Over the past few years, OnePlus has had a huge impact in the smartphone industry by offering flagship phones at mid-range price points. As it launched its latest smartphone, the OnePlus 5, in India, we spoke to CEO Pete Lau about the company’s plans for India, product vision and strategy. Here is the full text.
How do you see OnePlus in India? What is the role you want to play here?
I actually haven’t thought about what kind of role OnePlus is going to play in India. We just focus on providing the best products for our target groups — the young, confident, people who pursue good quality.
You have created a niche in the Indian market, in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 35,000 range. Will you continue to play only in this range, or is there another budget phone on the anvil?
We won’t look into any other segment, we are very focussed now.
Are you looking at widening your product base?
We are only focussed on providing the best Android flagship phones.
Is it still important to be a full bouquet player? Is it necessary to have the product play of a Samsung which offers devices across all price points?
That is the difference between Apple and Samsung. I personally prefer the approach of Apple, to be more focussed.
That you are here personally to launch the OnePlus 5 two days after the global launch is a clear indication that India is important for you. But will you be looking to India for product development and R&D?
We have thought about it. But, we don’t have a detailed plan and don’t want to increase the burden on the management at the moment. However, our global headquarters in Shenzhen has many Indian colleagues. In the future, we will have an R&D centre in India, I just can’t say when.
What percentage of your volume comes out of India?
On the OnePlus 5, the initial reaction has been that some people are equating it with other phone designs. What is your reaction to this?
I am used to it. Ever since the OnePlus One, we have seen this. But time has proved everything. OnePlus One has become a classic.
Does OnePlus want to ultimately control then entire production and supply chain?
So, we are focussed on what we are best at doing. This is again the difference between Apple and Samsung. Apple makes just some components, but still produces the best phone.
What is your take on dual cameras? Is it still some time away from being perfect?
For cameras, we have witnessed progress every year and hence there is no limit to what can be achieved. The dual camera is unique, but there is scope for improvement. In OnePlus 5, the 16MP + 20MP combination provides the best possible images. Technology around the camera will continue to progress, and I expect more improvement.
OnePlus 5 is on top in benchmarking. Is that something you set out to achieve?
There is always a lot of controversy over benchmarking. Since the OnePlus 3 we can say we have the best performance, not just benchmarking. A layman will not understand this, but still it is very important for the performance of a phone for the device to have good dissipation design as it will influence the performance of the CPU. If there is heating the performance of the CPU will not reach the maximum. We only try to tap the full potential of the CPU. We don’t even know how to overclock.
Is that why you did not have waterproofing, as it has an impact on thermal dissipation?
We don’t have waterproofing as we want the phone to be thin and light. Thermal dissipation is just another small factor in this. I also think waterproofing is not that big a necessity for the customer, and hence we don’t meet that demand. But there is a certain amount of water resistance already built into the OnePlus 5, we just don’t advertise it as it is not covered under warranty.
Is there is a reason why OnePlus 5 does not have a 2K display?
If we use a 2K display on a 5.5-inch phone it will increase power consumption. We don’t think 2K makes such a big difference in experience at this display size. We don’t play around with specs, we just want to give our customers the best experience.
What about augmented reality?
Unless we see something really good, we are not looking at that option.
OnePlus has made clear that it is a company working on low margins. Does the higher price points of the OnePlus 5 give you more breathing space?
Actually the cost of the OnePlus 5 has increased a lot. Across the industry, inputs costs have gone up from CPU to memory, and we are using an 8GB RAM in this phone. Even the cost of the box has gone up now.
What is your offline strategy for India?
We will let our customers experience our phones at pop-up events and we will open experience stores. However, we will not have offline distribution. We might look at the option in the next three to five years. We think the online sales model will give our customers more benefits.
Do you also control quality of your accessories?
We have very demanding requirements for accessories too. Look at the quality of our backpacks for instance. We have got very positive reviews for the same. For the back cases, the technology has improved with every generation.
We will always provide the best Android phones for our customers. We will always be focussed on our product and our community. This community is like a very unique culture for OnePlus. Soon you will see long lines to experience the phones, it will be like a carnival. That is unique to us.