OnePlus made waves this year with the launch of some blockbuster devices. One of the most interesting things the brand did was to delve into the smart TV segment with the launch of the OnePlus TV and OnePlus TV Pro. In reality, the television mirrored some of the problems that plagued its second smartphone, the OnePlus 2, which released 4 years ago. On paper, like the OnePlus 2, it has a lot going for it — with a combination of the right specs, some kickass ideas and neat design. But the problem with the OnePlus 2 was software and hardware optimisation and that’s the same issue with the OnePlus TV which also contends with some high-end brands and a nimble competitor in Xiaomi on the cheaper side of things.
So what went wrong?
- Perhaps the biggest problem with the TV is its starting price of Rs 69,000 and Rs 99,000. For a brand that’s not established in the smart TV space, that’s too much, even for OnePlus which indeed has become the best selling premium smartphone brand in the country. The notion that a premium smartphone brand can use its brand cache to the TV space is flawed and that’s reflective in the pricing of the OnePlus TV — TVs are completely different products, highly fragmented and commoditised.
- OnePlus has made a name of itself because of its unique and refined take on stock Android. The OnePlus TV has literally nothing on top apart from a special app for integrating content from a couple of aggregators like Hungama. They have Amazon Prime video, but they don’t have Netflix support embedded from the get-go which could be a big problem for someone who wants something for watching movies like the Irishman.
- OnePlus has integrated a powerful sound-bar with the “Pro” version of the TV, however, this isn’t the best sound-bar one can get. It is powerful and loud for watching some movies but for sure it isn’t worth an extra Rs 30,000 as it can’t handle a lot of scenarios like electronic music or a lot of compressed audio which you’ll get in YouTube videos. You’d be better served with a standard version of the TV and adding a sounder from a different brand which will likely be cheaper and better.
- While the TV indeed has a superb Q-OLED panel, for the price it isn’t the best. You can get a stunning 4K 120Hz full OLED panel in the Samsung Frame TV. The Samsung screen isn’t only better in terms of viewing angles and contrast, but since it has a 120Hz refresh rate which is better for gaming and of course you’re going to want to go do that.
- The remote of the OnePlus TV has been designed by a genius. Just kidding, it is quite the opposite. On paper it looks great with USB Type C and a minimal layout, but then there are stupid things like a button with the OnePlus logo but it is actually the power button. The volume keys are on the sides like on a smartphone which could flummox people. My parents for sure were flummoxed.
But why is there hope?
- There are some really good ideas at the core of OnePlus TV. For example, the OnePlus connect app is a great example of integration between a TV and smartphone can be seamless. When connected with the app, the TV volume is automatically lowered when a call comes on the phone. You can use the phone’s volume rockers to reduce the volume of the TV and generally it acts as a hub for everything on the TV but on the phone.
- The general quality of TV hardware is superb. The image quality of the panel and even the design of the TV is quite unique. The way the sound-bar comes down from behind the TV using a motorised mechanism looks also quite awesome. The TV frankly looks quite space age.
- Stock Android is usually a good thing, but on smart TVs, you need more. But at this stage, Android TV is evolving pretty quickly which plays to OnePlus’s strengths. This is a TV which just doesn’t have enough software developed for it to stand out at the time of launch. If they come back a year later, with software being OnePlus’s secret sauce, it could be wondrous.
- Heck, OnePlus can improve the experience of the current model greatly through software something which Xiaomi is proving too. It is already pushing out a lot of updates which it is known for even in the smartphone space.
At the end of the day, the core of the issue with the OnePlus TV is a combination of being rushed into the launch and a slight sense of overconfidence by the brand. A little more humility and pragmatism with the next version of the TV could truly produce a superb product. OnePlus tends to have these slips — the OnePlus 2 and OnePlus 5 smartphones were examples of them underdelivering — and considering the changing dynamics of the TV market, a lot can change in the favour of OnePlus.