The OnePlus that was founded in 2013 was a cautious company, deliberate in its release schedule. The Shenzhen-based firm would announce one to two phones a year, not hung up on being the first to market with new features. It was a cadence that allowed the company to distinguish itself, in part, through pricing, with products often priced hundreds of dollars less than flagships from Samsung and Apple.
The company’s focus on device quality hasn’t gone away — OnePlus still releases products that can compete with the biggest names in the space. Its release roadmap, on the other hand, is less measured. In January the firm unveiled its new flagship, the OnePlus 11. Earlier this month, the India-focused 11R arrived. These days, the company also offers last year’s 10T and 10 Pro, three budget Nord devices, five earbuds and a tablet. A new mechanical keyboard is on the way, ushering in a new “Featuring” series focus on product collaborations.
2023 will also see the release of OnePlus’ first foldable, delivering on the promise of “something phenomenal” teased at this month’s 11 launch event. Following yesterday’s MWC unveiling of the glowing liquid cooled OnePlus 11 concept, TechCrunch sat down with COO Kinder Liu to discuss, among other things, the company’s long-rumored entry into the category.
“We will release our foldable phone in the second half of this year,” Liu told TechCrunch through a translator. “It will also be a flagship phone, as with the other top-positioned products in our portfolio. That is the reason why we haven’t released any foldable phones in the past several years. Because we really wanted to release the best one.”
The sentiment harkens back to that deliberate release schedule that defined OnePlus’ early days. Samsung defined the form factor in 2019 with the release of the Galaxy Fold, refining the category with 2020’s Galaxy Z Flip. Last summer, it claimed to have sold nearly 10 million folding devices in the first three years of line.
“Our first foldable phone will have the signature OnePlus fast and smooth experience,” Liu added in a press conference today at MWC. “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.”
A little over a week ago, OnePlus parent Oppo released its own foldable device, the Find N2 Flip, which takes a cue from the Flip form factor. Asked about the design of OnePlus’ first foldable, Liu pushed his hands together, opening them like a book, appearing to confirm something more in line with the Fold.
Liu didn’t offer any further information on the product. Speaking more broadly about the company, the executive referenced the “support” the OnePlus has received operating as an Oppo-owned company. Such cross-brand collaborations could well point to why both are releasing their own take on the foldable this year. It may also explain why the two products have adopted distinctly different form factors, over fears of potentially cannibalizing sales in what is still a small niche in the smartphone market.
I spent time with the Oppo Find N2 Flip at this year’s MWC, and found it to be a solid foldable, which early reviews have thus far reflected. The product’s $1,025 price has also managed to significantly undercut Samsung’s Flip. Given OnePlus’ track record, it seems likely that the company will offer its own foldable at an aggressive price.