From the OnePlus One to the OnePlus 5: design evolution through the years

“With the OnePlus 5 just around the corner, we take a look at the design evolution of its predecessors”

There’s always a compromise to be made with ‘affordable’ smartphones. Buyers know that saving a couple thousand bucks on a Samsung or an HTC would mean they’ll have to deal with laggy processors, low-res displays, underwhelming cameras, and sometimes all of the above. That is, until OnePlus set foot in the smartphone industry in 2014 with its first smartphone – the OnePlus One, a spec-heavy handset which retailed at a wallet-friendly price and looked good to boot. 

Fast forward to 2017 and the demand for the company’s ‘flagship killers’ (a tag the brand has stopped using) has mushroomed across the globe. While the brand has made a reputation for itself by offering top-notch specs on a budget, the one thing that many overlook is that all of OnePlus’ smartphones thus far have offered an above-average build quality and excelled with the design too. With the OnePlus 5 just around the corner, we decided to dwell into how the company’s smartphones have evolved in terms of design and also contemplate as to what OnePlus’ upcoming offering might have to offer too.

OnePlus One 

OnePlus One screen

Launched back in 2014, the OnePlus One was a really difficult phone to get hold of, primarily because the smartphone was being sold via an invite-based system in a fairly limited quantity. However, the design of the smartphone was a game-changer in the budget industry and the handset featured a 5.5-inch full HD display, had rather sleek bezels on the sides along with a metal trim, which gave the OnePlus One a sturdy build. While the front of the smartphone was extremely impressive, the back is where all the magic happened. Instead of using metal or glass to construct the smartphone’s rear, OnePlus took a drastically different approach and coated the back in a sandstone finish (in the 64GB variant). The result? A smartphone which stood out in the crowd, offered impeccable durability, and a great grip even if you were using it with sweaty hands.

OnePlus 2


In terms of design, the OnePlus 2 improved upon the strong foundation laid by its predecessor. This meant that the Sandstone finish which made the first phone so popular, would make a debut again on the OnePlus 2. Moreover, instead of shipping with just a metal trim on the side, the outer frame of the OnePlus 2 was crafted entirely out of an alloy of aluminium and magnesium. While all that sounds good and dandy, arguably the biggest design change which set the OnePlus 2 apart from its predecessor and most other smartphones in its price range was that the handset shipped with a fingerprint sensor. While it might not sound like a big deal today, back then, only the highest echelon of the smartphone industry were offering a fingerprint sensor.

Another thoughtful implementation was the addition of the Alert Slider, which allowed users to switch between three different notification profiles with just a slide. While it looked like a radical choice back then, the near-centrally placed camera made the OnePlus 2 one of the most distinctive designs of 2015. 

OnePlus X


After launching the first two smartphones, OnePlus decided to launch a 5-inch handset dubbed the OnePlus X which was tailor-made for one-handed usage. The handset featured glass on both, the front and the back, with a metal frame sandwiched in between. The metal frame had 17 micro cuts incised on it, which besides giving the smartphone a distinct personality, also added to the handset’s grip. The smartphone was also the only OnePlus handset to feature a glass back.

The OnePlus X was a clear departure from the usual OnePlus assembly line; not only was the X the smallest OnePlus phone, it was also one that was aimed at a completely different target audience – lifestyle consumers.

OnePlus 3 / 3T


Adhering to its “Never Settle” motto, OnePlus pushed the boundaries yet again when it launched the OnePlus 3, which featured a stark change in the design language when compared to its predecessors. Gone was the sandstone finish on the back; the OnePlus 3 was constructed entirely out of metal. The handset was visibly sleeker than its predecessors too and at just 7.3mm thin, it was one among the more slender flagships in the world at the time of its launch. Moreover, owing to its curved back, OnePlus hit the nail on the head when it came to ergonomics with OnePlus 3. Therefore, despite being clad in metal, the smartphone gripped well and didn’t slip as much as its competition. The immensely popular Alert Slider made its second appearance on the OnePlus 3 as well as its immediate successor, the OnePlus 3T.


The OnePlus 3T was launched roughly six months after the OnePlus 3, and was considered to be an internal-only revision of the smartphone. While the design of the OnePlus 3T was relatively unchanged from the OnePlus 3, the company did introduce the 3T in two new colours: Gunmetal grey and a Colette edition with an all-black finish. Initially, OnePlus had planned on selling limited quantities of the Colette edition of the 3T, however, due to increasing demand, the company later launched a midnight-black variant of the smartphone which featured a similar premium finish.

OnePlus 5

With a launch date set for June 20th globally, and June 22nd in India, all eyes are on OnePlus and there’s a lot of speculation surrounding what they will be presenting next. Going by the teasers, OnePlus has already confirmed that its next smartphone will be called the OnePlus 5 and will be its first smartphone which comes with a dual-camera setup on the back. 

Moreover, the smartphone will also come with the brand’s signature horizon line, which can be found at the top and divides the body of the OnePlus 5 in two parts as opposed to having a completely rounded design. Therefore, whenever light is incident on the horizon line, one-half is covered in shadow, whereas the other is cast in light. Lastly, the photos posted by OnePlus on the company’s Twitter account showcase the OnePlus 5 to have a rather slim girth and the company’s CEO Pete Lau even said that it will be the slimmest flagship upon launch.

Interestingly enough, OnePlus ran an ad campaign during the India v Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy final on the 18th this month. The timing couldn’t have been better – as the commercial gave a glimpse as to how the OnePlus 5 will look like.

OnePlus 5 design teaser

Clearly, OnePlus has evolved and matured over the years in terms of its smartphone’s designs, and we can’t wait to see what the company has in store for us with the OnePlus 5. Do let us know in the comments below if you are also psyched for the launch of the latest offering from the brand, and which OnePlus smartphone is your personal favourite, in terms of the design. 

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