For those who follow the Android developer community the name Cyanogenmod would be well known. Most likely you would have also heard about how Cyanogen himself, Steve Kondik has turned a hobby into a business by incorporating Cyanogenmod, creating Cyanogen Inc. Cyanogen Inc. is a team of developers (former hackers from the developer community) who make custom software version of Android (ROMs) for manufacturers.
Late last year they teamed up with Oppo to produce a ROM for the Oppo N1. Around that time the VP of Oppo, Peter Lau, left Oppo to start his own phone manufacturer, OnePlus. Peter Lau was then seen with the Cyanogen Inc team on several occasions and earlier this year they dually announced that they were teaming up to build a phone from the ground up, the OnePlus One, to be released in the second quarter of the year. Hardware designed to be best in class, combined with software otimised to be top line as well. Never Settle is the tag line of OnePlus and that is what they hope to deliver with the OnePlus One. As time gets closer to release OnePlus is slowly ramping up its social media campaign around the OnePlus One, announcing features of the phone bit by bit.
The OnePlus team have teased us saying it will be built using “only the best components” following the companies motto NeverSettle. To enthusiasts like us that is music to our ears. How many times have you said I like such and such a design but prefer the screen of another and the CPU of yet another? Imagine having them all within the one phone. Whether OnePlus can deliver on this is another thing, considering they are yet to ship a single phone. Sounds expensive doesn’t it? Will OnePlus be able to deliver such a phone?
What We Know
They plan to have 6-12 month product cycles but will only be releasing one phone this year.
OnePlus have stated it is one of the best designed phones around and rivals the iPhone for look and feel (but that statement itself is extremely subjective). “Industrial design wise, we’re confident our phone is more attractive than just about any phone on the market.”
We know that it will be an LTE phone (something rarely seen in Chinese phones until most recently) supporting bands 1/3/4/7/17/38/39/40/41. Australian LTE bands are 3 and 40 so this fits nicely into the Australian landscape.
It will house a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz quad-core chipset. This is interesting as on the surface it would seem that this itself is OnePlus settling as there is a Snapdragon 801 available for use right now (the 805 may be announced but is unavailable for use until later this year). When investigated further it seems that the Snapdragon 801 is basically just a rebadged version of the 800. The only difference between each version is the clock speed of the CPU and GPU. (android authority link) If you truly follow the Never Settle motto then you will never release a product. There is always something slightly better around the corner and development and optimisation of hardware takes time. Pete Lau said that that after extensive testing the Snapdragon 800 “provided the best speed, battery consumption and heat management. It also allows us to get our product in your hand faster, with the highest optimization.” Although we haven’t seen the Moto X here in Australia we have all heard how good that phone is. If we can take anything from the Moto X is that processor speeds matter less than optimisation of said processor in the performance of a phone.
We know that it will be sold online only and not through the usual bricks and mortar stores. It will only be marketed online as well, relying on word of mouth, social networks and guerilla marketing to publicise this device. The reason for this is the cost of these traditional avenues would compromise the price point they are aiming for with this phone.
There will be stereo speakers with special attention paid to producing a decent sound “Sound quality is more important than having a heart rate monitor :P”. Couldn’t agree more. Whether these are front facing or rear facing though is unknown.
There will be accessories available at launch such as a possible flip cover with third party accessories will be available down the line.
The phone will be approximately the same size as the Nexus 5 but slimmer with a bigger screen and smaller bezels. More details regarding the specifications of the screen will be released this week.
As with the Nexus 5 there will be a notification light/LED. Whether it is RGB like the Nexus 5 is unknown.
It will feature a brand new camera and battery technology which itself is exciting considering the stagnation of these with other manufacturers. The battery itself will be a non-removeable 3100mAh and with the OnePlus “configuration, the battery will last long enough to get even the most active users through an entire day of use without adding bulk to the overall build and design. As we have been working closely with CyanogenMod from the very beginning, the battery on the OnePlus One will be specially optimized to be as long lasting and efficient as possible. And just to be sure, we’ve developed what we’re calling “Mystery Tech” for right now, to enhance and boost the user experience.” Sounds impressive. Will they be able to backup this talk? We’ll have to wait and see. Personally I hope it has Qi compatible charging after investing heavily in Qi chargers in the past 18 months.
It will run a customised version of CyanogenMod featuring new innovative features not seen before on the CyanogenMod ROM. The entire software experience will be handled by the Cyanogen Inc team. They are currently finalising the firmware/bootloader details but Ciwrl of the Cyanogen Inc team has stated that “you’ll get the level of ‘hackability’ you’d expect from a CM phone”. The OnePlus guys on Reddit have said that you will be able to “root, unroot, install stock Android or whatever you please with your phone” without voiding the warranty of your phone (assuming there is no hardware damage caused by such uses such as frying the CPU due to overclocking etc).
With the release around the corner even Cyanogen himself, Steve Kondik is leaking little breadcrumbs providing benchmarks for the One along with a couple of quotes, which don’t increase our knowledge of the phone much at all but confirm some of the above information. The benchmarks are fairly high but as we know benchmarks mean little in real world usage when at the top end but you know that Cyanogen wouldn’t be gaming the benchmarks so this score of 36000 is a great score on the surface. He also said that there is “some seriously good theme stuff coming in next few weeks. Entirely new engine, with compatibility support for old themes too“ And when asked if the OnePlus One will “have any feature that is an exclusive and not available on other devices running CM 11” he said Yes but he cannot provide any details at this stage.
The device will be GMS certified meaning that it will come with all the required Googley goodness installed to allow full Google integration while still having CyanogenMod at its core, just as the Oppo N1 did.
At this stage they have said that the phone will be available in over 10 countries at release. With such a small number and considering our relatively small user base I would seriously doubt it will be available directly in Australia. In saying that there are ways and means. There are always grey market importers such as Mobicity or you will be able to buy and ship it to a US mail forwarder (USA is the only country which availability is confirmed for at this stage) and then to Australia. Both of these will obviously incur extra fees.
OnePlus have come out and said that it will be priced under $400 making these possible increased importation fees less inhibitive. That right there is Nexus prices, and we know that there are always compromises made with Nexus’ to meet this price range. They have stated that they are “not going to make money on our device” which suggests a long term strategy to build the company slowly.
Can a company really make a phone with high end specs and release it for under $400? Google do it but only after suspected subsidies to the manufacturer.
Many people are not aware that Chinese phone manufacturers have been releasing phones with high end specifications at these prices for a long time. Xiaomi red rice 2, the Iocean G7, the Goophone S5 clone, the Oppo find7, the Zopo 998, the Meizu MX3 and the Xiaomi Mi3 and Mi3s are ALL phones that have mid-high end and are priced either below or around the $400USD mark. It certainly can be done and with OnePlus not looking to profit from the phone I have no doubt they will be able to pull off a phone with high end specs for under $400.
More leaks are expected from OnePlus in the coming days. A timeline can be seen in the header image, with the next morsel being announced on the 11th of March. With the speed of these leaks I am assuming the entire phone will be officially announced in the next few weeks. Exciting times ahead for those of us who love new tech toys.
Is that enough to tempt you? The phone will be a similar experience to a Nexus phone in my opinion running CyanogenMod and will be open source allowing maximum hackability. It certainly tempts me. Near top of the line specs in a phone for under $400, with software optimised from the day it was conceptualised this phone promises to be a truly wondrous experience. What more could an Android enthusiast ask for? Do you believe it will be all it promises to be? Are you interested in purchasing one or would you prefer a Nexus 5?