For a company that’s not even six-months old, OnePlus has done pretty well so far. Portraying itself as an ambitious startup eager to disrupt the status quo with an affordable, no-compromise device, OnePlus managed to create a huge amount of hype around the OnePlus One. In terms of publicity and engagement, the launch of the phone was a smashing success.
But OnePlus has also been shrouded in controversy for the past weeks. From calling out competitors before releasing an actual device, to building hype to dangerous levels, to holding an unclear and, some think, wasteful and dangerous contest, the company offered lots of ammo to its critics.
Now a new controversy is boiling over in various online forums, as some accuse OnePlus of being misleading about the fact that it’s closely related to Oppo.
OnePlus and Oppo: what’s the connection?
The fact that OnePlus was a sister company, or even a spinoff, of Oppo was an open secret for anyone who’s been following the two Chinese companies closely. But OnePlus has long insisted it’s an independent startup. Moreover, the company used this new player, underdog image to market itself throughout its short life.
Now documents from a Chinese regulatory body prove that OnePlus is indeed closely connected to Oppo. OnePlus Technology, one of the companies set up to make and sell the OnePlus One, is fully owned by Oppo Electronic, which also owns Oppo Mobile, the company that effectively makes Oppo phones. Another company, OnePlus Trading Corporation is fully owned by OnePlus CEO Pete Lau, but this company can only sell devices and has no R&D or manufacturing activities.
In an email response to GizChina, OnePlus denies any wrongdoing:
We understand the confusion as many people are just finding out about OnePlus. But as we’ve said from the beginning, OnePlus is a separately run company that does share common investors with OPPO. One of those investors is OPPO Electronic. OPPO Electronic is an investment company and is not the same as OPPO Mobile. OnePlus is also in talks with other investors.
Technically, this statement may be truthful. And there’s nothing inherently wrong in setting up a subsidiary or a spinoff for commercial purposes.
But some fans feel disappointed.
Storm in a tea cup? Or breach of trust?
On Reddit, in two threads (1, 2) that ballooned over the weekend, some users complain that OnePlus was misleading about its status as an Oppo sister/daughter company, and that in portraying itself as a feisty startup, the company lied to its fans.
Others don’t seem to care at all, focusing on what an amazing proposition the $299 One is.
Some Redditors accused the company’s social team of censoring threads on the official forum that touched on the issue, but at least one thread on the front page is present and active. Posts here are divided, as well, between critics and the “what’s the big deal?” folks.
Personally, I think OnePlus did purposely use its perceived “small guy” status as a tool for building a name for itself. In hiding – or at least failing to disclose – its true relationship with Oppo, they did mislead their fans. But then again, does it matter all that much? At least for me, probably not. For sure, OnePlus needs to be more honest and careful in its public communication. But this doesn’t change anything about the phone, and Oppo is still a “small guy” in my book.
So, is it a big deal or not? OnePlus fans, do you feel betrayed by the company? Is this “revelation” changing your buying decision in any way?