OnePlus has just launched the OnePlus Nord - it's first foray into the realm of mid-tier smartphones since the OnePlus X, which was a bit of a flop all-round. But after going back to the drawing board, OnePlus seems to have a winner on its hands with the Nord, drumming up interest within the community with a docuseries about its development, and opening up rounds of pre-orders before the handset had been revealed - which all sold out.
Now that the smartphone has officially made its debut, OnePlus CEO and co-founder, Carl Pei, has opened up about the company's return to making a more affordable device, and how certain flagship features are overblown and unnecessary - taking direct aim at Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra with its hefty price tag and 100x Super Resolution Zoom.
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In an interview with WIRED, Pei got into the nitty gritty of phone specs and what they mean to the general consumer, who may not necessarily be able to differentiate between features like an OLED or LCD screen, or a 90Hz or 60Hz display. The OnePlus Nord has a 6.44-inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 2400 x 1080, and a 90Hz refresh rate.
"Most consumers are not going to be able to tell the difference between a 90Hz display or a 60Hz one, or OLED or LCD. They don’t really know what optimisations we’ve done on the software.
"But they will like the product and they can’t explain why they like the product, because it’s all of these small decisions that have gone into the process that make up the overall user experience."
Pei has previously boasted about the smartphone "bringing a flagship-level camera to the mid-range price range," with the Nord offering a quad-lens rear camera (48MP wide + 8MP ultrawide + 2MP macro + 5MP) with optical image stabilisation, and over on the front, a dual-lens 32MP wide + 8MP ultrawide camera. This appears to be plenty for the average consumer in Pei's opinion, as he sets his sights on Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108MP, 100x zoom camera system.
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"Consumers like really glitzy things they can quickly understand. Oh, you have 100MP camera, you have 100x zoom. But are those things really necessary or useful? I’m not sure."
Ouch! In fact, Pei thinks that cameras are no longer "a battleground for smartphones" - as Huawei's Richard Yu predicts will the case in a year or so (via WIRED).
"One spec alone cannot make or break a product. You spend so much time on your smartphone it cannot just be about one single thing. I really like this from Steve Jobs: early on, he said that a brand is like a bank account - every interaction with the consumer, with your product or your marketing or your after-sales service or another consumer talking about you, every positive interaction credits your accounts, and every negative interaction deducts credit.
"So a brand is not just a product. And it’s not just advertising. It’s everything you do. That’s where the battlefield is, the overall experience across all the touch points people have with you. Get all the little details perfect."
OnePlus has certainly spent a lot of time and effort on growing a dedicated community and loyal fan-base. Pei added that not everyone needs a flagship phone - they're just after a great product:
"We didn’t choose to focus on one thing [with the OnePlus Nord], like a best camera. We just wanted all the things to be pretty good."