As vice president of Oppo, he founded a 'startup' and now makes smartphones.
Readers warmly welcomed the new series of articles about LeEco, Xiaomi and Meizu. I will not break the tradition, so another Chinese company, the youngest of all considered, became a new topic.
Creation and intrigue
Behind the story of LeEco, Xiaomi and Meizu there are people who started from scratch, invested money and energy in the work on the company, sacrificed something. It was different with OnePlus.
It all started with Pete Lau, Oppo's vice president and director of Blu-ray player development. On November 18, 2013, he published a post on the Google+ social network in which he talked about leaving Oppo.
Then on his page Pete Lau began to conduct strange activity. There was a post 'Why can't we set Android to iPhone?' and 'What do you think of Jonathan Ive's design skills?' The next post turned out to be even weirder: he said that he was looking for a CEO – a Cookie Experience Officer or 'Cookie Worker'. In fact, this is a play on words, usually CEO stands for Chief Executive Officer, which means the position of CEO. It looked more like a joke than a real job search.
The most interesting post appeared on December 17 under the headline 'Never Settle' – Pete Lau spoke about his new company OnePlus. He had long dreamed of creating his own company and wanted to create the perfect smartphone for the whole world. Pete also talked about the fact that he does not see any breakthrough ideas in the industry – this should be fixed by OnePlus. These and other pretentious phrases can be found in the original open letter on Google+.
The result is an inspiring story: an employee leaves a large company and founds a competitive startup with ambitious plans. Sounds interesting, apart from one small but important fact – OnePlus is owned by Oppo Electronics, which is a subsidiary of BBK Electronics. Although they did not state this directly, it is now an indisputable fact.
That is, despite being positioned as a startup, Pita Lau's company was not created from scratch. We don't know what Oppo helped them with, but OnePlus was definitely not on the loose.
OnePlus has launched a massive online awareness campaign. The first step was to open a corporate website and forum. Pete Lau wrote a post on the forum on December 16, 2013, in which he asked site users to tell about their preferences and offered to take part in the development of a new smartphone.
Those who then closely followed the fate of Pete Lau, or at least subscribed to his page on Google+, knew that back in November 2013 they met with Steve Kondik, the creator of the legendary custom firmware CyanogenMod. So the public announcement of the collaboration between OnePlus and Cyanogen Inc in early 2014 was expected. Then they revealed the name of the first smartphone – OnePlus One, and promised a presentation in the first quarter. A little later, the announcement was postponed to the 2nd quarter.
The company promised that OnePlus One will compete with all current flagships, but it will cost much less.
It is worth praising the marketers, they carried out a successful PR campaign – all major thematic publications wrote about the OnePlus One smartphone. In promoting, they did not hesitate to poke fun at competitors and directly compare their device with others.
On April 4, OnePlus launched a competition: entrants had to download the camera app from CyanogenMod 11S, take cool photos and share them on Google+ with special hashtags. Three winners received a test sample of the OnePlus One smartphone, which can only take pictures, and later they were presented with fully working devices.
The momentous day happened on April 23 – the OnePlus One smartphone was announced. He received a 5.5-inch display, the Snapdragon 801 processor still relevant at that time, 3 GB of RAM and a 13 megapixel main camera. In terms of performance, it easily competed with the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and other flagships of the time. But OnePlus in the basic version of 16 GB cost only $ 300, and then there was still the same 'rate of 30'.
The company decided to sell the smartphone by invite. Most likely, they supported artificial shortages in such a way, or at the first stages they could not produce smartphones in large quantities. So it was almost impossible to buy it at a price of $ 300, especially in Russia.
After the announcement, another Smash the Past contest was launched. The company offered to get the opportunity to buy OnePlus One for $ 1, but for this the winner of the competition had to come up with a sophisticated way to destroy their smartphone. There is one thing – there were only 100 promotional OnePlus One, and more than 140 thousand people took part in the competition. The company was criticized for its harsh conditions, and they announced that participants do not have to destroy their smartphones, but they can donate them to MedicMobile – people who cannot buy a smartphone.
