Could we finally see someone challenge Samsung's dominance in the best foldable phone competition? OnePlus certainly seems to think so.
During last month's MWC 2023 event, the phone maker revealed that it plans to release a foldable phone dubbed the OnePlus V Open later this year. At this point, we don't know much about the OnePlus Open other than that it's coming. And that makes even a theoretical face-off between the OnePlus Open and Samsung's upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 5 a dicey proposition.
However, we do have a couple of iterations of Samsung's foldables as a reference point, so we know the strengths — and the weaknesses — of the Fold and Flip devices. With that in mind, we have a pretty good idea of what the OnePlus Open will need to offer if it hopes to compete with Samsung's foldables.
A more dependable design
You rarely get a second chance to make a first impression, so Samsung must have breathed a sigh of relief after the eventful launch of the original Galaxy Fold in 2019. If you recall, Samsung had to hit pause on that device's release when reviewers given early access to the Fold ran into problems with the display.
Samsung revised the design to launch the Fold several months after it was supposed to hit stores, and subsequent versions of the phone have seen improvements further improvements that have bolstered its durability. With a Galaxy Z Fold 5 launch on track for later this year, it's safe to say that Samsung has overcome those early missteps with its first foldable.
It's also safe to say that OnePlus won't be afforded the luxury of stumbling out of the gate. When the OnePlus Open appears, it's going to have to be a pretty polished device if OnePlus hopes to steer potential shoppers away from Samsung's well-established foldable phones.
Fortunately, OnePlus isn't exactly starting from scratch. Phone maker Oppo, which is owned by the same parent company as OnePlus, has made some foldables that OnePlus can draw on for inspiration. And the phone maker would be well-advised to do so, as our hands-on time with the Oppo Find N revealed a very durable design that compared quite favorably to the Galaxy Z Fold.
As good a phone as the Galaxy Z Fold 4 might be, $1.799 is an awful lot to pay for a device, even one with a folding screen. And we haven't heard any rumors that the Z Fold 5 is going to be cheaper.
That gives OnePlus an opportunity to make a real mark in foldable phones. If the OnePlus Open can come in at a substantially lower price than Samsung's Z Fold, that will certainly garner a lot of attention.
It's an approach OnePlus should be familiar with. The OnePlus 11 starts at $699, which is $300 less than the Galaxy S23 Plus, even though the specs on those two devices are fairly comparable. Pull off that same trick with OnePlus Open pricing, and the competition for best foldable phones would become a lot more interesting a lot more quickly.
Minimize the crease
It's the one thing about folding screens that phone makers have yet to solve — disguising the crease in the extended display where the phone folds. We're on our fourth version of the Galaxy Fold, and you can still spot the crease on the phone's 7.6-inch interior display, particularly in sunlight.
Here, OnePlus can once again draw on Oppo's work with foldable phones. Both the Oppo Find N and the flip phone-style Oppo Find N2 Flip have creases that are visible if you look hard enough. But Oppo has found a way to make the crease more subdued. More importantly, you can't really feel it when you slide your finger on the screen of either Oppo Find device. Naturally, we hope that the OnePlus Open follows suit.
You wouldn't go into head-to-head fight at a disadvantage, but that's precisely what some foldables are doing when they try to challenge Samsung's devices. Both the Fold and Flip use Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Snapdragon silicon to run the show, so they can offer performance that measures up to the best phones out there.
Contrast that with Motorola's initial attempts at a foldable phone, with the first two Motorola Razrs running on Snapdragon Series 7 chipsets. It was only with last year's Motorola Razr 2022 that the phone maker used a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset, matching the silicon inside Samsung's foldables.
When the Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5 arrive in the second half of the year, we'd expect them to feature whatever top-performing chipset Qualcomm has on offer, whether that's the current Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 or an improved variant of that system-on-chip. (We wouldn't expect the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 until the end of the year.) And if the OnePlus Open is arriving at the same time, we hope it has a comparably powerful chipset inside.
It's fair to say Samsung really didn't prioritize cameras with the initial versions of the Galaxy Z Fold. In fact, it was only with last year's Galaxy Z Fold 4 that the phone maker finally equipped its best foldable device with the same rear camera setup as its Galaxy S flagships. Even then, the under-display front camera on the Z Fold 4 remains remarkably underpowered.
This provides a real opporunity for OnePlus to excel in an area where Samsung's foldables have typically fallen short. And OnePlus may be up to the challenge, given the effort the phone maker has made with improving the cameras on its conventional flagships. The just-released OnePlus 11 features the best blend of camera hardware and photo-processing software OnePlus has ever offered, and it would be good to see that momentum continue with the OnePlus Open.
Cameras aren't necessarily the first thing people consider when deciding whether to buy a foldable phone. But it is an area where OnePlus can definitely make its mark with the right approach.
Focus on one design
OnePlus has been so tight-lipped on its foldable phone plans, it's unclear exactly what form the OnePlus Open will take. The name implies a design like the Galaxy Z Fold where the handset opens to reveal a larger display. But OnePlus could always surprise us with a clamshell-style phone that flips open, just like the Galaxy Z Flip.
In fact, one rumor claims that the OnePlus Open brand will include both kinds of foldables, though it's unclear if the two designs would launch simultaneously or OnePlus would roll out one phone and then the other.
While it's always nice to have choices, we hope the OnePlus foldable phone launch happening later this year features just one model. Better to concentrate on one design and get all the details right than split your focus and produce two potentially so-so offerings.