The term ‘flagship killer’ has become synonymous with OnePlus ever since the OnePlus One took the smartphone world by storm back in 2014. It took on the established giants of the smartphone world with top-end specifications and a radical approach to the software with CyanogenOS, all while keeping pricing at scarcely believable levels. When a flagship-level smartphone costs less than half of what would be considered normal pricing for a typical top-end phone, you call that phone a ‘flagship killer’.
This continued with the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus 3. Pricing remained significantly lower than competing devices, and quality continued to increase. That was, of course, while pricing remained below the Rs 30,000 mark, a psychological barrier than continues to draw the line between affordable and premium. As long as the OnePlus flagship phone stayed under that mark, there was little resistance to the ‘flagship killer’ tag.
However, the OnePlus 3T changed things. With the 64GB storage variant priced one rupee shy of Rs 30,000 and the 128GB storage option priced at Rs 34,999, the psychological barrier had been crossed. While still more affordable than flagship devices from Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, Apple and Motorola, and still representing immense value, the OnePlus flagship smartphone stopped being an affordable device in itself. The positioning had shifted; OnePlus is no longer about selling flagships at mid-range prices, but rather about selling flagships at reasonable prices. You’re still paying a lot of money, just not as much as you would if you bought any one of the established brands.
Cue the OnePlus 5. Pricing is now firmly over Rs 30,000. The 6GB/64GB variant is priced at Rs 32,999, whereas the 8GB/128GB option is priced at Rs 37,999. It wasn’t so long ago that flagship smartphones from well-established brands that had developed distribution chains retailed at around these prices, and for OnePlus to reduce the price gap by this much is significant. When the OnePlus flagship was priced at less than half of what a Samsung flagship went for, it still made sense to call it a flagship killer. But when you’re talking about a phone that costs close to Rs 40,000 and is priced at about three-quarters of what a full-fledged current-generation flagship phone such as the LG G6 or HTC U11 goes for, can you still call that phone a flagship killer?
There’s no doubt at all about how good the OnePlus 5 is, and we’ve gone into the finer details in our review. It’s even priced well, and despite the lack of a QHD screen and water resistance, it remains the most powerful Android device you can buy today, which in itself is an achievement that OnePlus should be proud of. However, the OnePlus 5 is not an affordable device, and therefore loses the right to call itself a flagship killer in my opinion. It is now a full-fledged flagship that represents how far OnePlus has come in the short time it’s been around. A company that was once considered out-of-the-box, renegade and surprising has now matured into an online-only Android rival to Apple’s might. And while I love the maturity that OnePlus shows as a brand today, I will miss the grungy maverick that OnePlus used to be, and I’ll certainly miss the term ‘flagship killer’.