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OnePlus goes beyond smartphones to perfect the television to suit Era Streaming

And the global action starts from India

By Mathures Paul

  • Published 28.09.19, 6:56 PM
  • Updated 28.09.19, 6:56 PM
Coming up with a television that offers “a connected human experience” has been the dream of OnePlus founders Pete Lau and Carl Pei.
Coming up with a television that offers “a connected human experience” has been the dream of OnePlus founders Pete Lau and Carl Pei. Pictures: OnePlus India

Coming up with a television that offers “a connected human experience” has been the dream of OnePlus founders Pete Lau and Carl Pei. The question has been how would they succeed when many before them had failed over decades.

There have been rumours of Apple making an actual TV for years and Steve Jobs even told his biographer before he died that he had “cracked it”. Nothing materialised.

Only time would tell the extent of OnePlus’ success but one thing is for sure — the Shenzhen-HQed company has managed to take competition several notches higher while starting on a path that looks beyond smartphones.

The Telegraph sat down with Vikas Agarwal, OnePlus India’s general manager, in Delhi hours before the OnePlus TV was unveiled.

The starting point...

It has been six years since the company started and all this time it has been about establishing ourselves. This is the first time we have felt confident enough to take the plunge and do something new. In our industry we have seen how brands have come and gone; it is a risky and difficult segment. Our goal has always been to be around for the long haul and survive the challenges the industry has to offer. We are confident of what we have produced so far and the OnePlus TV, in a way, reflects many of the learnings we have had since OnePlus One launched. The new product category reflects how mature we have become in terms of development capabilities. Going forward, you will see more IoT products from us.

A year ago when we announced the TV, there were questions about what could be done to improve the TV, which has been around for decades and there are so many other brands. We feel the TV as a category has not seen many big changes in a long time. The OnePlus TV is revolutionary and it comes at a time when the 5G revolution is taking place.

This is an India-first launch, which is unique to the industry. We are putting India on the global technology map.

Standout features

We have got a few revolutionary features, like a seamless connection between the TV and the phone. You can control all the features of the TV without touching the remote and also do the same hands free, using a voice assistant.

Then there is the USB-C connector on the remote, which is again a first. The charge on the remote can last a long time. If the battery is about to die, the TV will indicate the status and all you need to do is connect it and recharge the battery.

We have brought the design principles of the phone to the TV. There is an almost bezel-less display. Also, for the first time, there is an eight-speaker system offering 50W sound output. We have always known that front-facing speakers offer the best sound but since it is not very appealing, we had to work around it. We have tested our device with multiple partners and everybody has praised this aspect. The audio experience is better than anything out there.

Arriving on the size

We wanted to provide the best possible TV size and experience. The 32- or 43-inch TV doesn’t do justice to the technology we have. Then we looked at how high we can go and found that in India the optimal size is 55. We wanted to focus on one size in the first year, since this is our first product (in the TV category) and we want it to be as perfect as possible.

R&D from India

We have already committed Rs 1,000 crore over three years to the R&D set-up in Hyderabad and we are in the process of setting up the IoT and AI labs. As of now, it has been about understanding user requirements. 

QLED works on a simple principle — you have a blue LED backlight, which transmits lights on to the quantum dots that have the capacity to glow.
QLED works on a simple principle — you have a blue LED backlight, which transmits lights on to the quantum dots that have the capacity to glow. Pictures: OnePlus India

Up, close and voila

  • QLED works on a simple principle — you have a blue LED backlight, which transmits lights on to the quantum dots that have the capacity to glow. When the blue LED light hits those dots, they glow even brighter, creating an image on your front panel, which is an LCD panel. OnePlus has changed the properties of the layer with the quantum dots to make the panel unique and pictures are crystal clear.

  • On the NTSC panel, the OnePlus TV has scored 120 per cent on the colour gamut, which is the world’s highest. In other words, the pictures are vivid.

  • QLED works well under all kinds of lighting. Even if a lot of daylight is coming through windows, you don’t have to pull the curtains to watch television.

  • The Gamma Colour Magic chip enables the colours to be displayed on the panel.

  • A soundbar rarely fits the look of one’s TV and room. OnePlus has addressed the issue. There are two backward-facing speakers and six front-facing speakers, giving 50W of sound output. The speak system slides down without making any noise.

  • There will be Android TV updates for three years.

  • OxygenPlay interface takes care of the content while the OnePlus Connect app lets you control the TV from the remote control. You can key in a film title or do any kind of search from your phone instead of using the keyboard on the TV screen, which can be cumbersome.

