Wednesday, May 27, 2020

OnePlus wants to make cheap smartphones again

OnePlus is looking to go back to its roots of creating affordable smartphones for the masses, as it feels it is now mature enough to offer more products in its portfolio.

OnePlus’s claim to fame was its incredible flagships at never-before-seen price points, when the company was founded six years ago. In the years since, it slowly moved to the premium space, with the latest OnePlus 8 Pro almost touching the $1,000 mark. While the value proposition was still maintained, many of its original fans were left disappointed at the lack of budget options. 

In an interaction with Fast Company, Peta Lau, the CEO of OnePlus talked about the company’s future plans. Additional details were shared on Weibo, where he talked about why they are now ready to add “new members” to the family. 

OnePlus Z confirmed?

Historically, the company has often gone on record stating that it was small and growing, and had to focus on a few products and not spread itself too thin. However, Pete believes that OnePlus now has sufficient experience, manpower and technological prowess to develop new products. The first fruits of this foray will be seen in the coming months with an announcement for India, followed by expansion into other markets.

This is likely a hint at the OnePlus Z, the company’s rumoured budget smartphone with a new compact design language that is expected to launch in July. This will be the first step in its ultimate goal to sell even more phones at lower price tags, and eventually, create an ecosystem of connected devices. He added that affordable devices will “still remain up to the OnePlus standard”.

As with most hardware companies, OnePlus is also looking to slowly move beyond smartphones and looks forward to building an ecosystem in the future. We got a taste of this last year with the smart OnePlus TV which could be paired with a smartphone to access many additional features. 

A pair of TWS earphones are also on the horizon, which is a rapidly growing segment. While OnePlus openly idolizes Apple, it is nowhere nearly as vertically integrated. However, Lau thinks there is still ample opportunity within Google’s ecosystem. “Android is able to bring it from zero to one, but it’s the one to 10 that you really have to put a lot of work into yourself.”

In the same interview, OnePlus acknowledged its ownership and partnership publicly for the first time. In the past, there has been a lot of ambiguity around OnePlus’s ownership structure, with speculation suggesting that it is an Oppo subsidiary controlled by BBK Electronics. However, OnePlus states that it is backed by a private investor called Oplus which has no affiliation with BBK, but is also an investor in Oppo and Realme.

Oppo is still an important partner for OnePlus, as it shares a lot of its core tech, production lines and suppliers. By pooling resources, it is able to achieve better economies of scale as well as have more devices in its ecosystem. “OnePlus remains an independent company, but what this means is there’s a larger base of users across this group for potential access to building out a wider ecosystem,” he said. It’s unclear if this means whether the two companies will work on a common software platform or be cross-compatible in each other’s ecosystems.

This development doesn’t come as a surprise, as OnePlus had previously stated similar intentions but with far fewer details. By pivoting to software and lifestyle products, tech companies can cater to a larger audience. It is not the first company to do this in the Android world, and definitely won’t be the last.

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