October 26, 2021

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The Next OnePlus Flagship Will Run on Oppo’s Version of Android

A photo of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro laying in shrubbery

Enjoy the version of OnePlus’s OxygenOS running now because it’s going the way of the dodo.
Photo: Sam Rutherford / Gizmodo

Say goodbye to OnePlus’s flavor of Android as you know it, because it’s going away. In an interview with The Verge, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau confirmed that the next OnePlus flagship smartphone, launching next year, will run on Oppo’s ColorOS instead of OnePlus’OxygenOS.

Let’s back up for a second: OnePlus makes niche Android phones, though it’s been making changes to go more mainstream. Over the summer, the company announced it was merging with its overseas owner, Oppo, as part of its global expansion strategy. OnePlus will attempt to make the transition easy for its fans, which have long appreciated the company’s attempts to make flagship Android phones at more affordable prices. (That’s changed a bit in the last few years.) 

OnePlus will merge the ColorOS codebase with the existing OxygenOS operating system, which OnePlus smartphones currently use. The OnePlus 9 series will be the first to receive the beta of the new operating system in October—around the same time Android 12 will be available to Pixel users. OnePlus 8 users should expect the beta to hit in December.

The move to ColorOS includes good news for tinkerers, as Lau said the devices would continue to support unlocking mechanisms so enthusiasts can do as they please with the software.

“I believe that the unified operating system will keep the DNA of OxygenOS that many of you love so much, while also giving you an upgraded experience overall,” Lau wrote in a forum post.

OnePlus users have expressed concern that the new ColorOS experience will differ from the current interface. But Lau said the company will customize the new unified operating system to keep it “as clean and lightweight as before.”

OnePlus will likely debut the integrated OS next year. The changeover should be in full effect by the “next major Android update” in 2022. That could mean the end of next year, as that’s when Google typically launches the next public version of Android. Lau calls it “OnePlus 2.0″ and dubs it “a positive change” for the brand.

OnePlus promised its users that the move to ColorOS would be virtually painless, citing the larger team of developers brought on through the Oppo merger. There will be some minor aesthetic changes, as well as performance improvements across the board. Oppo recently announced the details of ColorOS 12, which is built on top of Android 12 and will eventually make it to the OnePlus devices mentioned above. The interface will appear similar to OxygenOS as it looks now, though with a few more contrasting elements and pared-down menus. There are softer colors throughout, and Oppo said it worked on smoothing animations and adding an “anti-stutter” AI engine.

OnePlus also confirmed it wouldn’t release a OnePlus 9T smartphone to follow the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro. It’s the first time since 2016 that there is no T-series smartphone. The T-series versions are an upgraded model for folks willing to wait for higher-end specs than the base models, but skipping it this time is likely part of the company’s broader consolidation efforts. And at the very least, it will make shopping for a OnePlus device a little less confusing.

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