This year made a huge change to OnePlus's release strategy, scraping the whole 'one phone at a time' thing in favour of releasing two phones - a standard model and a fancy Pro version with extra premium features. Apparently the company is going to stick to this release strategy for the foreseeable future, though that's going to end up being very problematic. As OnePlus has already shown, it doesn't really have the chops to release four phones in a year. So it needs to decide whether it wants to prioritise the T Series or the Pro series, because it can't have both.
It's not been so long since OnePlus unveiled the 7T series, which consisted of the standard 7T and a 7T Pro. Anyone who pays that much attention to my work will know that I was not kind to the 7T Pro because it was so disgustingly similar to the 7 Pro that was released in May. It's not to say that the 7T Pro was a bad phone, because it wasn't; it was just almost completely identical to its predecessor. Incremental updates are not an uncommon occurrence these days, but the 7T Pro launch took this concept to a new extreme.
The 7T was completely the opposite, with with the phone receiving a lot of serious hardware upgrades compared to the OnePlus 7. But then again the OnePlus 7 wasn't hugely different from the OnePlus 6T. Not to the same extremes as the 7 Pro and 7T Pro, but still nothing hugely special. It's almost as though the OnePlus 7T was the phone the OnePlus 7 could have been, though at the time some of the key features (like the 90Hz screen) were kept away from the 7 so they could debut on the 7 Pro. In the past I've seen people say they're waiting to see what features OnePlus held back for the T series, but now it seems we can see most of them - because they're launching at the same time on a bigger, more expensive device.
I don't really have an issue with OnePlus launching a Pro series phone, or even a larger device. Other phone companies have been doing that for ages, and it seems to work. Screen size is a contentious issue, after all, and it makes sense to give people the choice of having a size that suits them. Giving people some extra features for spending a bit more money on their devices is totally fine, but my issue is releasing almost the exact same phone and behaving as though it's totally new.
They're not the only ones guilty of that, since Samsung's Galaxy S10+ was strikingly similar to the Note 10. Though in that instance the Note 10 does have some key features that set it apart, so it's not the most seamless of comparisons.
But the fact is that the base and Pro models are not just a smaller and larger version of the same phone. They're effectively being pitted against each other as rivals, but since they're both owned by the same company, one device is going to be deliberately held back to try and further sales of the other. In May it was the OnePlus 7 that lost out, while in September the 7T Pro drew the short straw. Frankly it's a waste of time, money, and energy to release two phones that aren't as good as they really should be.
OnePlus needs to decide where its priorities lie. Four phones a year could work if the company put the money into actual innovation, but research and development doesn't necessarily stick to phone release timetables, meaning that option is basically a no go. If the company really wants to focus on drawing in the 'premium user' then that's fine, but in that case the T series has to go. And if it wants to stick to the biannual cycle, then there's little space for the Pro models to continue existing in their current form – because slapping in a software update and a processor that's only a tiny fraction faster than its predecessor is not good enough.
Then again, if OnePlus seems fine releasing near-identical phones then it might as well throw them both out at the same time, and rename the Pro to "Max" or "Plus" to emphasise the fact that it's for people who like bigger screens.