With Verizon and AT&T scrapping for attention with Samsung 5G smartphone announcements, EE is clamouring to prove its worth with its own OnePlus 5G declaration.
EE claims it will be the first operator in the world to deliver OnePlus’ version of a 5G-compatible smartphone. Whether this has any material impact on customer acquisition remains to be seen as recent trends suggest cash-conscious consumers are holding onto devices longer, while refurbished devices are gaining more and more traction. Another interesting factor will be UK consumers preference for more well-known brands.
That said, being a world-first for a challenger smartphone brand gathering momentum is a positive, while potentially being first in the UK to offer a device will attract the attention of early adopters.
“EE and OnePlus have a shared vision: to give our customers the best-connected experience possible,” said Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division. “We’re working together on cutting edge technology to deliver that, and we’re leading the world on the journey to 5G. Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. We have an ambition to connect our customers to 4G, 5G or Wi-Fi 100% of the time.”
“The pursuit of speed has defined the OnePlus DNA since OnePlus was founded five years ago,” said OnePlus founder Pete Lau. “There’s no one more suitable than OnePlus to make a 5G smartphone. Our users are always eager to try new things and they are now ready to experience the next generation of connectivity and speed. In response, OnePlus has poured efforts into 5G research since 2016. Today, we stand poised to embrace the dawn of 5G.”
Of course, it might not mean much to the UK consumer. Recent research from UK mobile app developers Tappable suggests only 34% of consumers would consider purchases from lesser known brands. The latest technology is of course important to the survey respondents, but with OnePlus very much a challenger brand in the UK, this partnership might end up meaning very little in a brand-loyal market.
EE was announced as the launch partner of the device at the Qualcomm summit event, taking place in Hawaii, though 5G will only cover 15% of the population when the phone is launched. The six cities which will be included in the first phase of EE’s 5G rollout are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester, though ten more will be added to the list over the remainder of 2019.
Trials are currently taking place in Canary Wharf and across East London, while the MNO also conducted a live 5G broadcast between Wembley Stadium and the Excel Exhibition Centre last month. The initial focus of the 5G rollout will be on the busiest parts of the named cities, Hyde Park in London and the Manchester Arena for example, though it seems EE is wary about misleading the consumer about 5G being up-front with the limited nature of the coverage.
Specific dates of the 5G launch are currently as accurate as a wine-snob’s description of last night’s merlot, though the 5G hype is starting to build once again after briefly losing its treasured place in the hearts and minds of marketers to AI.