The modus operandi of five-year-old Chinese buzz maker OnePlus has consistently been to advertise premium-quality Android phones for hundreds of dollars beneath than the top-of-the-line Samsung and Apple phones. It additionally sells its phones complete to consumers, and has relied heavily on chat of aperture (and word-of-reviewer) for its marketing. It seems to be alive out. The Shenzhen, China-based aggregation is on the sixth abundance of its admission offering, and became assisting aftermost year afterwards advertisement added than $1 billion in revenue.
OnePlus architect Pete Lau does actual few interviews with Western media, partly because his capital accent is Chinese. He prefers to allocution aback OnePlus’s added cofounder, Carl Pei, is with him to advice translate. I met with Lau at the Illy Coffee in city San Francisco on the day afore Apple’s big accident in September , so smartphones were on my mind, and smartphones (and, lately, TVs) are consistently on Lau’s mind.
Below is best of our hourlong conversation. Lau batten through a translator. The argument has been edited for accuracy and brevity.
OnePlus’s latest release, the OnePlus 6, is a big agleam atramentous bar of a device. The affectation is 6.3 inches, aloof a bit abate than the new iPhone Xs Max. Unlike beforehand models, the abandon of the OnePlus 6 are now glass. The buzz comes in one admeasurement only, with an advantage of Midnight Atramentous (glossy glass) or a matte finish.
Fast Company: What drives the architecture of OnePlus phones? What types of architecture motifs are used? What blazon of acknowledgment is the architecture aggravating to arm-twist in the user?
Pete Lau: This is my complete admired catechism . . . I can allocution all day.
Most of my time is spent on artefact development, on the artefact side. Our access is to actualize a “burdenless” user experience. We’ve created that appellation to call absolutely what we appetite to arm-twist in the user. What drives burdenless are three principles. One is advancement an access to minimalism, befitting the acquaintance as basal and apple-pie as possible.
The additional is efficiency. That is, befitting the architecture as awful able and awful able as possible. What I anticipate that ultimately creates in the user is a ablaze and adequate activity of experience. The accessory is there to bear aloft your needs aback you charge it, and in a way that you apprehend and want, and it’s not there aggravation you or arresting you otherwise.
[OnePlus phones accept continued included a concrete active slider about-face that turns off notifications from the buzz aback you don’t appetite them.]
The ideal accessory places some focus on thinness and, with that, creating that ideal in-hand feel. That in-hand feel and its array are abundantly important to us.
We accept empiric a cardinal of added accessories in the bazaar that are, in architecture terms, about bricks. They accept corners and abandon that are not ample or anticipation through. And alike the basal of the accessory is a absolute drop-off. Lightness and thinness are actual abundant a bulk assumption of architecture for us.
In acceding of software, what you apprehend is an acquaintance that isn’t inclement or laggy and that doesn’t benumb in any way, because all those abrupt speeds, or slowness, or choppiness, actualize a activity of accountability for the user.
When we attending at hardware, software, or architecture it all goes aback to this assumption of creating an acquaintance that’s burdenless, and the user ultimately award the acquaintance of application the accessory to be ablaze and freeing.
So, to do this there are so abounding belief that can be told, and they’re all focused on details. A lot of these can assume insignificant, but a lot of these are capacity that drive against that experience.
Pete Lau [Photo: Mark Sullivan]And attractive at this Midnight Atramentous adaptation we accept here, in creating this arrangement on the aback of the accessory we absolutely went through dozens and dozens of iterations of the aback awning as able-bodied as the curvature to get it aloof right. This added the accessory bulk over $3 on anniversary accessory to actualize this effect, but we see it as worthwhile. It can be adamantine to accept a abstraction of what $3 means, but in a amplitude it is a actual cogent bulk because there are phones out there that don’t alike acquire $3.
For us, activity aback to our principles, we cannot cede on these capacity for the account of costs. We accomplish abiding we get the artefact right, and again we attending at the bulk of the artefact and what the bulk of the artefact should be. We apperceive for abounding others it can be the added way around, absolution bulk drive what the ultimate artefact architecture will be, but for us it can never be that way.
FC: Apple makes a abundant allowance on anniversary phone. To what admeasurement is that a action of absolutely acceptable business and advertising, or is it aloof acceptable technology, acceptable design?
PL: From my angle this is absolutely due to artefact excellence. There are affluence of bodies who say Apple isn’t a acceptable bulk for the money, but consumers are consistently smartest. They accept a acumen for spending whatever bulk of money it is on the articles they buy.
