Interview: OnePlus’ Carl Pei talks OnePlus One, Cyanogen, and plans for the future

February 12, 2014
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A part of the OnePlus international team

In a world of compromises, OnePlus, the young company that’s building the first smartphone designed from the ground up for CyanogenMod, wants you to Never Settle.

Founded by ex-Oppo executives, OnePlus has managed to draw the spotlight on its ambitious plans and even a small, but enthusiast fan following, by promising to make no compromises in designing, manufacturing, and selling its first smartphone, the OnePlus One. The OnePlus One is co-developed with Steve Kondik’s Cyanogen Inc, meaning that, for the first time, CM fans will get to use their favorite Android ROM on hardware that was designed from day one to complement it.

OnePlus is a newcomer in a cutthroat industry, where large players with decades of experience are duking it out, often with little profit to show for it. Can OnePlus find a niche in this overcrowded ecosystem? Is a no-compromise attitude towards making smartphones enough to guarantee success?

We’ve sat down with Carl Pei, Director of OnePlus Global, to talk about the company’s goals and plans for the next two years. Here’s the interview.

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Why did you leave Oppo?

The traditional smartphone market is broken. Users have to settle with subpar products created by corporations chasing profits rather than passion.

With the rise of the internet, the world is becoming more and more transparent. Users are becoming smarter. Under these circumstances, companies will increasingly compete on product quality rather than gimmicky features or marketing expenditure. We see room for disruption and also a huge opportunity here.

How will OnePlus differentiate itself in a highly competitive and saturated market?

We won’t differentiate ourselves just to be different. However, we believe we can do better than what’s currently available. We can create something that doesn’t compromise in any regard – including design, build quality, software, specs, and price.

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OnePlus HQ

Why is it so difficult to get great phones from China into Western Markets? 

We are a company that’s born global. Our team consists of people from all over the world, we see the entire world as our playground, and our product will launch in multiple countries simultaneously.

Good products are welcomed everywhere. In Western markets, consumers have more experience with smartphones, allowing them to more intelligently judge what’s good and what’s not.

How difficult is it to get a smartphone conceptualized, designed, fabricated, and then mass produced?

Yes, hardware is very difficult, because it requires large amounts of capital, infrastructure and expertise. Some of our founders have vast experience in creating high quality hardware, which gives us a unique advantage in the marketplace.

On the other hand, it’s a philosophical question. When faced the many pressures and temptations in running a business, do you continue following your ideals, or do you let other factors take precedence?

To create a good product, a company needs both the right experience and the right philosophy.

What pricing strategy do you plan to adopt?

We will create the best product we possibly can first, and figure out sales and marketing second. We never set out to design a product to satisfy a certain price point.

However, because we’ll distribute our products solely via e-commerce, we can cut significant distribution and channel costs. And because our marketing will happen online, we can cut marketing costs. These factors allow us to bring greater value to our customers. We don’t make compromises on our product.

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We want more people to be able to use and share our products, which is why we aren’t expecting to make a profit for two years.

What’s the CM team’s contribution to the phone, besides software? How close do you work with Cyanogen for the phone?

Cyanogen Inc and OnePlus share a lot of the same values. We simply want to create the best products that we possibly can. Both teams work very closely, on both hardware and software.

Does your collaboration with CM extend beyond OnePlus One? What plans do you have for the next few years?

For 2014, we are focusing all of our energy into building and delivering the OnePlus One. Cyanogen Inc is great to work with, and we have lots in common with them. We see plenty of opportunities in the future.

Will OnePlus be using Chinese processors from companies likes MediaTek and Allwinner?

We will only use the best components available to power our devices. Currently, Qualcomm makes the best processors.

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OnePlus’ newly adopted mascot, a Shiba Inu pup. The company is running a contest to name him.

Will OnePlus build phones with 4G?

The OnePlus One supports nine bands of LTE for support in many countries around the world. (Reference: LTE bands 1/3/4/7/17/38/39/40/41)

Will OnePlus build phones (3G or 4G) with right frequencies for Europe? What about the USA?

Yes, to both questions, however in the US without Verizon/Sprint support.

Will OnePlus have service points in Europe and the USA?

Although not in every country we’ll operate in, OnePlus will have select locations around the world servicing our products. Warranty for smartphones is very important for customers, and our goal is to make it as frictionless as possible for them.

Will OnePlus have sales representatives in the Europe and the USA?

We will pursue an online strategy and not have sales reps anywhere in the world.

Will OnePlus sell their devices as SIM unlocked?

Yes, all OnePlus devices will come SIM unlocked.

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