There was a long line outside a store located on the 4th floor of the Palladium Mall in Mumbai on 17 June. The kind that reminded you of the lines outside an Apple store ahead of the launch of a new iPhone. This line was for the OnePlus 3 phone that had been launched just three days earlier. And those in the queue were waiting for the opening of phone maker OnePlus' pop-up store. Vikas Agarwal, OnePlus' India head was there, sporting a t-shirt that said 'Dash Charging,' referring to the proprietary technology used by the company to charge the phone quickly.
Agarwal said that he was buoyed by the response to the phone from the media and consumers. OnePlus 3 has been receiving rave reviews everywhere. We began our interaction by talking about some of OnePlus 3's features.
OnePlus 3 looks and feels great. This is a new design from the company. What made you change?
Well, after experimenting with two phones last year we wanted to make one good premium phone for this year. We thought that it should look and feel good, like any flagship from a big company. The full-metal design was the way to go. Some might say that there is a camera bump on the back but that can easily be mitigated by the 5 cases we offer.
OnePlus 2 didn't get very favorable reviews. How did you deal with that?
I agree that a lot of customers were not happy the way we built OnePlus 2. So we asked them questions and listened to the feedback. We asked them, do they want a bigger battery or a slimmer phone. They said slimmer phone. We asked them if they wanted a sandstone back or a metal body. They said they want a metal body.
After OnePlus One, we wanted to set our goals higher. But unfortunately, OnePlus 2 didn't turn out the way we had hoped it would be. So we went back to the drawing board and took the decision to focus one phone and ditch OnePlus X altogether. We wanted to make this a premium device.
OnePlus is one of the first companies to have a phone with 6 GB RAM. We have also included Dash Charging, which is our own technology. We supply a 4A charger, so your phone can go from 0 to 100 in less than an hour.
Software updates hasn't been one of OnePlus' fortes. Marshmallow updates for OnePlus 2 have just come out, which is pretty late. What is your strategy this time?
OnePlus One had launched with Cyanogen OS which was an open source OS. With OnePlus 2, we started using our own Oxygen OS which was a new start for us. So we had to squash a lot of bugs in the system. The reason for the delay in the updates was that we didn't want to hurry and provide an unstable software. Now our software team is pretty comfortable with the nature of Oxygen OS, so the next Android update will be much faster. We dedicated a lot of resources to give a great performance to the users on the software.
Consumers have complained a lot about about bad customer care experience from OnePlus. What have you done about that?
We were a small company and we didn't have a proper infrastructure in place. Now we have the back-end of the service part sorted out. We are rolling out easy to locate centres. 70 percent of the queries are getting resolved within one hour, instead of several days. We have almost 60 centres across 34 cities. We have also started opening our own exclusive centres in cities such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi. These centres will guarantee a resolution of the issue within one hour.
A new experience that we are launching soon is service in terms of an app. On the app, the user can lodge a complaint, find a centre, book an appointment, see the status of the problem and even approve the costs from the app.
What have you done to make the camera experience for the user better in OnePlus 3?
First of all, we have opted for a 16 MP Sony sensor instead of the 13 MP sensor we used in the previous phones. We have added many technologies to make the image experience better and faster. OnePlus 3 has OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), PDAF (Phase Detection Autofocus) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization).
The invite system was a headache for many but OnePlus was known for it. How did the 'no-invite' decision happen?
We are a small company. We don't have big production units. So, initially, we didn't know how much demand would be there. The response from the consumers was amazing. So after building a strong base of production, the decision was taken. Now we have the strength to meet the demand of the consumers.
"Good products make people happy, great products make people passionate. OnePlus 3 is one such product" - Vikas Agarwal, OnePlus India Head.
Are you going to launch any devices such as VR headsets in the future?
Right now our focus is on being a smartphone company. Anything we launch, such as loop VR, power banks, or headphones, has the OnePlus devices at the heart of it. There are no plans of diving into other categories as of now.
As the interview came to an end, people had begun to rush in to get a glimpse of the device. The line outside the store though was becoming longer. "We want OnePlus to be known as people know Google and Apple. Good products make people happy, great products make people passionate," Agarwal said, as he greeted the first consumers. Take a look at our OnePlus 3 comparison with other smartphones.