OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei was in Kuala Lumpur last week. In between preparing for the announcement of the OxygenOS team and the Reddit AMA session after that, we caught up with Carl for an extensive, broad-ranging conversation about the company, OxygenOS, the OnePlus Two…and of course, what happened to its planned expansion into Malaysia.
It is not often that a member of the media is granted access to meet the co-founder of a multi-million dollar company. What’s more surprising was the fact that OnePlus initiated the contact with Lowyat.NET and a few other members of the media for a one-to-one meet-up; let alone being given the liberty to ask virtually anything to Carl Pei, the young co-founder of one of the most exciting disruptive elements in the smartphone industry.
And yet there we were, and the first question that naturally popped up was, quite literally, “so what happened to your plans in Malaysia?”
Back in November, the company even held a fan gathering, attracting fans from all over the country
It appeared I wasn’t the only one to have asked this question to him before. Pei was especially sheepish as he answered the question. “With our plans in Malaysia, we over-promised and eventually under-delivered. For that we owe an apology to our Malaysian fans.”
“As a young company, we under-estimated the challenges that come with expanding our product into a new market,” he added. It didn’t help either that the company’s head of business development for Southeast Asia left the company recently, leaving OnePlus to “start from scratch” with its plans for Malaysia.
More painful for Malaysian fans was the fact that Indonesia was suddenly announced as the next market where OnePlus would enter
There are some good news, however. Pei reiterated that OnePlus will still be expanding into Malaysia, and are actively looking at partnerships with online retailers. On top of that, Kuala Lumpur is also one of the locations the company is looking at to set up a base for its entire Southeast Asian operations.
But what of the OnePlus One? Will it still be coming to Malaysia?
“The OnePlus One will be coming to Malaysia as soon as possible,” Pei says, and hinted that the company has set an aggressive deadline for a launch in Malaysia. Pei also confirmed that the One will be sold exclusively online. Therein lies another challenge for OnePlus: while there is a growing number of consumers who are perfectly comfortable with purchasing a product online, there are a great deal more who would like to touch and feel a product before making a purchase. Opening up retail stores will naturally incur greater costs, and Pei states that this is an area his team are actively looking into.
At that point, Pei’s smartphone buzzed. As he lay his phone back to the table, there was something noticeably different about the home screen. As it turns out, Pei’s phone is (unsurprisingly) running on a test build of OxygenOS, which at the time of our conversation was still just a word. Like Cyanogenmod, OxygenOS is visually almost the same as stock Android; its default launcher is actually Google Launcher. Most of the enhancements, as Pei noted both during our conversation and in the Reddit AMA after, were under the hood. “Based on our research, we found that most of our users in the West preferred better battery life and greater stability compared to new features. So we worked very hard on improving those with Oxygen.”
“We’re very happy with what we’re seeing so far.”
So will the OnePlus One be receiving OxygenOS as an OTA update? “The One will not be getting OxygenOS as an OTA update, but Oxygen will support the hardware on the One.” Given Oxygen’s low-level enhancements, users would have to flash OxygenOS onto the One, and no, doing so will not void the phone’s warranty.
At this point, the conversation naturally veered into the OnePlus Two. Sadly, Pei was not quite in the mood to reveal anything other than “the OnePlus Two will have OxygenOS pre-installed.” When pushed a little more, Pei hinted that the Two would be “a completely different price from the One,” and will be released later this year. Will it be priced in the same price range as the One? Pei’s answer? “Costs of new technology is never cheap.” Clearly, OnePlus is keeping its cards very close to its chest once again.
Nevertheless, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for frustrated fans in Malaysia. As OnePlus irons out its distribution channels and begins sales of the One, it also means that the company will not face similar issues once its latest flagship comes our way. Pei was also confident in saying that with the proper channels in place, the Two will come to Malaysia a lot faster than the One.
Regardless, the challenge for OnePlus is still a massive one. As a small disruptive influence, the company has gained a surprisingly high number of fans in Malaysia (something that factored heavily behind the company’s initial decision to expand to this country), but they have been massively let down by OnePlus’ silence and apparent inaction. On the other hand, the company’s challenge also extends into expanding consumer interest with the common consumer, many of whom still prefer physically feeling the product before making a purchase.
So far, the company is saying all the right things, recently publishing a post that aims to reconnect with its Malaysian fans on its forums. It is but the first step into regaining the trust and excitement among its fans – for them, the clock is now ticking.