[OPINION] OnePlus: Hero or Villain?

  1. Red Bearded BA (Jason C.)
    US Brand Ambassador Apr 28, 2021

    Red Bearded BA (Jason C.) , Apr 28, 2021 :
    Hey everyone,

    With the launch of the new OnePlus 9 Series and the inevitably higher prices that came with it, many in the tech community were reminded of a certain quote by one Harvey Dent, “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”.

    Some, feel like the company is changing “too much.” Is OnePlus starting to become the villain? Or are they simply responding to the market while still offering incredible value for their customers?

    @Red Bearded BA (Jason C.) and @dnagpaldg decided to come together and share their thoughts. We took a few simple questions and broke it down in a good, old-fashioned “Joker” vs. “Commissioner Gordon” debate.

    Now, it’s up to you to figure out where you stand, and more importantly, why we didn’t go with Batman.

    1. Why do smartphone companies continue to increase costs?


    To me, the answer is simple: shareholders. The rich investors who hold significant shares or have invested significant amounts of money into a company only expect one thing of the companies they have invested in - more money. They expect every action taken by the company to be entirely focused on making more money. They might be willing to lose money upfront in order to gain more returns in the long run, but ultimately, they expect and demand that the company make more money every year.

    OnePlus is no longer the scrappy startup that it used to be. They do not yet have household recognition outside of a few markets, but they are now a major player in the smartphone world. As such, the companies and people who have invested in them are expecting them to act like a mature company and turn a regular profit. OnePlus is under immense pressure to continue to produce money for its parent company BBK Electronics. As such, they have no choice but to try and sell more products at higher prices every year. Sure, they might be able to justify a few new features in the phones, especially if their competitors are increasing their prices, but ultimately it’s about getting every last dollar out of every device that they can. Plain and simple.

    Commissioner Gordon:
    Inflation is a very real thing. Profit is important, but a company running at loss is a bankruptcy waiting to be declared. Moreover, as smartphones become more complex devices, the cost of innovation rises accordingly. Early smartphones did not need to worry about running hot, or active noise cancellation, or pushing 4 million pixels 120 times every second solely to display a cat video, or recording 4K video at 120 fps, or supporting every telecom specification known to mankind. They had simpler requirements, which meant fewer costs. Right now, mobile processors are reaching desktop-grade performance - Windows on ARM runs on a modified Snapdragon 855 chipset. Have you seen the size of a fan on a PC?


    You’re talking desktop-class performance, on a device smaller than the fan you use to dissipate the heat from one PART of a computer.

    They obviously need to have dedicated cooling systems - passively. Warp Charge 65 needs to be very safe, or you’ll end up with a Galaxy Note 7 fiasco. And ensuring these devices can do all of that, while being safe for mass production and years of wear and tear, costs money.

    And on top of this, we want new features. Consumers want multi-camera systems that push the laws of physics to the brink, they want improvements in smaller quality of life features like the haptics, they want new finishes and designs, they want long term update support - the costs of hiring the people to develop these features needs to be recouped somehow.

    2. They’re cutting corners somewhere - they have to do it in order to bring the price down. The question is, where?

    You might think that they’re cutting corners in features and components, which is true to an extent. Like it’s cheaper for them to incorporate a stupid, useless macro or black and white camera in the phone instead of retooling the hardware design just a little bit and include a better camera lens (OnePlus and many other OEMs borrow hardware from other companies in order to cut down costs meaning the camera cutouts are already in the design so they can save a few extra cents by not retooling the design and throwing in the cheapest part they can find).

    I think though that companies are cutting costs in after-sales support. Think about it, how long has it been since we’ve and a manufacturer produce timely software updates, and how many Android OEMs have absolutely terrible software and update support after the initial launch? Typically, you get 3 months of updates. If you’re lucky, you get 6 months. After a year, it’s a total crapshoot. Don’t you think it’s interesting that the moment a new OnePlus phone comes out, the previous generations mysteriously get much longer delays between updates? The 8 Pro has been out for over a year now and it STILL does not have dual SIM 5G support. More than a year later, after 5G was touted as a major selling point of the phone.

