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December 2016 Letter: Two Years in Review

  1. Carl Co-founder Staff Member Dec 8, 2016

    Carl, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Friends,

    Back in 2014, I used to write letters (1, 2, 3) to our community right here on our forums. And then it stopped. Yes, I became a lot busier, but that's just an excuse. As for everything in life, you make time for what's important. As 2016 is turning to a close, and as we turn the page on our third year, I've recently found myself reflecting on OnePlus' past three years.

    Upon reflection, I realized that one of the most important parts to OnePlus are our fans. People who gave a chance to a new and unknown company and took a giant leap of faith. Most startup companies fail, and in our industry, many established companies are also on their last legs. Thus, believing in us was a huge leap of faith, and it was our fans' trust that has allowed us to survive until this day. So I decided to pick this up again, I'll write a letter every month for the next three months and then assess if it's worth continuing. Since it has been such a long time since the last update, I'll pick up where I left off and make this about the last two years.

    I'll capture this period with three themes; euphoria, arrogance & improvement.


    Euphoria (OnePlus One)

    The OnePlus One was a huge success. It caused ripples in the industry and positioned OnePlus as a dark horse ready to take on the competition. Our team worked extremely hard to launch this product, and felt the validation when the market accepted the product with open arms. Back then, we seldom had inventory in our warehouses for more than 48 hours, and demand was always way higher than supply. The OnePlus One sold way better than our initial expectation, doing more than 1.5 million units, as well bringing the company to profitability; both rare for a first generation product from a startup company.

    During this period, we also launched in India and our Indian fans welcomed us with open arms. Here's a slightly (or very) cringey video we shot to signal our entry. Looking back, launching in India with Amazon was one of the best things we've done, as the partnership has proven to be great for both companies. The first time Pete and I met with Amit, head of Amazon India, things clicked. We spent the entire meeting talking about culture, the importance of being consumer-centric, as well as how to think long term. If we could align on culture and principles, we figured that details would be easy to take care of. And that's how things actually unfolded. Working with an exclusive partner is like getting married. When we entered India, every brand was married to a platform. Today, the Amazon OnePlus marriage is the only one that remains in India.

    Back then, our team was in a sort of euphoric startup bubble. Suddenly, all doors started to open up. We were invited to speak at large tech conferences, met the most prominent VCs, and received all types of rewards and recognition. We were really excited to be nominated for The Crunchies Awards, and although we would have won if it were by popular vote, we didn't in the end. I hope no one took our advice to heart, because advice coming from OnePlus in 2015 would have been pretty bad. Nonetheless, this got to our heads and we felt quite important.

    During this period, we also hired fast. Why? Because classic startup literature taught us to "hire fast fire fast". When hiring, I remember being more excited about pedigree than culture fit or real accomplishment. We ended up with a larger team, but one that that didn't gel well. Instead of moving faster, this made us move slower. As an added bonus, culture began to turn toxic and morale began to drop.


    Arrogance (OnePlus 2 & OnePlus X)

    Emboldened by the success of the OnePlus One, we thought highly of ourselves and felt unstoppable. We didn't focus on the right thing, and often let our judgment get affected by outside noise. Those of you who were around for the "2016 Flagship Killer" should know what I mean. It wasn't a bad product, but it wasn't great either. In this day and age of globalization and hyper-competition, good enough doesn't cut it anymore. If you want to build a healthy company today, you absolutely must bridge the gap between good and great.

    Also, we also wanted to expand. More product categories = larger addressable market = faster growth, right? This insight led to the OnePlus X, our foray into the mid range. It was a great product, and if given to a larger mobile brand, it would probably have done well. We overestimated our sales and marketing abilities. We knew a few social media tricks that could get us to some early adopter users, but when you want to go mass market, the game is way different.

