OnePlus knows better on how to sell on the Internet

On the internet, it’s NOT keynotes but leaks and reviews that tell the story of a product.

For almost half a century, Apple has defined how computers should be sold to the masses. Steve Jobs fashioned this huge keynotes where he would unveil each product in an highly-anticipated moment weaved into a compelling story: often to explain what the consumer wants, but doesn’t know it yet.Products that people didn’t ask for but it captures their imagination nonetheless. This is how he controlled the story around Apple’s products in the space between launch and press reviews. Soon it became customary for every company to launch their products this way.

With all the clever (and sometimes, profound) storytelling, the core tension was still built around the question what’s behind the wraps? It’s that “voila” moment of a keynote that was the epicentre to all media stories. But in the age of the internet, that anticipation is fading. Everything is leaked months ahead of the launch.

A product is leaked, written about and buying decisions made even before the company gets to put the product on the shelf. So why will users click through articles about product launches that basically say: “We Knew It All Along”. What do you build the anticipation upon?

Launch day is Binge day

OnePlus thinks the answer is to simply remove the gap between launch and reviews. OnePlus makes their products available to reviewers weeks ahead of launch not caring about leaks, and have all the reviews published on the launch day itself. Full, Comprehensive Reviews is the new information users get on launch day that OnePlus wants to build the anticipation around.

On the internet, the story of your tech product is not controlled by your clever marketing campaigns, but by leaks and reviews. Everybody is a storyteller. OnePlus hopes these stories are as well informed by reviews as much as possible. At the least, it gives something more for people to keep talking about.

Tech enthusiasts like me flock to the Internet as if Netflix just uploaded the next season to their favourite show and essentially binge-watch all the reviews online. If your feeds are flooded with OnePlus posts it’s because we got it trending.

The Pyramid of Enthusiast brands

One can argue though that Leaks and Reviews are still mostly followed by tech enthusiasts. My mom doesn’t even know what these terms mean but does know that India’s most legendary actor, Amitabh Bachchan features in OnePlus ads. But what influenced her decision to buy a OnePlus phone: Me or her lifelong idol, Amitabh Bachchan.

It’s ME, obviously. It’s a common behaviour to turn to your “techy” friend and get advice on which phone to buy. Thanks to the internet, there are more of these “techy” friends, more people checking out device reviews than ever. Reviewers followed by Tech Enthusiasts talking to Average Consumers: that is the pyramid that OnePlus built its brand upon.

OnePlus, running Cyanogen MOD, started out as an enthusiast brand. They didn’t market their phones to the masses, simply rely on YouTubers, blogs and forums. They would intently participate in forums, as it became the source to all feedback and subsequent iterations.

But eventually, companies require to appeal to the masses to sustain and grow. In the process, they de-prioritize various things that we enthusiasts care about. Like choosing a slippery but better-looking metal back on the OnePlus 3 over grippy, more practical sandstone back on the previous 2. But so far, OnePlus, by rooting themselves to the pyramid, have maintained a sustainable middle ground between the enthusiasts and end users.

Reviewers followed by Tech Enthusiasts talking to Average Consumers: that is the pyramid that OnePlus built its brand upon.

Fodder for Enthusiasts

Another tactic that OnePlus devised is to have a shorter 6-month upgrade cycle. In a world, where even one-year upgrades feel quite iterative and people moving to newer models less frequently, 6-month upgrades seem pointless and counter-intuitive. But OnePlus knows that even these iterative upgrades: the minor spec bumps, a more-polished design, etc. are interesting to the enthusiasts. And then there’s more.

You see, OnePlus phones are characterized by low prices and they achieve these prices by carefully choosing the essentials. You don’t need a Quad-HD display, Full-HD is just fine. Stereo speakers are not essential and so is wireless charging.

The most attractive part of OnePlus has been the price and not the high tech luxuries. But with each iteration, they add one more thing from this basket of luxuries. It’s interesting for tech enthusiasts to see how OnePlus incorporates new features. And this is another thing they build the anticipation upon.

OnePlus is now, both: A Value Brand and a Premium Brand

OnePlus core philosophy implies it won’t sell a phone based on head-turning gimmicks and party tricks, but solely giving the best of the core smartphone experience you need at the most affordable price.