    Companies are cutting costs in software support, and customer service support for their products. Can you honestly name any Android OEM that has even acceptable customer service?

    Commissioner Gordon:
    Cost-cutting is the name of the game. Look at the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra - supposedly the pinnacle of this year’s engineering. That thing costs $1299 in the USA. Heck, just a few years ago, there was a car being sold in India for cheaper than this phone. Cost-cutting comes from a lot of ways - reusing the same platform to stretch that investment for longer, sharing components across models, and reducing costs elsewhere. It is a known fact that you can often get the same part for cheaper when you buy more of it, and that’s why you see things like Apple using the same webcam on its MacBook lineup so many years in a row.

    Marketing costs are a good way to reduce costs, so you often see budget companies rely more on word of mouth and reviewer seeding than running Superbowl ad spots.

    At the same time, it is essentially a matter of what boxes you want to tick versus what you can leave out. Virtually nobody minds if their phone doesn’t have a stylus, and yet you save on the cost of a digitizer layer. People might be fine without wireless charging, so you can remove that. But they would definitely consider things like a high resolution count a plus point, so a phone maker would have to invest in that. People might not mind the glass back but they might care about the display. People might want an in-display fingerprint sensor but they definitely need NFC. So, what companies call cost-cutting boils down to just this - ticking the right boxes.

    3. Are we really getting something in the name of price hikes? More developers, more features, better quality hardware, a better portfolio, better software support?

    No. We aren’t getting any more for our money. We get a few extra features but the really only genuine benefits customers are seeing is in display technology, which itself is reaching a plateau and all the new display technology is focused on battery savings, and faster charging capabilities. Camera technology is getting incrementally better every year just as processors and software don’t really have much else they can offer besides “faster”. If things continue to get “30% faster” every year, the law of diminishing returns says that at some point it will become useless (or at the very least indistinguishable and thus, useless).

    Hardware hasn’t really advanced much in the past few years. There are only so many ways you can sandwich metal and glass together. The one exception to this is the folding phones but those are still very niche and the mainstream applications of that won’t be ready for at least a few more years. There is an argument to be made that we are getting better accessories for our devices (smartwatches, truly wireless headphones, etc.) and those are great, but as those are still separate purchases I still have to make, and since they’re still all just better copies of each other, there isn’t much value added for the customers at the end of the day.

    Long story short, companies are increasing costs for the sole purpose of making more money, and the customers are only getting marginally better products every year. Will this cycle ever end? Not as long as we keep buying their products.

    Commissioner Gordon:
    We’re getting a lot, but what we do get has started to get lost behind technical terms. It seems that performance is reaching a plateau, however, managing to just maintain those performance gains year over year involves global efforts in new lithographic techniques and the development of new technologies. We have witnessed the advent first of cloud computing, which meant a systematic move towards data-intensive technologies like WiFi 6 and 5G, and then towards edge computing (since you can’t just send everything to the cloud), which led to the development of specialized ML computational cores like Google’s Tensor Cores, Apple’s Neural Core and Qualcomm Hexagon. Yes, it does sometimes feel like a lot of these price increases are total money grabs, but in a lot of cases, the underlying reason has been to continue the development of technologies that have been planned years in advance. From our displays increasing in resolution, to HDR, and then finally getting to VRR; or with batteries increasing in both capacity and charging speed until we eventually reach the same things wirelessly, or to the level where phones don’t always crack when they touch the ground - we’re making progress. Even when there are cash grabs every now and then.

    So, are you Joker, Captain Gordon, or a mix of two? What other questions do you think our duo should answer?

  2. kishorrock7
    Donut Apr 28, 2021

  3. PritishPriyam
    Ice Cream Sandwich Apr 28, 2021

  4. Nipu_1998
    The Lab Reviewer - OnePlus 9 Series Apr 28, 2021

  5. Rajnish_Dhull
    Ice Cream Sandwich Apr 28, 2021

  6. Tobikage
    Nougat Apr 28, 2021

    Tobikage , Apr 28, 2021 :
    The Joker is good at what he does.... which is why people like him.

