Although OnePlus’ CEO Pete Lau told Techhnews (through an interpreter) that the company plans to launch its first 5G phone “before the end of May,” the cult brand says it isn’t banking on the faster device to be a big moneymaker.
“The 5G product is not expected to equate to huge sales,” Lau said. “It’s still early stage. But by 2020 it could already be very different.”
5G, the next-generation wireless technology, isn’t even live yet, but OnePlus already announced its 5G phone will be the first in Europe to use the. The Chinese brand will offer its inaugural 5G phone through UK carrier EE before making the device available through other wireless networks around the world.
Part of the reason for the conservative sales approach: the 5G OnePlus phone won’t be cheap. Lau predicts that the handset could costthan the OnePlus 6T, which sells in the US for $550. OnePlus is still deciding if the 5G phone will have other unique characteristics to help justify the price jump. Why the hike? Lau says that the 5G phone will become more expensive as a result of pricier 5G components than 4G phones.
The phone-maker also confirmed that the first OnePlus 5G phone isn’t going to be the OnePlus 7, the expected follow-up device to the OnePlus 6T, a Techhnews Editors’ Choice pick. As Techhnews previously reported, OnePlus will spin up athat exists outside its current family of phones (the OnePlus 3T, 5, 6 and so on). This will mark only the second time that OnePlus has created a distinct second line, following the OnePlus X in 2015.
Although it’ll exist apart from OnePlus’ main line, the brand’s 5G phone will look a lot like its 4G brethren externally. Internally, however, will be a 5G antenna that uses the portion of wireless spectrum known as sub-6, which OnePlus says is relatively easier to deploy compared to the mmWave (millimeter wave) portion of the spectrum responsible for the highest 5G speeds over shorter range than sub-6.
EE’s 5G network will span 16 UK cities in 2019, starting with London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. Later, 5G speeds will roll out to Glasgow, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Coventry and Bristol.
Along with Samsung and Motorola, OnePlus is eager to announce its early attachment to a 5G carrier. 5G will gradually replace 4G LTE data speeds with an even faster connection that promises to upload and download whole movies, large photo files, games and music at a fraction of the time as your current phone.
Although the first 5G networks and phones aren’t expected until mid-2019, phone brands like OnePlus are banking on customers’ willingness to switch to a “future-proofed” 5G-ready device as a way to get ahead of competitors that are slower to adopt 5G.
By proactively announcing its future 5G phone, the statistically small OnePlus brand is also broadcasting to carriers and buyers all over the world that it’s serious about growth. OnePlus is the top phone brand in India and recently cracked the notoriously difficult US carrier market when it began selling the OnePlus 6T with T-Mobile in November.
OnePlus declined to comment on the name of its future 5G phone, but given its straightforward naming conventions over the years, “OnePlus 5G” wouldn’t be a far-fetched guess.
First published Dec. 5, 11:26 a.m. PT.
Update, 6:33 p.m.: Adds clarification that this will be the first 5G phone in Europe, not the world (OnePlus originally said it would have the world’s first Snapdragon chip, then revised the statement).
Update, 7:42 p.m.: Adds quotes and more details.