Confirmed: OnePlus co-founder, Carl Pei, has left the company to go independent

Carl Pei
Carl Pei (Image credit: Android Central)

Update October 16 — Carl Pei confirms he's leaving OnePlus.

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has left the company, Android Central can confirm. Two sources familiar with the situation told AC that Pei left OnePlus in recent weeks, and no longer appears in the most recent OnePlus organizational chart. Pei co-founded OnePlus with CEO Pete Lau in December 2013, the two having previously worked together at Oppo, and grew OnePlus into one of the most recognized smartphone brands for enthusiasts. More recently, Pei has headed up the OnePlus Nord brand, which focused on more affordable handsets.

Our confirmation follows a report from Android Police that Pei had likely departed, citing internal OnePlus memos recently surfaced on Reddit. OnePlus declined to comment to Android Central on this story. After publication of this story, TechCrunch reported that Pei left OnePlus to start his own venture, though did not specify whether it is mobile- or tech-related.

Later this week, OnePlus will take the wraps off its latest high-end handset, the OnePlus 8T, followed by a further two Nord smartphones before the end of the year. Pei's departure in the midst of a major product launch raises questions as to the circumstances of his departure.

OnePlus Nord vs. OnePlus 8

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Internal memos say Emily Dai, who was previously overseeing the brand's India operations, will now take a lead role at OnePlus Nord.

Carl Pei has, for the past seven years, been a very public face for the company, appearing at product launches and greeting fans and Western media at OnePlus events. While OnePlus now employs some 2,700 people, there's no question the loss of such a high-profile executive will be felt in the next round of OnePlus product launches.

The move comes after rumors of internal power struggles between Pei and current CEO, Pete Lau, who has taken a more public position in the company's events and marketing in recent years. Pei was often presented as the face of the company in the West because of his English fluency, something Lau is still working on.

Pei's departure comes weeks before his latest project, the OnePlus Nord, is expected to arrive in the U.S. in the form of two handsets, the OnePlus Nord N10 and N100, both reinforcing the company's move to aggressively recapture some of the value market share that it lost when its OnePlus flagships increased in cost over the last two years.

It's unclear whether Pei has taken another job somewhere else, but given his extensive experience with building the brand cache of a tiny smartphone maker into one of the most recognizable phone brands in the west, his skills won't likely stay idle for long.

Update, October 16 — Carl Pei confirms on the OnePlus forums that he's leaving the company

After we were able to indepently confirm that Carl Pei had left OnePlus, the company co-founder confirmed the news himself on the official OnePlus forums. His full post reads as follows:

After nearly 7 years at OnePlus, I've made the difficult decision to say goodbye.I grew up spending tremendous amounts of time on the internet, building products and communities. Seeing that ideas in one's mind could be turned into reality and impact people's lives gave me lots of joy, and I knew early on that this was the path for me.The world didn't need another smartphone brand in 2013. But we saw ways of doing things better and dreamt of shaking things up. Better products. Built hand in hand with our users. At more reasonable prices. Fast forward to today, and OnePlus is a strong force to be reckoned when it comes to flagship smartphones. And with the new Nord product line, this success will continue into new market segments.Having just turned 24 when OnePlus started, it's where I spent most of my 20s, and also where I grew up. From nervously interviewing my first employee, to facing severe stage fright the first time I presented a product, to learning how to manage a team… The journey has been real. The things we've accomplished and learned, I can't begin to imagine a more rewarding adventure.Our community joined the movement before we even had a product, back when all we had were ambitions and ideas. From having hundreds of you show up to have ice cream with me, thousands attending our launch events, and tens of millions purchasing our products worldwide; I want to thank you all for believing in us throughout all these years.And the team. The amazing people that I've been fortunate to fight side by side with. The friendships I've made here are the most precious parts of this journey. With them, the company is in capable hands.I am eternally grateful to Pete for taking a chance in this kid without a college degree, with nothing to his name but a dream. The trust, mentorship, and camaraderie will never be forgotten. Thanks for the opportunity of a lifetime.I've never regretted trusting my gut feeling, and this time it's no different. These past years, OnePlus has been my singular focus, and everything else has had to take a backseat. I'm looking forward to taking some time off to decompress and catch up with my family and friends. And then follow my heart on to what's next.With gratitude, Carl

The confirmation comes just two days after OnePlus unveiled the OnePlus 8T.

Daniel Bader

Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central.