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OnePlus wants to make cheap phones again - is the OnePlus Z coming?

OnePlus 8
OnePlus 8 (Image credit: Future)

OnePlus is a curious phone company in that, unlike contemporaries such as Oppo and Xiaomi, it hasn't created multiple product lines or launched smartwatches. However, both those things look set to change.

In an interview with Fast Company Pete Lau, the CEO of OnePlus, talked about the company’s future plans. Additional details were shared on Weibo, where he talked about why the company is now ready to add “new members” to its family. 

Historically, OnePlus has gone on record as saying that it was a small and growing company, and so it had to focus on a few products and not spread itself too thin - this was why there was only one main product line, namely its smartphones.

However, Pete believes that OnePlus now has sufficient experience, manpower and technological prowess to develop new products. The first fruits of this foray will be seen in the coming months with an announcement for India, followed by expansion into other markets.

To OnePlus Z and beyond

This is likely a hint at the OnePlus Z, the company’s rumoured budget smartphone, which is rumored to launch in July. This will be the first step towards its goal of selling even more phones at lower price tags, and ultimately creating an ecosystem of connected devices. Lau added that affordable devices will “still remain up to the OnePlus standard”.

OnePlus arrived on the scene six years ago, finding traction with phones that offered flagship specs at well-below-flagship prices. In recent years, however, it's increasingly moved into the premium space, with its latest premium phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro, almost hitting the $1,000 mark, leaving many of its original fans disappointed at the lack of budget options. 

The OnePlus Z, therefore, is a chance for the company to once again compete at a mid-range price point, and to fight back against Oppo, Xiaomi and other companies who've moved in on its old turf.

As with most hardware companies, OnePlus is also looking to move away from a reliance on smartphones and build a wider ecosystem. We got a taste of this last year with the smart OnePlus TV, which could be paired with a smartphone to access many additional features.

AirPods-rivaling true wireless earphones are also on the horizon (OnePlus already makes its Bullets Wireless cabled Bluetooth headphones). 

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Who owns OnePlus?

In the same interview, OnePlus acknowledged its ownership and partnership publicly for the first time. In the past, there has been a lot of ambiguity around OnePlus’ ownership structure, with speculation suggesting that it's an Oppo subsidiary controlled by BBK Electronics

However, OnePlus says it's backed by a private investor called Oplus, which has no affiliation with BBK, but which is also an investor in Oppo and Realme.

Oppo is still an important partner for OnePlus, as it shares a lot of its core tech, production lines and suppliers. By pooling resources, they companies are able to achieve better economies of scale, as well as potentially being able to develop new product lines. 

Lau said, “OnePlus remains an independent company, but what this means is there’s a larger base of users across this group for potential access to building out a wider ecosystem." It’s currently unclear if this means the two companies will work on a common software platform, or produce devices that are compatible with each other’s ecosystems.

But such developments wouldn't come as a big surprise. OnePlus has alluded to similar ambitions in the past, without providing much in the way of detail. By pivoting to software and lifestyle products, tech companies can cater to a larger audience - OnePlus wouldn't be the first company to do this in the Android sphere, and it definitely won’t be the last.

Aakash Jhaveri

Aakash is the engine that keeps TechRadar India running, using his experience and ideas to help consumers get to the right products via reviews, buying guides and explainers. Apart from phones, computers and cameras, he is obsessed with electric vehicles.