Last February, I had the opportunity to attend "Unpacked 5 Episode 1 2014," the official launch of the Galaxy S5 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung spared no expense in presenting its new flagship device, and news coverage of the Galaxy S5 dominated the show.
But does a flagship smartphone such as the iPhone 5S, the Sony Xperia Z2, or the Samsung Galaxy S5 really cost $650-$800? Are those phones so expensive to manufacture and their components so good to justify that price?
Maybe not. Nokia, Google, and Motorola have demonstrated that it is possible to own a high-end smartphone for half the price. The current Google Nexus 5 almost matches the specifications of the Galaxy S5 but retails for $300 less. Unfortunately, almost is not quite good enough. The Nexus 5 lacks the powerful camera found on the Galaxy S5 or the Sony Xperia Z2. The battery is smaller, and the processor speed is 20% slower.
So is it possible to produce a well-designed smartphone with the same or better specs than the premium models from Sony and Samsung and sell it for half the price? That's what OnePlus is about to prove with its 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass smartphone with 16 Gb of RAM, a Sony f/2.0 13 MP sensor, and an Adreno 330 GPU for $300 (or $350 for 64 GB).
Known as the OnePlus One, it is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with quad-core CPUs at speeds of up to 2.5 GHz per core, making it the world's fastest processor available in a smartphone. This is the same processor found on the Sony Xperia Z2 and the Samsung Galaxy S5.
The rear camera sensor is a Sony Exmor IMX214 13MP, with a f/2.0 aperture dual LED flash and six physical lenses. The front camera features a 6 MP sensor (much bigger than any competitor) and an 80-degree capture angle -- perfect for selfies.
The only thing missing on the OnePlus One is a MicroSD slot. Following the Apple approach of selling different versions based on memory capacity, the 64 GB version costs an additional $50.
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