There’s nothing minimalist about the scene at OnePlus’ 10T launch event, and at a venue called Gotham Hall, how could it be? The ceiling and walls are lit up in bright red, and the audience is blanketed in a blue glow. There’s also a chandelier in the middle of the ceiling giving real The Phantom of the Opera vibes.
OnePlus hasn’t left much to the imagination leading up to its launch event. For one, a couple of 10Ts are embedded in the wall where attendees walk in, so the jig is up. As it tends to, OnePlus has also dripped out specs ahead of time, from the chipset to the controversial missing alert slider. It’s a color-by-numbers picture of the phone with almost every bit shaded in except for one key spec: the price.
Like just about everyone sitting around me in a section reserved for media, I’ve had a OnePlus 10T for testing under embargo for a couple of weeks. We know how it performs, what it costs, and have formed our opinions on who should or shouldn’t buy one. We’re not here to learn anything new; we’re here — just down the street from Broadway — for a little bit of theater.
So are a few hundred other attendees, and it’s not just tech industry types: OnePlus opened the doors to anyone who would pay $25 for a ticket. Attendees begin crowding into the standing room in the back as seats fill up, and a guy with Extreme Movie Announcer Voice informs us all that more chairs are arriving.
There aren’t enough chairs for everyone, but the event starts anyway, and it’s every bit as cinematic as the venue implied it would be: projectors light up the walls above and around the stage to emphasize what’s being announced: lightning for the fast charging; volcanic rock for the design reveal, etc. You’d think you were at a really dramatic stage show or maybe Cirque du Soleil, but nope, it’s all about a phone.
To that end, there’s a slide early on in the presentation that’s just raw specs that gets a round of excited applause. A gentleman behind me calls out “where’s the alert slider?” a couple of times when presenters pause. This really is a unique kind of drama.
The presentation drags on a little bit, and toward the end of the
Color OxygenOS 13 bit, we’re all ready to get out of our seats. Someone nearby is playing a game I don’t recognize on their phone — maybe it’s a 10T? That’s a good use case for it anyway. Maybe the presentation has gone on too long — we did sit through one video twice! — or maybe it’s just that I have to pee. If this were a virtual event like all the others of the past couple of years, that wouldn’t be a problem. But I’m stuck in my seat with a wall of standing-room-only attendees blocking my way to the exit. Finally, we get the big prize reveal, and we’re encouraged to visit the demo stations in the rooms at the back of the theater.
Maybe it’s a newfound perspective after two-plus years of a somewhat isolated existence, but the demo situation is a little Wonderland-esque — familiar but also not. Servers carry around platters of iced coffees with OnePlus branding and names that play on phone features, like the “Long life latte.” There’s a whole menu of snacks and drinks like this, but the branding doesn’t go so far as to cover a Bud Light logo on one of the coolers.
One room features a deconstructed model of the phone’s cooling system, doused in dry ice and lit dramatically, like it’s the ark of the covenant. There’s also a wall of previous OnePlus devices with alert sliders as far as the eye can see — what a tease.
There are swag bags on the way out, of course, and back through the looking glass onto 36th Street, oppressive heat and blinding sunlight. One of the event’s presenters is at the curb waiting for an Uber (See? They’re just like us!), and I linger for a minute before hurrying on to the next thing on my calendar. It wasn’t quite Hamilton, but it was a good — if a little odd — bit of entertainment.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge