Speaking to sources familiar with the companies’ plans, Android Police has learned that Verizon has inked a partnership with Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus. Those sources have indicated that, based on the timeline of past deals, Verizon intends to release a OnePlus smartphone for sale on its network in 2020. It was unclear exactly when or which smartphone (or phones) would be the first to arrive on the carrier, or if they would support Verizon’s nascent 5G mmWave technology (which OnePlus has previously shunned).
PhoneArena reported yesterday that Verizon is planning to exclusively carry the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Edition in the US, though our own sources were unable to corrborate an exact model or launch date.
Given that the once-obscure phonemaker is now onto its second US carrier partnership with Sprint — along with the fact that the OnePlus 7 Pro is even officially Verizon-compatible — it’s not at all far-fetched that those relationships would continue to grow. OnePlus makes compelling products at extremely competitive prices, and even as its latest phone is its most expensive, it’s hard to argue the company isn’t still providing the best overall value in the flagship phone space in 2019.
But the hurdles to an official Verizon launch may not be fully cleared: the United States plans to implement a 15% tariff on all Chinese-made smartphones this December. While President Trump has already delayed these tariffs once in an attempt to offset their publicly perceived impact to consumers, his administration has allowed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods to already go into effect. A 15% price hike on OnePlus’ phones could have a significant impact on sales: such an increase would, theoretically, bring the base price of a 7 Pro to $770 — a hike of $100. While it might not be enough to dissuade OnePlus fans from making a purchase, it could make it a less attractive target for commission-driven retail sales reps who are generally motivated more by incentives and offers than they are a product’s merit.
Still, it’s a big move for OnePlus, and one that could greatly increase its visibility among US consumers. Verizon is far larger than T-Mobile or Sprint, OnePlus’s current operator partners, and reaching that sort of critical mass could also see OnePlus’ phones end up at service resellers like Best Buy and Costco. The American phone market is heavily influenced by carriers, and many consumers still even buy their phones in brick-and-mortar retail locations, in stark contrast to overall consumer trends in the US. OnePlus is right to be pushing in this direction, despite how outmoded it may seem in a global context.
As our sources have told us, while Verizon and OnePlus fully intend to move forward with the deal, there’s always the possibility things don’t work out in the end. Huawei knows a bit about that. But at this point, it looks like full steam ahead for OnePlus’ next big US carrier partnership.