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Is the OnePlus 2 really the 2016 Flagship Killer?

Making a recording of the VR launch, watching it several times, watching many review videos and articles about the NEW OnePlus 2 has left me thinking and wanting to post my own two cents. First, watch the VR launch (non-VR version) if you haven't:

Is the OnePlus 2 really the 2016 Flagship Killer?

The answer is both Yes AND No. Yes, because it has some of the top hardware you can get. No, because it doesn't live up to the hype.

The OnePlus 2 is a gorgeous phone. A premium-looking phone, touting the best of the best Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor, a superb camera with laser autofocus, an alert slider that is something sorely missing in the Android world, and the fastest and most accurate fingerprint reader in the planet. And it runs Oxygen OS giving you the beautiful pure Android experience that Google has intended, with some added customization options to truly personalize your phone.

What OnePlus nailed:

OnePlus nailed it when it comes to several points about the OnePlus 2. Great specs. Thoughtful features. Vanilla Android experience. Fastest fingerprint unlocking. Building up the hype. A unique "first" with VR launch.

Where OnePlus flopped:

Didn't live up to the hype. First off the bat, is the VR Launch. Despite all the hype building up to it, it was really a disappointment. The content itself is was nothing close to being VR-worthy. As you can see from my video, just a regular video camera would have been more than adequate to provide the same launch in regular video format. It would have been a lot easier and so much better to make a LIVE YouTube event, than a pre-recorded VR-unworthy VR.

Carl at OnePlus really missed the great opportunity he had to really be creative with the whole VR experience thing. I'm not the most creative person in the world, but I bet I can come up with better ideas than following him around and looking at people talking endlessly about specs (more about that later):
  • Could have a fully 3D experience with a narrator's voice but no narrator or statically fixed narrator present. The 3D experience could be very immersive from all angles (or at least a few). The 3D world could take you inside a virtual model of the inside of the phone, have you look around and explore the features with the narrator (or look at wherever you want).
  • Could have a virtualized real world view of a city/landscape/virtual show event, in which several virtual features are augmented, and people can freely "walk" around and explore (yes Carl, you can "walk" around in a Cardboard world, without actually walking - there are VR games that do that). They could go to the stage and listen to the keynote (yes, a traditional stage keynote, on a virtual stage, with a seating plan for - get this - a theoretically infinite number of people). They could leave the stage and explore the surroundings. They could go pick up the phone from one of the booths with an infinite number of virtual OnePlus 2 phones in stock. They could explore the phone, or simply go to the booths and have virtual staff members show them the features on cue.
  • If it just had to be the tour of the office, it could have been immersive, with 4-6 people with "you" touring the office and interacting with Carl with interesting discussions. While Carl is yapping away about the specs, one of them could find something and say "check this out" and everyone would look there. You could be given a virtual phone to play with. The experience could have been spread to multiple angles at the same time. Activities like "look around and see if you can spot it" could be done.
  • At the least, could have been live, and with some sort of unique interaction (which is very difficult with a closed VR device, but at least the Cardboard provides a magnetic click switch) [PS: can't wait for Microsoft HoloLens!]

Instead, OnePlus basically recorded a traditional video tour script with a VR camera. And it is a pre-recorded 360 deg video playable any time, which is a disappointment because a lot of people was expecting a live event and kept alarms not to miss it. The only advantage to watching it right upon release was to get one of the invite codes before anyone else.

OnePlus thinks future-proofing means having a cover that can tell the phone to change the theme. This is not about the cover. The cover is a nice thing to have, but it doesn't really do anything except giving you the ability to change the look of the back. But OnePlus touted their vision of avoiding gimmicks, and then hypocritically slapped the StyleSwap gimmick on the face. But if future-proofing was really their goal, they would have made NFC and wireless charging an option. I understand that keeping costs low requires cutting back on features. But it doesn't mean those features couldn't be made available at an additional premium for those willing to pay for it. The StyleSwap covers could have easily been more than just a gimmick. The two metal contacts that the covers tell the phone what cover it is, could be used for so much more than just a simple cover ID. It could provide connection to an NFC radio built into an "NFC StyleSwap cover" or an "NFC stick-on radio" (that could go under the regular StyleSwap covers). It could provide wireless charging capabilities through a "Qi Charging cover" or "Qi Charging stick-on receiver".

I hope that they are keeping totally quiet about this to launch it as a big suprise to all on the New Year, with an OTA update and new NFC and Qi Charging StyleSwap covers to go with it. But then again, having absolutely no hint about these important future-proofing features in the plans makes me think they are just not interested in enabling it in the phone.

