A 5G OnePlus phone for Verizon? Don’t hold your breath

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It seems like a perfect marriage. OnePlus claims it’ll be among the first to launch a 5G smartphone next year. Verizon can’t stop talking about 5G

OnePlus has already cozied up to Verizon with the OnePlus 6T, which has been certified to run on the carrier’s network, despite a carrier exclusivity deal with rival T-Mobile

Though Verizon remains open to carrying a OnePlus phone, there are no plans for OnePlus to build a phone specifically for the carrier, according to people familiar with the interactions between the two companies.

And that early 5G smartphone that OnePlus is touting? You can forget about it coming to the US. That’s because OnePlus needs to tune any 5G radio in the device to a specific carrier’s spectrum, and OnePlus CEO Pete Lau told The Verge that European carriers would get it first

A company spokesman also confirmed that the 5G smartphone would be separate from its main flagship family, and will be purpose-built to tap into the next-generation cellular network. 

While the OnePlus 6T, which is the first phone from the company to be supported by a US carrier in T-Mobile, represents an opportunity to break through to the mainstream in this country, a future partnership with Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier by subscribers, could cement its position. But OnePlus, which lacks the resources of giants like Apple or Samsung, is opting to take things slow despite its position as a fan favorite of Android enthusiasts. 

The limited release of a 5G smartphone, meanwhile, underscores the messy nature of the next-generation wireless technology, which promises a massive speed boost but also requires device makers to work with carriers to tune their devices specifically to individual networks. The consequence, at least in the near term, is a lot of 5G devices that’ll work on one carrier but not another. 

You can expect a lot of device makers to build specific phones for specific carriers, such as LG’s first 5G smartphone with Sprint.

At least on paper, a partnership with Verizon and OnePlus seems to make sense. 5G is a huge priority for both companies, and OnePlus went through the effort of making sure its OnePlus 6T worked on Verizon’s network, seen as a precursor for a firmer relationship. But OnePlus hasn’t talked about making a phone that would be sold in Verizon stores, which would require a much tougher certification process.

Because OnePlus would have to have been working with Verizon for a while to build a 5G smartphone, that isn’t in the cards either. 

Verizon has much of its 2019 smartphone lineup set in stone already, but it’s open to a OnePlus relationship down the line, according to a person familiar with the carrier’s thinking. 


No talks about a specific deal have occurred, however. 

For now OnePlus is working with T-Mobile, which analysts note makes for a better demographic fit since the carrier tends to attract younger, more tech-savvy consumers. 

A spokeswoman for T-Mobile declined to comment on the future of its relationship with OnePlus, saying only that it would focus on selling the OnePlus 6T. 

Spokesmen for OnePlus and Verizon declined to comment. 

Author Terri Gallegos

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