There was a sense that this was coming. And it is now official. OnePlus and Oppo will be merging, with the promise of streamlining operations, sharing resources, and creating even better products for consumers. That is what Pete Lau, CEO at OnePlus, has shared, in a statement shared on the OnePlus Forums. This isn’t exactly new, because OnePlus and Oppo have been working closely for a while now, but that mission has been dialed up a notch. Or two. The understanding is that this move will give OnePlus access to more resources and comes after a positive uptick was seen with the collaboration between OnePlus and Oppo around the recent OnePlus products. Yet, there is insistence that OnePlus will continue to operate independently, even though there is a deeper organizational integration with Oppo. OnePlus and Oppo are popular smartphone brands in India.
“As many of you know, last year I took on some additional responsibilities to oversee product strategy for both OnePlus and OPPO. Since then, we have integrated a number of our teams together with OPPO to better streamline our operations and capitalize on additional shared resources. After seeing positive impact from those changes, we’ve decided to further integrate our organization with OPPO,” says Pete Lau. There is belief that access to more resources for product as well as software development will allow OnePlus products to improve further. “As for the OnePlus brand – we will continue to operate independently, focused on providing you with the best possible products and experience as we have always done,” he adds.
What does this really mean for a plucky startup that really shook up the smartphone market a few years ago? Arguably, OnePlus can be credited with the winds of change that have resulted in you owning a powerful and a very futureproof mic-range Android phone. From a time when the more affordable price bands, this side of flagship phone pricing, were riddled in compromises. And The OnePlus One and the subsequent successors can be given the credit for kicking the status quo out of the window. The Android flagship killer, as the newly spawned category came to be known then, and the terminology stuck. The formula was simple enough—pack in really powerful specifications into phones that cost significantly lesser than typical Android flagship phones and give users a similar experience at half the price. Or so. A simple illustration. The OnePlus One, powered by the then top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, a 5.5-inch display, 3GB RAM and up to 64GB storage cost Rs 21,999. At the same time, the Samsung Galaxy S5 flagship phone, with the Samsung Exynos 5422 octa-core processor in India and the Snapdragon 801 chip in variants in some other countries, was priced around Rs 51,500, give or take a few.
Then there is the whole matter of personality. OnePlus has, from day one, bucked the trends seen with phones made by Chinese phone brands. The software side of things with OxygenOS has remained clean, unlike the often-cluttered UI’s that Chinese phone brands tend to lean towards. OnePlus, on the software side of things, have never resorted to inserting advertisements in your smartphone usage experiment. And have off late been the first to join the cue for rolling out test builds of new Android versions, soon after Google makes things official. And it is the software that Pete Lau is also specifically mentioning. He says that the additional resources available on tap with the OnePlus and Oppo integration will allow them to bring faster and more stable software updates for OnePlus users. Yet, the fear, and this can only be genuine, is whether OxygenOS will start to go down the same path as ColorOS seen on Oppo phones. Nothing till now has suggested that’ll be the case. But often with merging and pooling together, there’s the lingering risk.
There are some possible red flags, if you loved the way OnePlus has been all this while. OnePlus, it is believed, will no longer launch phones with its own HydrogenOS (what we know as OxygenOS) in the Chinese market and instead use Oppo’s ColorOS. And as Android Police journalist Max Weinbach has pointed out on Twitter last month, it seems that OnePlus 9 Pro’s Android 12 beta has a very close resemblance to ColorOS.
There is the inherent risk of OnePlus losing its identity as a crusader, someone with their own ideas of how to do things and going against the trend. It has worked brilliantly so far. Look at last year’s OnePlus Nord. A true mid-range Android phone powerhouse. Not sure how much input Oppo had with that. Fast forward to this year, and the OnePlus Nord CE 5G is a step back in terms of a few things on the checklist—a processor is a step down, the build isn’t as premium and there are less cameras than before. A successor is supposed to add, not eliminate its strong points. Is this the Oppo direction? Again, one cannot be certain. But this will be ripe for speculation. Did the accountants step in?
The reality, amidst all this, is that OnePlus would really require resources on multiple fronts, to battle in a smartphone market that is becoming increasingly aggressive and reliant on flooding the shops with phone after phone. For that, a company needs monetary and development resources, which still as a plucky and strong-willed startup, would have been harder to collect on that scale. The Oppo chapter allows them access to all this. The product and software development teams can be larger, there can be hardware pools which further bring down the bill of materials for OnePlus and the access to a much larger logistics setup. The thing is, only time will tell whether OnePlus phones remain OnePlus phones in the coming years, or they become Oppo phones with OnePlus branding. Mind you, I do not speculate the latter with any assumption about Oppo phones. Oppo makes fine phones, a prowess best exhibited by the Find X2 series. But with the trepidation that the OnePlus identity may be lost forever. And we can all hope that doesn’t happen.