OnePlus' Carl Pei: We want to compete with Samsung and Apple; nothing less will do

In an interaction, Co-founder and Global Business Head, Carl Pei says that OnePlus is going to go back to its roots to make premium smartphones at an affordable cost

OnePlus started off in 2014 as an ambitious brand with a motive of making a smartphone that could compete against flagship devices at almost half the cost. It had a unique sales strategy, an online invite system, which not only brought a sense of exclusivity, but also gave the company leverage to maintain their supply chains.

The OnePlus One created a huge buzz and was the hottest and one of the most in-demand smartphones from a Chinese company. So much so that the OEM found it difficult to maintain the supply chain. The next iteration, however, didn’t do so well as it faced a bunch of hardware issues especially overheating of the Snapdragon 810 SoC and also the fact that people had to wait long for the invites which was frustrating for a lot of people. Also the fact that OnePlus had promised better invites-management and failed on that front. To a point where Carl Pei had to issue an apology.

OnePlus 2 Front

The company then went on to launch the OnePlus X, a more affordable option for the consumers, which again failed to match expectations as it got lost among the competition.

Today the Oppo backed company has matured with experience. While it struggled with its last two smartphones, it is slowly progressing towards its goal of earning a decent share of the smartphone market along with a well known identity. The company is learning from its past mistakes and it seems that it is going back to its initial strategy of one device per year so that it can focus on making more refined devices which can compete against big names rather than making huge profits or churning out volumes. The company recently announced its third high-end smartphone, the OnePlus 3, which has been received well and is now one of the best smartphones to own under the Rs 30,000 segment.

“We have always been committed to make a product better than what is currently available. Creating a strong identity is our primary goal. Today we have captured 7 percent of the market share of smartphones priced above Rs 20,000,” said co-founder and global business head Carl Pei.

The past two years have seen a visible shift and budding smartphone makers, especially the Chinese players, have shaken the stronghold of Samsung, Apple, HTC and Sony. They have proved that making a quality smartphone doesn't necessarily mean a premium price. OnePlus has played a major role in this, as it went head-on against big and established names.

OnePlus3 (3)

“Only 15 percent of smartphones were selling online when OnePlus entered India, things are now completely different,” replies Pei when asked about moving to the offline space. “The brand’s business model is based online and we will continue to stay there. Since we are a young brand with a small team we cannot take risks as moving offline will increase our costs. We are however open to offline retailers who are willing to take up the cost while we maintain our prices.” The company recently struck a deal with an offline distributor in Finland which is already selling the OnePlus 3 as their most demanding smartphone.

The co-founder also gave us a hint that from now on the company will be focusing a lot more on fine details, “Just a few days before the production of the OnePlus 3 started, we decided to make changes to the curve on the back of the handset. An extra 0.1mm from the curve shaved off just because it felt right. The raised camera lens is lined with stainless steel which gives it a distinct look and protects the glass covering the camera. To ensure it isn’t very sharp, we double checked every unit manually by hand.

In a highly populated and dynamic smartphone market like India, OEMs are competing against each other specifically in the budget segment. “It is too early to say if we can or even want to enter that (budget) segment, maybe if we are desperate. We want to make smartphones that can match devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the Apple iPhone 6s. Nothing less.”

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