On this day one year ago, I started writing tech gadget reviews as 8K Guy over at that8kguy.wixsite.com/home. It was a slow start and few people read my articles, but I continued to write at least once per week and soon after, it started to gain momentum.
It was during this time I got to attend my first smartphone launch event as media. It felt different from going to launch events as a fan; everyone was there to work, not to have fun and bond with others, so the atmosphere was a little intimidating.
Nevertheless, it is an experience that I am grateful to have. After all, how many people can claim that they went for a launch event as a reporter? I had two reject two other launch events invitation due to NS, but very soon I will be able to attend them again.
Then, in November 2017, I shifted the blog over to 8kguy.com. The blog was doing well, but a lack of domain name was holding it back. Without one, I had difficulties asking for review units and launch events press invites, difficulties getting seen as “legit”.
The problem? Wix’s plans were way out of my budget. Knowing that I had to get a proper domain name sooner or later, I paid for a WordPress subscription and abandoned the wixsite. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it paid off.
Thanks to the support from smartphone manufacturers like Neffos, OPPO and Vivo, not forgetting Mi Singapore, I was also able to review 7 smartphones in merely 3 months – a ginormous leap from what I had done in the past few years.
While the blog has yet to recover the lost in views from the switch to WordPress, the number of people visiting it is growing steadily each month. Previously on the wixsite, it took a while for growth to climb, so I am not too worried about that now.
The 8K Guy Facebook page also crossed 100 likes recently. This would not have been possible without the support from everyone who read and shared my articles, so a huge thank you to all of you! If you haven’t already, you can do so here.
The next month or two will be quite hectic for me, but once that is over, you can expect a leap in quality of the articles posted on 8kguy.com. I am considering making video for my reviews, to give this blog a boost in audience, but I will need time to sort that out.
The first year of 8K Guy was though and there were times I asked myself why I am doing this, but things are only going to get better as the audience count grows. Once again, I would like to thank everyone who supported and followed me throughout this journey.
Very often, people bash OPPO for selling “overpriced” products, comparing OPPO devices with similarly priced products from brands like Xiaomi and Honor. But is that really the truth, or is there more to it? Who are OPPO’s products for?
These are some of the questions that I hope to address in today’s article. Studying the smartphone industry since 2012, no brand intrigues me more than OPPO. By the end of this article, you will never see OPPO the same way again.
The Facts – The Turning Point
In order to understand how OPPO got to where it is today, we will have to take a look at one very important year: 2014, the year OPPO released their two last high-end devices, the Find 7 and N3.
In the same year, OPPO released the R5, the first phone in OPPO’s very successful R series to receive widespread attention globally. It was well known for two things: being the thinnest smartphone (not for long) and not having a headphone jack.
Also, it had one of the most bad ass commercials.
2014 was also the year OPPO’s subsidiary (stop denying!), OnePlus, released its first smartphone, the OnePlus One. The OnePlus One was in some ways similar to OPPO’s Find 7 in design and specs, but it was a lot more affordable.
After silently abandoning its Find and N series, OPPO placed its attention on the premium mid-range R series. Despite being a relatively unknown brand in 2014, OPPO made it into the global top 5 list in 2016 and has stayed up there since.
Along the way, OPPO also introduced the A and F series. Today, the A series covers all of OPPO’s affordable budget phones. Meanwhile, the F series replaces the R series in selected markets, offering lesser specs at a slightly lower price.
The Analysis – More Than Just Coincidence
I would like to split this analysis into two parts: Why OPPO abandoned its high-end Find and N series for the premium mid-range R series and why OnePlus was formed. Through this, we will also uncover who OPPO’s R series is targeted at.
The Problem with High-End Devices
We know little about the fate of OPPO’s high-end Find and N series, but after so many years, many believe that OPPO will not be releasing an update for any of them. Here is a highly possible reason they were discontinued:
To stand a chance in succeeding in the high end smartphone market, one has to come out with the most impressive device, which requires huge spending on innovation. Those that did well were heftily rewarded, but most end up losing money from it.
Yes, it is just like gambling.
