While I was immersed in the ongoing battle for cricket supremacy between India and Australia, the familiar baritone of the BigB interrupted my reverie to announce the winner of a different battle – that for the Best Smartphone. I looked up to see a young dude who looked like I should recognize him, celebrating the victory of the One Plus 3T with an elated Amitabh Bachchan.
Curious to see what had got the septuagenarian so excited about a smartphone, I went to youtube to check out the full ad and to my astonishment, I saw the other contenders – Samsung S7 Edge, Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel! Really? The best smartphone in the world’s 2nd largest market is a non-descript brand of unknown parentage? Wondering how far behind the world I have fallen in technology, I went and checked out the antecedents of One Plus.
One Plus How Many?
Here is what I found – a certain Peter Lau, an erstwhile CEO of Oppo Mobile founded the company in December 2013. Further digging reveals that he is probably still an employee of the same outfit and that One Plus is just another brand belonging to Oppo. He has no tech credentials nor any patents – just some licensing deals and the promise to “balance price with quality”. To his credit, he has invested in some interesting marketing gimmicks and a good user interface. The One Plus 3T is the fifth product launched by the company. Clearly, he is a smart entrepreneur backed by some Chinese investor.
So how does a smartphone assembled by a pragmatic businessman trump over the vision of Jobs, the dedicated engineers at Samsung and the army of geeks at Google? How do the specs of the One Plus 3T compare with those of the S7 Edge, iPhone 7 Plus and the Google Pixel?
Since the One Plus is advertised as an Amazon exclusive, I decided to compare the specs of these products on Amazon itself. The first thing I realized is that it is bloody tough to compare products on Amazon – they really need to take some lessons from car selling sites. Anyway, having put down all the spec details in a neat excel file, I tried to make sense of megapixels, battery ratings, RAM and such-like for a while. Not feeling any wiser, I went back to Amazon to read the reviews of these products. The first thing that struck me was that there were 20 times as many reviews for the One Plus 3T as there were for the others. The second that it was priced at Rs.29,990 and was being compared with phones priced above 50k. On a hunch, I put a filter of 10K to 30K and looked at the number of reviews phones in this price range had; next I put filter of 50K+ and looked at the number of reviews. As suspected, a lot of phones had reviews running into thousands in the lower price segment while not a single phone – Samsung, Apple, Google or HTC priced above 50K had even 500 reviews!
And here-in lies the answer to how One Plus 3T beat the others – the market size for a 30K smartphone is many time larger than the market for a 50K smartphone therefore, any methodology based on popular ratings (in the unforgettable words of the BigB “audience poll”) will favour the product playing in the larger market. In other words, the One Plus 3T is the best smartphone for the same reason as India keeps winning the “polls” for the best national anthem, best flag, etc – there are just more Indians in the world with access to the internet and the ability to answer a question in English than any other nationality.
Mystery solved, the only remaining question is who is the perpetrator of this subterfuge? Is this another gimmick of Peter Lau? Is Amazon an accidental accomplice or a willing partner in this game? Does the BigB really believe he has uncovered the best smartphone and will we see him on the next KBC PAYTMing the contestant on his One Plus 3T?
I imagined my conclusion will be of interest to the Geniuses at Apple stores across the world, the worried engineers at Samsung Korea and the army of geeks in Mountain-view California frantically googling One Plus 3T so decided to add to the time I wasted exploring the “best smartphone in India”.