The first OnePlus phone, when it launched in India, debuted with a price tag of Rs 19,999 ($299). Since then OnePlus has launched seven phones, and each of them has come with a price tag that is slightly more than the phone it replaced in the market.
The latest phone from the company, OnePlus 6, is also its most expensive yet with a price tag of Rs 34,999 ($519). Now the company co-founder Carl Pei has explained why the price of the flagship OnePlus phone keeps rising. He says it is because the prices of the components that go in the phone are rising.
The only exception to this price increase in OnePlus phones was the OnePlus X, a mainstream phone with more toned down hardware. But that phone never saw a successor.
“The increase in the price of the OnePlus phone is because of the increase in the cost. The components keep getting more expensive, and it is an industry-wide trend. All flagship phones have become more expensive. Our margins remain almost the same,” Carl said in Delhi, where he came from Goa where OnePlus just recently held its first Open Ears Forum for Indian OnePlus users.
A look at how the smartphone market has evolved shows that Carl is indeed on to something. In the last five years, almost all high-end phones have become more expensive. The top Samsung Galaxy phone that would earlier come with a price tag of around Rs 40,000 now comes with MRP of close to Rs 60,000.
Carl noted, or rather reiterated because it is something he has said earlier too, that OnePlus still aims to make the best phone possible and wants to sell it at a price that it believes is honest. The OnePlus 6 too, despite its top-end hardware and features, is a phone that is still relatively affordable at its starting price of Rs 34,999.
Talking to a select group of tech journalists, Carl yet again explained how OnePlus conceives and makes its products. It’s all about users, he said.
This also explains some of the missing features in the OnePlus 6. For example, OnePlus 6 doesn’t have the IP67 rating, even if it has a design that can withstand water splashes and rain. “IP67 is actually consumer hostile,” he says. “It doesn’t solve any big problems for our users but it adds to the cost, and it makes the phone thicker.
We have seen that people really care about the thinness of the phone, how it feels in hand. So even though we designed the OnePlus 6 in a way that can avoid users help damage due to water, we didn’t go for the iP67.
Similarly, user-centric approach is behind the lack of wireless charging in the OnePlus 6, said Carl. “Never say never,” he added when asked if OnePlus will never add wireless charging to its phones. But it all depends on how much wireless charging gets popular. “If there are cafes, public places where you can put your phone on the table and charge it, we will add wireless charging to the phone because then it will be useful. But we don’t want to add a feature just for the sake of it,” he said.
AI talk is gimmick
In his conversations with tech media, Carl also addressed the issue of competition.
“The AI talk is just gimmick. All phones have AI and smart code. OnePlus 6 too has it but we don’t talk about it as a feature. In OnePlus phones we make hundreds of improvements to the Android code, we have smart algorithms that determine the app order or image processing. All of this can be AI features. But talking about it is a gimmick. For us, it is all about user experience. Users don’t need to know if their phone is AI-powered or not. It should just work well,” he said. “The only really smart AI that I have seen is Google Duplex (the virtual assistant that recently stunned the world by talking like a real-human being at Google IO). Rest all is a gimmick.
So what’s next from OnePlus. Definitely not a new OnePlus 6 variant, said Carl. The OnePlus 6T may be? Carl refused to speculate, but he did explain the philosophy behind the T-line of OnePlus phones.
He said that T-line is a flexible product lineup and that OnePlus will only do it if believes that a OnePlus 6T or any other T phone offers consumers something truly new over the existing OnePlus phone.
“It all depends on whether there is something new for us to offer to consumers,” he said.