    OnePlus ? Not so much anymore.

  7. manojsurya99
    Jelly Bean Apr 28, 2021

    manojsurya99 , Apr 28, 2021 :
    Awesome stuff..
    While I believe I'm a mix of both, I have one more point..
    Insted of investing heavily on newer and newer models every year (Number of models released are also increasing every year), will it not reduce cost, if the OEMs release one product once in two years? That way, procurement can be in a large scale, less product portfolio for support and so on..

  8. Akash Pagar
    Gingerbread Apr 28, 2021

  9. Yash Pratap Singh.
    KitKat Apr 28, 2021

    Yash Pratap Singh. , Apr 28, 2021 :
    Beautifully sums this discussion up

  10. TheOnePlusLife
    Gingerbread Apr 28, 2021

    TheOnePlusLife , Apr 28, 2021 :
    I loved this. Basically you're playing devil's advocate. A "hero" company would build products for the fans and support the fans. US fans got the short end of the stick as usual. Limited models, colors, and higher prices. OnePlus feels more commercialized than ever. This was suppose to be a journey WITH the fans. Instead all I see are "tech influencers" on YouTube trying to sell OnePlus devices when they aren't even fans or long term users. Forums are overridden with complaints and many long-term fans are switching to other brands. Yet... I still stay.

    They need to adjust their marketing as well. "Never Settle" keeps biting them.


  11. #12
  12. Nelkadge
    Cupcake Apr 28, 2021

    Nelkadge , via OnePlus 7T , Apr 28, 2021 :
    The downfall already started with OP 8. Last value phone was OP 7t. If they continue to get greedy, they will lose on market share and eventually profits. The company is made by consumers and always remember "Consumers buy th PRODUCT and not the COMPANY"

  13. Shailender Sharma
    Marshmallow Apr 28, 2021

  14. techmaker
    Eclair Apr 28, 2021

  15. psycholover
    Froyo Apr 28, 2021

    faris017, V1rTu, hthan2009 and 9 others like this.
  16. palc
    Ice Cream Sandwich Apr 28, 2021

    palc , via OnePlus Nord , Apr 28, 2021 :
    Nice article @Red Bearded BA (Jason C.) and @dnagpaldg and a nice way to get the justifications across. However, the article seems like one trying to justify all actions as the overall theme seems to be "Oneplus, even though not the Hero it used to be, is definitely not the Villian" and the post does not hold true to it's title of discussing the two sides. Since OnePlus always talks about users and their influence, why not let users decide with a poll? A public poll on this forum. Afterall, doesn't it matters what users and customers think?

    In my opinion, OnePlus is being termed as the villain and many users think so because each passing year I only see it pull hypes, invest so much in marketing and then come up with a mediocre product lacking of the features that it actually boasted to excel in. Take for example the "Flagship grade Nord camera" or "affordable gaming phone" or "Hasselblad" partnership or the "fast software upgrades" or "stable Oxygen OS" or affordability terms thrown in here and there. None of them hold true in real life. Hypes are okay, but not to this extent. OP6 was the last phone that lived upto it's hype in it's price bracket. Ever since, the case has been opposite. You get away with it because you're gaining new users. But visit your social media channels and you see the dissatisfaction. You won't retain customers if you do this everytime. And there will come a time when those gains reverse.

    You understand? It's not simply about the price, it's about not delivering what's promised that makes the ones that buy your smartphones look like a fool and feel cheated. And when you do that, not live upto your own hype, the price of the smartphone doesn't seem justified anymore. Ofcourse along with that there's the fact that the price rise is too high compared to anything that you try to justify it with.

    So, what? Joker? Gordon? It's most likely a totally different perspective for users. And that fact that OnePlus does not try to get to the root of the problem and does not address it is why I'll reiterate, OnePlus is moving away from what it used to be.
    Last edited: May 1, 2021

  17. Tejas.11_
    Gingerbread Apr 28, 2021

    V1rTu, Sritejkadiveti, Achman and 6 others like this.
  18. gbvreddy
    Gingerbread Apr 28, 2021

    Siddharth Sam likes this.