Nearly a month ago, smartphone maker OnePlus debuted its first folding smartphone, the OnePlus Open. Beyond being the company’s first foray into the foldable space, it is among the best folding phones. It does not compromise at all in terms of specs, performance, and photography features.
While there is so much to like about the OnePlus Open, it does have one rather sizable drawback — its hefty price. The Open is $1,700, which, while not outlandish for a flagship foldable, is very expensive for a smartphone maker that has yet to make its mark in the North American handheld market.
No matter how good a premium device is, and the Open is splendid, many consumers prefer to opt for more affordable smartphones. So, the decision for OnePlus to push hard into a somewhat limited premium market is fascinating. PetaPixel spoke to OnePlus North America’s CEO, Robin Liu, about the Open and how it fits into the company’s broader long-term plans.
How Does a Premium Foldable Device Fit into OnePlus’ Goals?
“While the foldable market is still new to consumers, especially in North America, we believe that now is the time for OnePlus to have a foldable that brings fierce competition in the US and Canada,” Liu tells PetaPixel over email. “We know from our research that consumers, especially power users, are paying top dollar for current foldables; in some cases, twice the price of a single display flagship phablet.”
However, the enormous task facing OnePlus in the North American market, where Apple, Samsung, and Google dominate, is not lost on Liu.
“We face the challenge of being a smaller player pushing to make a dent in the foldable market — but the plan is to make an impact with the launch of the OnePlus Open.”
Although innovation is expensive in terms of research and development and, perhaps most damningly, in terms of the opportunity cost of eschewing one option in favor of another in the rapidly changing smartphone landscape, it is something that OnePlus pushed extremely hard with the Open.
In fact, Liu believes that OnePlus’ bold approach to the folding market, which includes incorporating a very thin design that does not preclude having flagship-level cameras (something its competitors have thus far failed to do), goes far beyond the Open.
“We knew that when launching the OnePlus Open in North America, we would increase our brand awareness and also encourage more people to try us for the first time or to even switch back from other Android phones to OnePlus. The launch of the OnePlus Open significantly increased our brand awareness in the region, and we’re looking to build off of this momentum and all the successful launches we had in our 2023 portfolio.”
OnePlus seemingly views the OnePlus Open as a sort of flagship product that anchors its entire portfolio. While not everyone will be able to afford the Open or even necessarily want it, the fact that it exists makes people more aware of all of the company’s smartphones.
Flagship Feel and Features in a Foldable Smartphone
The OnePlus Open represents a very big swing for the company, and for what it’s worth, the company not only made solid contact, but it has also hit a home run.
It’s far too soon to know whether people notice the success, but OnePlus is confident that it has delivered the best folding smartphone on the market.
“Over the years, the tech landscape has shifted rapidly. With each new development, we observe, we listen, and we adapt,” Liu explains. “We believe that users should be at the center of this evolution and we focused our efforts around that concept. With the advancements we’ve made, we’ve addressed the concerns plaguing current foldable phones — from durability to the center crease, to the software optimization, and of course, the camera.”
“But with the OnePlus Open, we feel that we’ve taken the best parts of OnePlus, our premium hardware and fluid software — and used them to create a foldable experience that will challenge the status quo and push innovation forward in this unique form factor.”
For mobile photographers, the Open’s impressive folding design, new OxygenOS version built from the ground up for foldables, and the phone’s impressive performance are great, of course, but the star of the show is the brand-new camera system.
Where other foldables have typically received hand-me-down camera systems that don’t even match a company’s best single-screen devices, the Open takes what worked in prior OnePlus devices and goes even further. Among the big new features is the 48-megapixel Sony LYT-T808 image sensor.
It is important to note that the LYT-T808 is different from the Sony LYT-808, which Sony Semiconductor has also released this year. The LYT-T808 sports a two-layer transistor pixel, also known as pixel-stacked technology, dramatically increasing full well capacity (FWC).
“This revolutionary camera technology dramatically increases the full well capacity of the ‘T’ sensor. FWC is a numerical measurement representing how much light is taken in and stored by the sensor’s photodiodes. [The LYT-808] almost doubles the FWC when compared to sensors without Pixel Stacked Technology,” Liu says.
“In this case, FWC of the Sony LYT-T808 sensor is rated at 40,000e, with the LYT-808 rated at 24,600e.”
“In regards to the benefits of the stacked design — instead of arranging photodiodes and pixel transistors side by side, the two are separated, with transistors stacked below the structure. This innovative approach allows for twice the light capacity (FWC),” Liu explains. “Ultimately this improves image quality, especially in environments that require a wide dynamic range. It results in true-to-life colors, details and realistic lighting and shadows.”
In PetaPixel’s OnePlus Open review, Ted Kritsonis writes of the device’s image quality, “I got better images with the Open than I did with the Fold 5, and the higher resolution gave me extra wiggle room for editing afterward.”
“While computational photography is crucial in today’s day and age, we employed imaging technologies that other foldable manufacturers have yet to explore. A perfect example would be the Sony LYT-T808 image sensor. Alongside proprietary HDR algorithms, the revolutionary sensor handles low-light and wide dynamic range better than most traditional [Sony] IMX sensors while allowing for a small physical footprint that slots perfectly into the OnePlus Open’s 5.8mm thin body,” adds Liu.
OnePlus and Hasselblad
The OnePlus Open continues the company’s strong partnership with Hasselblad, sporting the company’s collaboration and input within the entire image processing pipeline, and even some very nice color reproduction modes and Hasselblad-inspired lenses, complete with realistically modeled bokeh.
“The partnership with Hasselblad began during the development of the OnePlus 9 Series. OnePlus has always prioritized premium user experiences, and strives to significantly improve all aspects of mobile devices. With our top-of-the-line hardware and computational photography, and Hasselblad’s rich aesthetic knowledge and expertise with traditional photography, we partnered to usher in the next big leap forward when it comes to mobile photography,” explains Liu.
OnePlus Aims to Make a Mark with the Open
“The OnePlus Open embodies our brand mantra, ‘Never Settle,'” says Liu.
“Delivering iconic Hasselblad capabilities into the hands of everyone using a OnePlus Open, we’re proud to bring DSLR-level depth-tracking, bokeh, and flares effects. For photography enthusiasts who want a great smartphone device that can capture professional photos and videos while also being productive in their daily lives, OnePlus’ first foldable device is the right choice for them,” Liu concludes.
It remains to be seen if customers will agree and vote with their wallets. Still, there is no doubt that OnePlus entered the foldable space with a bang and has crafted the first folding smartphone that offers an uncompromised experience.