OnePlus is launching a new phone — the OnePlus Nord (if you've been following rumors) — on July 21. But the Android phone, which will mark a return for OnePlus to the sub-$500 price range, is going to be launched a bit differently. Instead of a traditional livestream, OnePlus is announcing the Nord using augmented reality (AR).
It's an unconventional way to launch a new product and will no doubt test the current capabilities of augmented reality. Can AR provide enough sense of realism to replace in-person events that cost tens of thousands (if not millions) of dollars to set up and deconstruct? OnePlus isn't the first company to experiment with an AR launch. In May, Apple and Lamborghini partnered up to unveil the Huracán EVO RWD Spyder in AR.
Not OnePlus' first launch gimmick — The launch of the Nord also won't be OnePlus' first time launching a new phone with immersive technology. Back in 2015, OnePlus announced the OnePlus 2 in VR. The company had its audience don Google Cardboard-like VR "headsets" as OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei walked through the phone's features. The VR launch was a silly gimmick and we're expecting the AR one for Nord to be equally cheesy. That said, it's got us all talking about the phone and brand, right?
Android or iOS app required — Viewers will need to download the OnePlus Nord AR app for iOS or Android to go "hands-on with the upcoming OnePlus Nord device" the company said in a press release. OnePlus says the app will be live at 10 a.m. ET on July 21 (so don't bother trying to open it earlier).
OnePlus has also posted a placeholder countdown video on its YouTube channel. We're sure launch details will be shared in plain 2D for those who can't experience it in AR.
What we know about the Nord — Previously rumored as the OnePlus 8 Lite or OnePlus Z, the OnePlus Nord is a new mid-range Android phone priced at under $500.
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip
- Optical image stabilization for the back camera
- Dual selfie cameras (32- and 8-megapixels?)
- 90Hz refresh rate
- 30W fast charging
One look at the midrange 765 chip might give you pause. The appeal of OnePlus phones has always been their flagship specs and unparalleled speed (on Android). But OnePlus CEO Pete Lau says there's nothing to worry about. While midrange phones may have had lackluster performance in the past, Lau believes they're ready for primetime.
"We’ve been looking at the mid-range smartphone market for a while," Lau told TechRadar. "It’s just that we felt like the technology wasn’t really there to be able to create a mid-range product that also lives up to our ‘Never Settle’ philosophy. But we’re pretty confident that this time around the OnePlus Nord will do just that."
As a phone reviewer, I can tell you that midrange phones have made significant leaps over the last few years. Qualcomm's midrange silicon are midrange in name, but they're not far behind flagship chips from a year or two ago.
Lau says the Nord will launch in Europe and India first. The company is also considering a limited release in North America. Stay tuned.