OnePlus introduced us to a new tier, the mid-range flagship, or so-called “affordable flagship”. They offered a device that sacrificed little more than the bottom line and large margins to deliver a powerful and premium experience at an accessible price.
With any new brand there are always some viable concerns that come to mind for the consumer. A new company is also typically an inexperienced one, one that may make mistakes pertaining to its hardware that a longer-lived OEM may not make. And then, there is software support. Supporting a device with major software updates does not directly help a manufacturer be more profitable, at least not directly, and can even serve to be a burden on the development of software for future devices. This hits new companies most, since the software and development teams are smaller and resources less scarce. OnePlus initially teamed with the ill-fated Cyanogen Inc for its software needs, but after much drama it eventually settled on its own OxygenOS with the OnePlus 2 being the first device to launch with this software. Despite having its fair share of issues through the years, OxygenOS has settled down to be a fairly solid manufacturer skin that sees frequent updates and feature additions… that is, if you own the OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T. Indeed, if you are one of the unfortunate owners of a OnePlus 2, you likely have a different, less optimistic outlook of their software stance, and for good reason too.
The OnePlus 2 was practically a step backwards from the OnePlus One. It was more expensive, was missing features its users wanted, and shipped with the disastrous Snapdragon 810 processor. That didn’t stop OnePlus from making some bold claims regarding the phone either, calling it the “2016 Flagship Killer” (in 2015, no less). The problem is that while the performance-limiting issues surrounding the Snapdragon 810 were mostly out of their control, the software was and is in their control and the simple fact is that while the OnePlus 2 still stammers on with Android 6.0 Marshmallow nearly all 2016 and 2015 flagships are now running Nougat; even those running the same Snapdragon 810. These are the very fears that onlookers and potential buyers of devices brought to market by smaller OEM’s have; at what point can a smaller OEM no longer spend the time and the resources to bring updates to older, maybe less successful devices.
“As much as we would like to give the latest update on the OnePlus 2, we’ve discontinued updates for dated devices. But we will continue to support the limited warranty for current users and provide updates and support the best way we can even for OnePlus 2 users.”
These fears have been magnified when late last week, an XDA Forums user posted an email they received from OnePlus support claiming that the OnePlus 2 will not be receiving the update to Nougat, effectively killing support for the phone. While the developer community will continue to support the phone, it is difficult for developers to build off new Android OS versions without the supporting underlying software and drivers making these builds less stable than their official counterparts. It is important to note that this is in no way an official statement from OnePlus claiming the update being canceled as we all know, support technicians are not always “in the loop” when it comes to internal information. It is also just as important to note that OnePlus, CEO Pete Lau, and co-founder Carl Pei have all been silent, an oddity when it comes to combating misinformation in relation to the company. This is not something that just affects OnePlus, it has been an industry-wide issue, however we highlight them because they have been both more focused when it comes to software support, and they target the enthusiast market: a market where updates tend to be more hyped and the lack thereof more noticeable.
Updates are important, especially when they are promised to the users. While I have made the argument in the past that major software updates are less important than security updates, that does not mean that OEM’s should stop at one single major software version, which is what OnePlus looks to be doing. As I mentioned in the onset, software updates and the commitment to them, is important for users. It shows that a company is committed to its users in a post sale environment. OnePlus has done a great job so far in supporting its current flagship the OnePlus 3, but that device was just discontinued making way for its successor the OnePlus 5 and all eyes will be on how they continue supporting it. Should the OnePlus 3 suffer the same fate the OnePlus 2 did when its successor released, OnePlus will see a lot of backlash, especially given the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T were tremendously successful and well-received devices. Most importantly, OnePlus tried really hard to get the trust of customers again with the OnePlus 3, and it’d be a pity to see them abandon the community they built around these devices.
We really have no reason to believe this will be the case other than their extremely poor treatment of the OnePlus 2, though to be frank, if sacrificing the OnePlus 2 and the development time updates would take was necessary in order to make OxygenOS what it is today, then it’s at the very least a debatable decision. One thing is certain, though: OnePlus owners – a bag full of enthusiasts, Android lovers, tweakers and savvy customers – will probably not tolerate such gross software support negligence again, and for some, the mistreatment of the OnePlus 2 is enough to have them looking elsewhere.