at 24,600e.”
“As for the advantages of the stacked design – instead of arranging photodiodes and pixel transistors side by side, the two are separated, with transistors stacked under the structure. This innovative approach enables twice the light capacity (FWC), Liu explains. “Ultimately this improves image quality, especially in environments that require a wide dynamic range. It results in true-to-life colors, details and realistic lighting and shadows.”
IN PetaPixels OnePlus Open review, Ted Kritsonis writes of the device’s image quality, “I got better shots with the Open than I did with the Fold 5, and the higher resolution gave me extra wiggle room for editing afterwards.”
“While computer photography is crucial in today’s era, we used imaging technology that other foldable manufacturers have not yet explored. A perfect example would be the Sony LYT-T808 image sensor. Alongside proprietary HDR algorithms, the revolutionary sensor handles low light and wide dynamic range better than most traditional (Sony) IMX sensors while allowing for a small physical footprint that fits perfectly into the OnePlus Open’s 5.8mm thin body,” adds Liu.
OnePlus and Hasselblad
The OnePlus Open continues the company’s strong partnership with Hasselblad, with the company’s collaboration and input throughout the imaging pipeline, and also some very nice color rendering modes and Hasselblad-inspired lenses, complete with realistically modeled bokeh.
“The collaboration with Hasselblad began during the development of the OnePlus 9 series. OnePlus has always prioritized premium user experiences and strives to significantly improve all aspects of mobile devices. With our world-class hardware and computational photography, and Hasselblad’s rich aesthetic knowledge and expertise in traditional photography, we collaborated to usher in the next big leap forward in mobile photography,” explains Liu.
OnePlus aims to make a mark with Open
“The OnePlus Open embodies our brand mantra, ‘Never Settle,'” said Liu.
“Delivering iconic Hasselblad features into the hands of everyone who uses a OnePlus Open, we’re proud to offer DSLR-level depth tracking, bokeh and flare effects. For photography enthusiasts who want a great smartphone device capable of taking professional photos and videos while being productive in their daily lives, OnePlus’ first foldable device is the right choice for them,” concludes Liu.
It remains to be seen whether customers will agree and vote with their wallets. Still, there’s no doubt that OnePlus entered the foldable space with a bang and has created the first foldable smartphone that offers an uncompromising experience.
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