    Financially, we were lucky to be close to break even. The only reason why this happened was because we had established trust with the One. Following up a great product with a good product, we burnt some of that trust, but at least we still survived our second year. And the people who joined OnePlus to be a part of a rocket ship? They all left. When the tide is high, it's difficult to see the bedrock. It's when things get bad that true colors show. To be fair, it was our own fault. We had no experience and no idea how to manage a large team. Had we managed the team better, the outcome should have been different.

    Yet, 2015 was probably our best year. Not in terms of business performance, but in terms of a reality check. We learned that our past success was mostly due to luck and timing, and that we weren't smarter than anyone else. This made our team a lot more rational and mature. The lucky part was that we got this reality check in year two, and also survived the experience. Many startups don't learn this lesson until it's too late to turn the ship around.


    Improvement (OnePlus 3 & OnePlus 3T)

    In the beginning of 2016, from an outside perspective, we probably looked like a below mediocre smartphone brand. We were acutely aware of our situation, and set a simple goal for our next product. The goal for OnePlus 3: redeem ourselves. Reset the clock for the OnePlus brand to how things were post OnePlus One. Focus on the product, absorb a lot of feedback, but filter aggressively based on what we think is right. Focus on the best core experience, ignore garnish and gimmicks.

    We also learned the value of culture. In a way, company culture is like traffic regulations. It's a way of working, and if we all subscribe to the same set of rules, things work. If one driver ignores traffic rules, even if it's the world's best race car driver, this person would only cause chaos. The race car driver might be great on the race track, but not on our roads.

    Luckily for us, the OnePlus 3 turned out to be a hit. It's the highest NPS product we made, and even though our marketing didn't improve much, a good product can get you really far. Internally, we feel like we reached the goal we set for the OnePlus 3. Sometimes, people ask us how we're so good at PR and we just smile. We're actually not that good, it's just that the product is solid.

    The part that I'm most proud of is probably the improvement in our R&D team, they are way more consumer centric than before. The speed in which we can gather feedback from our community and iterate is much faster, and I'm especially happy about the beta program. Did you know that our engineers often arrange face-to-face sessions with users around the world to recreate bugs and capture logs? So next time you report a problem and someone contacts you out of the blue, don't be afraid. It's likely a OnePlus engineer.

    Over the course of the life of OnePlus 3, we've improved various aspects of the software together with our community. At the same time, we've also made important advancements in hardware. We didn't want to wait another half year to bring this to the market, which is why we launched the OnePlus 3T. Initial traction has been great, even better than the OnePlus 3. Delivery times are very long again, but who knows, fingers crossed for what happens next.
     

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  2. pwseo Ice Cream Sandwich Dec 8, 2016

    pwseo, Dec 8, 2016 :
    @Carl,

    You should be clear as to what will happen to your neglected phones. We all know you admit to having failed spectacularly with them, but there still is no feedback from OnePlus on what's going to be fixed. What's the point of having a bug tracker if you're just going to delay fixes until phones hit EOL? I'm truly disappointed. I never would've thought that this company could behave so differently for selected groups of their customers.

    What keeps you from telling us what's next? Can't stomach people's reactions? Weren't you all about openness and communication with your customers? Then be open and communicate with us. It can't get much worse than it is right now, believe me.

    It's no use just coming here and admitting it was your own fault, since you're not doing anything to solve the problems created/still left unsolved.

    P.S.: You should sometimes reply to people who criticize OnePlus or ask you hard questions. I think we're all tired of watching you duck and run.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016

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  3. Robson Jelly Bean Dec 8, 2016


    #3
  4. pgidia Lollipop Dec 8, 2016


    #4
    Gaurav Rohilla and Ceasedd like this.
  5. Ringsofthekings Cupcake Dec 8, 2016


    #5
  6. aakashjhaveri Lollipop Dec 8, 2016


    #6
    Batfink32, NoNoZaZa and Srivatsa224 like this.
  7. EldoJacob Gingerbread Dec 8, 2016

    EldoJacob, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Keep going like this and what #NeverSettle :)
     

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  8. Dunnow KitKat Dec 8, 2016

    Dunnow, Dec 8, 2016 :
    We will see about that...

