There’s nothing minimalist about the scene at OnePlus’s 10T launch event, and in a venue called Gotham Hall, how could it be? The ceiling and walls are lit in bright red and the audience is shrouded in a blue glow. There is also a chandelier in the middle of the ceiling that really gives The ghost of the opera feeling.
OnePlus hasn’t left much to the imagination in the run-up to the launch event. First, there are a few 10Ts embedded in the wall where attendees walk in, so the mold is up. As it tends, OnePlus has also leaked the specs ahead of time, from the chipset to the controversial missing alert slider. It’s a color-by-number photo of the phone with almost every bit shaded except for one key spec: the price.
Like just about everyone around me in a section reserved for media, I had a OnePlus 10T for a few weeks to test under embargo. We know how it performs, what it costs, and made up our minds on who should or shouldn’t buy one. We are not here to learn anything new; we’re here – just down the street from Broadway – for a little theater.
So did a few hundred other attendees, and it’s not just the tech industry types: OnePlus opened the doors to anyone who’d pay $25 for a ticket. Attendees begin to crowd in the rear standing area as the seats fill up, and a guy with Extreme Movie Announcer Voice informs us all that more seats are coming.
Over there are not enough chairs for everyone, but the event kicks off anyway, and it’s as cinematic as the venue suggested it would be: projectors light up the walls above and around the stage to highlight what’s being announced: lightning for fast charging; volcanic rock for the unveiling of the design, etc. You’d think you were at a really dramatic show or maybe Cirque du Soleil, but no, it’s all about a phone.
To that end, early in the presentation there is a slide with only rough specs that gets an enthusiastic round of applause. A gentleman behind me yells, “Where’s the alarm slide?” a few times when presenters pause. This is really a unique kind of drama.
The presentation drags on a bit, and by the end of the…
Colour OxygenOS 13 bit, we are 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 anyway. Perhaps the presentation took too long – we went through one video twice! – or maybe it’s just that I have to pee. If this was a virtual event like all the others in recent years, it wouldn’t be a problem. But I’m stuck in my seat with a wall of lone participants blocking my way to the exit. Finally, we get the big prize reveal and are encouraged to visit the demo stations in the rooms at the back of the theater.
Maybe it’s a new perspective after more than two years of a somewhat isolated existence, but the demo situation is a bit Wonderland-esque – familiar but not too. Servers carry saucers of OnePlus-branded iced coffee and names that play on phone features, such as the “Long life latte.” There’s a whole menu of snacks and drinks like this one, but the branding doesn’t go so far as to cover a Bud Light logo on one of the coolers.
One room has a deconstructed model of the telephone’s cooling system, topped with dry ice and dramatically lit, as if it were the Ark of the Covenant. There’s also a wall of previous OnePlus devices with notification sliders as far as the eye can see – what a scourge.
There are, of course, swag bags on the way out and back through the looking glass to 36th Street, oppressive heat and blinding sunlight. One of the event hosts stands at the curb waiting for an Uber (see? They’re just like us!), and I linger for a moment before rushing to the next thing on my calendar. It wasn’t quite Hamiltonbut it was a good – if a little strange – piece of entertainment.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge