The photograph was posted to Chinese social platform Coolapk.com by relatively unheard of leaker Chnlyk, which doesn’t do much for its credibility. On the other hand, though, there are a few details in the image that do make sense, posing the question if OnePlus is at least prototyping a slider.
First, the chunky white cases on the 7 (pictured below, on the left) and already released 6T (below right) are a pretty standard method of concealing phone designs during testing. The hardware and software looks highly authentic right down to OnePlus’ weird NFC logo, though that isn't impossible to fake.
Making OnePlus’ traditional alert slider red is also logical, as more phones such as the Huawei Mate 20 are praised by reviewers for adopting boldly colored buttons. Moving it down slightly relative to the OnePlus 6T could come as a fix in light of complaints that it was out of reach.
However, it's easy to spot several oddities in the image as well. The date and time, for example, are 25 hours apart between the phones which is odd when you consider they’re both connected to Wi-Fi and able to update their clock.
It’s also hard to imagine why the 6T might need a concealment case when it was released two months ago, and it’s strange that it has a large gap above the volume rocker when there’s no buttons nor antennas there.
If this is the real OnePlus 7, however, we’re in for a treat. As you can see in the artistic rendering at the top of the page, removing the notch and curving the screen makes it the best-looking OnePlus phone yet, on par with the infamous Oppo Find X. Helping it stand out from the Find X is an enlarged speaker grill, which suggest that OnePlus might be going for a proper stereo effect.
Of course, the flagship feature is the slider. As is obvious from the top portion of the case, the device has a retractable module that slides upwards to expose the selfie camera and sensors. However, unlike cases for the Mi Mix 3 which grip onto the back of the phone to let the screen slide, this case seems to grip onto the screen.
This indicates that it isn’t the screen that slides down, but rather the back that slides up. This novel approach makes sense for the OnePlus 7: the very delicate in-display scanner isn’t forced to be mobile, the curve of the screen doesn’t get in the way and the large earpiece speaker isn’t muffled.
Having the rear slide up also wouldn’t be very challenging to construct; the selfie camera modules are very thin and connect to the motherboard with a single connector ribbon. The screen and in-display fingerprint scanner require substantially larger connectors, and in the case of failure, they’re much more essential than a selfie camera.
It is possible that the OnePlus 7 could feature a mechanical motorized sliding mechanism, but that seems unlikely given the poor reception the Oppo Find X and Vivo Nex S received when compared to the Mi Mix 3. OnePlus’ biannual release cycle puts the OnePlus 7 launch around May, so it could be just a few months until we find out what it really looks like.