But a few participants nevertheless decided to ingeniously destroy their smartphone, so that OnePlus One became a real 'flagship killer'. In this video, for example, the Galaxy S5 was smashed with a potato cannon.
The OnePlus One smartphone was well received by journalists and ordinary users. In general, it was not inferior to its more expensive competitor, the weakest link was the camera. You can read a smartphone review on Mobile-Review.
It turns out that Pete Lau was able to found a company in just six months, develop and release a new smartphone for sale. This proves once again that it was not without the influence of Oppo. And OnePlus One looks too similar to the Oppo Find 7 smartphone – it was clearly taken as a basis. So OnePlus doesn't look like a startup to me. It looks more like a well-prepared project from Oppo or BBK to help the company expand its smartphone sales outside of China.
Oppo Find 7
OnePlus One did not become a bestseller, but the results are still good – the first million devices were sold in six months, and a year after the start of sales, 1.5 million were sold.
Selling smartphones over the Internet has reduced logistics costs, but the company has saved on more than that. Yellow stripes appeared on the screens of some OnePlus One. They can disappear and reappear. Complaints on the OnePlus forum were ignored or asked to adjust the screen temperature, which did not solve the problem. OnePlus did not recognize this as a warranty case, although the Oppo Find 7 smartphone with the same problem was recognized as defective by the service center.
Indian court and the new system
One of the main strengths of OnePlus One is the CyanogenMod system. It's almost naked Android, but with great customization options, and it also got Root rights out of the box – perfect for geeks. But this same system brought a bunch of problems for the company when it tried to enter the Indian market through the network Amazon at the end of 2014.
The fact is that the Indian company Micromax owned the exclusive rights to the Cyanogen brand in India. So OnePlus violated their rights by selling their smartphones with the Cyanogen logo on the case. Micromax went to court and achieved a temporary ban on the sale of the OnePlus One smartphone in India, and all devices sold before that could not receive system updates.
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei said in court that the company learned about the agreement between Micromax and Cyanogen just days before the start of smartphone sales in India. He also said that OnePlus is developing its own system based on Android. The judge lifted the restriction on the sale of OnePlus One in India two weeks after the ban, citing the fact that OnePlus smartphones will not compete with Micromax due to the price difference.
Apparently, the litigation has badly affected the relationship between OnePlus and Cyanogen Inc. Even after lifting the ban on OnePlus One sales in India, they did not stop development of the new system. And in April 2015, they presented the first version of OxygenOS. Then the system was only a slightly revised Android 5.0 Lollipop, but work on the system was actively carried out. By the way, OxygenOS is the international version of the system; for China, smartphones were shipped with the H2 OS shell.
Killer number two
On July 28, 2015, the announcement of the new OnePlus 2 smartphone took place. It was greeted as warmly as the first smartphone, although many were confused by the design. The smartphone received an unusual cover, which feels like sandpaper, and a strange arrangement of the elements of the main camera – from top to bottom there is a flash, sensor and laser focus. This decision looked unusual.
Although, as Artem Lutfullin wrote in his first acquaintance with OnePlus 2, this problem can be solved by changing the cover. In the photos, the smartphone with the wooden panel looks much better.
The specs of the OnePlus 2 were still on par with the rest of the flagships, but the new smartphone had more nuances than the OnePlus One. They chose the unsuccessful Snapdragon 810 processor, which had big overheating problems. Competitors have already equipped smartphones with displays with QHD-resolution and many have already added dust and moisture protection.
The OnePlus 2 cost slightly more than its predecessor – $ 330 for 3/16 GB and $ 390 for 4/64 GB. They left the invitational sales system, but increased their number by 30 times. In the first 72 hours they received 1 million pre-orders, 2 million in the first week, and 5 million in two months. And already in October, OnePlus began open sales of the smartphone without invitations in some countries.
