There is a saying in Hollywood: being talked about even when you do not say a word or are not seen, shows just how important you are. The same principle roughly applies to tech as well. Yes, elaborate launches and events do get gadgets attention, but the real measure of just how important a device is, can be gauged by the talk around devices that are not in the market, or may not even exist officially. If that sounds a bit extreme, then just look at the kind of attention that is foisted on every forthcoming iPhone, Galaxy Note or Pixel device. Their manufacturers themselves might not even say a word about them, but the rumor mills are abuzz about possible configurations, prices, availability, design and the like.
Which is what makes me wonder if the mantle of Android flagship – once the preserve of the Galaxy S and Note and the Google Pixel (Nexus) combination – might have just passed on to a new player. And a relatively new one too.
Yes, some might consider the very notion sacrilege, but consider the evidence if you will. While there was a good deal of chatter about what the Galaxy S8 would be like and there still is talk going on about what the next Galaxy Note and Pixel will be like, we have to confess that they do not really come close to matching the near-frenzy around the OnePlus 5, which arrives on June 20 (and two days later on our own shores in India). The past month and a half have seen just about every aspect of the phone being discussed, praised and dissed to the nth degree.
We suspect this is the consequence of a slightly leaky eco-system as much as a concerted media strategy (leaks are now a legitimate way of generating “product curiosity,” as per a marketing document), especially when you consider that a large number of the “rumours”, ranging from the nomenclature to the design to the number of cameras on the device, have been proved to be true. In fact, more than once we have had the rather strange case of the company itself coming out with details of its device (whether it was showing a picture of it or discussing the chip driving it), to further fuel rumors and speculation. And it certainly seems to have paid dividends in terms of media coverage – we have seen a number of devices getting a fair bit of attention prior to their release, but the OnePlus 5 has pretty much beaten everything we have seen for a while.
Of course, the reason for the level of media interest in the OnePlus flagship stems from the fact that even though it is likely to come with flagship level hardware and design, it is not likely to cost a bomb (in fact, even the price has been ‘leaked out’ if some people are to be believed). This is a high ground that was once occupied by the Nexus and all too briefly by Xiaomi (during its Mi3 high noon) and Motorola. The combination of high-end specs and affordability is a blend that attracts both geek and mainstream users, which in turn grabs more media attention. “You can only speculate so much about the Pixel or Note because, at the end of the day, they target a niche,” a marketing executive told me. “The OnePlus, Xiaomi, Moto…these brands are seen as being good and accessible. General interest in them is much higher.” The rule of course (like most rules) does not apply to Apple, which seems to be in a zone of its own.
So, while Messrs Lau and Pei might be having headaches about details of their flagship getting out on the Internet and being discussed well before its official launch, effectively killing a lot of the “surprises” they might have had up their digital sleeves, methinks they would be just delighted at the level of interest that their device is attracting. After all, as Oscar Wilde so accurately said:
“There is only one thing worse in life than being talked about,
And that is not being talked about”
OnePlus 5 might be the most leaked device of the year for a while. But we don’t think it is all bad news for the brand. But yes, we do think it would be advisable to not refer to the OnePlus 5 as a “flagship killer” as some of its predecessors were. It would, in fact, be suicidal at one level.
Because honey, we think OnePlus just became the Android flagship.