This week, Oppo It announced its most ambitious phone in years: the Oppo Find N, a foldable phone that attempts to eliminate major issues affecting other phones of this type.
It’s horribly less expensive than the competition. It has the least obvious hinge crease we’ve seen in a foldable phone to date. The Oppo Find N is also easier to use with one hand than those in the Samsung Galaxy Flip series.
This is progress. However, at first glance, none of that matters. Oppo Find N will be launched in China, the home of Oppo only. It’s unlikely we’ll see a mass release of the phone in the UK, despite the brand’s growing recognition in the country. And a US launch seems out of the question as Oppo hardly has a presence there. At the same event, Oppo also revealed its version of Google Glass, the Air Glass, again not intended for a release outside of China.
So, if we can’t get our hands on the Oppo Find N, why write about it?
Big shadow in the shape of BBK
Oppo is not a completely independent entity. It’s part of one of the lesser known consumer tech giants – in the West at least. Oppo is a brand of BBK Electronics, which has benefited from Huawei’s decline to capture more than 44 percent of the entire smartphone market in China, according to Counterpoint Research.
This dwarfs Apple, Xiaomi and Samsung. And BBK Electronics is taking steps to change its strategy in the West, taking advantage of the “odd guy” in its lineup, OnePlus. It might not be long before we see some of the Find N tech in OnePlus.
The leading phone brands of BBK Electronics are Oppo, Vivo, Realme, OnePlus and IQOO. OnePlus is the only such brand widely distributed in the United States, and the only one arguably not clearly recognized as a Chinese company. Its long-term success is said to be the result of an experiment that has spiraled out of control.
OnePlus was formed at the end of 2013. Its founders are 24-year-old Carl Bay and 38-year-old Pete Lau. The two actually worked together at Oppo.
It is not unusual to see founders of tech startups in their twenties. But OnePlus wasn’t really a startup, as much as it seemed like one at the time. It was a project funded by a giant tech company — not the kind of thing you’d expect to fall into the lap of someone who left business school two years ago, as Bey already did.
Imagine Samsung launching a new phone brand today, launched exclusively via TikTok by one of the newly-faced co-founders. That was OnePlus.
OnePlus went from inception to launching its phone in just four months. This would have been impossible if the existing supply chains of BBK Electronics and manufacturing partners had not been used.
The results were almost unimaginably good. OnePlus’ One faced a demand versus supply situation not unlike the current Xbox Series X and PS5, albeit on a much smaller scale. In hindsight, the OnePlus One could have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. It was a really decent phone, almost certainly the best “quality” phone in the world at that point.