Considering how small OPPO was back then, and that Chinese products were often viewed as “cheap” and “low quality” back in 2014 even in China, chances of OPPO beating Samsung and other big players in the high-end market were slim.
One Price, Two Recipes
All successful smartphones in the ¥2000-¥4000 price range fall under two categories: “Flagship killers” that are equipped with specs of >S$1000 phones or premium mid-rangers that will impress you with its quality and craftsmanship.
Flagship killers appeals the most to people who cares about getting the most out of their money, at least on paper. Meanwhile, premium mid-rangers attracts people who want to flaunt their status, as well as those that are less tech savvy.
With the rapidly growing middle-class in China, more people are able to afford costlier devices. To dominate the rising ¥2000-¥4000 smartphone market, you will need to sell both type of products. And that was exactly what OPPO did.
OPPO and the R Series
OPPO was already competing in the premium mid-range segment with its R series, so they got the first part solved. Sort of. They aren’t the only ones making premium mid-range devices though. OPPO needed to stand out from the competition.
Mentioned earlier, premium mid-rangers are all about the quality and craftsmanship. Hence, they are often sold in offline stores, where people can feel the devices before purchasing. The key to selling well is creating a good first impression.
As a result, factors that shape first impressions, like design and build quality, were prioritized over others, including performance. This is why R series phones uses Snapdragon 6xx processors (or its MTK equivalent) instead of Snapdragon 8xx.
You may have noticed that designs of recent OPPO devices are a little inspired by iPhones – copycat? But think about it this way: if OPPO can take Apple’s design and make it look even better, doesn’t it prove that they can design better than Apple?
Apple got beaten at its own game!
Alright, OPPO is capable of making devices that look and feel really good, even better than some >S$1000 devices. But was it enough to convince people that their product is better than something from a reputable brand like Samsung?
Maybe? But there was too much at stake to take the risk.
Thus, OPPO spent a lot on advertisements, sponsorship and brand ambassador. Their presence could be felt everywhere in China, with an insane number of retail shops displaying their logo and ads at subways, airports and on television.
Just from the image on the left, you can spot 3 OPPO stores.
That changed people’s perception of it from a stereotypical Chinese brand to one that is considered luxurious and highly sought after. This further establishes the R series as premium devices and helped OPPO break into markets outside of China.
The Reason for OnePlus
As you may have guessed, OPPO created OnePlus to compete in the flagship killer segment. But why did they not sell them under the OPPO branding? The answer is quite clear – flagship killer and premium mid-ranger cannot coexist under one roof.
If OnePlus’s devices were released under the OPPO branding and retain their price, it would be competing with a similarly priced R series device. OPPO would have less budget for advertising and out goes OPPO’s “premium” reputation.
On the other hand, if these flagship killers were priced higher, they would lose their appeal and competitors like Xiaomi and Honor will have an edge. Either way, one of them will suffer, so it makes sense to sell them under different brands.
Another reason for OnePlus’s existence is to break into western markets. Unlike OPPO, many people do not view OnePlus as a Chinese brand, which helps them to avoid getting stereotypes like being low quality or infected with spyware.
Perhaps this is why OPPO refused to acknowledge OnePlus as its subsidiary. As a company from China, being able to sell well in western markets, especially in the US, is a real miracle.
Unlike OPPO, OnePlus phones are mainly sold online to reduce cost. OnePlus had two experience stores, one in Beijing and the other in Shanghai, but unfortunately they both closed in 2016.
The Prediction – What’s Next for OPPO?
With China’s smartphone growth coming to a halt last year, the latest sales figures show that OPPO’s growth also took a hit. Is OPPO’s days of glory over? What is OPPO doing about it? What else can they do? Lets take a look.
India Exclusive Realme
Just recently, OPPO partnered with Amazon India to launch the new Realme brand in India. Their first phone, the Realme 1, has not been announced, but many are saying that it is a re-branded OPPO A3. But the re-branding seems a little redundant.
Unless… What if Realme is the OnePlus equivalent of budget OPPO phones? What if the Realme 1 is an OPPO A3 with lesser specs but with a much more affordable price?
Return to High-End Smartphones?
Next up, will OPPO ever release a high-end smartphones again? Patents and leaks point to a possible fordable smartphone from OPPO and if OPPO were to release something so cool and bizarre, chances are that it will come with high end specs.