This seems simple and obvious until you realize there’s a complicated question sitting at the heart of it: “What makes the core smartphone experience?” As per Youtuber MKBHD, it’s the 5 pillars of a smartphone: Display, Build, Performance, Battery and Camera. But he recently adds a sixth thing: the Extras.

The Extras are little things, nuances to that core smartphone experience that impacts different people differently. The question here becomes a subjective one, a different answer for a different tribe. With the 7 Pro, they’re appealing to a different tribe.

It’s for those who care about the difference in display between an iPhone XR and iPhone XS. For who care about having the fastest storage, and stereo speakers. And for who can tell the difference between the cameras of Samsung Galaxy S10 and Pixel 3. OnePlus went all out and incorporated every “useful luxury” on their 7 Pro. The tech enthusiasts love it. The person with deep pockets loves it.

And this is where OnePlus circles back to its philosophy. They will “thoughtfully” pick the useful luxuries from a high-end phone and bring you a “Never-Settle” device, at hundreds of dollars less than the iPhones, the Galaxies & the Pixels.

No one can argue OnePlus’ unflinching commitment to its philosophy with respect to the software. At the risk of being labelled a fanboy, I would say Oxygen OS is Essentialism defined!

While the ignorant argued that they are going against their core philosophy by releasing a $700 dollar phone, what they don’t realize that OnePlus just did what it does always: pick the useful essentials (but for a luxury phone instead) and price it hundreds of dollars less.

The OnePlus of 2019 is not saying that their sub-$500 phone is all one needs, they are now simply saying that they have the best phone in the market at a much lower price. If you think the cheaper OnePlus 7 is still all one needs, buy it, recommend it to your friends. But now you’re more aware than ever that you’re not only buying from a value brand, but also a premium brand. You’re more aware than ever that your OnePlus 7 is quite cheap.

While many enthusiast brands like the Essential Phone, Pebble, Nextbit, etc. have gone extinct while trying to appeal to the mass market, OnePlus is one of the few success stories that can dream to take on the likes of iPhone. Their evolution story stands on their highly competent tactics to leverage the nature of the internet. Their schemes being:

  1. Rooting themselves to the Reviewers — Tech Enthusiasts — Average Consumer Pyramid,
  2. Engaging Enthusiasts with Half-Yearly Updates, and Premium tiers
  3. Learning a subjective question: “What is the core smartphone experiences?”from its varied tech enthusiasts.

Their strategies ultimately affect the product they made. Their product can’t succeed without the reviews raving their devices. Transparency has helped them both sell and build a great product. You might spend a few extra dollars to buy the Galaxy S10 or the iPhone XS, I am gonna stick to the essentialist Oxygen OS and buy a OnePlus 7 Pro.

Transparency has helped them both sell and build a great product.

A tested argument to why Folding Phones is the Future

Will folding phones eventually become the standard for Smartphones?

The largest screen you can comfortably hold.

It’s been a year since I bought my first Apple product: The iPad Pro 10.5 inch. And over time, it has become the most important computer in a house with a Laptop, Kindles and Android Smartphones. And here comes Folding phones, which begs the question: Have you ever wondered the possibilities of pairing a smartphone and a tablet?

Apple markets the iPad as the Laptop replacement. iPads are computers with Touch, but touch is not fundamentally better than a mouse pointer. As Steve Jobs pointed out while launching the first iPhone, touch is a variation to a mouse pointer. Both, allowing the user to simply point and interact with a dynamic surface.

In fact, a smartphone is better at replacing laptops for varied use cases, use cases that got shifted to smartphones due to its portability. Tablets are more portable than laptops but only within a house or office space, not exactly something you can take with you “on-the-go”. But what if you can? That’s the question Folding phones wants us to ask. Now only (a very near) future will truly tell us what that will lead to.

But the one benefit to folding phones that we always had and can explore today is: “It is the largest touchscreen you can comfortably hold.” Obviously, I am gonna try to answer this question from my experience with a 10.5 Inch iPad Pro: The Tablet which is the size of an A4 Sheet.

