OnePlus is 10 years old today. From the first smartphone steps with the OnePlus One, to the upcoming launch of the OnePlus 12, it has positioned itself as a brand that delivers powerful smartphones at competitive prices. I sat down with OnePlus’ president and COO Kinder Liu to talk about the history of the beloved brand.
After OnePlus launched its first phone in December 2013, it had no way to forecast overseas sales. It adopted an “invite only” sales model, “initially thinking it would be impressive if we could sell tens of thousands of units,” recalls Kinder Liu, who, as chief technical officer, was one of the first members of the OnePlus team. “However, the demand for OnePlus One far exceeded our expectations—it sold 1.5 million units during its lifecycle.”
On the brand’s 10th anniversary, Liu—now OnePlus’ president and COO—reflects on 10 years of “Never Settle,” the community’s support and the upcoming OnePlus 12 launch.
The 12 and the OnePlus 12R, part of its R series, will launch for the first time in North America and Europe at the company’s “Smooth Beyond Belief” event on January 23. Liu explains that OnePlus 10R and OnePlus 11R have gained significant popularity in China and India, so they decided to bring the R series to a wider global user base in 2024.
“I am eagerly looking forward to the feedback from users in these two markets regarding the OnePlus 12R, the performance flagship phone,” Liu tells me. “It will be the first member of the OnePlus R series to launch outside of India and China.”
What’s interesting is to go back to the launch of the first OnePlus One handset. The goal then is the same as the goal now: to offer a powerful smartphone with a clean interface and practical decisions over hardware.
Take fast charging. While competing smartphones introduced wireless charging, 2016’s OnePlus 3’s Dash Charge was one of the first fast-charging smartphones, offering an empty to 60% charge time of just 30 minutes. Subsequent releases have seen faster charging and higher capacity batteries, with the OnePlus 11 Pro offering empty to full in 25 minutes.
OnePlus’ OxygenOS was built to deliver a fast experience with as little bloat or unwanted apps as possible. It became known as one of the cleanest user interfaces available. Anandtech’s Andrei Frumusanu described OxygenOS on the OnePlus 6; “Design-wise, as close to clean Android as it can be. Out of the box, the phone comes with just the bare essentials.” To this day, OnePlus sticks as close to stock Android as possible.
The brand has focused on several regions, including Europe, India and North America. Sometimes, OnePlus is listed as a separate brand; other times, it is grouped within Oppo, its parent company. Canalys reports the latter combination holds a 9% global share, while IDC reports a 9.6% share in Europe.
India is a success story for OnePlus, with the brand taking second place behind Samsung with a 20% share of the 5G smartphone market. The OnePlus R range has driven those sales, so the debut of the OnePlus 12R in the U.S. market should help continue its growth.
The launch will also present the company with new challenges. The OnePlus One started as a handset for a very small and dedicated community, and the upcoming OnePlus 12 is for the mass market and has been accelerating over the last few years.
“As we expand our market coverage, we need more time to consider and balance the preferences and demands of both new and existing users,” Liu says. “Meeting the needs of all users is not an easy task. In the early stages, OnePlus established a unique relationship with users through an invite system and community marketing. This approach helped us quickly optimize our products based on user feedback, and we have continued to uphold this working model, which we take pride in. But as we face a wider market and user base, we are also striving to find new ways to maintain close connections with users and ensure that we always listen to their voices.”
From its early days, OnePlus adopted its iconic tagline, “Never Settle.” “Initially, this embodied OnePlus’ ultimate pursuit of technological innovation and user experience,” says Liu. “Over time and with the brand’s development, OnePlus has continued to expand what ‘Never Settle’ means while maintaining its core philosophy. This slogan has also attracted people who share this spirit to become users and community members.”
Over the years, the company has had an always-changing relationship with Oppo. Liu says that OnePlus maintains its independence in terms of product planning, brand building and marketing.
“This arrangement allows OnePlus to leverage the benefits of shared resources while preserving its unique identity and maintaining its strategic direction,” Liu explains. “By combining the strengths of both OnePlus and OPPO, the dual-brand strategy aims to enhance the overall competitiveness and market presence of both brands within the group.”
That strength was seen with the OnePlus Open and the Oppo Find N3 launches—two names but the same phone. Their first foldable was an interesting, unique project, Liu says. “The decision to release it under both brands was a bold choice by Pete,“ Liu says of company founder Pete Lau, chief product officer for both brands.
“OnePlus and OPPO have never released the same product before because users demand different things from each brand’s products,” he adds. “But because the market for book-style foldable phones is so new, there is currently no specific market segments and our users were making similar demands for both brands. As a result, our first foldable combines the strengths and capabilities of both teams.”
The OnePlus team focused on delivering our fast and smooth user experience and burdenless design, and integrating OnePlus’ iconic three-stage button. The OPPO team added its expertise in foldable technology and imaging capabilities.
From a scrappy starting smartphone with a dedicated community, through a transition that found the mass market, to defining the new frontier of foldable phones, the OnePlus team has sought to put itself in the middle of the conversation. As Liu and his team look forward to the next 10 years, they are preparing the OnePlus 12 to do just that.