SHANGHAI—OnePlus might be coming to a carrier store near you. In a one-on-one at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, OnePlus CEO and founder Pete Lau said the company is working with US carriers, and that it aims to produce a 5G smartphone next year.
The announcements came as part of a conversation about OnePlus’ product and community philosophy. Lau said that his company’s relationship with Qualcomm is leading to OnePlus becoming one of the first 5G mobile phone makers, and that the launch will sync up with the first year of 5G being available in the US.
OnePlus is a cult smartphone maker that, most of the time, only makes one phone. Right now, it’s the OnePlus 6, a $ 529 flagship smartphone that we said is blazingly fast in our review; we only criticized it for not being sold on monthly plans, which a pairing-up with a US carrier would fix. OnePlus users tend to love their phones. The company won our Readers’ Choice award in both 2015 and 2018, although it didn’t have enough survey responses to be mentioned in the intervening years.
Coming to a US carrier would be a big leap for OnePlus, which has focused on direct sales in the US so far. The company has recently started selling phones through European carriers. Lau said OnePlus wants to go with carrier sales because it lets more people in the US have hands on time with phones before buying them, which so far people have only been able to do at periodic pop-up events.
Lau didn’t specify a carrier, or whether he is talking to more than one carrier. The OnePlus 6 currently works well on AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks, but as the company uses common Qualcomm chipsets, it’s conceivable that it could make a phone that works with any US carrier.
Don’t worry about those carriers adding a bunch of bloatware to your OnePlus 6. Lau said that the “burdenless” core of the company’s phones means that OnePlus prioritizes speed and a bloatware-free experience.
Lau went further into the company’s philosophy by talking about the OnePlus 6’s controversial screen notch, which was criticized on social media before the phone’s launch. OnePlus listens to its fans, he said, but tries to get to the core of their actual needs, as opposed to fulfilling specific specs. As an example, he mentioned fans calling for specific battery capacities, when he said what they really wanted is longer battery life. With the screen notch, he said the company had to justify its utility (and provide a way to turn it off), which it did.
The OnePlus 6 has been the fastest-selling OnePlus phone ever, selling more than a million units in 22 days.