OnePlus 8 is a Galaxy S20 killer — and that's a big problem for Samsung

OnePlus 8 Pro
(Image credit: OnePlus)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 series suffered from slow sales out of the gate, but that’s to be expected during the middle of a global pandemic. There’s simply not a lot of demand for $1,000-plus phones right now. But there’s more bad news for Samsung, and that’s the rise of upstart phone maker OnePlus.

Both the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro are $300 less than the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus, which is a lot of money. And shoppers may decide to take a chance on this once obscure brand as it gains traction with carriers.

How the OnePlus 8 beats Galaxy S20

The new $699 OnePlus 8 is not only $300 less than the regular Galaxy S20, it comes with a bigger display and longer battery life. Plus, the OnePlus 8 is available through T-Mobile and — for the first time — Verizon. OnePlus is gaining serious momentum as a brand.

The $999 Samsung Galaxy S20 has some advantages over the OnePlus 8, including availability through all the major U.S. carriers, better cameras and wireless charging. The S20 also has a faster display refresh rate at 120 Hz vs 90 Hz for OnePlus. But the S20 is not $300 better than the OnePlus 8. 

In fact, the OnePlus is a viable alternative to the $699 iPhone 11, because it offers 5G support and a better OLED display for the same price as Apple’s phone. You won’t see a 5G iPhone until the iPhone 12 comes out this fall. 

How the OnePlus 8 Pro beats Galaxy S20 Plus

The $899 OnePlus 8 Pro is more bad news for Samsung, as you’ll see in our OnePlus 8 Pro vs Galaxy S20 Plus face-off. Once again OnePlus charges $300 less than Samsung and it wins the overall comparison, thanks to its superior design, display, and battery life. The OnePlus 8 Pro also offers the fastest wireless charging ever.

Once again, the Galaxy S20 Plus has some advantages. Its camera system is generally better, and only Samsung’s handset supports both sub 6-GHz and mmWave 5G networks. With the OnePlus 8 Pro, you only get slower sub 6-GHz network speeds. But now that the OnePlus 8 Pro is here, we’ve placed it above the Galaxy S20 Plus on our best phone list. It’s simply a better value.

The only real strike against the OnePlus 8 Pro is that you have to buy it unlocked and that it won’t be sold through carriers (at least for now). The good news is that OnePlus phones will be sold through Amazon for the first time, for those willing to go the unlocked phone route.

Galaxy S10 Lite to the rescue? Not so much

So Samsung is clearly being put on the defensive by the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. What does it do in response? A few days after the OnePlus 8’s debut, Samsung decided to finally release the Galaxy S10 Lite, which is possibly the worst name for a phone. First of all, it’s not a beer. Second, there’s nothing “lite” about a $650 price tag.

The S10 Lite has some things going for it, including a big 6.55-inch OLED display and three rear cameras (including an ultra-wide shooter). But it’s also saddled with last year’s Snapdragon 855 processor and a plastic design. Why not just pay $50 more for the more premium OnePlus 8, which has a Snapdragon 865 CPU, smoother 90Hz display and a glass-and-metal body?

That was a rhetorical question.

OnePlus vs. Samsung: Outlook

Don’t get me wrong. The Galaxy S20 lineup has three great phones in it, and Samsung also has some solid low-cost A series phones on the way, including the Galaxy A51 5G for $499. But it’s clear that OnePlus is eclipsing Samsung in the buzz department and is applying the type of pressure that LG, ZTE, Sony and other Android rivals have not been able to do. 

If all the U.S. carriers were smart, they would all pick up the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. But even if they don’t, Samsung should really take this threat seriously. OnePlus is coming for the Android crown.

Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.