OnePlus announced on Wednesday, June 16, that it will further merge its business with Oppo to manufacture its smartphones. The manufacturer assures that it will remain independent while continuing to offer its own products. Are you buying it?
As unsurprising as the announcement of this “rapprochement” is, it has caused a lot of talk in the technosphere. The gradual Oppoization of OnePlus is not a new phenomenon, and it would be quite curious anyway to be surprised that a sub-brand is absorbed by its parent brand. Especially when that sub-brand starts competing and cannibalizing the parent brand’s catalog.
But what leaves me wondering is all the language around the lexical field of cooperation, collaboration that wants to present this absorption of OnePlus by Oppo as a symmetrical exchange.
Is the independence of OnePlus a mask to save face?
Autonomy and independence are two different things. In his statement announcing this famous “new venture” for OnePlus the CEO Pete Lau (who also heads Oppo’s product strategy btw) assured that “we will continue to operate independently and focus on bringing the best possible products and experiences, as we always have.”
While we don’t really know what this tie-up entails, Pete Lau explained that it could help speed up the rollout of software updates, for example. We already know that OnePlus uses Oppo’s infrastructure for R&D, sourcing and its production lines. What’s left as OnePlus’ preserve? The creative process? Marketing? After sales service?
OppoPlus: The risk of rebadged products
It’s a valid criticism, often exaggerated though in the past: But some smartphones really do look too much like pre-existing Oppo models. The latest, the OnePlus Nord N100, is even a near-copy of the Oppo A53.
So some fear that this tie-up will lead to a trend of Oppo smartphones simply being rebranded and launched as OnePlus devices, especially in markets such as the US. But original products are needed for the brand to continue to exist, aren’t they?
In an interview I conducted with the head of OnePlus strategy in Europe, he explained that the two pillars of OnePlus’ independence from Oppo were the software (i.e. OxygenOS) and the OnePlus Community.
But the software part, in this case OxygenOS 11, has allied itself with part of the community precisely because it was moving away from the Android Stock spirit traditionally respected at OnePlus. Will the rapprochement with Oppo “to offer faster updates” also involve a ‘rapprochement’ between OxygenOS and ColorOS?
OnePlus has certainly promised that its smartphones will still run on OxygenOS in Europe. But in China, the manufacturer has already abandoned its own overlay in favor of ColorOS.
Should OnePlus even continue to exist?
“Why would I care”, you might very well ask. And you’d be right. After all, it’s pretty silly to worry about the future of a purely profit-driven private company (not that this is wrong in itself).
As much as I’m a fan of OnePlus, I’m fully aware that Carl Pei and Pete Lau didn’t wake up one fine morning in December 2013 to create a fair smartphone brand and moralize the market by making technology accessible to all. No, the primary motivation is and will always be money.
This is true for a company, but also for us consumers. Should I, as a Homo Economicus, driven by my personal interests, be attached to a particular brand? Should I be moved by the idea of seeing a company whose products and/or services I appreciated disappear?
Personally, I would say no. I’m attached to OnePlus more out of convenience than sentimentality. If OnePlus disappeared, I’d be annoyed because I’d have to invest in an ecosystem and product catalog of another brand I’m less familiar with, which may also be more expensive.
But after a few months, I’ll get over it. I don’t have an emotional attachment to this brand. What about you?
So much for this week’s poll on OnePlus’ independence after Oppo’s absorption. I’d like to thank all of you who will participate and give your opinion in the comments. Have a great weekend and see you on Monday to discover the results and our analysis.