OnePlus' recent strategy has been focused on the mid-tier and premium segments, but the manufacturer is all set to unveil an affordable phone in the coming weeks. Dubbed OnePlus Nord, the phone will feature exciting hardware, and if an earlier teaser is any indication, it may start off at just $299.
The flood of teasers over the last two weeks have ignited interest in the phone, and OnePlus is taking a different approach for the launch of its upcoming device, the OnePlus Nord. Instead of the usual teasers on Twitter, the company set up a new Instagram account called OnePlusLiteZThing — a clear reference to early leaks — and it is set to release a four-part documentary series that will give OnePlus fans a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the phone.
The first part in the documentary — called New Beginnings — is now live on Instagram, and OnePlus used this platform to officially reveal the name of the Nord product line. Ahead of its debut, I had a freewheeling conversation with OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei and vice president of OnePlus France Akis Evangelidis to get an insight into OnePlus' plans with the docuseries, and what the brand is doing differently with the Nord.
Evangelidis said that the docuseries is aimed at engaging the community, and like the pop-ups the company organizes to get early feedback on its latest products, it offers a way for the brand to connect directly with its fans:
Evangelidis says it is this drive to engage the community that sets OnePlus apart in the smartphone industry. Evangelidis talked about how OnePlus went on a tour around Europe following the launch of the OnePlus 3 to give fans in 13 different cities across the continent a first look at the phone, and how the company hosts massive launch events in countries like India featuring thousands of fans so that they get to see the phone before anyone else. Because all of that isn't possible during these social distancing times, OnePlus is turning to a docuseries to engage its community.
Pei chimed in about how the smartphone industry has changed over the last six years, and how users these days are more involved with brands. Growing up as a tech enthusiast, Pei was never able to get close to any of the consumer tech companies that he followed, and he had to turn to online forums and message boards to discuss his favorite products. He said that one of the main reasons for coming up with the documentary project was to make the community feel closer to OnePlus:
OnePlus' shift to the affordable segment comes at a pivotal time for the industry. With the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, people are increasingly looking toward affordable options when picking up a new phone:
When it comes to the development of a phone, OnePlus usually takes nine to 12 months to come up with a new product. This time around, Pei said that the team spent more time on strategy to take into account how the upcoming phone would fit into the affordable segment:
As for finding the right path, Pei said it has everything to do with experience:
One of the interesting points Pei made was around OnePlus' visual identity. Because the Nord is aimed at a different subset of the community, it needs to have its own identity that's differentiated from the brand's flagship devices:
OnePlus is essentially looking to differentiate the Nord product line by giving it a distinct visual identity. Based on what we've seen so far, that includes a different color for the logo — switching out the red for teal — and advertising that's aimed at a younger audience.
To that effect, Evangelidis said that OnePlus will be engaging with the community a little differently for the Nord series, and that the brand has a "world first" coming up in this area. Interestingly, Pei revealed that the docuseries hasn't finished filming yet, and that there is an opportunity for members of the OnePlus community to be featured in later episodes.
OnePlus knows how to build anticipation for an upcoming product — the brand has done a masterful job in this area over the years. With the shift to the affordable segment and the imminent launch of the first phone in a brand-new Nord product line, expectation in what OnePlus will deliver has never been greater. No pressure then.
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Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.