Ready to take on Sam­sung, Ap­ple

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page -

Imag­ine a quiz ques­tion that goes some­thing like this: Which Chi­nese smart­phone brand com­mands a user com­mu­nity of more than 5 mil­lion mem­bers from 196 coun­tries and re­gions? Or: Which Chi­nese smart­phone brand’s prod­ucts are sold di­rectly in 35 coun­tries and re­gions world­wide?

Most peo­ple may guess it might be Xiaomi, Huawei, Vivo or Oppo. But the cor­rect an­swer is: OnePlus.

The Shen­zhen, Guang­dong prov­ince-based smart­phone man­u­fac­turer is ramp­ing up its global pres­ence to at­tract more users and seek new growth en­gines.

It is also itch­ing to give a tough fight to global high-end smart­phone lead­ers Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co Ltd and Ap­ple Inc.

OnePlus en­tered the US off­line market in Oc­to­ber af­ter re­ceiv­ing the back­ing of two key lo­cal al­lies in chip gi­ant Qual­comm Inc and mo­bile op­er­a­tor T-Mo­bile US Inc.

The strate­gic part­ner­ship with T-Mo­bile al­lows OnePlus to sell its 6T model ex­clu­sively at the car­rier’s over 5,600 stores in the US. Typ­i­cal- ly, a OnePlus 6T model hand­set’s start­ing price is $549. It is the first time that a OnePlus hand­set has been sold through a US wire­less provider.

There are good rea­sons why the 6T model found fa­vor in the US market. The hand­set boasts a 6.41-inch so­phis­ti­cated dis­play screen, Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845 pro­ces­sor, 8GB RAM and up to 256GB stor­age. It fea­tures a 3,700mAh bat­tery and a dual rear cam­era made up of a 20-megapixel main sen­sor and a sec­ondary 16-megapixel sen­sor at a com­pet­i­tive price.

All th­ese spec­i­fi­ca­tions and price points of the 6T model have been giv­ing con­sumers eye­ing Sam­sung or Ap­ple de­vices sec­ond thoughts.

The rise of OnePlus comes af­ter US mo­bile car­ri­ers AT&T and Ver­i­zon this year backed away from plans to work with China’s Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd on high-end smart­phones in face of pres­sure from the US gov­ern­ment.

While some OnePlus mod­els have been on sale in the US through e-com­merce web­sites, car­rier re­la­tion­ships like the one with T-Mo­bile are crit­i­cal be­cause most US con­sumers still buy phones through their car­ri­ers.

The com­pany’s slo­gan is “Pro­duc­ing the best An­droid flag­ship smart­phones”. It has spread widely since the com­pany’s launch five years ago.

“We have been stick­ing to a uni­fied in­ter­na­tional stan­dard to cre­ate ex­cel­lent prod­ucts that tran­scend race, re­gion, lan­guage and cul­tural dif­fer­ences. We hope the world will truly iden­tify with and show re­spect to Chi­nese brands,” said Pete Lau, CEO and founder of OnePlus.

Lau said that from the day it was es­tab­lished in 2013, OnePlus al­ways sought global play. “The rea­son that we have sur­vived in this highly com­pet­i­tive at­mos­phere is in­sep­a­ra­ble from our fo­cus on prod­uct — on build­ing one flag­ship at a time,” Lau said.

Ac­cord­ing to market con­sul­tancy IDC, OnePlus had the largest share of 44.3 per­cent in the $400-$600 smart­phone market in the US last year, thanks to on­line sales.

OnePlus’ record is un­usual for a Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany. Its com­peti­tors typ­i­cally fo­cus on mass-market prod­ucts in the do­mes­tic market. In con­trast, OnePlus sells only pre­mium phones that cost $400 or more. This it does al­most ex­clu­sively on­line, ex­cept in In­dia. It de­rives two-thirds of its rev­enue from out­side China and is the top seller of pre­mium smart­phones in In­dia.

The com­pany re­ported $1.4 bil­lion in 2017 rev­enue, and nearly 70 per­cent of it came from over­seas mar­kets — solid proof of the ef­fec­tive­ness of OnePlus’ global market strat­egy.

“Our com­mu­nity cul­ture has been the core of our cul­ture from the very be­gin­ning. We hope to cre­ate a per­fect An­droid flag­ship that our users want to use,” said Lau, adding when­ever he has free time, he com­mu­ni­cates with on­line com­mu­nity users and listens to user feed­back.

Given its stu­pen­dous suc­cess in In­dia, OnePlus is ex­pand­ing its pres­ence in that market. In­dia, he said, re­mains an im­por­tant market for OnePlus, con­tribut­ing al­most a third of its global rev­enue. The brand is also cap­i­tal­iz­ing on strong word of mouth and lev­er­ag­ing so­cial me­dia ef­fec­tively to reach out to its tar­get user base.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port from Coun­ter­point Re­search, OnePlus sur­passed Sam­sung and Ap­ple as the fastest-growing pre­mium smart­phone brand in In­dia dur­ing the sec­ond quar­ter of this year. A pre­mium smart­phone is de­fined as a de­vice whose price is over $436.

OnePlus has been the fastest­grow­ing brand in the top-end hand­set seg­ment as well against a back­drop of year-on-year de­cline in ship­ments of Ap­ple and Sam­sung. It carved out a 40-per­cent share of the market on the back of strong sales of its flag­ship OnePlus 6.

The Coun­ter­point re­port said there is a new trend where “af­ford­able ul­tra-pre­mium” is woo­ing as­pir­ing rich and young con­sumers away from more ex­pen­sive of­fer­ings from Sam­sung and Ap­ple.

“The steady fo­cus on high-end flag­ship smart­phones and un­prece­dented com­mu­nity con­nect helped OnePlus earn user trust and spread brand aware­ness through word of mouth,” said Neil Shah, part­ner & re­search di­rec­tor of IoT (in­ter­net of things), mo­bile and ecosys­tems at Coun­ter­point Re­search.

Shah said OnePlus be­came a No 1 brand in the pre­mium seg­ment within just 14 quar­ters of en­ter­ing In­dia. This cat­a­pulted it to the cov­eted group of the five big­gest smart­phone brands with over 4 per­cent rev­enue share for the first time ever.

In­dus­try ex­perts said OnePlus is now in­creas­ing its points of sale by launch­ing its off­line and ex­clu­sive stores across key cities in In­dia.

This will en­able the brand to reach out to a larger user base go­ing for­ward, as the pre­mium hand­set seg­ment is es­ti­mated to grow faster than the over­all smart­phone market in In­dia this year and be­yond.

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