Ameya DalviApr 16, 2020 09:22:38 IST
OnePlus 8 series was officially unveiled in an online-only event a couple of days ago, and without much fanfare for a change.
Among other things, OnePlus must have dearly missed their fans who actually pay to attend their launch events. At times I wonder if those poor souls are even aware that the company doesn’t give away free phones at the event. But that’s a topic of discussion for some other time.
Coming back to the event, the company launched two new devices — OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.
Finally, a OnePlus (non-pro) phone goes past the 4,000 mAh mark in the battery department.
While the Pro variant seems to now include some additional bells and whistles, hardly any of which have made their way into its non-pro sibling, which I will be focusing on today.
So, what’s new in the OnePlus 8? Is it better than the OnePlus 7T (Review) in every respect? Did the company miss a major trick here? Is the OnePlus 8 a worthy successor of the 7T? I’ll address all these questions and more. Mind you, this is not a review or even a hands-on preview, but just a few initial thoughts about the OnePlus 8 based on the launch event and the phone’s spec sheet.
Here are some of the things OnePlus seems to have done right
1. Size and weight are in check
Smartphones have been growing larger and heavier every couple of quarters, and OnePlus has been a prime contributor to this unnecessary trend. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the OnePlus 8 would not only be sticking with a 6.55-inch screen, but also that it weighs 180 grams, a good 10 grams lighter than the OnePlus 7T. Given the fact that a lot of phones have been remorselessly pushing past the 200-gram mark over the past few months, this is a positive development, and given that the phone has a metal frame, this is even more impressive.
2. A higher capacity battery
Finally, a OnePlus (non-pro) phone goes past the 4,000 mAh mark in the battery department. The OnePlus 8 has a 4,300 mAh battery. And though it supports a 30 W fast charger, similar to the one that the OnePlus 7T carried, the 8 is expected to charge a lot faster than its predecessor. We’ll verify this claim once we have the device.
3. More powerful hardware with 5G compliance
One thing you expect from this company is the use of the fastest mobile SoC available in each of its phones, and it’s no different this time, with the OnePlus 8 flaunting Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 865 chip.
Just like the 8 Pro, this too is 5G compliant. Yes, we don’t have 5G in India yet, and we probably won’t see any 5G this year, but it makes sense for a flagship device to be future-proof. And it’s not like Qualcomm left OEMs with much choice anyway.
4. Official IP Rating
No longer must we deal with vague adjectives like ‘splash-proof’ and ‘spill-resistant’, the OnePlus 8 has an official IP68 rating, which means that it is dust resistant and can, at the very least, survive for 30 min in up to 1.5 m of water. You may now take it out in the rain if you have to without a worry.
As far as the good stuff goes, this is it. It’s time to move on to the not so good parts.
Things about OnePlus 8 that don’t impress me much
1. Camera department downgraded?
For the first time in a long while, OnePlus got its rear camera combination right in the 7T, offering users the flexibility of a 48 MP primary camera, 16 MP ultra-wide, and 12 MP telephoto for 2x optical zoom. While the first two have been retained, for some reason, the telephoto camera has been replaced by a 2 MP macro camera. I am OK with the swap in functionality, but why 2 MP, especially on a ‘flagship’ phone? If you want users to indulge in macro photography, you might as well give them something that can capture more pixels and more details. I don’t see that 2 MP camera performing miracles.
2. Awkward placement of front camera
To be brutally honest, OnePlus hasn’t exactly led the way in screen innovation. Year after year, the company has simply opted for a front design that is in vogue at the time. The OnePlus 8 series is no different.
A lot of phone manufacturers this year have been choosing an in-screen punch-hole camera placed towards the left of the screen, instead of a drop notch at the centre. OnePlus has done the same.
I fail to see any practical value in this over the drop notch. OnePlus did throw some numbers stating how small the punch-hole is, but in reality, the screen space on the left of the camera is wasted, thus taking away more screen real estate over what a centrally located selfie camera with a punch-hole or a drop notch might take.
3. Held back to make the OnePlus 8 Pro look better
As I mentioned earlier, the OnePlus 8 Pro has seen a handful of new features, like a 10-bit display with 1.07 bn colours, and a 120 Hz refresh rate, a newer Sony 48 MP sensor for the primary camera, 30 W wireless charging, and more. None of this has made its way to the OnePlus 8.
I do understand the logic of providing a few extras in the higher end model to justify the higher price tag; case in point, the OnePlus 7T almost made the 7T Pro look redundant from day one. But, the company seems to have over-compensated this time, leaving the base model with hardly any new features to justify its existence. This brings me to the next point.
4. It’s not a compelling upgrade
For the first time since the OnePlus 6(Review), the 7T seemed like a genuinely new phone, and not just a minor upgrade with a faster SoC like the 6T or 7 were. OnePlus opted for a Fluid AMOLED display with a 90 Hz refresh rate found on higher end phones then, along with a completely revamped rear camera setup, and of course, a flagship SoC, to name a few things. With the OnePlus 8, the company seems to have gone back to its old ways again.
As I stated in the previous point, OnePlus may have done so to make the 8 Pro look much better in comparison, but this also leaves users with no compelling reason to choose the OnePlus 8 over the 7T. Some may argue that 5G can be the USP of this new phone, but in reality, I don’t expect 5G networks here till the end of this year at the earliest. And by then, in all probability, you will have the OnePlus 8T.
5. Worrying global pricing strategy
Eventually, the pricing will make or break the OnePlus 8 in India. While the pricing of OnePlus phones (non-pro variants) have been quite competitive here till date, the US pricing of the new phones worries me. The OnePlus 8 starts at $699, while the 8 Pro goes as high as $999. That roughly translates to a price range of Rs 53,000 to Rs 76,000, which is way higher than OnePlus’ current range. Just because OnePlus compared its new phones to the iPhone 11 series in the presentation, the pricing need not be similar too.
OnePlus 8 comes in an Interstellar Glow colour variant.
A higher price tag doesn’t necessarily make one a big league player. I thought OnePlus would have learnt that lesson by now after its TV launch last year. I hope the India pricing is at least 25 percent lower than the US price for the phone to gain any chance shot at mass acceptance.
I’ll stop here for now. More on the OnePlus 8 only after the India launch dates and pricing are announced, and of course, once we get our hands on review units.
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