25 August 2019
The OnePlus logo is projected onto a wall during a launch event for the new 6T smartphone in New York City on Monday. Photo: Reuters
The OnePlus logo is projected onto a wall during a launch event for the new 6T smartphone in New York City on Monday. Photo: Reuters

China’s OnePlus enters US smartphone market

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus is entering the US market with the backing of chipmaking giant Qualcomm and mobile operator T-Mobile.

Under a partnership announced at an event on Monday in New York, the OnePlus 6T smartphone would launch exclusively at T-Mobile’s stores in the United States, Reuters reports.

The phone would go on sale on Nov. 1 with a starting price of US$549, marking the first time a OnePlus handset is being sold through a US wireless provider.

The foray by 5-year-old OnePlus comes after US mobile carriers AT&T and Verizon this year backed away from plans to work with China’s Huawei on high-end phones in face of pressure from the US government, which considers Huawei a security risk, the report noted.

The United States also briefly banned companies from selling goods to ZTE, which was caught shipping US technology to Iran and North Korea, violating American sanctions.

“I don’t know if it is a good time for anybody else,” Carl Pei, the 29-year-old founder of OnePlus, told Reuters at an event in Hong Kong last week about the prospect of entering the US carrier-bundled phone market. “It is a good time for us.”

Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon introduced Pei to center stage at its annual partners’ summit in Hong Kong, where Pei told the audience his company would be among the first to a launch a phone fit for fifth-generation mobile technology using Qualcomm chips.

In an interview on Monday, Jon Freier, T-mobile’s executive vice president of US retail, said the US-China trade battle played no role in this deal and that the carrier has not heard from US regulators.

“OnePlus has a sterling reputation, and we’ve researched the device and vetted it thoroughly,” Freier told Reuters.

OnePlus is unusual among Chinese tech companies, as it sells high-end products instead of focusing on mass-market products for domestic customers.

The Shenzhen-based smartphone maker only sells premium phones that cost US$400 or more. It derives two-thirds of its revenue from outside China and is the top seller of premium smartphones in India.

OnePlus is affiliated with OPPO, a Chinese smartphone-maker and a major force in mid-end phones, which are sold globally and cost about US$300. The relationship helps OnePlus keep its costs low.

According to Chinese registration records, the two companies have common shareholders.

Pei, who was born in China and raised in Sweden, said the brand is cross-cultural and international.

“When we started, we saw that through social media, you can talk to everyone around the world, as long as you can speak their language,” he said.

“If OnePlus is an independent actor and not under the thumb of the Chinese communist party, we should welcome them to compete in the US market,” US Senator Mark Warner said in an emailed response to a Reuters question.

“But we need to make sure they are that independent actor and cannot be leveraged by the Chinese government to hurt our national security.”

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