Google and OnePlus are embracing the junior flagship trend

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the buildup to the launch of Google and OnePlus’ latest devices, as the nature of their pre-launch leaks was so comprehensive that we were able to do the analysis of what each phone means in advance. The language has since been amended to reflect the official status of both companies’ new products.

Google’s release of the Pixel 3A and 3A XL this month, accompanied by OnePlus’ split of its single flagship into a basic and a Pro model, marks a significant moment for the phone industry. Starting from divergent positions, the two companies are ending up at the same destination, with one premium variant and a more distilled and simplified sub-flagship. And that happens to be where practically every smartphone vendor finds themselves today.

Google’s Pixel lineup started in the premium range and is now trickling down the glories of the Pixel camera to a more widely affordable price point, while OnePlus is taking on the harder task of trying to climb its way into higher price brackets after starting as a budget-tier performance monster.