OnePlus CEO Pete Lau has announced a “new journey” for the company including a plan to “further integrate our organization with Oppo.” Lau made the announcement by way of a post on OnePlus’ forums, saying “we’re at a turning point for the future of OnePlus” and “we must adapt as a team and a brand.”
It sounds like a dramatic move for OnePlus, the company Lau started with Carl Pei after ostensibly leaving Oppo in 2013. OnePlus made its name with rebellious marketing and hype-driven online retail strategies, portraying itself as a smarter alternative to bigger smartphone brands.
But it remained a private company with ownership tied up in Oppo and the shadowy BBK Electronics empire, and it was clear from OnePlus’ phones that there were still at least some ties to Oppo. Components like display panels were often seemingly identical, and even supposedly proprietary technology like the Dash fast-charging system was cross-compatible with Oppo’s.
“OnePlus and Oppo are two completely independent companies,” a OnePlus representative told me three years ago by way of explanation. “R&D, finance, sales channels, daily operations, etc operate independently. The two parties share some common investors. OnePlus leases Oppo’s manufacturing line and shares part of the supply chain resources with Oppo.”
Lau says that OnePlus will continue to operate independently, despite the further integration with Oppo. But he hasn’t said exactly what would be integrated, and given the existing commonalities between the two brands’ products, it’s not obvious what this will actually mean for consumers. Lau says OnePlus will continue to operate its own events and customer feedback channels, for example, but adds that Oppo’s greater resources should help OnePlus be more efficient with software updates.
It’s not a big secret that OnePlus and Oppo have been coming closer to an explicit reunion in recent years. Lau became Oppo’s chief product officer last year while keeping his role at OnePlus, and the two brands merged R&D departments back in January. More recently, OnePlus announced that it’d start using Oppo’s ColorOS for its phones in China.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like OnePlus will essentially be treated like a label of Oppo’s, maintaining a separate consumer-facing operation but with business activities merging in areas beyond product development. Will this manifest itself in tangible changes to OnePlus devices? Who can say.
If you’re a OnePlus fan, though, there’s no reason to view the closer ties as a bad thing. The company has long left its “flagship killer” roots behind, now competing at the high end with expensive “Pro” phones while offering a range of cheaper Nord devices at the low-to-mid range. Oppo, for its part, releases far more phones a year than OnePlus (mostly in Asia), but its high-end flagships are every bit as good. The latest Find X3 Pro is my favorite phone of the year so far.
Whether OnePlus would admit it or not, the company has always been associated with Oppo behind the scenes. The biggest change here is that OnePlus is now saying so out loud — while making the association even tighter.