CES 2020 is almost upon us and the biggest names in tech are all preparing their wares for the annual technology show. One name confirmed for the event is OnePlus. While the Shenzhen brand is no stranger to CES, it’s bringing something a little special this year — the OnePlus Concept One phone.
OnePlus expanded its tick-tock vanilla/T-series release schedule with the addition of the Pro series in 2019, but it appears that was just a taste of OnePlus’ broader ambitions.
In addition to the firm’s rumored return to the mid-range for the first time since 2015’s OnePlus X, we now have confirmation it is bringing an entirely new series to CES that will showcase its “vision of both new technology and alternate design approach for the future of smartphones.”
But what is the OnePlus Concept One? Ahead of the big reveal in January, here are five of our best guesses at some of the features we might see on OnePlus’ first concept phone.
Let’s start with the obvious option. OnePlus already has a 5G phone under its belt. If OnePlus really wants to push itself to the forefront of the latest Next Big Thing trend in the smartphone world, it may want to make a foldable phone.
What exactly would a OnePlus foldable phone look like? There are no shortage of blueprints to work from. You’ve got your phone-tablet hybrids like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X, Motorola’s clamshell-style nostalgia-baiting Razr reboot, or even something utterly wild like Xiaomi’s own concept phone, the wraparound Mi Alpha.
I wouldn’t suggest you put money on the Concept One being a traditional foldable, however. When asked about foldable phones just three months ago, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau remarked that “the technology and the ability to have foldable screens are not very mature yet.”
Chance of happening: 10%
With a flexible display-style foldable possibly not on the current OnePlus agenda, perhaps a dual-screen phone is more likely?
For a while, it seemed the dual-display blueprint was dead after ZTE baffled us all with the unwieldy Axon M, but the impressive (and surprisingly affordable) LG G8X and the shock announcement of the Microsoft Surface Duo changed all that.
Would OnePlus sacrifice aesthetics for a second display?
OnePlus has already established itself as a go-to brand for great smartphone displays (made by Samsung). It lead the charge for AMOLED at lower price brackets and recently helped push high refresh rates into the mainstream consciousness. What’s better than one amazing display? Two amazing displays!
As much as this all makes sense in theory, I can’t see OnePlus — a brand that prides itself on smartphone aesthetics — taking the plunge on the kinda-odd-looking dual-display phones over a true, streamlined foldable alternative further down the road.
Chance of happening: 20%
Under-display selfie camera
Notches, pop-ups, and judging from the OnePlus 8 Lite leaks now punch-holes too — OnePlus has experimented with basically every possible way to hide selfie cameras to accommodate larger displays. That’s all well and good, but we’re all waiting for the real solution that’s been on the cusp for a few years now: under-display cameras.
The first teaser for the tech came back in June via OnePlus’ BBK stablemate Oppo. The teaser later became its own concept (pictured above) at Oppo’s Inno Day event. While you can technically still see the camera when viewed at the right angle, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the most elegant solution we’ve seen so far for the notch dilemma.
It’s not quite the finished article yet, but that makes it a perfect candidate for a concept phone. Add in the fact that OnePlus has a history of borrowing designs and technology from its sister company and there’s a fairly good chance we’ll see an under-display camera on the OnePlus Concept One.
Chance of happening: 80%
No ports or buttons
Like it or not, button-less phones are coming.
Whatever path the Cupertino giant takes, a huge number of Android OEMs will follow in its footsteps. It’s been rumored for a while that Apple envisions the future of the iPhone as a button- and port-less device, with the infamous removal of the headphone jack the first step towards this (il)logical conclusion.
You might remember OnePlus caused a little bit of a stir when it followed suit and ditched the headphone jack from its smartphone family. Even so, it may once again pluck up the courage needed to fly in the face of its fans’ wants by removing all buttons and ports from the OnePlus Concept One.
Remember that Oppo concept phone I mentioned that had the under-display selfie camera? That too had no physical buttons or ports, and nor did the Apex 2019 concept from OnePlus’ other sister company, Vivo, which also just got done with the buttonless Vivo Nex 3.
What I’m getting at is it seems a surefire thing that the Concept One will be a smooth customer in a very literal sense. You could bet your house on this one.
Chance of happening: 99%
A true ultra-flagship?
We loved the OnePlus 7 Pro (and the marginally improved OnePlus 7T Pro, which didn’t make it to the US), but even with all the significant upgrades over OnePlus’ usual affordable flagships, there was still a bunch of stuff missing that you’d expect from a Pro phone.
It wouldn’t be unfair to want a “smartphone of the future” to include an official water resistance rating, wireless charging, an always-on display, 5G support, reverse charging, a ToF camera, and hardware-based facial biometrics.
For as much as OnePlus liberally cribs from Oppo’s test papers, it’s also shied away from some of it and Vivo’s more experimental endeavors. How could we say no to another periscope zoom camera that builds on the Reno 10x Zoom, or any of the crazy features thrown onto the Vivo Apex line?
That sounds pretty awesome to me.
Chances of happening: 50%
OnePlus Concept One: An early look at the OnePlus 8?
OnePlus’ suggestion that the Concept One is only “the first in a series” indicates we’re not getting a one-off, but a culmination of its current ambitions in a single product.
Will it ever actually be a phone you can one day spend real money on, or will it just be a teaser for some of the features we might see on the OnePlus 8?
We’ll know more at CES. For now, give us your votes on the most likely outcome below and hit the comments with any other predictions and hopes for the OnePlus Concept One!