    Neither do your products right? When will the OP2 learn to focus while recording video?

    If it's not great, it's plain bad. And face it already, the OP2 was never GOOD, even less the X. With the ammount of bugs that took several months (if not a whole year) to get fixed (and I'm just talking about the X as the 2 keeps having some bugs since day 1)

    The One was GOOD, never GREAT. The GREAT part about the GOOD product you had was CyanogenMod in a high end specs device. THAT was the formula.

    Sadly enough. And I mean that a 100%. SADLY enough, you survived. Because what you are STILL doing has no EXCUSE, at least, if the company burned down to nothing, people could have the "well, at least they got what they deserve", but sadly, did not happen.

    And the fact that there's people, like me, who think this, is something that you should take way more seriously than what you are taking it.

    Was about time. Does that reality check include the X and the 2 going forwards or we will just keep being the "past pile of shit we produced one day"

    Yeah, because making the 2 or the X be like they were supposed to be is not longer in the map right?

    I'm sure many users will be great to see how your intention is only in the new devices...

    I mean... if the issues on the 2 and X were HW issues there would be not much to do... but... we all know it's not like that right?

    How about you STOP 100% of development of the 3 and 3t for a couple of months, and start DELIVERING on the past devices?

    The core experience of a phone is the camera, the speed and the battery life. All of which fail still today in the 2 and X. Will you ever focus again on those? I guess that it will only be, as stated above, just for the present products.

    Good, if you are there, start on the other 2 devices u left behind.

    Sure, with a bug reporting system based on forums that half of the actual bugs are marked as "solved" or "feature request" and not accepted at all.

    We would also be if it included ALL devices. Not only the last one.

    They do? I've been one of the most vocal users in this forums about the issues your devices have and I've yet to talk to an engineer to recreate anything.

    The most that OnePlus has ever done for me was @dsmonteiro actually figuring out that when I commented about a bug, it was for real. But wait, he was not OnePlus, he was just someone who had no power at all to force the development team to fix shit.

    And now there's nothing left of it. As well... we can all see how your bug reporting system works already...

    Nope, they don't. We get contacted by someone who has no clue about shit, that copy pastes a politically correct wall of text filled of bullshit about "we care" and a "please send logs".

    The best part of it is that the bug tracking system was supposed to be open and public but all communication is done through private messages, and no one sees any progress at all.






    Look @Carl, I know that all of this you are doing lately is to start going back to the "transparency" and "openness" that this company has been selling us for the past 2 years, but even tho, it's "welcome" please, be REAL.

    This is just a letter of a "poser", you've done your job, you will come back every month and paste a letter that takes 20 minutes to write, but then, nothing will change.

    You will keep appearing sporadically in the forums and saying things like

    So, which one is it? you are showing double standards.

    You wanna make a difference? go into the bug reporting tool, and stay most of your free time there. See how the shit hits the fan, and focus on what the users actually want, instead of so many BS surveys and dramatic public appearances...

    And if actual ENGINEERS are contacting people, I still expect them to come and talk to me (and if it doesn't happen, I'll not believe that statement at all), I'll be more than glad to explain to them every single issue I had with my OPT, don't expect me to provide logs tho. They can generate them themselves, and the ONLY way I ever go back to OOS, is to test Nougat and be vocal about its bugs once more. As the OS was SO BAD that I was forced to go back to custom roms, the LAST thing I ever wanted to do with an OP device.

    I don't know who you are testing the builds with before release, but FOR SURE they are not doing a good job.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016

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  9. aakash006sharma Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    aakash006sharma, Dec 8, 2016 :
    That's why I bought the pure monster phone - Oneplus 3T ( even I do have Oneplus 3 gold and Grey version).

    Oneplus is unbeatable and splendid devices.