Which is the most important device to your consumption?

Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, News, eBooks, and even YouTube are vastly consumed on Smartphones. Perhaps, you consume more content on smartphones, than your TV or your laptop.

The iPad is just a bigger, handy and hence better device for the same behaviour. You can hold it like an A4 Sheet and read blogs, hold it like a picture frame and raid Instagram, and prop it up on any surface and let the videos play. My mom loves the iPad for she can look at vacation pictures in the same size as my childhood albums. I love reading books on the iPad as it’s so comfortable to leverage the various advantages of having your books digital: the all-important Search, multi-coloured Highlights, refer the Web, tap to see Word Meanings, etc. If you don’t read books, an iPad might be the best device to cultivate a habit.

An iPad simply offers a bigger screen and louder speakers over your phone. And that’s enough for it to be the king of consumption devices.

The iPad is where I browse most of the web, consume YouTube and most of my video content, read blogs and books, go on Twitter & see full-size Instagram pictures.

Which is the most social computer you own?

Smartphones are very personal, laptops are not exactly the easiest to carry to your family, roommates and colleagues. And none really invite multiple people to interact with the device. Smartphones are too small, and Laptops are designed to wrap around only one person.

Continue reading “A tested argument to why Folding Phones is the Future”

That conversation with Mom

Mom : “Whenever I think of him as my Dad, I break. He was my hero and now he is gone. I lose the will to live.”

Me : “….”

Mom : “BUT whenever I think of him as a God looking down at me, I (suddenly) feel motivation & almost… like bathed in his energy. It’s like I have his purpose and a beacon of light to guide me through. So how can you tell me that there is no such thing as a God?”

This conversation happened about 4 months ago. A Saturday Morning, and an early start to the day as we spoke with a sense of calmness, almost as if the clocks have left their post to catch some sleep. Interruptions were distilled out of our dialogue. We didn’t feel impulsive, rather interpretive.

How can I say God doesn’t exist?

There are people who can masterfully compartmentalise their emotions in situations and then there are people who are always the sum of their emotions at any given time. My mom is the later kind which is to say she isn’t pragmatic. She wasn’t trying to rationalise things into some objective logic that one can break down into discrete parts. She just said what she felt in the words she knew.

So how can I say that God doesn’t exist when that very concept lifts her out of her bed and shine with a surprising serenity. “I don’t want to live” to “I really want to live”.

Intelligent people are beginning to understand that religion is not what they thought it was from the other side of the fence. They understand that in a culture hell-bent on blurry ideologies and false ideals, being inspired by a transcendent absolute is not irrational after all. – Mr. Mircea

Continue reading “That conversation with Mom”

Redesigning an Unproductive but a Necessary App – Splitwise

This is a redesign of Splitwise – An Expense Sharing App

Splitwise is an app that helps you keep a record of all the money you borrow or lend to people, helping you get paid back efficiently. People who don’t use this app keep track using a Notes App. People seem to be largely comfortable with the Notes App due to the simple input method. The problem arises in the long term though. The record-keeping starts out simple but gets very clumsy soon enough. There are so many combinations in terms of the individuals sharing an expense and the share of each individual, that understanding the records or doing the calculations gets very confusing. The maths is simple, that’s why most people think they can get by a Notes App, but it gets very confusing.

People tend to avoid a dedicated app because all this work doesn’t help them make or achieve something. It is just overhead work in an unfortunate situation. Splitwise is an ‘overheads necessity’. Hence, the challenge is:

To design an app where the UI flow correlates with the immediate thought flow of the user, akin to writing a sentence in a Notes App.

To that end, the most obvious thing an app like this needs is a widget. It must display a list of pre-defined groups, individuals, or a combination of them among whom an expense was recently shared. The current version doesn’t have a widget.

Why is the key-color Dark Blue?

For an app that notes expenses, green and red universally represents positive and negative respectively. Here, green is money you will get back, and red is money you have to pay back. Hence, blue is a natural choice for a neutral colour. A darker shade is used to visually highlight it from the rainbow of colours that will be used in our representations henceforth.

Why is the complimentary-color Orange?

