David Monteiro

@dsmonteiro

Promises matter, OnePlus

The untold story of two abandoned devices, labeled as mistakes

Note to press (and everyone else for that matter)

First and foremost, thank you for your interest in this story. Seeing some of the articles that were published so far, I’d like to clarify that this campaign is not specifically about the lack of a Nougat update, but about how OnePlus is treating its earlier customers and how it’s breaking promises made. While it seems they seem keen on not updating the OnePlus 2 to Nougat, that’s just one of several promises made. In fact, it’s a well known fact that the OnePlus X cannot be updated to Nougat since the Snapdragon 801 is not supported. But the OnePlus X could still receive security patches and have bugs fixed (like the camera HAL issues that haunt the device almost since its launch).
If you have any queries about the Thunderclap campaign or the Medium article, please, feel free to contact me through Twitter (@davidsmonteiro) or through the OnePlus forum (dsmonteiro).

tL;dR

This is the tale of several broken promises and how OnePlus went from a community-centric startup that had as its core values honesty and transparency to a yet another company that lies and ignores its customers, especially when it decides to abandon one of its devices.

For the tech aficionado, OnePlus needs no introductions. Founded in December 2013 by former Oppo vice-president Pete Lau, the brand quickly gained notoriety thanks to equal parts of unusual marketing techniques, a first great product and a very enthusiastic community, built around an internet forum.

Since then, OnePlus went from being the hip brand that you needed an invite to buy its products and was marketed through word of mouth by early adopters and tinkerers to a company that launched one of the most succesful phones in 2016 and is often referred in the same sentence as big giants the likes of Google, Samsung and Apple, for all the right reasons.

While this is an interesting story by itself, there’s a far less known but probably more important one. The story on how OnePlus willingly decided to abandon the people that bought half of its product line.

In December 2016, Carl Pei, the company’s poster boy, decided to bring back something that he done in 2014: letters from him to the community. In his first letter he promised to make three letters and then assessing if it would make sense to continue.

The first one, published on Dec 8, 2016, focused on OnePlus’ path from 2014 up until then. It was written as heartfelt acknowledgment on how OnePlus had failed its fans after the success achieved with the OnePlus One and how they improved with the OnePlus 3 and 3T. The letter was divided in three catchy categories. Of those, I’d like to focus on the second one:

  • Arrogance (OnePlus 2 & OnePlus X) — This chapter focused on how and why both the OnePlus 2 and the OnePlus X. While this might sound refreshing, the truth is that, instead of addressing the huge quantity of complaints that swamp OnePlus forums, Carl just built from what he already hinted previously on an XDA interview and something became apparent: OnePlus considers those two phones failures and they will not waste a single second than what’s absolutely necessary with them.

The second letter showed up when some parts of the globe were already in February and after some of the forum users (myself included) start making fun of Carl’s disappearance. This letter, well, was nothing like the first. While December’s letter might have felt sincere, January’s letter was all about marketing and SEO. To worsen things, it was just a rehash of a Pete Lau’s thread back from August 2016. I’ll save you some time:

Never Settle = Clicky Buttons.

The third letter simply didn’t happen. So, in less than 3 months, Carl Pei went from

I realized that one of the most important parts to OnePlus are our fans.

to utter and complete silence. And quoting him from his XDA interview:

But if you promise something you have to do your absolute best to try and reach it.

But this is just a small broken promise in a list of bigger and more important broken promises where customers end up not getting what they were promised for their purchased products.

The broken promises

#1 — Carl’s Letters to the Community

This one by itself might feel like nitpicking but it just shows that Carl’s mantra of transparency and honesty only matters as long as it can be used for marketing purposes.

#2 — 24 months of Oxygen OS for the OnePlus One

We will commit to at least two years of support for the OnePlus One, starting from the release of our first community build.

Carl Pei

Like Brexit and Brangelina, OnePlus and Cyanogen Inc. had a very public divorce. Without playing the blame game, Cyanogen had two conflicting exclusivity contracts in India: one with OnePlus and another with Micromax which led to a major fallout.

