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Android Headliner: Why Can’t OnePlus Just Get Things Right?

November 9, 2015 - Written By John Anon

Yes, the OnePlus One was right. It came at the right time, it came with the right specs and features and it was overall a right smartphone. One which I still have and use today and one which I would still happily (and do) recommend to people to pick up. So yes, the existence of the OnePlus One does already disprove the sentiment made in the title. But the title is not a form of clickbait. Being lucky, which unarguably OnePlus was with the OnePlus One, is not the same as getting something right. At the time, the market was crying out for a break from the status quo and lazy upgraded models like the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Yes, we had the One M8 from HTC and yes, the G3 from LG was on the way. But these were high priced ticket items and ‘high price’ was another aspect which the market was crying out to depart from. Then, the OnePlus One came in all its 5.5-inch 1080p glory, boasting 3GB RAM and a Snapdragon 801 octa-core processor. Equipped with a market-relevant 13-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. Topped off with NFC (we will get to this later), great sounding speakers, Cyanogen OS (CM11 at the time) and of course, a great-feeling Sandstone back. In fact, it even came in two storage sizes, 64GB for those who wanted the storage and 16GB for those who did not mind so much. Not forgetting of course, it came with that beautiful $350 price tag. Undercutting the Samsungs, the HTCs, the LGs and pretty much every other flagship you can think of. A seriously good phone, at a seriously good price and most importantly, most luckily, at the EXACT right time.

So although the One worked out for the company, since then, they have just gone from bad to worse. More specifically, one epic fail to the next. It is hardly even worth bringing up their marketing strategy with the likes of the Ladies Only event and their routine what would you do for an invite mentality, and the mysterious device which teased us for weeks, only to end up being this…

OnePlus DR-1 2

So although, it is hardly worth bringing up those points, in discussing why they cannot get things right, they do unfortunately need to be mentioned, again. But OK, so the company is a little eager to take advantage of their social media presence they find themselves with. Understandable. But then there is the issue with their hardware. Since the One, they have just continually been off the mark. It is hard for any company to follow up a device like the OnePlus One, but if the OnePlus 2 had been the smash hit it could have been, OnePlus would have cemented their place in smartphone history. Two for two. But the OnePlus 2 is not the successor to the One. It is in terms of the range, but it is far from being (or achieving) what the One did. It is a device which is continually seeing user issues with its software, with its home button/fingerprint sensor functionality and from a personal standpoint (yes, I own a OnePlus 2), it is just a really buggy experience.

Not forgetting the elephant (that is NFC) in the room. OnePlus can say what they like, but bringing out a device which does not contain NFC at the same time as Google is gearing up to release Android Pay was a mistake. To be fair to OnePlus, this was probably more to do with the time of designing than anything. At the time, they were more than likely unaware that Android Pay was coming. It is no secret that cost-checking is literally one of the reasons why OnePlus are able to offer decent-spec devices at great prices and as such, changing the design once they did find out about Android Pay, was probably more costly than they could (or want to) handle. It was just unfortunate that OnePlus happened to be releasing the phone literally at the same time (give or take a month or two). Which goes back to my initial point about timing – the One worked because it was the right time. The 2 unfortunately, came at the wrong time…NFC-speaking.

android pay cpollage

However, the physical act of not containing NFC was only part of the issue. Instead of just holding their hands up and saying “our bad”, the company goes on the defensive and claiming that no-one wants or uses NFC. Again, right around the time when Google are saying “here is Android Pay, use it with your NFC-enabled device”. Instead of just accepting the faux pas and moving on, they continue to defend the action and justifying what they claim is an intentional move.

Of course, the difference with this year, is that OnePlus introduced two new smartphones. As well as the OnePlus 2, they also brought to market the OnePlus X. Initially, this device (again) had everything going for it. In fact, as it had long been rumored that OnePlus would release two devices, when the 2 came, many were still holding out for the X. When the X was announced, it came with an EVEN cheaper price tag than both the One and the 2 – which is certainly saying something, as both the One and 2 were extremely well priced. However, then the criticisms came. Firstly, there is the uncanny resemblance the X has to the One. Yes, it is smaller and yes, it has a different back. But, it comes boasting the same resolution, the same 3GB RAM, the same 801 processor and the same 13-megapixel camera. The front camera did get a boost, but, is this enough? Well, to a lot of people, not really.

Then there was the additional repeat criticism that the OnePlus X also does not support NFC. Again, from the OnePlus perspective, this was of course intentional. Although, again, in reality, it is probably just a case of can’t change it now. More recently though, other more ‘minor’ issues are starting to pop up with the OnePlus X. The most recent being that some owners in the U.S. might struggle with their LTE connection. Now, to be fair, “struggle” is the key word here as the OnePlus X does not support bands 12 and 17, which are commonly used by AT&T and T-Mobile and often for their LTE connection. So, you still will be able to make an LTE connection, although, it might not be as solid or as stable as you would like, or would find on another device which caters for the U.S. So although, it is not an earth-shattering issue, it just continues what is becoming an unfortunate consistency with OnePlus – delivering a device which is good, at a good price and problem-free.

Of course, we have yet to even stumble on to the whole Invite thing and in all honestly, I am as tired writing about OnePlus and invites as you are probably tired of reading about it. However, the coverage keeps coming as OnePlus did not learn the first time, nor the second time and will probably not learn this time round either. Invites are not wanted. No one wants to ask for permission to buy something or wait until their number is called to be invited to buy a product. It is just a very arrogant way to do business and certainly one which is not a consumer-determined strategy.

Of course, reading through this you might think that I am just purposefully hating on OnePlus and OnePlus will certainly think so – if they read this. But nothing could be further from the truth. If you haven’t already picked up from the content so far, I do currently own a OnePlus One and a OnePlus 2 (the latter now being used as my daily driver). I won’t be picking up the OnePlus X, but that’s just because I do not see the point and especially considering my OnePlus One still runs like a dream. The issue with OnePlus, is not my issue. It is a real concern for a company whose devices, many consumers, like me, are buying. It was only this week that the company admitted that they are purposely trying to ‘slow their growth‘ so that they can grow more organically…more naturally…more healthily, which is ludicrous to say the least. There is nothing more organic, more natural or more healthy for a company then the demand they currently have. If you are in-demand, then the trick is not to try and slow the demand, but to capitalize on it. OnePlus are keenly aware that companies will not maintain their position in the smartphone market in years to come, but seem to fail to understand that with each piece of news that comes through, each media snippet and off-hand remark made, they are adding to the frustration their consumers are feeling. The details we have gone over here are not designed to infuriate, bait or otherwise, they are all pieces which when brought together highlight that even after the immense attention, crazy number of headlines and massive social media presence, they still cannot get things right. And in truth, I fail to understand why anymore.