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OnePlus 8 will be 'all in on 5G,' CEO says

Speaking exclusively to CNET, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau reveals that the upcoming OnePlus 8 will center around 5G.

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James Martin/CNET

OnePlus confirmed that the upcoming OnePlus 8 series of its phones will all be 5G enabled. Speaking exclusively to CNET, OnePlus CEO and co-founder Pete Lau explained that "going forward, we're all in on 5G". Taking note of how carriers are expanding their 5G coverage month by month, Lau said that it's an opportunity that OnePlus wants to capture -- especially given T-Mobile's rollout of the next-generation network. (T-Mobile was one of the earliest US carriers to sell OnePlus phones.)  

"I want to restate our commitment to 5G and our long term investment," he said. "We've been investing in 5G for several years and we see this as the direction going forward and one we're very much committed to."

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The McLaren edition OnePlus 7T Pro.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The company launched its first 5G phone -- the OnePlus 7 Pro -- in the UK in summer 2019, followed by a US release on Sprint. It's one of two 5G phones the company currently offers, alongside a special McLaren edition of the OnePlus 7T Pro. OnePlus is expected to launch its next generation of phones in April, although an official date is yet to be confirmed. 

With new technology, however, prices will inevitably rise, which is something Lau anticipated. "We've always had a position in creating the  best product possible at the best price point. The new technology does add costs so costs have risen in comparison to 4G products."

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That's already the case with the company's existing phones. On the OnePlus website, the OnePlus 7 Pro is currently listed at $499 (£649 or about AU$1,290). The 5G version ups that considerably to $840. Since OnePlus first arrived on the scene with its first phone in 2014, building up its reputation by providing flagship-level tech at affordable prices. But this year's launch may see OnePlus approach a $1,000 threshold, and it risks becoming another premium phone-maker with expensive devices.

But Lau reassured that this won't be the case. He said it's likely we'll see a more expensive "Pro" version of the phone and a regular OnePlus 8 with more modest specs and an accessible price tag.

"Last year we launched the 7 Pro and the 7 together and there was a lot of excitement around this," Lau said. "I think that this year again everyone should expect a lot to look forward to in 5G products with a reasonable price." 

There are rumors of an even more budget-friendly OnePlus 8 "Lite" on the way. It'll either launch alongside the rest of the series OnePlus 8 family or later in the year. While Lau was firm that the upcoming launch will be 5G all the way, he didn't confirm whether the company is ditching 4G phones altogether. The 8 Lite may have 5G and launch with the rest of the series in April, or it could launch later and stick with 4G in order to come in at a lower price.