Opinion: OnePlus' Back To Basics Approach Is Exactly What The Phone Market Needs
Around this time last year, I wrote a piece about how the then new lineup of OnePlus phones (namely the 8 and 8 Pro) were everything a flagship phone should be, and how that their release could set them on the path to being true giant killers. The last 12 months or so has since seen them continue in the same vein, but enter into the world of the mid-ranger, and in the process offering a great package overall.
I did, for a period of time consider swapping out my trusty OnePlus 7 Pro for a version of the new OnePlus Nord, the original variant of the Chinese manufacturer's mid range offering, given its relative affordability and feature set. But, I decided against it, just considering it would, in the grand scheme of things, have been a downgrade.
However, the new OnePlus Nord CE may make some rethink their decisions. CE stands for Core Edition, implying that OnePlus are focusing on a smartphone's fundamentals as opposed to offering extravagant sextuple camera setups with millions of megapixels and other features that can bloat a spec sheet. In practice, this has meant that this new Nord is a little less tricked out than its original predecessor, but has taken advantage of new tech and a back-to-basics approach.
The camera setup on the CE for example does have a higher MP rating of 64 in comparison to 48 previously, but there's only three rear sensors. In addition, the CE only has a sixteen MP selfie camera and no secondary ultrawide option like the original Nord. Processing speeds are improved too, with OnePlus claiming this year's model has a 20% faster CPU and 10% quicker GPU. It's also the same story for battery capacity as this new version has a total capacity of 4500mAh compared to the original's 4115.
The biggest change though isn't in the camera, batteries or processing speed, but in one cosmetic detail. Unlike the original Nord, the CE is shipping with a headphone jack, breaking the mould of all their other phones that are laden with no other ports apart from a Type-C for charging and data transfer purposes.
The 3.5mm port was first killed off by Apple in 2016 and pretty much every other manufacturer followed suit in the following three years. With that being said, the last couple of years has seen its resurgence, with Samsung sticking by the old faithful ever since, and the likes of Google, Motorola and LG reviving it in order to give users more options.
I can guarantee there are people out there with piles of wired headphones that they haven't used in years, but with their next phone upgrade, may take the inclusion of a headphone jack into consideration. It's this back to basics approach from OnePlus in a phone in 2021 that marks a major change in the makeup of smartphones, and a decision that could be here to stay, if the manufacturers can play their cards right.
Note that the inclusion of the 3.5mm port seems to only been more on the budget and mid-range options from the likes of OnePlus and also Google on their Pixel 4a and 4a 5G. Neither firm's flagships have been bequeathed with what is on its most basic level a legacy port offering. If there's uptake on the phones like the Pixel 4a, which has been rated as one of the best and most affordable phones at this current rate, then it may be possible to get them back on flagships for the first time in years.
Phone manufacturers are looking to begin to wake up to the fact that cutting once staple features from their best offerings may not be the way to go in future. If the headphone jack continues its resurgence, then there's a chance other legacy options may make their way back in the not too distant future too. With that being said, just don't bring back phone socks and charms, please.