Onto the next point, in the VR launch, OnePlus talks a lot about specs, says "specs are boring", then talks some more about specs. Pretty much the entire VR launch was about specs. It starts off with Carl talking for far too long about his vision, then we meet with a group talking about specs, see a video of more people talking about specs, meet a guy (CEO) talking about his vision, see Carl say "specs are boring" then talk about the specs in a meeting room, see the Qualcomm guy talk about processor specs on a video conferencing TV (what's up with that? couldn't have made a cool floating video that Carl was looking at while walking instead?), then we see the trailer about the specs, then we meet the group again talking even more about specs, then we see Carl walk around talking about features, then he shows us the OS, then as though it was not told enough, Carl once again reminds us about the specs, finally wraps it up with the rollout details and the CEO fumbling to squeeze a talk about all the specs before the lights go out. I think I lost count how many times I mentioned specs there.

Where the critics are right:

 No NFC. No wireless charging. The 16GB storage in base model is too low.

The invite system keeps it difficult to get the phone. I'm still waiting for mine, and I'm at around 300,000 something in the queue. There are already more than a million in the reservation list.

Where the critics are WRONG:

"The invite system just shouldn't exist." It can and it adds value to the phone. It is understandable to have such a system as it builds up the hype and anticipation, and makes it a game. Getting the phone becomes a sweet cherishable memory after you had waited long for an invite, and looked far and wide to get one faster. You have WON the game, and you beat those who are still waiting. It's just not the same feeling if you walk up to the nearest store, pick a phone up, swipe your card and walk out.

Besides, OnePlus promises this time around, there will be a lot more invites and a lot more stock as the company has already been there and done that, and can now be bolder (not as cautious as it was with OnePlus One).

"Y U NO QI ME?" Wireless charging is OK to forgo because it's still a premium feature and not necessary for most people. The critics are all up in arms about this feature missing as though they cannot live without it. But to me, wireless charging is still a luxury that many people won't want. They wouldn't mind plugging in a cable (and often, they have to, as even with wireless charging at home or office, they still need to plug in occasionally when elsewhere). And it's even more pleasurable to plug the cable in with the new reversible USB type C port.

"Having no microSD slot is a dealbreaker." No, dear critics, it's not. If you as a manufacturer values the stability of your Android device, you won't want to have a microSD card slot in it. Google strongly recommends against having one because inferior cards often cause the phone to lag and even crash. Many flagship manufacturers agree and the latest flagships more often than not, do not have these slots because they want their product to be as stable as possible on their premium phone and reduce RMA-related resource wastage. They simply provide an adequate amount of storage to compensate. Which brings me to:

"The 16GB storage is a joke." No, it's a strategy. I'll tell you who else regularly employs this strategy where I live: ICE CREAM stores. Here's their pricing model that wouldn't make sense to you as a consumer, but makes perfect sense as far as profits are concerned: sell single scoop at $6, sell two scoops at $8.50, sell three scoops at $10. Can you see what's going on? A customer who initially wanted only a single scoop may be enticed to spend more by the pricing strategy used - it only costs $2.50 more to get another scoop... and look, it only costs $4 more to get TWO more scoops. OnePlus is being smart and doing this, because they want people to buy 64GB. If you notice, they only have a single scoop and a triple scoop offering. There's no double scoop. And the devices are priced closely. From a bottomline perspective, this makes sense because buyers who initially think they may only need 16GB would see it only costs $60 more to get an additional HUGE amount of storage (48GB) and be enticed to upgrade to 64GB (not everybody will do it, but many will). [Note that the ice cream is just an analogy, and analogies often have flaws. Don't flame me for it.]

"The display is only 1080p. We want Quad-HD." Seriously, WHY? What on earth are you going to do with a 4K resolution 5.5" screen? There comes a point where bigger stops being better, and many critics don't know when to stop asking for bigger. Did you know that OnePlus 2 has the exact same display specs as the iPhone 6 Plus. Same resolution, same diagonal size, same PPI (called Retina HD by Apple). If you looked at an iPhone 6 Plus and thought the display is crisp and gorgeous, it's gonna be the same when you look at OnePlus 2. There is really no need to ask for a bigger resolution (unless you're entering the tablet territory) because a 4K display would be a HUGE battery drain with no visual advantage. We can't already discern the pixels at the 401 ppi density unless we use a magnifying glass, so what are we going to do with 500 or 600 ppi displays?

Although, there is one avenue where a 4K or higher PPI resolution would help: VR. Because of the nature of VR headset design (like the Google Cardboard), the pixels are greatly enlarged, and while you can make out what's going on, the individual pixels are staring right at your face. A 4K resolution would give clearer images when the phone is used in a clip-on VR headset. But then, who uses their phone as a VR device everyday?

So, yes the OnePlus 2 can be a total Flagship Killer of the next year, if it is properly future-proofed with the addition of NFC and wireless charging. But even without the option to add them on, it's still a delectable phone to have at the price point.

What are you thoughts on the matter? Is the OnePlus 2 really the 2016 Flagship Killer?

BTW, did you know that OnePlus 2 equals 3?


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