OnePlus doesn't think its first 5G smartphone will sell very well

The 5G-touting OnePlus won't be breaking any sales records for the company

OnePlus 6T 5G Release Date

OnePlus isn't confident its first 5G-compatible smartphone will be much of a best-seller by any stretch of the imagination.

CEO Pete Lau has this week admitted in an interview with Cnet that the Shenzhen-based company will not launch the all-new 5G-touting smartphone "for the money" – an incredibly avant-garde business strategy for the five-year-old company.

Instead of driving huge profits, OnePlus sees the unnamed 5G-compatible handset, which will be completely separate from the upcoming OnePlus 6T successor, as a way to get their foot in the door early when it comes to the development of 5G technology over the next few years.

OnePlus wants to be ready for the superfast wireless speeds, firmly standing alongside heavy-hitters like Samsung and Huawei – the two largest phone manufacturers in the world. Meanwhile, Apple looks happy to let them slug it out, with its 5G iPhone purportedly planned for 2020 at the very earliest.

To ensure it's ready for the first wave of 5G-touting devices, OnePlus will ensure it's one of the first to market with a 5G phone – despite almost all of the infrastructure for the next-generation mobile technology not even in place in many areas.

"The 5G product is not expected to equate to huge sales," CEO Pete Lau admitted to Cnet through an interpreter. "It's still early stage. But by 2020 it could already be very different."

Lau confirmed rumours that the first OnePlus 5G-compatible handset will debut "before the end of May."

The news comes days after CEO Lau forecast that bringing 5G support could add anywhere from $200 (£155) to $300 (£235) onto the price of its next smartphone.

Given that the maxed-out OnePlus 6T currently costs £579 ($629), the 5G-touting successor looks likely to be within sight of the £1,000 mark. With a price tag sitting around £814, OnePlus will be asking fans to cough-up a considerably more than its previous efforts. For comparison, when the OnePlus 3 debuted in June 2016, it had a starting price of just £309 and a "Flagship Killer" tagline that taunted its pricier rivals.

With the upcoming 5G-compatible OnePlus 7 – or whatever the startup decides to brand the next-generation handset – OnePlus is edging ever closer to the prices commanded by the manufacturers it used to mock, including Samsung, and Apple.

Fortunately, OnePlus seems to be aware that its 5G-compatible offering will have a limited appeal, thanks to the price bump and the fact that 5G networks are not yet as widespread as their 4G counterparts.

Speaking to TechRadar during the annual Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said: "Because 5G will be very much for a small unique portion of enthusiasts, we'll have a 4G product also developed and available in parallel."

When asked whether the price increase for 5G compatibility could be a sticking point for potential customers, Lau wasn't convinced. He said: "That's not necessarily a problem for our users as [5G] is what they're after.

"We've never set out to make a product cheaper for the sake of being cheaper. It has very much been a transition of the unique business model. 

"Because of what that has been able to offer, many people will see the existing OnePlus flagship offering in comparison to other flagships being a much more reasonable price."

Launching a 4G version of its next handset alongside the pricier 5G version will allow the company to stay competitive, while also offering the next-generation mobile connectivity to those willing to pay a premium to get it.