Some might consider the OnePlus One a one hit wonder, pun totally intended. It hit the smartphone market by storm with an intensity that the company hasn’t been able to replicate exactly. Even co-founder Carl Pei admits that the OnePlus 2, though claimed to be doing well or even better, just didn’t have that same “punch”. Things will be changing by next quarter, boasts Pei, as the company plans to launch the OnePlus 3, it’s fourth smartphone, with a “new design” that aims to recapture the hearts of its fans.
The magic of the OnePlus One was almost like Xiaomi’s but on a smaller scale. When it launched back in 2014, it offered flagship specs at a more affordable price than either Samsung or LG could offer. The design and some materials were also mostly unique, unlike the rampant copying happening in the market at that time. That, plus word of mouth viral marketing and somewhat artificially constrained availability all worked in favor of the Chinese startup.
2015 saw OnePlus launch two smartphones, pretty unusual and risky for such a small company. The OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X, however, didn’t see the almost rabid reception that their predecessor got, both from buyers and the media. Not that they were bad. In some cases, they did fall short of expectation. But they just didn’t have enough flair to make them superstars as well.
Pei thinks that design is the key is in the design of the smartphone, a view that does have merit. These days, it’s harder to get hardware specs wrong, though some misfeatures here and there, even in the OnePlus 2, do show it can still happen. Major smartphone brands are either converging on a new design, like Samsung and LG, or sticking to their guns, like Sony. Some, however, seem content in taking design cues from this or that model. Standing out from this crowd will definitely be a tough act, but Pei doesn’t seem fazed.
Equally challenging, however, will be marketing the smartphone, especially in the US where OnePlus plans to hit hard this year. As a small company, it didn’t expend much in marketing, relying on social networks and invite-only availability, a strategy that is both a boon and a bane for OnePlus. This time, however, they do plan investing in traditional forms of advertisements, though didn’t expound on which and where. That said, it won’t diverge from its unlocked path to partner with carriers and still plans to sell the device directly to consumers. It hopes to improve the buying process, however, as it has been one of the biggest criticisms of the brand.