(Pocket-lint) - OnePlus shot to fame offering the flagship killer. Through a combination of invitation hype and a tight knit community, OnePlus managed to do something that other companies had failed to do - gain fans and gain traction in a competitive smartphone marketplace.
The secret - aside from the hype building - was that OnePlus devices felt like they were made by fans, for fans. Add that to the fact that OnePlus devices were much more affordable than other Android phones and it was a winning combination, certainly from a brand perception point of view.
The biggest criticisms that OnePlus has really faced have come along more recently. In 2019, with the launch of the OnePlus 7 Pro, there was a feeling that the prices had drifted to levels that were close to those established rivals, like Samsung, although the 5G tax (it was one of the first 5G devices) certainly played its part.
OnePlus move to more affordable devices was marked by the announcement of the Nord; sitting on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 765 hardware, it was well received, good value for money, but seemed to uphold the principles on which OnePlus first came into favour - you get a lot for your money.
At the launch of the Nord, the company explained why now was the right time to launch into this more affordable segment - because the hardware was right to guarantee the OnePlus experience, of being fast and smooth. That was the Snapdragon 765 - with 5G - effect, and reinforced with a 90Hz display.
But OnePlus' plans to launch even more affordable devices seem to run counter to the argument that justified the launch of the Nord. The Nord N10 - also recently leaked - could scrape through, preserving that experience while delivering on the experience (we have no idea how Snapdragon 690 will perform), but 5G and a 90Hz display seem to stick to OnePlus' mantra.
But the Nord 100 seems to completely buck the trend. While nothing is confirmed, the leaks suggest that it will be a Snapdragon 460 device with 4GB RAM. The display, while large, so far gives no mention of refresh rate, something that OnePlus has championed through its last four device launches.
It's hard to see, based on these leaks, how the Nord N100 fits with what the company has aimed to offer so far. In some ways, it's a sell-out of the OnePlus brand and what it's always stood for. OnePlus will effectively have products across pricing segments from very affordable to slightly too expensive, just like Samsung.
With the stark reality of business in 2020, having more affordable devices to offer to a wider set of fans makes sense, leveraging that brand that's been built over the past 6 years. We just can't help feeling that the company that brought us the flagship killer has closed off that chapter and is moving on.