OnePlus has long been associated with Oppo, dating back to the early years of its formation. The association between the two BBK-affiliated brands has deepened in recent years, with the two companies drawing closer earlier this year by merging their R&D efforts.
Now, OnePlus has announced that it will “further integrate” with its larger stablemate. We’re not sure exactly what this entails but CEO Pete Lau insists OnePlus will remain an independent brand. With the Oppo-ification of OnePlus already an observable trend, we can think of a few reasons to be both excited and nervous regarding this news.
Why we’re excited
We could see faster, more stable updates
One of the biggest reasons to remain positive about the increased relationship between the two brands is that we could see more frequent, polished updates from OnePlus. In fact, Lau specifically noted this example in the blog post announcing the news.
More frequent, polished updates from OnePlus would be very welcome.
This could be an especially big deal when you consider that OnePlus has been a little slow on the update front in recent times, with some containing major bugs when they are eventually pushed out. Any improvement on this front would be very welcome.
OnePlus also confirmed to Android Authority that the Oxygen OS skin would continue to be used for global devices. So that does provide some measure of relief for OnePlus fans.
Access to more resources, R&D expertise
Another upside touted by OnePlus is that it will benefit from Oppo’s wealth of resources. This could be a major positive for the firm, as Oppo indeed has a ton of resources and expertise under its umbrella due to its successes in China.
It wouldn’t be the first time OnePlus took advantage of Oppo’s assets in this regard either, as we’ve seen several OnePlus phones over the years that were essentially tweaked Oppo devices. Hopefully, the greater access to resources and expertise means OnePlus will be able to craft more unique designs that adopt Oppo’s resources without mimicking its output.
Oppo has also revealed a variety of cutting-edge technologies over the years, such as its recent Oppo X 2021 rollable phone and variable zoom camera tech. The firm has also reportedly launched its own custom chip plan which could prove invaluable in the event of further US/China tensions. All of these technologies could theoretically be available to OnePlus.
The prospect of wider availability
Oppo phones are available in a ton of markets around the world, while OnePlus also has a pretty sizeable global footprint. But the two companies do have a few gaps between them.
For example, Oppo phones aren’t available in North America, while OnePlus phones aren’t available in Africa or Latin America (save for Mexico). So an Oppo/OnePlus merger of sorts could result in each brand’s phones being available in new markets. That means the possibility of Oppo devices in North America and the possibility of OnePlus devices in Latin America and Africa.
Why we’re nervous
Oxygen OS in name only?
One major reason why we’re nervous about the Oppo/OnePlus pseudo-merger is the possibility that Oxygen OS becomes little more than a rebranded version of Color OS. Many OnePlus fans already bemoaned the aesthetic changes in Oxygen OS 11, saying it looks more like Color OS (and Samsung’s One UI).
It stands to reason that OnePlus might take this a step further and make Oxygen OS look and feel even closer to Oppo’s skin. After all, if they took this route before the merger, it seems likely that they’d stay on this path thereafter.
Oxygen OS could become little more than a rebranded version of Color OS.
In saying so, there’s still a possibility that OnePlus does indeed listen to fans and distances Oxygen OS from Color OS to an extent. After all, stablemate Vivo has its own custom FunTouch OS for global users and the radically different Origin OS for Chinese users.
Of course, we could just see Color OS replace Oxygen OS entirely. As previously mentioned, Lau has ruled this out for now, but it’s also fair to be concerned. OnePlus phones in China already run Color OS after all.
The possibility of more rebrands
Another cause for concern as a result of the tighter Oppo/OnePlus affiliation is that we see fewer original phone designs from OnePlus. The company has offered tweaked versions of Oppo devices for years now, but these felt more like the exception rather than the rule until recently.
Much like the software situation, we’re worried that the merger gives OnePlus an excuse to take the rebranding route more often than it already does — most notably with its new budget devices like the Nord N200. That would be a shame, because devices like the OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro have generally been slick designs.
The prospect of too many devices
OnePlus previously employed a strategy of only releasing a few devices annually. 2019 saw the firm release four devices (not counting 5G variants and McLaren edition devices). This consisted of two flagships in the first half of the year and two flagships in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, the previous year saw just two devices being released (or three if you include the OnePlus 6T McLaren).
Last year saw a pretty notable increase in OnePlus releases, with six devices launching in 2020 (excluding regional/carrier variants). We only saw one flagship in the second half of the year, but we saw three new Nord devices. This upward trend could be continuing in 2021, with the Nord N200 and Nord CE revealed already and the Nord 2 expected to launch later this year. That would mean we’ve got five devices officially released mid-way through 2021, with at least one more on the way (excluding a T series release).
A possible side-effect of the frequent release schedule is that OnePlus simply has too many devices to support. This certainly seems to be the case for the Nord N10 and Nord N100, which are only slated to receive one Android version update. We don’t have much faith that the firm will commit to two or three Android version updates for new budget phones if it does release devices more frequently.
Oppo becomes the real Pro player
OnePlus started out as a value for money flagship brand, bringing a high-end core experience to the table at a much cheaper price than competitors. The firm has slowly been increasing the price of its flagship phones, but it has offered a two-tier flagship range for a while now. That is, it has the standard OnePlus flagship at a reasonable price, as well as a premium-priced Pro device with plenty of extras.
We are a little concerned that Oppo could position its Find X flagships as the truly premium device family at OnePlus’ expense though. The continued push for more budget phones certainly suggests that OnePlus intends to focus on cheaper segments. There’s nothing wrong with the Oppo Find X series, as the Find X2 Pro and Find X3 Pro are both great high-end offerings. But the OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro delivered top-notch experiences at a cheaper price than their Oppo stablemates.
There’s nothing wrong with being a value-driven brand either, as it would be a return to OnePlus’ roots in a sense. But it would be a shame if OnePlus essentially becomes the Poco of BBK just after it found its feet in the premium segment and mere months after the Hasselblad deal.