OnePlus: Forgetting how to Never Settle

OnePlus released the newest flagship in its lineup yesterday to a ton of fanfare. Tech press, YouTube commenters, Reddit trolls, and XDA veterans alike all had strong opinions on the newest device, but it seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.

The tidal wave of press, reviews, picture samples, phone comparisons, and more absolutely flooded every social media channel I have. Embargo lifted at noon (it seems) and the tidal wave of OnePlus coverage began. You had all the big names like Mr. Mobile, Linus Tech Tips, MKBHD, Flossy Carter, Android Authority, Android Central, Austin Evans, JerryRigEverything, Dave Lee all releasing their reviews within the first 12 hours.

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This is very obviously done by OnePlus to create as much hype as possible to relocate the money in your bank account to theirs. And, you can’t blame OnePlus for trying to effectively market their new device, right? It’s small and doesn’t have the advertising budget of a Samsung, LG, or Apple to get its phone in front of as many eyes. It’s an enthusiast brand that caters to those who normally watch channels like that, it cares more about its customers than a company like Samsung that is just trying to cast as wide of a net as possible…

OnePlus doesn’t deserve any more credit for its accomplishments or leeway for its mistakes as any other company.

We’ve given OnePlus a pass for a lot of things in the past and frankly, I’m over it. People need to stop buying into the hype and look at the facts as they are.

OnePlus Never Settles

One of the things we’ve heard from OnePlus since the company was founded is that it never settles. This moniker has been associated with OnePlus almost as much as with the company almost as much as “flagship killer” is to this day. The message from OnePlus has always been “we’re small, but we’re always going put everything you want in a phone for a cheaper price than the other guys” and that is simply just not true.

Off the top of my head, here are some features that people want in phones that aren’t in the OnePlus 5, the latest and greatest phone OnePlus has to offer.

  • IP68 water resistance
  • High-quality DAC
  • Wireless charging
  • Expandable storage
  • Colors other than black
  • Non-proprietary quick charging
  • Dual-speakers
  • Smaller bezels
  • Multiple years of software updates
  • Optical Image Stabilization

I’m sure I could come up with some more but I think this gives you a pretty good idea of how OnePlus does actually settle. I’ve had friends defend OnePlus to me when I bring up points like this and say “But Matt, it’s a small company in China. It’s basically a start-up. You have to give them a break. It can’t do EVERYTHING.”

Bullshit.

Never Settle means just that, not ever settling. Not every phone can be perfect but when one of the two faces of the company tells The Verge that “There is one thing, creating a full screen display on the front. Our resources were limited at that time and we weren’t able to incorporate this element in this flagship.”

Sounds like a lot of settling to me.

Later in that video, he goes on to explain that in regards to its new dual-camera, it let companies like Apple lead the way and educate the public. “We started thinking about using a dual-camera last year. However, at that time, we felt that the cost to educate the market about this technology was too high. For this, we have Apple to thank for educating the market about the dual-camera. Consumers can see for themselves what I think is one of the greatest benefits. The ability to create a bokeh effect that captures spectacular portraits. This is a substantial value add to the user.”

So, is OnePlus a genius company playing 4D Chess letting Apple do all the hard lifting for it a year early, or is it a company that’s willing to settle for an alright camera on its phones because it didn’t want to educate the public?

I think it’s the latter, which in my opinion, is truly silly. As we’ve seen with the aforementioned media avalanche, the tech press (AndroidGuys included) loves to write about new phones and new features. OnePlus positions its phones as enthusiast devices, and guess what, those kinds of people watch the same people on YouTube and the same people writing in blogs about these new features. We would’ve done it for them because we write to its target audience. That talking point just doesn’t pass the sniff test to me.

OnePlus is a small company

This is a myth that needs to die a quick death because it gets them off the hook for so many dumb things. Here are a few facts about OnePlus and its parent and sister companies.

  • OnePlus is owned by BBK Electronics who has over 9000 employees (source)
  • BBK Electronics sells smartphones through three companies, OnePlus, OPPO (source), and Vivo (source)
  • BBK Electronics sold 56 million phones in the first quarter of 2017, surpassing Apple and Huawei, only Samsung sold more (source)
  • OnePlus is a subsidiary of OPPO (source)
  • OnePlus and OPPO share hardware designs (source)
  • A version of DASH charging can be found in both OnePlus and OPPO devices (source)
  • Many of the founders and original employees were OPPO employees (source)

If you need any more proof that OPPO and OnePlus are sharing hardware designs, you need to look no further than MKBHD’s OnePlus 5 Review where you can check out the similarities between the OP5 and the OPPO R11. They’re the same phone.

Credit: https://www.youtube.com/user/marquesbrownlee

True small companies have to pay for things themselves. True small companies have to pay to create hardware for themselves. True small companies don’t get to have a phone design handed down to them from their parent company and skip all the R&D costs.

It’s actually kind of funny that OnePlus is getting dinged by fans so hard for copying the iPhone 7 Plus design when it wasn’t even their choice.

But, that brings us back to the video done by The Verge. I don’t want to get conspiratorial, but something struck me as odd. You’ll see in the picture below a table of OnePlus prototypes. As we’ve been shown, OnePlus used the same hardware design as the OPPO R11 which also releases this month. But, on these prototypes, you can clearly see the OnePlus logo on the back of the phone. The simple answer is that once the body was settled on, OnePlus had some prototypes made up with small alterations, but part of me wonders if these were made just for this video to try and paint a picture.

Credit: The Verge

Also, OnePlus seems to be big enough to figure out how to cheat on benchmarks, so there’s that too.

My question is this, how long does OnePlus get to keep making mistakes that we let them get away with? We’ve now seen the OnePlus One, 2, X, 3, 3T, and 5 released and OnePlus is still getting a pass. Samsung didn’t get a pass when its phones exploded. Apple didn’t get a pass when Steve told everyone they were holding their phones wrong. OnePlus shouldn’t either.

Conclusion

This may come off harsh but I think we need to take a look at what’s really going on. We shouldn’t be looking at OnePlus through the rose-tinted glasses because we think it’s the plucky start-up who just wants to give us what we want.

It isn’t and it doesn’t. If they did, they wouldn’t have hung OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X owners out to dry with software updates within a year of the phone being released. It’s a business and as a business, its main objective is to make as much money as possible.

The OnePlus 5 is a generic flagship phone in 2017. It has some extra RAM, which is awesome, I love RAM, but that’s about it. The phone has a design that’s been recycled by Apple for two years in a row with basically the same specs and a worse feature set than other flagships on the market.

I truly want OnePlus to succeed. I’ve been following the company since it started leaking specs on Reddit’s Android subreddit years ago. I appreciate Pete Lau and Carl Pei’s work to drive the company forward, but there’s more to the story than what we’re being presented.

This article isn’t to tell you to stay away from the OnePlus 5. I’m sure it’s a great phone but I think everyone needs to really consider what they’re spending their money on before it’s left their bank account.