Last month, OnePlus showed that even a pandemic cannot settle the brand. Ryan Fenwick, Head of Global Corporate PR at OnePlus, introduced two new smartphones. Called OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro, these devices show the ambition of a company that’s growing out of its own shadow. OnePlus 8 Series launch saw a lot of excitement until Apple joined the party. Exactly 24 hours later, Apple dropped the second generation iPhone SE, a smartphone that seems to have come out of the existing iPhone components buffet. The OnePlus 8 Series and iPhone SE 2020 together tell the tale of the larger smartphone market.

On one end, there is OnePlus, which wants to compete in the premium flagship segment. On the other, there is Apple, which wants to cater to the mid-range flagship market as well. When you look at the US price, the OnePlus 8 Series has just gotten more expensive. Apple iPhone SE 2, on the other hand, starts at the same retail price as the original iPhone SE. These new devices from OnePlus and Apple show the consumer habit as well. In the US, the consumers are holding onto their smartphones longer than usual. But smartphone makers seem to be refreshing their devices faster than ever before.

Declining Smartphone Market

The whole situation is nothing short of a paradox. IDC reported last week that the worldwide smartphone market declined 11.7 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2020. “The drop comes as no surprise as 1Q20 marked the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the peak of the lockdowns in China, which extended to the rest of the world by the end of the quarter,” IDC said in its analysis. According to the report, China saw a decline of 20.3 percent year over year. The US and Europe saw year over year decline of 16.1 percent and 18.3 percent respectively.

While the Q1 was a disappointment for smartphone makers, the second quarter is not looking out to be anything exciting. Apple CEO Tim Cook, during the earnings calls, said that the first three weeks of April saw pent up demand. However, the decline in economy and weaker consumer sentiment is only expected to drive the industry into unknown territory. In the face of this situation, the OnePlus 8 Series and iPhone SE 2020 are an interesting play. These two devices are targeting different audiences and thus challenging the dynamics of the market.

OnePlus 8 Pro: The new flagship and not flagship killer

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OnePlus 8 Pro seems like the smartphone made with the US and European smartphone market in mind. Starting at $899, the smartphone is expensive but it is challenging Samsung Galaxy S20 series. Samsung launched the Galaxy S20 series in February amidst pandemic. It’s launch window meant that consumers had little time to experience the device. As shelter-in-home rules expanded in the US and lockdown restrictions were implemented in Europe, Samsung Galaxy S20 series moved away from the eyeballs of consumers.

Now, when consumers look to buy a new flagship Android smartphone, their choice would not be limited to Galaxy S20 series. They have a formidable option in the form of OnePlus 8 Series. With the OnePlus 8 Pro being punching above its weight here. It is the first smartphone from OnePlus that tries to tick all the boxes. It has flagship hardware in the form of Snapdragon 865 SoC, 12GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage. It has a 6.78-inch Fluid AMOLED display, which is arguably the best display on any smartphone right now. For years, Samsung had an edge when it came to display on its flagship smartphones.

Apple narrowed the gap with the launch of iPhone X in 2017. It has virtually tied with the Korean smartphone maker with the newer flagship models. Now, OnePlus seems to be doing even better than Samsung with the 120Hz panel on the OnePlus 8 Pro. Yes, there have been issues reported about this display but they seem like a small blemish in OnePlus’ path to greatness. Will consumers buy these new devices from OnePlus? Well none of us are wiser to answer that question right now. However, if consumers plan to stretch their wallet for a flagship Android smartphone then OnePlus will be on top and not close second.

While OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro are aimed at people who spend high dollars on their smartphones, the second generation iPhone SE is different. Called as iPhone SE 2020, for convenience I guess, the smartphone is all about longevity. Sure, it is a parts bin iPhone and Apple does not seem to be hiding it in any way. However, it is the one that is offering a lot of promise at an attractive price. While iPhone 11 was dubbed as the default iPhone for a lot of people, I’m now wondering if iPhone SE 2020 is the real default iPhone this year.

Apple iPhone SE 2020: For the masses

It is the iPhone which tries to balance too many things in a familiar yet inexpensive package. While it starts at $399, it is actually a $449 smartphone since most people should opt for 128GB of storage. With the iPhone SE 2020, Apple is actually trying to convince iPhone 6s, iPhone 7 and even iPhone 8 customers to upgrade. They get familiar design, which will help reduce the learning curve, which was seen when people made the switch from iPhone 6 or newer model to iPhone X with full screen design and Face ID facial recognition system.

With iPhone SE 2020, you get a 4.7-inch display with giant bezels at the top and bottom. The chin serves a clear purpose since it accommodates the Touch ID sensor for biometric authentication. The top bezel could have been trimmed but that might have increased the price. It really blows the mind with it’s Apple A13 Bionic chip. This is the same chip as the one found on iPhone 11 series. In other words, you are buying the same flagship platform seen on $999 iPhone 11 Pro. The benchmarks show that it is under locked but it is the real indicator for the life of iPhone SE 2020.

It would be safe to assume that iPhone SE 2020 will get at least three major software updates. Considering Apple’s track record, this is the phone that can last for at least four years from now. For a $449 smartphone, it is a crazy deal. Even if you have money, the performance per dollar from iPhone SE 2020 seems more valuable than that from the iPhone 11 series. The real caveat is not the single 12-megapixel rear camera but the lack of Apple’s excellent night mode. With iPhone SE 2020, Apple is giving a cheap smartphone knowing that people might not upgrade for at least another three or four years. The OnePlus 8 Series, on the other hand, wants it’s customers to stretch their wallet further. In other words, we are looking at different kinds of strategy and business models from these two devices.

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