  • HDR compatibility — Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG

  • Applications — OxygenPlay, Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies, Hotstar, ErosNow, Zee5, Hungama, SonyLiv (Netflix is coming very soon)

  • Price: TV 55 Q1 Pro costs Rs 99,900 and TV 55 Q1 costs Rs 69,900

The job at hand for the India team was to find the top partners on the content side, pricing, size and so on. The OxygenOS team sits out of Hyderabad and they will be primarily responsible for software updates and some of the core features of the TV.

Prototypes and selection

Our typical standard is 500 (prototypes) but for every specific component, around 50. So we have seen a lot of combinations and we have seen a lot of prototypes. We had to think of how the TV would look when you are not only consuming content, but also when it is switched off. I think it looks like an artefact.

Why sell online only

Right now the focus is online because we feel it is the best channel to create the initial awareness. For users who want to see the product, we are doing a few pop-ups. At the moment we feel the consumers of this product are in the top 20 Indian cities. And for the first time, we’re launching a product before Diwali since India is an important market for us.

Big deal for gamers

Gamers will definitely love this product and they are very important to us. Smartphones have become the primary gaming device for many people. Similarly, the TV. In terms of hardware specs, audio and built quality, it is among the best in the industry. The 60Hz refresh rate besides the top-quality display panel will make gaming very interactive. In fact, gamers are among our primary customers. And this product has been developed keeping the feedback of OnePlus fans in mind.

The road ahead

Expectations are high and we are conscious about it. That is why we try not to make too many things in a hurry. It took us six years to launch a new product. It is trust that matters the most. While we launch the TV in India, our eyes are on other markets.

If the early phones were about great design and fast charging, the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro, which were launched earlier this year, have been about the screen.
If the early phones were about great design and fast charging, the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro, which were launched earlier this year, have been about the screen. Pictures: OnePlus India

The OnePlus 7T is here to win over vloggers

Our focus on great products and services has won hearts worldwide. We are now in the top four premium smartphone brands (globally). Here in India, OnePlus is once again the number one premium smartphone brand. But marketshare will never be our focus; it is the result of doing other things right,” said OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, his voice full of pride. Loyalty is a word rarely used by smartphone brands these days but in the last few years the company has managed to wield the power of the word and win over customers who now refuse to shift to other brands.

If the early phones were about great design and fast charging, the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro, which were launched earlier this year, have been about the screen. So expectations are high from the new member in the stable, the OnePlus 7T.

Carl Pei believes his company has got everything right and here’s what he had to say about design and innovation before Zake Zhang, image product manager of OnePlus, took over to talk about the camera.

The design

Back in April 2014, when we launched the OnePlus One, we brought in a unique curved design with a special texture on the back. It was ahead of its time and ever since, we have kept focus on the great touch-and-feel factor of our devices. The OnePlus 7T is just 8.1mm thick and at the edges, it is only 3.2mm, making it easy to grip. Turn it over, there is matte-frosted glass, which is very elegant and smooth to the touch. We are also using a new combination of layered films to create a unique gradiance, so when you move the device under light, you get this beautiful diffused reflection. Also the glass back is more resistant to fingerprints.

Meaningful innovations

Earlier this year we released OnePlus 7 Pro with industry-leading fluid display sporting 90Hz refresh rate. Now that the phone has been in the market for several months, plenty of people have been able to experience the display. The display is also on the 7T. From now on, all future OnePlus smartphones will come with the fluid display technology. It’s about having a no-lag, no-stutter experience. We spent months optimising its touch circuitry and rendering process to make it up to 38 per cent more responsive than other phones. Second, we have been working closely with Qualcomm’s engineers to bring out the best in flagship performance. If you are using Instagram, we will detect when you need more power and turn on more CPU cores. Third, the animations on the 7T have all been updated to take full advantage of the 90Hz refresh rate. We have done over 150 animation updates across OxygenOS.

Also, we have brought about a reduction in blue light by 40 per cent, making it easier on your eyes. The display can reach brightness of over 1,000 Nits which makes the screen easy to read outdoors. In 2017 we released a reading mode. But it can be limiting as multimedia has become more and more a part of content. We have added something called Chromatic Reading mode. When you turn this on, instead of turning the screen entirely monochrome, we desaturate the colour.

Big on vlogging

Vlogging is big now. In 2018, over 2,000 vlogs were uploaded to YouTube every hour and more than four billion people around the world watch video content every month. This is a new stage for smartphone cameras.

With OnePlus 7T we have made a complete upgrade to the video capabilities of the phone. One of the main problems people face is shaking of the hand while shooting videos. A lot of professional vloggers use a gimbal to keep things steady but you have to carry something extra with you. We have added Super Stable which uses a brand new ultra-precise gyroscope and a powerful built-in stabilisation system. With the feature turned on you get great steady videos.

People vlog to discover new things. We have equipped the phone with three cameras. Besides the high-resolution 48MP primary camera, there is also a 117-degree ultra-wide camera and a telephoto camera. They work together seamlessly.

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