Courts were involved and OnePlus found itself without an operating system to use in India. To fix this, OnePlus hired most of the Paranoid Android team and came up with Oxygen OS, its in-house built OS.

One thing OnePlus also did was to promise that the OnePlus One would get updates for at least two whole years, starting from the first community build, which was released in Jan 1, 2015. While this policy was never retracted, the last update to Oxygen OS on the OnePlus One happened on Jan 19, 2016, one year short of the initial commitment.

#3 — Helen’s promises regarding the OnePlus 2

[on Oxygen OS cadence] Current goal is every 1–2 months. We will try to have incremental builds with bug fixes as often as once a month, and we’ll try to introduce feature upgrades every 2 months or so to keep things fresh and interesting.

Helen

While this was true for part of OnePlus 2’s lifecycle, after the release of the OnePlus 3 in June 14 2016, the phone was pretty much forgotten. It received only two updates, with one of them being a bug fixing update that took more than two months to be released.

[on monthly security updates] We’ve made a commitment to update Google secu

Helen

The fact that the sentence wasn’t even completed may have been a clue of things to come. Not only did this never happened, but OnePlus also shipped updates with old security patches. This problem is not exclusive to OnePlus 2. In fact, the OnePlus X received its last security patch update in November 2016.

[talking about deadlines] I think our goal is to be as transparent with our base as possible so we’ll improve communication on that front.

Helen

If anything, communication got worse over time, but we’ll get to it when we talk about Nougat and the OnePlus 2.

Let’s do this: going forward, product will have an update every two weeks to communicate rough timelines for updates and provide more transparency into what we’re focusing on. This can start next week.

Helen

This one is actually funny. This literally never happened. Not once. Not even that first week. And the best part about it was that any questions about it were simply ignored.

#4 — Nougat for the OnePlus 2

OP2 will get the N update.

Helen

Nuget for OP2 is coming, had a meeting about it today.

Aaron

Well, I understand that some of you (well, from the few that had the patience to reach this point) might think that Nougat is still coming. After all, clickbait blogs keep recycling these two quotes and saying the update is around the corner. It’s not. While there is no official statement about it, OnePlus is being very clear about this. But don’t take my word for it. A few examples:

  • OnePlus Support Twitter account:
January
February

OnePlus went from saying it would happen to not commenting. But this is not exclusive to Twitter.

  • OnePlus Support chat (while asking if OP2 is getting the update, not when):
  • OnePlus staff through the forums:

Seeing that OnePlus were ignoring everyone that was asking when the Nougat was coming, I decided to make a thread asking if they were going to fulfill their promise. And while I saw that several of the staff members visited the thread, not a single one answered. Stubborn as I am, I decided to send them a direct message making the same question. Of the several messages I sent, only one was answered. The answer was very nice and a part of it said a lot without saying anything:

I can’t give you or anyone any useful information on this issue. I wish I could, deeply sorry about that.

Why go through all this trouble

I might come off as someone that hates OnePlus or someone with a hidden agenda. I can say it’s quite the opposite. I’ve dedicated more than two years to OnePlus, by moderating their forums. I’ve even helped out in one of their events at my expenses. I’d do it all again.

The reason why I’m going through all this trouble is precisely because I like OnePlus. Or at least what OnePlus was when it first showed up. A disruptive group of people that loved tech and wanted to change the status quo. A no gimmicks company with a co-founder that wasn’t afraid to say “HYPE or GTFO” to a potential customer. A company that didn’t need Emily Ratajkowski to explain what Dash Charge was. A company that did listen and did answer to its customers.

OnePlus is nothing like this at this moment. It’s a company with a great product (OP3 / OP3T) but that cares more about marketing than it does about its customers. It’s a company that isn’t afraid of burning some bridges by completely disregarding the customers that bought two of its devices.

And since OnePlus only cares about marketing, that’s why this article and the thunderclap that links to it are happening. To make this story visible enough to make OnePlus care about bad publicity.

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