OnePlus launched a flagship telephone in a pandemic. This is the way it did it, and why

OnePlus launched a flagship telephone in a pandemic. This is the way it did it, and why


Ryan Fenwick, head of PR for OnePlus, dealt with the presentation of the OnePlus Eight sequence. 

Screenshot by Roger Cheng/CNET

With almost 2.6 million instances and 180,000 deaths stemming from the novel coronavirus; tens of millions of individuals around the globe locked down in properties; mass gatherings canceled; and a worldwide recession nearly sure to occur, it appears like an ungainly time to launch a brand new client electronics product. However for upstart smartphone maker OnePlus, it felt extra essential than ever to go forward with the launch of its flagship OnePlus Eight sequence.

In regular instances, the $699 OnePlus 8 and $899 OnePlus Eight Professional, which debuted final week, would’ve capped off the transformation of the 7-year-old Chinese language firm. What started as a startup beloved by hard-core Android fanboys has matured right into a participant able to attraction to mainstream customers, due to its first-ever backing by two main US carriers, Verizon Wi-fi and T-Cellular. OnePlus had deliberate an enormous bodily keynote occasion in New York, full with certainly one of its trademark after-parties within the night.

However after all, these aren’t regular instances. As an alternative, OnePlus held a livestreamed digital launch, piecing collectively the hour-long occasion with parts from totally different components of the world. The principle keynote presentation was produced out of the corporate’s hometown of Shenzhen, China, and Hong Kong, with different parts popping out of Europe and interviews with companions within the US. 

The scramble to placed on the present and the choice to launch the product in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the high-quality line corporations must stroll as they try to function with a semblance of normalcy with out seeming insensitive to the scenario. Distinction OnePlus’ digital launch with the announcement of Apple’s iPhone SE only a day later, which got here by way of a press launch and a small media briefing. However each launches have embraced the theme that in these socially distant instances, staying related is extra essential than ever. 

“The one factor we have heard from our customers is that they’re nonetheless focused on new expertise,” OnePlus Chief Advertising and marketing Officer Kyle Kiang stated in an interview Monday. “We have heard an outpouring of assist and curiosity when it comes to the brand new merchandise.”

OnePlus’ launch comes after an identical digital presentation final month by Huawei for its P40 sequence of smartphones, and an earlier decrease key announcement by HMD World, which makes Nokia-branded smartphones. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, launched its Galaxy S20 line in February, forward of the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus

OnePlus did not contemplate scrapping or considerably delaying the launch. Forward of the reveal, CEO Pete Lau tweeted that the corporate had already delayed the launch of the OnePlus 8 3 times. OnePlus, which in response to Counterpoint Analysis ranked No. Eight within the US market, with a 0.6% share, is finest identified for cramming high-end elements into reasonably priced telephones, although the $699 beginning value of the most recent telephone represents its highest value but. 

Nonetheless, that hasn’t dampened the passion of its most loyal followers. 

“Now we should transfer ahead,” Lau tweeted. “Quickly we’ll carry you the merchandise we have labored so onerous to develop.”

Scaled down launch

OnePlus initially hoped to stage an enormous occasion in Manhattan, internet hosting as much as 3,000 attendees together with media, analysts and members of the OnePlus neighborhood — dedicated followers who commonly talk with the corporate concerning the route of future merchandise. OnePlus additionally deliberate a night get together following the occasion, tentatively set for Brooklyn. As of late February, these plans have been nonetheless on the books. 

However loads’s modified since these plans have been being made, particularly in New York. The town has turn into the epicenter of the coronavirus within the US and as of Tuesday has reported almost 135,000 infections and seen greater than 10,000 deaths

Because of this, Kiang stated the corporate opted for a a lot smaller-scale occasion. OnePlus modified the start of the presentation to deal with the pandemic. It featured friends like Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon and T-Cellular gadgets government Chris Belter, who participated remotely over video from their respective properties.  

Although the presentation saved the identical slick high quality and visuals, it was clear one thing was totally different. There was only one fundamental speaker, Ryan Fenwick, head of world company public relations, with Lau popping up in a remotely shot video phase. There was, after all, no viewers, so there was no want for the same old pause for applause.

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When it comes to whether or not OnePlus might actually have a provide of its telephones obtainable for purchasers, the corporate had been retaining  an in depth eye on the coronavirus when the outbreak was nonetheless largely only a drawback in China, since OnePlus has most of its manufacturing capabilities in that a part of the world. However Kiang stated the corporate, which is an element of a bigger conglomerate known as BKK Electronics that additionally owns fellow telephone makers Vivo and Oppo, had labored to diversify its manufacturing elsewhere, together with in India. 

“We have clearly been taking a look at it,” Kiang stated. “We have been in a position to make changes and we’ll be capable to launch the product within the present timeframe regardless of that.”

OnePlus, which usually holds two huge telephone launches a 12 months, hasn’t decided about plans for the second half, Kiang added. 

Kiang additionally declined to foretell how the pandemic and lockdown would have an effect on gross sales of the OnePlus Eight and OnePlus Eight Professional. However it’s clear there will be an influence. One of many causes you align your self with a service accomplice, significantly with a first-time alliance with Verizon, the biggest service within the US, is to get into bodily retail shops, the place many People nonetheless store for telephones. However OnePlus loses out on any advantages from the association at a time when customers are staying house and shops are shut down. 

Verizon’s head of gadgets, Brian Higgins, stated in an interview forward of the launch that he is relying on OnePlus’ on-line neighborhood of followers to drive gross sales. Verizon would assist the OnePlus Eight with a digital advertising and marketing marketing campaign. 

Kiang stated extra persons are focused on studying about gadgets on-line, and he hopes extra prospects will look to buy a telephone on-line quite than depend on the normal bodily retail route. Particularly since we’re now dwelling in a radically totally different world. 

“However I feel the urge for food for brand spanking new expertise hasn’t modified,” Kiang stated. 

That value

OnePlus tore onto the smartphone scene 5 years in the past with the unique OnePlus One, which retailed for $299 and provided the identical specs as many top-tier flagship telephones. Throw within the comparatively clear Android interface, and lots of fanboys jumped on the probability to personal the telephone. 

Now it is 2020, and the OnePlus Eight begins at $699, greater than double the value of the unique and the identical value as an iPhone 11. It is a great distance from that finances telephone with wonderful specs. 


The OnePlus Eight contains a new colour known as Interstellar Glow. However is the telephone price the additional cash?

Angela Lang/CNET

“OnePlus prospects have very fond recollections of the early merchandise, they usually have been disruptive from a pricing standpoint, undoubtedly,” Kiang stated. “That hasn’t really modified. If you sort of step again and look, our objective all alongside was to make one of the best gadgets with one of the best consumer expertise and finest efficiency.”

The massive soar in pricing for its telephones comes with new worth, the corporate stated. OnePlus added new options, together with 5G on all fashions and a sooner type of wi-fi charging (within the even pricier $899 OnePlus Eight Professional).

“You have a look at what it is competing towards, and it is nonetheless fairly robust,” Kiang stated. “It nonetheless represents a disrupter value level in comparison with every part else that is on the market.”

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