     

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  10. Ravi1515 Donut Dec 8, 2016

    Ravi1515, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Thanks for mentioning India and no one share their experience in a company of ur position and I'm very thankful to u. I hope u see this msg @Carl
     

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  11. Srivatsa224 Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    Srivatsa224, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Thanks for update! Great going Team OnePlus, all the very best! #NeverSettle
     

    #11
    daster_x and NoNoZaZa like this.
  12. aakash006sharma Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    aakash006sharma, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Oneplus 3T battery life is seriously an incredible improvement and thank you for not choosing 2k display. ( Dash charging saves my lot of time and it changes my charging habit too)

    1080p display on Oneplus 3T is a great example.

    I didn't notice any lag while playing gta San, asphalt 8, gameloft six gun and fifa all together on my Oneplus 3T.


    In future devices also - please don't ditch ( Hardware button). My favorite back and recent button customization.

    Love ❤️for Oneplus will remain eons.
     

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  13. bharat2110 Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    bharat2110, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Thanks for Letter.. And accepting Oneplus2 was not up to the mark as it was marketed. Yet Oneplus team can get its fans back again by updating "2016 Flagship Killer" to latest Android 2016 software.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016

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  14. diazdiandra Donut Dec 8, 2016

    diazdiandra, Dec 8, 2016 :
    I hope you keep supporting OnePlus One. As a 2014 phone, it's still rocking. I hope you could update the Oxygen OS for the One. Thank you for the letter, Never Settle!
     

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    F_Donavan_Fishel_clEM likes this.
  15. Srivatsa224 Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    Srivatsa224, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Also I feel @Carl u should have informed abt Oxygen OS, which is improving with every update!
     

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  16. arjunraina7 Donut Dec 8, 2016

    arjunraina7, Dec 8, 2016 :
    @Carl,
    The thing with OnePlus is that the devices are really good and even though people say the OnePlus 2 is a disappointment, I don't think so. I've been using it for a long time and I'm happy with it. But the problem is the updates. op2 has always been behund in terms of uodate even though it used to be your flagship device. And since op3 and op3t's release, it feels like you guys have completely forgotten about op2. Everything update that comes out from your side of either for op3 or for op3t, the Open Beta Program that you are talking about are for both these devices and not for op2 op1 or opX for that matter. This seems really disappointing. After all this only 1 thing comes to mind, what if I buy op3 or 3t and the same thing happens to these once op4 or any higher variant gets released. OnePlus has only 5 devices that needs to be taken care of and still there are only 2 devices that gets the ROYAL TREATMENT.
     

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  17. roman_p Gingerbread Dec 8, 2016

    roman_p, Dec 8, 2016 :
    @Carl, I have given you my time to read your post. I was dissappointed to have ordered the OP3 only to find that OP3T was sold two months later. But hey, OP3 still is a great phone and you can't always have the latest and the best. At least not in my budget. You are right, OP2 and X were not the phones I wanted but switching from OPO to OP3 was the right step.

    Nice to see you and your team evolving.And good that you learned early to take one step after the other.
    Regards
     

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  18. kalander Shihab Ice Cream Sandwich Dec 8, 2016


    #18
    NoNoZaZa and Seppe36 like this.
  19. aakash006sharma Froyo Dec 8, 2016

    aakash006sharma, Dec 8, 2016 :
    Now just waiting for Oneplus car and Oneplus restaurant , Oneplus hotel and Oneplus satellite ️.

    Oneplus = Never settle.
     

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    DOCS1S and F_Donavan_Fishel_clEM like this.
  20. eversonvdaluz Cupcake Dec 8, 2016

    eversonvdaluz, Dec 8, 2016 :
    When I decided on buying a new smartphone I decided to try products out of the big manufacturers, which has no more customer focus, just in numbers.
    I liked Oneplus because of her identity, you're approachable, and that's incredible.
    I honestly do not care about Hardware, but this experience, this respect with your customers is what defines the brand
     

    #20
    mystsy and daster_x like this.