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The budget hardware race is alive and well for Android

A key to Google Inc.'s (GOOG) rise to global smartphone hegemony has been an abundance of affordable handsets with premium hardware specifications.  So far the lion's share of those handsets have come courtesy of Google's branded Nexus line, which taps various partner OEMs such as Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KRX:005930) (KRX:005935) and LG Electronics, Inc. (KRX:066570)(KRX:066575).

Today China's OnePlus, launched its One smartphone (1+1, get it?), which offers the first serious competition to the Nexus 5 in the mid-range Android market.  In most areas the OnePlus One beats the aging Nexus 5, which was launched at the end of Oct. 2013.  The bad news, though, is that the OnePlus One won't land worldwide until mid-May.

OnePlus One

By then, the Nexus 5 may get a price cut -- or we may see a hardware refresh of the Nexus line even.  But at present OnePlus One clearly has a slightly superior hardware spec.
OnePlus One

The phone carries CyanogenMod 11S, which is based on Android v4.4 KitKat.  Engadget previewed the device and describes the replacement firmware's additions to stock Android, writing:

CyanogenMod alone comes with goodies like SMS encryption, themes, app privacy guard, audio equalizer, file manager, enhanced camera app and more. With CM11S for the OnePlus One, you also get screen-off gesture controls (circle for camera, "V" for flashlight and gestures for music playback; as featured on the Oppo N1), option to toggle between capacitive Android buttons and on-screen buttons, voice wakeup (activates Google Now by default) and a card-style lock screen. These all sound pretty nice, but we'll have to see how well they fare in the final firmware.

While the phoine is a bit bulkier than the Nexus 5, some will likely prefer its design style.  It trades the Nexus 5's monotone plastic frame for an anodized faux-metal rim and a swappable backplate (similar to the Moto X).

OnePlus One
OnePlus's One packs basically the same CPU as the Nexus 5,
but with a slightly higher clock speed (Snapdragon 801).

One area where the OnePlus One will likely beat the Nexus 5 is in sound.  It packs triple noise-cancelling microphones for superb call quality (beating even the likes of Apple, Inc. (AAPL)) and also packs stereo speakers (similar to HTC Corp.'s (TPE:2498) One series smartphones).

Pete Lau -- a former Oppo Electronics VP, is the brains behind OnePlus.

OnePlus One
Pete Lau, CEO and founder of OnePlus [Image Source: Engadget]

He founded the firm last year, and quickly gained attention for his company's mantra/promise -- "never settle".   While customers will have to be the judge of whether it lived up to that assurance, the initial results are looking impressive. Now the question is how well his young firm can navigate the supply chain.

He sounds confident enough, though, telling Engadget:

You can use all sorts of marketing tactics, but when you're back to making a product, you must take users' actual needs into consideration.  They are the ones who will actually use it, so they know best. You can exaggerate when you're selling a product, but when the buyers use it and are left disappointed, they'll still complain, right?

Therefore products should go back to basics: the users must feel good when using our products. If the users want something, we'll do it.

We'll have to wait for full reviews to draw conclusions about some of the phone's features, and obviously the inclusion of CyanogenMod versus a "pure" Android install will draw mixed reactions. But overall you have to hand it to OnePlus for "undercutting the Nexus 5" as many reviewers put it.

Even if Google puts out a better Nexus, OnePlus will be watching and waiting, refining its next model (1+2?).  And that's happy news for Android buyers, and smartphone buyers in general who want an unlocked device at a budget price.

The countries with availability at launch will be Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, and the US.  According to AnandTech, this month will actually see some sales based on an invitation scheme.  We'll have to wait until midway through this quarter (Q2 2014/May) for general sales to open up in the 16 target nations.

To sign up for the invitation-based scheme, visit OnePlus's "Smash" page.  OnePlus is offering early buyers discounts -- in some cases offering the OnePlus One for as little as $1 USD (!!).  But we're guessing that's a pretty limited quantity deal, so sign up now, if you're interested.

Source: Engadget

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I Don't Know What to Say
By DaveLessnau on 4/23/2014 6:36:59 PM , Rating: 1
In most areas the OnePlus One beats the aging Nexus 5, which was launched at the end of Oct. 2013.

Let me count on my fingers, here: November (1), December (2), January (3), February (4), March (5), April (6). OK. The Nexus 5 is all of six months old. And it's "aging?" Really? I don't know what to say.

RE: I Don't Know What to Say
By stm1185 on 4/23/2014 9:03:24 PM , Rating: 3
You say that the Nexus 5 uses similar hardware to the SGS4 and One M7, making it a full generation behind; or aging.

RE: I Don't Know What to Say
By Flunk on 4/24/2014 9:10:07 AM , Rating: 2
I think the marketing people may have tricked you, the "Snapdragon 801" is the same silicon at the "Snapdragon 800" just clocked very slightly higher. It's just so that the phone makers can keep claiming their new phones are faster, it doesn't meaningfully affect performance. They're locked in to a refresh cycle that's not sustainable. The CPU makers can't really push out a revolutionary design every 8 months.

The Galaxy S5 is basically a waterproof version of the S4 with more software "features". The One M8 is a reasonable update to the One M7 because it used a Snapdragon 600, which was significantly less powerful.

RE: I Don't Know What to Say
By flyingpants1 on 4/24/2014 9:34:05 AM , Rating: 2
The Galaxy S5 is basically a waterproof version of the S4 with more software "features". The One M8 is a reasonable update to the One M7 because it used a Snapdragon 600, which was significantly less powerful.

No, dude. Both the S4 and M7 used Snapdragon 600. S4 was clocked higher, but max clocks aren't everything. It throttled like crazy.

RE: I Don't Know What to Say
By rocketbuddha on 4/24/2014 6:45:50 PM , Rating: 2

Galaxy S4 and One M7 used Snapdragon 600. 4 Krait 300 cores + 320 GPU . 1.7GHz nominal frequency
Nexus 5, LG G2 and later Galaxy Note3 used Snapdragon 800. 4 Krait 400 cores + 330 GPU + Integrated LTE
2.2GHz nominal frequency
Different CPU cores. GPU cores

So S5 and M8 makes the SOC section provides parity to last years' best of QCOM.

Now 801 is a v3 of "800" v2 revision, in not only higher maximum frequency of operation but also features such as Dual Sim-Dual Active (DS-DA), eMMC 5.0 support

RE: I Don't Know What to Say
By blzd on 4/25/2014 6:25:40 PM , Rating: 2
S801 is actually more of an improvement than the extra 1 implies versus S800. It's considerably more efficient while also being faster and packing new features, it's kind of like a "tock" cycle from Intel's tick/tock generations and a welcome upgrade from a battery and performance perspective.

That being said N4 packed a S600, the N5's S800 is a considerable upgrade from that.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith

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