Why can’t larger OEMs listen to their users like OnePlus does?


OnePlus is a bit “unusual” when compared to other smartphone manufacturers. Samsung, HTC, LG, Nokia, and even Motorola all make smartphones, just like OnePlus does. Unlike OnePlus, with the others, what you see is what you get.

Specifications are debated in board rooms, and phones are cooked up according to a very specific formula. Customer feedback doesn’t seem to be much of a concern.

OnePlus listens to customers, so why can’t larger OEMs do the same?

OnePlus Listens

OnePlus is a relatively new brand. Sure, we’ve since learned that OnePlus is very tightly coupled with OPPO, but it’s a little different than the Lexus and Scion brands of Toyota, for example. Unlike other OEMs, OnePlus has been very outgoing, involving its prospective customers along the way. Asking questions about what they really want in a smartphone — and why — then building a very compelling phone around those answers.

OnePlus LogoCarl and David from OnePlus Tech even took to reddit to answer “(almost) anything!” That’s a pretty unusual thing for a company to do. But perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way. When you and I talk about the “customer”, we’re probably both thinking about ourselves. I buy the phone I like. You buy the phone you like. See? “Customers!”

To OEMs, however, you and I aren’t the customer.

What do you mean I’m not the customer?!

That’s right, loyal reader. You and I are both wrong. We’re not the customer. As such, we have little (if any) say when it comes to what an OEM puts into a smartphone. But if we’re not the customer, who is?

Generally speaking, OEMs make handsets for carriers. You and I are only going to buy a couple phones each year (at most), but AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Vodafone and others are going to buy thousands — possibly even tens of thousands. They need a handset that will work with their frequencies. They need a handset that will last long enough to get their customers (that’s you and I) through part of their contract (but not the whole thing). They need a handset that’s on par with their competition (so we don’t leave for someone else). They need incentives. They need marketing materials. They need discounts and special pricing. They need their own custom bloatware installed. They need… well, I think you’re starting to get the picture.

The Matrix: Red Pill, Blue Pill

But I don’t think the robots are real. Wait. I should have written this down.

Motorola, on the other hand, gave the impression of “choice” when it let “customers” design their own phone. Except all Motorola let us do was change the colors. The specifications of the phone were already said and done. All we got to choose was the color?! What kind of choice is that?

It’s the kind of choice you get when you’re not really the customer, that’s what kind.

And that’s why OnePlus is different. It knows who its customer is: you and I. To succeed, it has to involve us. It has to ask us what we want — and then it has to deliver on that promise. So far, so good.

What happens when OnePlus gets bigger and starts selling to the carriers?

I think we all know how that story ends.

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy". By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video. Read more about Joe Levi here.