Technology, Smartphones, Games

Before you buy the OnePlus 5, there is something you should consider [Opinion]

The OnePlus 5 is about to be launched on June 20th globally, and will be available from June 22nd in India, and sold exclusively via Amazon. But before you buy the OnePlus 5, here are some things you should consider.

Before you buy the OnePlus 5

What are the features which you look for, when you buy a smartphone? Let me list a few obvious ones.

  1. Display size and resolution
  2. Battery Capacity
  3. Camera
  4. Speakers
  5. Price

The list could go on, but there is one major feature, which people tend to overlook when buying a new phone, OS updates. An operating system update, is just as important, as any hardware component.

I will admit that I have been a long time critic of Android updates, or non-existent updates, to be precise. The blame, of course, begins at home, in this case, Google. The search giant has not updated most of its devices, beyond the 24-month period. This self-imposed 2 year rule, has been taken up by many an OEM. Well, some OEMs do not even release a single OS update at all. But 99% of these devices fall under one category, budget phones. You get what you pay for, is absolutely true here. Mid-range phones often get 1 OS update, or are never updated, because the OEM does not want to invest money in its software team, to continue supporting the device over the course of time. Instead, they churn out new devices of the same price every year, and in a way tempt people to buy them as an “upgrade”.

One OEM is joining these infamous ranks. One which we never thought would fit this criteria. One which we respected for its vanilla like OS. One which sells flagship phones for a budget friendly price. OnePlus.

Here’s why:

If I were to explain my opinion in 3 words, I’d say “OnePlus 2 Nougat Fiasco”. The Chinese manufacturer, promised to update the device to Android 7.0, and we all believed it, well why not, after all, the OnePlus One is still a good phone. The only reason why OnePlus couldn’t update the OnePlus One or the OnePlus X, is because Qualcomm did not release the drivers for the Snapdragon 801, to support Nougat. The OnePlus 2 does not fit into this blame, the Snapdragon 810 is fully capable of running Android 7. Do you know that OnePlus has not even released the camera blobs, which custom ROM devs need for making the camera work perfectly, like it does with Oxygen OS.

Let me tell you I do not hate OnePlus for copying the iPhone 7 Plus’ design. I couldn’t care less about it. To me, an OS update is important.

Were we wrong to expect the OnePlus 2 to be updated to Nougat?

No. OnePlus had promised to support its devices for 24 months. The OnePlus 2 was launched on July 28, 2015. Today’s date, June 12th, is less than the 24-month deadline. In fact, digging through some old tweets points out that OnePlus’ official stance regarding the abandonment of the OnePlus 2 dates back to January 2017. Here is a coy reply from the company’s official support account, denying a statement regarding the OnePlus 2 being updated to Nougat.

A former moderator of the OnePlus forums, David Monteiro (forum name dsmonteiro), questioned the company's motives in a thread. He even created a petition (here) asking users (forum thread) to help highlight the issue about OnePlus not supporting older devices.

The reason why OnePlus didn’t care about the OnePlus 2, is quite simple. All that the company is interested, is in selling more devices. This became evident when OnePlus founder, Pete Lau, announced in October 2016, that they were working on their next phone. It is likely that they were working on the OnePlus 3T at that time. Speaking of which, the OnePlus 3T was launched barely 6 months after the OnePlus 3 was announced. And the new device, which had slightly better specs for almost the same price, spelled doom for its short-lived predecessor, and the OnePlus 3 was discontinued shortly thereafter. This raised concern among OnePlus 3 users, but the company has been providing updates for both devices, considering the hardware is almost identical.

But now, with the OnePlus 2 officially reaching end of support, and the imminent arrival of the OnePlus 5, can we expect Android O for the OnePlus 3?  The company has promised it will update the OnePlus 3/3T to Android 8, but should we trust it?

OS updates for premium phones:

Do premium phones suffer from the same fate? No, they do not. For obvious reasons we are not going to take into account, Motorola’s devices since it has a spectacular record for its G and other series, because they are not flagships. We are not including devices launched in 2016.

Here is a list of premium Android phones from 2014 which got at least 2 major OS updates. The first set of month and year represents which OS the device was shipped with.,

  • HTC One M8 - March 2014 (Kitkat), January 2015 (Lollipop), December 2015 (Marshmallow)
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 - April 2014 (Kitkat), December 2015 (Lollipop), April 2016 (Marshmallow)
  • LG G3 -  May 2014 (Kitkat), November 2014 (Lollipop), December 2015 (Marshmallow)
  • Sony Xperia Z2 - March 2014 (Kitkat),  April 2015 (Lollipop),  April 2016 (Marshmallow)
  • Nexus 6 - November 2014 (Lollipop), November 2015 (Marshmallow), January 2017 (Nougat)

Here is a list of premium Android phones from 2015 which were updated at least twice, to major OS versions.

  • HTC One M9 - April 2015 (Lollipop), May 2016 (Marshmallow), March 2017 (Nougat)
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 - April 2015 (Lollipop), February 2016 (Marshmallow), March 2017 (Nougat)
  • LG G4 - June 2015 (Lollipop), October 2015 (Marshmallow), Nougat promised
  • Sony Xperia Z5 - October 2015 (Lollipop), March 2016 (Marshmallow), February 2017 (Nougat)
  • Nexus 6P - September 2015 (Marshmallow), August 2016 (Nougat), Currently part of Android O beta

Do you see a pattern here? I reiterate, you get what you pay for. If you want 2 years of updates, or 2 major OS updates, with flagship specifications, go for a premium phone. If you want more than 2 years of updates, there is only one way to go, the Apple way. Apple iPhones enjoy 4+ years of OS updates, unless they are limited by hardware restrictions. Most notable of the iPhones, was the iPhone 4s which was launched in 2011 (with iOS 5), and was updated till June 105 (iOS 9).

What we wish could happen:

Google must be frustrated with Android’s fragmentation already, and with such a hugely popular device like the OnePlus 2 not being updated to Nougat, it will hurt its OS stats badly. We think the Mountain View company should take note of this as a serious issue, and come up with a solution. It could deny licensing its apps to OEMs, which have a record of not providing OS updates on time, or at all. Google really needs to step up the game, and enforce OEMs to provide better OS support. Google's Project Treble could work, but it is still in an early stage, and still relies on OEMs to actually provide the software update.

Boycott OnePlus?

No. We are not asking you to boycott OnePlus altogether. If you are tech savvy, you can always flash a custom ROM like Lineage OS, to keep your phone up to date with the current Android OS. But for the average user, this is not a solution. Granted that the average user will not care about OS updates at all, given that OnePlus broke its promise of 24 months of support, with the OnePlus 2, this is unacceptable.

But is our humble request to you, please think twice about whether you want to support the company. By not buying it or recommending it, we could be teaching them a lesson.

Disclaimer: I do not own a OnePlus 2 or any OnePlus device (Redmi Note 3, Nexus 6 and Mi 4 user here). But I did recommend the OnePlus 2 to one of our former authors, Grr, and the OnePlus 3, to another close friend, and to some other people. And yes, I do feel bad about it now.

Will I buy the OnePlus 5?

99% no. If they deliver the OnePlus 2 Nougat update, I may change my opinion. Also, there is a difference between I need the device, and I want the device. As a tech geek who has multiple phones, I fall into the latter category. I have been using custom ROMs for 5 years now, so even If I do buy the OP5, the lack of OS updates from the company is not an issue to me, as I’d just install Lineage OS.

The point of this opinion piece, is to highlight a company which broke its promise, and instead focuses only on its current generation of devices. This is not the service you should pay $400 for.