So yes, we might be seeing a flagship-grade device from OPPO in the near future. After all, the OPPO today is no longer the OPPO we knew back in 2014. They are now one of the top 5 smartphone manufacturers; they are now recognized worldwide.
Using AI for Greater Convenience
Smartphone manufacturers are integrating artificial intelligence into certain aspects of their phones and OPPO is no exception. Last year’s R11s used AI to make beautify more natural and the new R15 uses it to identify scenes for better photos.
While “Camera Phone” may be OPPO’s tagline, their use of AI do not have to stop there. OPPO’s smartphones are well known for being reliable and easy to use, so why not use AI to further improve the way users interact with their phones?
I have a couple of ideas for that, but I am sure OPPO can come out with better ones so I will not share them here. (@OPPO but if you are interested in what I have in mind, feel free to contact me on Facebook and we will discuss there)
Conclusion – Mind Blown Yet?
What I have discussed above is only touching the surface of what OPPO has done over the past 4-5 years that brought them to where they are today, but I hope it is enough to change the way you think of OPPO and its relationship with OnePlus.
You may have noticed that I avoided mentioning about Vivo in this article. While many believe that OPPO belongs to BBK, Vivo’s parent company, I do not find the evidence convincing enough yet. But if true, things can get a lot more complicated.
SIM Only postpaid plans were introduced in Singapore back in 2015 and have since gained popularity among many Singaporeans due to their affordable pricing. Are SIM Only plans better than smartphone-bundled postpaid plans? Let’s find out.
What is SIM Only?
Before we can understand SIM Only plans, we have to understand how regular postpaid plans work. Every time you re-contract a regular postpaid plan, you get to purchase a new phone at a subsidized price, a few hundred dollars off the original pricing.
But what you may not know is that part of what you are paying for in your monthly smartphone bill actually is for this “subsidy”. SIM Only plans gets rid of this process entirely, so you are essentially paying only for the network service.
Benefits of SIM Only Plans
As mentioned in the introduction, SIM Only plans are a lot more affordable than regular postpaid plans, at least on the surface. Depending on which telco you go to, S$20 a month can get you 3GB of mobile data, which would usually cost you over S$40.
Most SIM Only plans are no contract, which means you can terminate the plan anytime. If you find something better, you make a switch anytime. However, Singtel and M1 offer plans that lock you for a year, offering more mobile data if you do so.
Another benefit of this would be that you do not have to wait for 2 years to replace your phone. Damaged your phone but repair costs are unreasonably high? Lost your phone in another country? No need to wait for 2 years, just get a replacement anytime.
Lastly, not having to purchase your phone from your telco means that you get a wider range of smartphones to choose from. See a great phone deal on Lazada? Want to get a phone that is not available in your country? With SIM Only, nothing is stopping you.
Benefits of Regular Postpaid Plans
Contrary to beliefs, there are some benefits to paying for regular postpaid plans. Firstly, not everyone can spend over S$1000 on a phone at one go. With smartphone-bundled plans, more people can afford the flagship devices they dream to have.
Next, not all smartphone subsidies are equal and some telcos heavily subsidize smartphones from certain brands. With careful planning, you may save even more money than switching to SIM Only and purchasing the phone separately.
For those eligible, Corporate Individual Scheme (CIS) is the most compelling reason to stay with traditional postpaid plans. Factoring in the price of a smartphone, the subsidy you can get will save you more money than switching to a SIM Only plan.
Conclusion – Which to Choose?
Here is what I recommend. If you are intending of purchasing budget phones like Xiaomi’s Redmi series, SIM Only plans is the only way you should go; paying S$0 for a phone when renewing your telco contract is just a waste of “subsidy”.
For everyone else, it boils down to two factors: whether you are eligible for CIS and whether you are able to pay for the smartphone of your choice in one go. If your answer is no to any of them, I recommend sticking to the regular postpaid plans.
Otherwise, switching to SIM Only plans seem like the obvious choice right now. While you can expect to pay approximately the same as what you would with regular postpaid plans in the end, you get a lot more freedom with SIM Only plans.