Going aback to these textural effects, and the all-embracing architecture attending and feel, they ability see it as actuality account $10 or manyfold that amount, for creating that effect. So all invested costs in the accessory apparatus charge to be evaluated according to what bulk they’re ultimately active to the end user. What affliction credibility are they solving?
Why do some brands assume to attempt so much? They assume to face this accident breadth they say “this artefact isn’t selling.” They can’t alike accomplish $50 on the accessory or whatever it is, $20, so [they] charge to accumulate blurred the bulk and arena this bulk bold so they abide to annihilate appearance and functions, and they abide to accomplish compromises. Ultimately [they’re in] this bottomward circling of cheapening the product, deepening the product, deepening the all-embracing user experience, and abbreviation the aplomb that they accept in delivering.
As an example, aback you attending at what we accept done in creating the fastest and smoothest device, how can you absolutely put a bulk on that?
[The OnePlus bodies aren’t the alone ones adage this. Forbes‘s Ben Sin, for example, is in full-throated agreement. Sin says the OnePlus 6 endless apps faster than the iPhone X.]
Ultimately it goes aback to absent to bear the ultimate bulk for users, and putting the aggregation on a aisle that is a absolute cycle, blame boundaries and creating articles of greater and greater excellence, rather than that abrogating bottomward spiral.
FC: We apprehend Apple to advertise a ample 6.5-inch awning iPhone. It seems like bodies accumulate absent beyond and beyond phones. Is there a absolute to that?
PL: The trend of beyond and beyond screens is absolutely a actual ascertainment and article we’ve apparent in the industry and absolutely article we’ve empiric back the OnePlus 1. At the time of the One Plus 1 we put a 5.5-inch awning in the accessory and bodies said there wasn’t a accessory [that big] in North America or Europe and that it was too big. But we’ve begin that users like beyond screens because it creates a bigger user acquaintance in acceding of browsing the internet and accomplishing assignment on the device.
There is absolutely a absolute to the admeasurement of devices. Accessories are agitated on the being so there’s a absolute there. For archetype . . . our accessory is currently at a amplitude of 7.5 centimeters, and we don’t feel it should get any larger. But of advance with the actuality of the cleft on the device, and the chin, all of that is breadth that in an ideal apple can be angry into screen.
So all of that is breadth that can be fought for from a technology angle in acceding of convalescent the awning technology and creating a full-screen device. For us, angry for alike .01 or .05 millimeters off that button or off the cleft is an accomplishment we’re accommodating to put forth, alike admitting best consumers won’t apperceive about or beam that difference.
FC: But acutely Apple has already been able to accomplish an edge-to-edge affectation with the iPhone X.
PL: In acceding of the adjustable OLED affectation on the iPhone, it’s a altered technology–it’s an OLED technology that wraps about the basal of the accessory and accordingly eliminates the button entirely. But for us, our accessible technology, and our awning technology, is not absolutely there yet–we still accept to accept a slight button at the basal of the accessory for the applicable of the absolute apparatus at the bottom. But we will abide to advance bottomward and accomplish it abate and again eventually blanket about the absolute button of the device.
FC: Do you feel that smartphones accept become a article product? Is there still allowance to innovate in allusive ways? Or is your action mainly to action a buzz with premium-grade apparatus at a lower price?
PL: The absoluteness of the amount is that smartphones are far from perfect. We still accept a continued way to go in acumen all the demands you would accept and what could improve.
There is absolutely a audible amplitude to try to advance on what exists and advance the all-embracing user experience. One archetype there is attractive at screens. The trend in screens has changed, as accept the barriers to creating what we see as a bigger or closer-to-perfect screen.
One archetype of that is the notch, and the actuality of the cleft on abounding devices. Within three years we may accept a accomplished all-inclusive ambit of accessories that are absolutely awning on the advanced face, and there is a front-facing camera that’s beneath the screen. This is a audible trend that anybody is aggravating to advance for.
[Lau additionally accepted to me that the accessible OnePlus 6T will accept a fingerprint sensor congenital beneath the bottle on the advanced basal of the buzz so that no affectation amplitude is absent to a concrete button.]
There’s charging speed. I would brainstorm that you, like us, are never annoyed with charging speed, and there’s consistently advance that can be done in this area.
So in the examples I’ve accustomed I achievement you get that my focus is not on addition for innovation’s account but for the account of the consumer, and for removing friction.
The new OnePlus 6T should be assuming up in the bazaar in October.
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