Orange in our visual representations of the split will be used to denote the owner. And hence it is constant to any split and to further drive this point home visually, I have made it ubiquitous through the app. The most important buttons the user will be interacting with are orange, for example, the Add Expense button.

Continue reading “Redesigning an Unproductive but a Necessary App – Splitwise”

NANAji died–Story of a Beautiful Morning

The story of my NANA’s (maternal grandfather) death.

It’s been almost a year since my NANA died. Recently, my mom told me how he never saw his mother. She died when he was about 6 months old and was raised by his aunt. Mom was reminiscing, perhaps as a result of longing than pride in her Baba. Stories of his life were never really dramatically glorified, or repeated like family folklore. He led a very nonchalant life.

Born pre-independence, he was a Gandhian through and through. One of my favourite anecdotes from his life was how he loved my mother the most of his 6 children for she was her first-born daughter. Daughter – to celebrate a girl-child in the rural, conservative corner of India in the late 60s is as rare as education in his state of Bihar. But in his time, he was a graduate. In fact, More educated than most of his kids or grandkids today. Though what I always found attractive about him was he seemed to be the first elder who was clear in his ways of life yet never authoritative or imposed it on us. This is in a society where everybody was akin to a routine passed down generations, perhaps, as a cautionary mindset germinating from the terrors our nation has been through. But in this very chaos, he stood alone on his feet with his hand holding a book, rather than grabbing another hand. Continue reading “NANAji died–Story of a Beautiful Morning”

Decoding Brandon Woelfel.

When I recently asked “What comes to mind when you think, Brandon Woelfel?” on Instagram, everybody said the same one thing: Lights. But that’s not quite where the story lives.

Think of the stars. Everybody likes stars. It’s visceral to the human mind. A sea of sparkling lights. I often like to travel outside the city simply to look at the stars.

Think about the following scene: A “star” walking down the red carpet. A silhouette carving out glamour and sophistication in the sea of flashing lights. A staple frame of any red carpet sequence in a movie.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Brandon Woelfel?

When I recently asked that question on Instagram, everybody said the same one thing: Lights. Specifically, it’s a “bokeh of fairy lights.” It’s an over-simplified, inaccurate explanation of Brandon’s vibe. But that’s not quite where the story lives.

In our staple frame of the red carpet, a person walks by as all eyes are fixated to someone who literally carries the moniker of a “star”. The fixation, the heightened attention, is in the awareness that the “precious” moment will be over in the blink of an eye. A hysterical burst of camera flashes, “the sea of sparkling lights”, exemplifies the fleeting moment.

Continue reading “Decoding Brandon Woelfel.”


Why I tell my story – and why you should too.

To assume that you should click and read through what I have to say is condescending. To assume that someone should invest time and emotions to indulge in what you created is condescending. And that makes every artist inherently condescending.

After existing in the concealment of mystery that people allow you when you declare yourself a writer, or a photographer, or an ‘artist’ of any kind, when you finally click publish, the exposition that follows throws you in a paroxysm of self-consciousess. Hit publish and you’re implicitly demanding people to indulge in what you know will never be perfect, just done. But it’s important you share. Why?

For the same reason why you found any art to be important: CONNECTION. To have a piece of art resonate with you. A piece of art that finds you when you’re alone in your bedroom, when all the promotions, IMDB ratings, trending today columns, and aggressive recommendations – when all the noise shouting “you should indulge in this” dissolves and a work of art emerges out to you and occupies your mind playing on repeat, feeling something real. You connect!

It’s incredibly powerful to know that you’re not the only one facing a problem, asking a question, feeling an emotion, living an experience. All art is, perhaps, a bridge.

I started writing this blog and many others months ago. Tens of blogs occupy my drafts section but I keep coming back to this blog or should I say, “this blog keeps coming back to me.” And so I must complete. Even though I must live in the fear that this blog might not be perfect and objectively not the best use of your time and emotions, I must be done with it.

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I find solace in that thought. It resonates with how I try to create. Write a lot and then aggressively edit. Click a lot of pictures and then aggressively pick. Choose what has value. Though cannot assure you if I can impart perfect value in return for what you invest in me. But then :

Continue reading “i’m CONDESCENDING”