Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Chinese OnePlus unworried by China-US trade war

Exclusive: Shenzhen-headquartered company is aiming to capture US' flagship smartphone market in the coming months, says co-founder

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei during the unveiling of company's 7 series in Bangalore. AFP
OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei during the unveiling of company's 7 series in Bangalore. AFP

Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus is not worried about the ongoing trade frictions between China and the US and the company is not anticipating any adverse impact on its future business.

“I don’t think it [trade war] could be an issue for our smartphone business ... It is not something that we think about a lot,” Carl Pei, co-founder of Shenzhen-headquartered OnePlus, told The National.

Founded in 2013, OnePlus has launched its latest 7 series in New York, London and Bangalore last Tuesday.

“For us, we really focus on our [American] consumers. We are not into networking infrastructure and our chip-sets are American technology, so there won’t be any problem.”

Recently, the US threatened to hit China with $300 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods after Beijing announced retaliatory levies on about $60bn of US imports. The US administration has also imposed severe sanctions on Chinese smartphone company Huawei.

OnePlus – which is manufacturing only "flagship" category phones that usually cost $400 (Dh1,470) or above, is aiming to strengthen its US market in the coming months.

“Globally, the flagship phone industry is still relatively small. But if you look at the US market, nearly 50 per cent of phones sold are [priced] $400 and above … so almost half of the market is flagship phones – a big opportunity for us.”

According to American researcher International Data Corporation, good sales in the fourth quarter of last year pushed OnePlus among the top five brands in the US market of smartphones that cost $500 or more. The company grew its global market share more than twofold last year, Hong Kong-headquartered researcher Counterpoint found.

However, Mr Carl did not disclose any new investment plans and sales and revenues figures.

Mr Carl, who worked with another Chinese brand, Oppo, before founding his own company with his former colleague at Oppo Pete Lau, said OnePlus is profitable and there are no plans to go public in near future.

Despite a dip in sales of smartphones globally, he is bullish about future growth. “People are missing the point that this is probably the biggest market that mankind has ever seen. There are millions of people who use smartphones and replace them every couple of years. A small reduction in market-size or dip in growth is not worrisome,” said Mr Carl, adding that the smartphone industry is so large that even a small percentage "up" in market share or revenues is a large amount and means a lot when it comes to overall performance.

OnePlus had formally entered the Middle East market with launch of the OnePlus 6T in 2018. With no physical presence so far, the company started selling the device on Souq.com, now Amazon.ae. Mr Carl said OnePlus is currently at a "nascent" stage in the Middle East and Amazon.ae will remain its strategic partner and a key platform to grow regional business.

“The Amazon partnership in India is a successful model and we are looking at replicating it in the Middle East market. We believe in the huge opportunity that the Middle East offers with its discerning and tech-savvy audiences,” he added.

However, he maintained that company is not looking forward to any tie-ups with telcos such as Etisalat or du in the region.

Other growth markets for OnePlus to focus on include Japan, South Korea, UK and Germany.

With the imminent arrival of 5G, OnePlus has joined forces with the UK mobile network operator EE, one of the largest in the country, to be the first to sell a 5G-enabled smartphones there.

“I don’t think there is another brand that is better suited to launch 5G phones in the world. We only make flagship phones and we have the most tech-savvy community - exactly the people who first want to adopt the new technology [5G],” said Mr Carl.

OnePlus, which has four research and development centres, in China, Taiwan, US and India, will launch its biggest research facility to date in Hyderabad in coming weeks.

“We plan to focus our R&D efforts on a large scale and drive innovations in India for the global product, especially on the software side with special emphasis on AI [artificial intelligence] and ML [machine learning],” said Mr Carl, who declined to disclose the firm's annual spend on research and development.

Updated: May 16, 2019 05:56 PM

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