After the OnePlus 5T launch last week, Pete Lau hurried back to his hotel for an interview.
Lau was smiling on a chair in the middle of the meeting room in a dark shirt and touching his newly launched OnePlus 5T and another 4th anniversary red OnePlus.
Maybe he was satisfied with the newly revealed OnePlus 5T, or its performance lived up to his expectations. Either way, Lau looked obviously excited.
Because of its elegant style and slogan “Never Settle”, OnePlus is often regarded as “a clean stream in the world of domestic phones.” Its loyal fans are always looking forward to how OnePlus upsets the ocean of homogenized products.
The OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T have largely settled any questions about OnePlus’ disruptive potential.
Indeed, the relationship between “settled” and “unsettled” seems like a magnified contradiction in the OnePlus. The situation is seen as a trade-off for Lau, who is ultimately concerned with making a good product – as he states repeatedly during the interview.
It’s inevitable to encounter challenges while polishing a good product, Lau said. We have to trade off some aspects to make phones light and thin, and to keep the front side an edge-to-edge screen.
The most controversial change in the OnePlus 5T is the movement of the fingerprint sensor from front to the rear, following other products. Lau said users should focus more on new features than complain about minor changes.
The sales volume of OnePlus is up, and its influence has increased. But some product changes are not welcomed by users.
A lot of users have long insisted the fingerprint scanner should be on the back. This reporter did as well. But in truth, it’s something I hardly use, because the OnePlus 5T’s Face Unlock works better.
Why use Face Unlock? Lau’s answer is plain: it’s amazing.
Obviously, Lau is satisfied with the experience of OnePlus 5T’s Face Unlock for its speed, accuracy and security. As for the security, Lau said that even if your mobile phone is lost or stolen, the next user is unlikely to know who you are, let alone find your photos to unlock the phone.
In his opinion, with constantly improving algorithms for face recognition, unlocking the phone with pictures is becoming possible. The phone contains a second security mechanism: Face Unlock is disabled after five mistaken attempts, after which a password is necessary.
The Options You Want
Aside from the dispute about the rear fingerprint scanner, Lau talked a lot about his idea for the product, such as why the OnePlus 5T does not have gesture controls.
I think the gestures of the iPhone X is cool, and that they feel smooth like swiping a desktop. I think might own one some day.
As for gestures, Lau was generous in his praise of the iPhone. He said the OnePlus did not add more gestures because the existing technology is not good enough. He said the overall impression would be affected by minor problems in the interactive experience, even swiping up on the desktop.
As for vibration, he was determined and prudent. He said Android is able to catch up to iPhone with existing technology.
I used an iPhone. Its Haptic Engine feels cool, but it costs a lot.
The cost of the motor is much higher, and the volume of the vibration module takes too much valuable phone space, he said. For many reasons, OnePlus gave up having a comparable vibration experience at this time.
Lau has not given up trying to create a better vibration experience. The linear motor of the OnePlus 5 is his first attempt. He hopes to improve the experience through software and adjusting the technology.
He said there are a lot of options that can go into phones, such as adding gestures or improving the vibration experience. It’s important to weigh and make a good choice, he said.
(Image source: Sohu Technology)
This is also true in the OnePlus strategy. Lau said strategy is a trade-off, and when you figure out what you need you can find your position.
I think it’s very clear. I only focus on the flagship and online sales.
The remark seems like a deep summary after several failed attempts at promoting primary and secondary flagship product lines and establishing offline stores.
Lau said that in India there’s no brand in the 2,000 to 3,000 rupee market. Some colleagues advised him to enter with a mid-market phone, but Lau refused after long consideration.
If I made a mid-market phone, I don’t think it would sell much better than my flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 835.
For OnePlus, it was an opportunity to make waves overseas and repeat the OnePlus X. Facing temptation, Lau stuck to his original idea and only released the flagship. His trade-off made it clear that OnePlus represented a flagship brand – the best in Android phones.
OnePlus is growing as they expected.
In the four years since establishing OnePlus Tech, Lau has experienced ups and downs. For OnePlus in 2017, Lau and his team have chosen a slogan:
Lau and his team can’t describe the meaning with precision, but they consider it to be changing the image of “Made in China,” and even the perception of Chinese brands.
The team reached its goal of putting the “One” in OnePlus. The next step is the “Plus” – a symbol of possibility. Lau said he hoped the brand would continue to define itself and see a return on its efforts. In their minds, OnePlus is growing as fast as they expected.
Lau described the last three years of making phones as “running like a black horse in 2014, suffering setbacks in 2015, back on track in 2016 and focusing on a good product today.”
We are on a healthy track. I feel it, and this is what we want. My team agrees that we are making a good product.
Lau said OnePlus 5, with its high praise, is an example of a good product. Data showed that its NPS is more than 70 percent in India, and research in Finland showed it to be 70 percent – higher than the iPhone’s 60 percent.
But its NPS is not that high in China.
It’s related to the overall environment. I looked at it, and the number is 40 percent. It’s amazing.
In the End
No matter whether he is in front of the press or inside the company, Lau is a CEO who doesn’t like to talk about sales target and profitability. But he can’t stop talking about the product.
He often shares stories about ideas behind the products and designs, such as how they came up with the tilt slope of the 5T’s double cameras or the rear fingerprint scanner.
Some people still think OnePlus has stagnated, but it ranked first among high-end phones in India during Q2 2017 with a market share of 57.1 percent.
In China, OnePlus is leading brand on JD.com with the highest sale rate year-on-year during the first half year of 2017. Hu Shengli, CEO of JD.com’s 3C department, said OnePlus sales quadrupled last year.
The OnePlus 5T previously launched in New York and was praised by foreign media. It also set a first-day sales record some 6.5 hours later, refreshing its first-ever sales record in Europe and the US.
Although we don’t have all the details on this year’s sales, all figures suggest it will be much better than 2016.
The mobile phone industry is never easy, but I can tell you that OnePlus is doing well.