The OnePlus Nord is technically OnePlus’ second attempt at making a reasonably priced (read, affordable) smartphone even as the the widely popular BBK spinoff brand continues to go up the price ladder with its main product lineup. Its first attempt at such a product was the bite-sized OnePlus X (which was launched in 2015), a phone that OnePlus itself acknowledged was a big flop. That’s possibly why the phone literally made no mention during OnePlus’ one-of-its-kind AR keynote event last night, or even during any of OnePlus’ promotional teasers leading into D-day.
Rather, the OnePlus Nord was and is being marketed as some sort of successor or fallback to the first OnePlus phone, aka the OnePlus One. Even though the OnePlus Nord has got nothing to do with it, literally and figuratively. And yet, the OnePlus Nord will go down in marketing history as a “new beginning” that’s trying to recreate the magic of the original OnePlus phone that started it all, the original we fell in love with, the reason why we don’t settle for less anymore.
OnePlus has always been good at marketing and creating hype. And it has a storied history of fans and enthusiasts backing its every decision. With the OnePlus Nord, I believe OnePlus has mastered the art of marketing (and storytelling). The OnePlus Nord isn’t a groundbreaking phone but one that has been marketed really well. Now I am not saying it’s not exciting, but hey, you’d be living under a rock if you’re not aware about India’s burgeoning mid-range smartphone market. There are just way too many “exciting” mid-range phones in India already. To the OnePlus Nord I say, welcome to the club.
With solid marketing in place, let’s jump onto the next important bit. Design and hardware.
OnePlus says the OnePlus Nord has pretty much everything you could ask for at a pretty great price, which is clearly a different pitch from what we’ve seen in the company’s main product lineup over the years (including the original OnePlus One). It’s not about being a flagship or a flagship killer, but about offering a more jack of all trades, all backed up by OnePlus’ hallmark user experience. That latter bit in 2020 entails a fast display, a fast processor, fast charging, and fast software. The OnePlus Nord has it all, at least on paper.
It has an all-glass and metal body that’s like a OnePlus 8 with a few tweaks here and there because OnePlus apparently wanted to keep things familiar for its user base. It has a 6.4-inch fluid 90Hz AMOLED display with a 1080p+ resolution and optical in-screen fingerprint reader for biometric authentication. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, which brings among other things, 5G connectivity to it (making it future-ready). This is paired with up to 12GB of LPDDR4X RAM and up to 256GB of UFS2.1 storage (non-expandable). The phone is further backed by a 4,115mAh battery with Warp Charge 30T fast charging support through USB Type-C. On the rear, the phone has a 48MP main Sony IMX586 sensor behind an f/1.75 lens with OIS, an 8MP ultra wide-angle with 119-degree field-of-view, a 2MP macro and another 5MP depth camera. On the front, you get a 32MP main and another 8MP ultra wide-angle camera with 105-degree field-of-view. That’s good hardware. The design is nice too. But as I said, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.
The real differentiator is the software. The OnePlus Nord runs a stock-ish version of Android 10 called OxygenOS and OnePlus is promising 2 years of major updates and 3 years of security updates straight off the bat. That’s not the real differentiating thing however. The OnePlus Nord ships with Google messages and dialler app by default (there’s also Google Duo for video calls). And before you ask, OnePlus phones don’t show any ads. OnePlus phones have long been revered for their Pixel-like software experience. The OnePlus Nord is the closest it can get to a non-Android One phone that can offer a Pixel-like clean software experience. This is the phone that can truly compete with the upcoming “budget” Pixel 4A whenever Google decides to drop it, and also give it a run for its money.
Chinese smartphone brands are known to borrow a page or two (sometimes even more) from Apple’s textbook and that’s alright. Some are inspired by its software choices, some by hardware design, and some by Apple’s sales and marketing technique. Apple’s secret sauce is, it does all this well. If you need proof, well, only Apple can get away with a product like the iPhone SE 2020 in 2020!
Every now and then, some brand manages to equal (if not better), one or more of these aspects though conditions always apply. But it’s safe to say that no brand, Chinese or otherwise, has been able to successfully crack all the three. Until yesterday night, when OnePlus announced the OnePlus Nord. And all of this couldn’t have come at a more crucial time. With the whole anti-China sentiment that’s going around (globally and in India), it was important for OnePlus to get it all right. And that it did. Watch this space for our full review of the OnePlus Nord in the days to come.