When the first OnePlus was launched four years ago, it came with the moniker of being the “Flagship killer". The OnePlus One had comparable and, in some ways, better specifications than the other flagship smartphones of 2014, while bearing a price of an upper-mid-budget smartphone. More importantly, the OnePlus One was an enthusiast smartphone – it was aimed at an audience that was very particular about smartphone specifications and performance and preferred a well-rounded package at a reasonable price. OnePlus has tried to keep this “enthusiast" reputation among its fans, until recently. However, we can’t help but notice the uncanny resemblance of POCO to OnePlus.

POCO: Neo-OnePlus?

OnePlus One and the POCO F1 have quite a few things in common. Both are first attempts from recently formed sister brands. OnePlus was, in a lot of ways, formed off Oppo while POCO is formed off Xiaomi.

The two phones also have a “function-over-fashion" charm to them. The two phones put functionality and user experience way beyond aesthetics. This doesn’t mean any compromises in build quality though.

The target audience of the two phones is also nearly the same – enthusiasts, who really care about what they are buying and the price they are paying for it. This basically equates to high school and college students, who can’t afford a flagship, but want the same specs while agreeing to trade off pretty looks.

What makes POCO the new champ?

The hype. POCO created this enigmatic, spectre-like presence of it before it was launched. XDA Developers spotted the phone on the US FCC site and let everybody know about the “mysterious device by Xiaomi featuring a Snapdragon 845 SoC with 8GB RAM". This was enough to put enthusiasts in an overdrive.

The POCO F1 is the cheapest smartphone in India to feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC.
The POCO F1 is the cheapest smartphone in India to feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC.

OnePlus, on the other hand, was enjoying an insane run with its latest smartphone, the OnePlus 6, but it lacked the bells and whistles that its audience was used to from the latest phones by the “Flagship Killer". If you think about it, the only radical new change on the OnePlus 6 was its notched display. The performance offered by the OnePlus 5T or even the OnePlus 3T was enough for many.

The POCO F1, however, comes with features like LiquidCooling and a Kevlar soft touch back along with all the goodies OnePlus 6 offers (except that beautiful OLED display) at a very reasonable price. If you have an HDFC credit card, you will be able to procure the base variant of the POCO F1 with all the beastly specifications of the top model except the RAM and internal storage, at an effective price of 19,900. This makes it the cheapest smartphone in India (and the world) to feature the quickest mobile chipset in the world right now – the Snapdragon 845.

The real life performance is at par with not only its direct rival, but even smartphones double the price. Games play beautifully on the device with no noticeable lag while not heating up. I played an intense session of PUBG on the phone for a good 20 minutes and I have to say, the non-glass back and LiquidCool technology really does wonders at keeping this phone cool.

OnePlus and Xiaomi are both prompt rolling out software updates. However, while OnePlus takes the near stock-Android path, Poco takes the custom ROM of Xiaomi a notch further. The UI of the Poco F1 is a slightly tweaked version of the MIUI, providing additional categorisation and customisation options. The POCO Launcher will be made available on the Play Store for anyone who wishes to try it out in a week’s time. There’s also minimal bloatware or pre-installed apps that slow down your mobile. While the F1 is a little late to the Android P(Pie) developer race unlike the OnePlus 6, it promises to roll out an update to Android Pie by the end of fall this year.

Mani mentioned during the launch even that the POCO F1 is also the first 4G+ enabled smartphone in India, which promises to provide faster 4G speeds than a regular 4G smartphone. This may be a marketing gimmick, so you might want to watch out for a full review of this phone.

The POCO F1 features a decent camera setup as well, featuring a vertically stacked dual rear camera with 12MP+5MP configuration that is quick at focusing and provides a good experience overall, be it colours, details or low light performance. The 20MP front camera is also very good at its job, consistently clicking good selfies.

Consumers wouldn’t even mind trading off that extra storage, as it is expandable via a MicroSD card, the premium glass back, which can be a real pain to replace if damaged, and the non-OLED but completely doable LCD display.

So it will be fair to say that a worthy “smartphone killer" is on the way.

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