There was a small scandal with open sales. Information has emerged that the Israeli online store KSP sells OnePlus 2 smartphones with pre-installed viruses that changed search results in the built-in browser. It turned out that the store did not buy the devices from the company directly, but through an intermediary. Apparently, he installed malicious software on the devices in order to earn extra money on sales.
Another problem I can mention is a complaint about the operation of the fingerprint scanner. But the problem cannot be called a mass one.
I advise you to read the review of OnePlus 2 on Mobile-Review from Eldar Murtazin.
Apparently, OnePlus was pleased with the sales of the first two smartphones and the company decided to expand the lineup. In October 2015, the OnePlus X smartphone was presented, aimed at the middle price segment.
In promoting the new phone, the emphasis was no longer on characteristics, but on design. In terms of hardware, OnePlus X was similar to the company's first smartphone, only the screen was made smaller – 5 inches. But outwardly, it was very different from other OnePlus: a glass panel was installed on the back, and the white model had a ceramic frame.
The regular OnePlus X was $ 250, while the ceramic one was $ 350. It turns out that a more modest smartphone costs more than OnePlus 2, but it has ceramic!
In general, the model turned out to be a passable one, and the company is not going to release a continuation. Read the OnePlus X review on Mobile-Review.
Third flagship, no longer a killer
In June 2016, OnePlus introduced the new flagship OnePlus 3. The company abandoned the ideology of a 'flagship killer', and it cost even more – $ 400.
The diagonal and resolution of the OnePlus 3 display have not changed – 5.5 inches and Full HD. To it was added a Snapdragon 820, 6 GB of RAM and a 16 megapixel camera. It cost more than its predecessors, but it also had significantly fewer drawbacks than the controversial OnePlus 2.
Check out the OnePlus 3 Mobile-Review.
In July 2016, a significant event took place for Russia – the official sales of OnePlus smartphones began. They are brought in by Marvel Distribution. The first appeared OnePlus X and OnePlus 2 – at a price of 20 and 30 thousand, respectively. It turns out not so profitable in comparison with the price in online stores.
Then the brand new OnePlus 3 appeared on sale at a recommended price of 34 thousand rubles.
Just five months after the OnePlus 3 announcement, the company is announcing the new flagship OnePlus 3T . It became a slightly improved version of the previous smartphone – they installed a Snapdragon 821 processor, increased the battery capacity and the resolution of the front camera to 16 megapixels. Along with the improvements, the price has also grown to $ 440.
A little later after the announcement, the company announced that OnePlus would stop selling OnePlus 3 in America and Europe. Smartphone buyers were outraged that their device so quickly ceased to be a flagship and there were fears that OnePlus would quickly stop releasing updates. The company has tried to reassure customers and said updates for the OnePlus 3 will be rolled out alongside the new 3T.
It is still unclear why the company “killed” its flagship in just a few months, and immediately releases almost the same, but more expensive. Back in August, OnePlus said that they did not assess the demand and do not cope with the supply of the smartphone in many regions. So this is unlikely to be due to poor sales. Nevertheless, as we already know, this tradition will continue for the next generation.
The OnePlus 3 / 3T line turned out to be much more successful than the previous generation. There were only complaints about the faulty camera of the 3T, but not of a massive nature. Back in February 2017, a study by Securityresear appeared, in which they talked about the bootloader vulnerability in OnePlus smartphones. Potential attackers could have downloaded a virus to the device, which will work even after a complete system reset. The company quickly released a patch to solve this problem, there was no information about the victims.
In the same February, it was reported that the OnePlus 3T was cheating the benchmarks. XDA forum users took a performance testing app and disguised it as another program. The results showed that when running the usual benchmark, the smartphone runs at maximum, while in the hidden benchmark, the results are 10% lower. It turns out that the OnePlus 3T works at its maximum only in the benchmark.
Then the company explained that the OnePlus 3T operates at maximum frequency and in games, and in benchmarks the frequency is overestimated due to an error.
