You’ve probably never heard of OnePlus, but the Chinese handset manufacturer is making a big (pre-emptive) splash with its soon-to-launch flagship device. With its OnePlus One, the company hopes to disrupt the market with a compelling specs-plus-price combination.

OnePlus One offers specs in line with what the Samsung Galaxy S brings to market at price of just $299. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor with quad-core CPUs at speeds of up to 2.5GHz per core powers the device. It’s about three inches wide and offers a 5.5-inch, 1080p IPS LCD screen. But specs and pricing are only half the battle.

“The real challenge is dotting the Is and crossing the Ts,” Avi Greengart, an analyst at Current Analysis, told us. “This is an incredibly competitive market and even if you can come up with economics that allow you to make money off a relatively low volume, there’s still a lot of detail work required to create a complete product. And that goes way beyond all the challenges new brands face in terms of brand recognition and distribution and pricing.”

OnePlus’ Secret Weapon

But the OnePlus One has what it considers a secret weapon, of sorts. It’s called CyanogenMod. You’ve probably never heard of that, either. CynaogenMod is an aftermarket firmware based on the open-source Android mobile operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android-based firmwares of vendors.

CyanogenMod 11S makes its debut on the OnePlus One, promising a “unique visual experience” that allows users to customize their devices by mixing and matching thousands of themes. Users can also tap into a theme engine and store to select a look and feel that suits them.

OnePlus is also pointing to the privacy attributes of CyanogenMod. According to the company, SMS encryption between the One and CyanogenMod or TextSecure-compatible device keeps private chat between friends private. And a feature called Privacy Guard “keeps nosey apps at bay” by letting users control how apps use data.

The One comes equipped with a Sony Exmor IMX214 13 megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and dual LED flash. The company said a 5 megapixel distortion-free font-facing camera and extra-wide 80-degree capture angle offers better quality images.

Invasion From the Far East?

Pete Lau, a former vice president at Oppo, a company known for manufacturing high-end consumer devices such as smartphones and DVD players, is the brainpower behind OnePlus. Lau has the smarts to make a go of it in the global smartphone market, despite the challenges. Of course, his is not the only emerging Asian company looking to enter the West’s smartphone market.

“Later this year we are expecting Meizu to bring some of its phones to Western markets. That company considers itself the Apple of China,” Greengart said. “Someone in the U.S. Midwest has probably never heard of them but they’ve been making high-quality phones for a while in China.”

The OnePlus One will first roll out in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States in 16GB Silk White for $299 and in 64GB Sandstone Black for $349. There was no information on which carriers would offer the device. The device will launch sometime in the second quarter.