The $299 Chinese smartphone that could change everything

OnePlus-One-smartphone

It has taken the smartphone world completely by surprise: a “flagship killer” packed with high-end specs, all for an asking price that dramatically undercuts the high-end Android competition.

At $USD299, the OnePlus One smartphone costs less than half the price of Android handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 ($929) and HTC One M8 ($899) — and from the processor to the display, it is a no compromise smartphone that blows the price-to-performance ratio wide open,  in keeping with the company’s message of “the best and latest technology for everyone”.

OnePlus is backed by the second-most profitable mobile phone company in China, Oppo Electronics, and headed by Oppo’s former vice president Pete Lau, who now has the global market it his sights as he gears up to ship the phone to consumers in over 18 countries next month.

Lau is also the visionary behind the OnePlus One smartphone and says that as a self-confessed tech fan, he set out to build the phone that he always wanted.

“We believe that technology can be fast, beautiful and solidly built while still being accessible,” Lau said in a recent interview.

There is no denying that OnePlus have, at least on paper, delivered on the performance front, equipping the handset with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor (clocked at 2.5GHz), 3GB RAM, 16GB/64GB internal storage options, 5.5-inch 1080P IPS display (sourced from the same company that supplies the HTC One M8) along with a 13-megapixel, Sony-made Exmor camera sensor, global 4G LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 3100mAh battery.

It’s a spec sheet that equals — and in some cases exceeds — current Android flagships like Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and HTC’s One M8.

Another feather in the One’s cap is that it uses CyanogenMod, which essentially provides the pure Android OS experience normally found on Google’s Nexus devices, but with a few useful extra tricks. CyanogenMod was originally developed by tinkerers in the online Android modding communities and has since matured into a fast, reliable, and attractive operating system.

Build quality comes in the form of Gorilla Glass 3 on the front with a Nokia-esque polycarbonate build round the back as opposed to the glossy and flexible Samsung plastic.

But with such a low price-tag and top-end specs, the profit margin on each OnePlus One handset is likely to be minimal. So how are they doing it? And can a fledgling mobile manufacturer really sustain itself in the cutthroat smartphone market, with such thin margins?

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