OnePlus 4 Pass
The Chinese have a very important superstition – the dislike of the number 4. In many buildings, quarter floors are ignored, and OnePlus even decided not to release a smartphone with a '4' prefix.
So in the summer of 2017, the OnePlus 5 flagship was announced. On official images, it looks like a complete copy of the iPhone 7 Plus.
True to tradition, the OnePlus 5 received a 5.5-inch display with Full HD – resolution. The smartphone is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 6 or 8 GB of RAM. A novelty for the company is a dual main camera with 16 and 20 megapixel sensors. An interesting moment is connected with it.
The OnePlus 5 dual camera was created in the likeness of iPhone 7 Plus, in which the second module allows you to optically enlarge the image twice. So the association immediately appears that the OnePlus 5 has the same solution. Even the camera app displays a '2x' icon. Co-founder of the company Karl Pei later said that in fact, his optical magnification works only 1.6 times, and software processing works up to 2 times.
Optical zoom is at 1.6x, the remaining 0.4x is realized through SmartCapture multiframe technology.
– Carl Pei (@getpeid) June 21, 2017
Back in the OnePlus 5, we again noticed manipulation of frequencies in benchmarks. The complaint is the same – the smartphone works at maximum only in performance tests, and in other scenarios this power is not used. Karl Pei again responded to criticism that the new smartphone operates at maximum frequencies in games and other applications where high performance is required. They do not specifically limit the power in the benchmarks for those who want to know the real performance of a smartphone.
The OnePlus 5 has become even more expensive than the company's previous smartphones – $ 479 for the base model. In Russia, this price has grown into an amazing 40 thousand rubles, a big difference with the American price turns out.
OnePlus 5 Review on Mobile-Review.
In November, the expected event took place – the OnePlus 5T was presented. For the second time, the company abandoned the smartphone, which is only six months old, and introduced a new flagship. Apparently, this will become a tradition.
However, the OnePlus 5T has received a lot more changes than the OnePlus 3T compared to its predecessor. The smartphone was equipped with a display with an aspect ratio of 18: 9 and added a face recognition function. The system does not work using a special sensor as in iPhone X, but through a conventional front camera. And in the future, this 'feature' has been carried over to previous smartphones, including the OnePlus 3.
In the new smartphone, OnePlus continued the tradition of increasing the price of each generation of flagships – the OnePlus 5T is already worth $ 500. In Russia, the recommended price is 42 thousand rubles.
An interesting development was the announcement of a limited edition OnePlus 5T with Star Wars symbols for the premiere of the new film.
The latest big news from OnePlus came in mid-January. On the company's forum on January 11, a message appeared from a user who noticed other people's purchases on two of his credit cards. He last used both cards only to buy smartphones on the OnePlus website. Then there were more such messages.
At first, OnePlus said that they only store card data for those users who have agreed to this and have enabled this feature when paying for future purchases. And the site uses the HTTPS protocol, so it's difficult to intercept the data. But the company launched an investigation.
And already on January 19, they published an official recognition of the theft of data from 40 thousand bank cards of customers. A script was introduced into the site's payment system that intercepted purchase data from mid-November 2017 to January 11, 2018. Only those who entered the card data for the first time, and did not use the previously saved one, suffered. Customers who paid via PayPal were not affected either. The company contacted all users whose data could have been stolen, and that was all.
OnePlus has its own stores that sell branded headphones, portable batteries, bags, backpacks, and even T-shirts with the company logo. Artem Lutfullin talked about a trip to such a store in Beijing. The company sells its smartphones in Europe, Asia, America and Canada. They prefer not to share the number of sales and revenue from the sale of smartphones, so in this regard, OnePlus is very closed.
The OnePlus story looks more laid back. The company gradually releases new products, does not experiment, and a rational approach is felt in the work. Now, Meizu and Xiaomi operate in about the same way, but at the start they were real startups.