Chinese company OnePlus doesn’t only make smartphones. There are also headphones, protective cases, chargers and oddly, t-shirts and backpacks. But what is entirely certain about the company’s product line-up is that smartphones are the real product; everything else serves as an accessory to either the smartphones, or to the fandom that helps sell those phones. The focus, at any point, remains on the flagship phone of that half of the year.
This focused strategy of selling exactly one phone at a time and continuing to offer undeniably the best level of software support to its older phones is what has made OnePlus so successful. But like any ambitious company run by an ambitious set of individuals, OnePlus is thinking ahead. It’s already achieved the leadership spot in its segment in India, and while holding its position will take some work, the big battle is already won. The company is now setting its sights on other global markets, including the US and Europe. And while it does all of this, it’s taken on a new project as well: the OnePlus TV.
What is the OnePlus TV?
Now, based on the name itself, and what a lot of publications are reporting, we wouldn’t blame you for thinking that the OnePlus TV is, well, a TV. However, do note that OnePlus hasn’t actually said it’s a TV. The company’s CEO Pete Lau made the announcement through a forum post, and also contest that OnePlus is hosting to come up with a name for the product (my personal entry for this is to name the device the OnePlus TV McTVFace). But at no point did anyone explicitly say it’s a TV, and if anything, the hints suggest it isn’t even a TV.
Let me elaborate why I think so. For one, the contest image shows a bedside table with a lap and one rather mysterious object on it. That object is likely the product in question, and it clearly is not a television set. For another thing, Pete Lau spoke of artificial intelligence and 5G connectivity being the driving force behind this new concept, suggesting that whatever it is that OnePlus is working on is likely more than the simple and done-to-death idea of a large screen with an operating system and Wi-Fi connectivity. Furthermore, it seems entirely awkward for a company so deeply entrenched in the business of making smartphones to take such a big step so quickly.
Could it be a dongle?
At this point, that’s my best guess. OnePlus could well be working on a smart TV dongle, along the lines of the Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick and Apple TV (which, despite being called TV, is not in fact a TV). What I’m expecting is some kind of streaming box that enables better interfacing between your smartphone – which is not necessarily a OnePlus – and your existing TV set. It seems like a box that will take the ridiculous amounts of power in your smartphone, and seamlessly transfer its capabilities to the big screens in your home.
As mentioned above, Google, Amazon and Apple – three of the four largest, most valuable and most profitable companies in the world, mind you – are already in this segment. However, no matter which of the above you use, the experience is largely broken. While you will be able to use these three devices to offer some connectivity between your phone and TV, there are plenty of times when the experience fails on you for no apparent reason.
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OnePlus probably wants to fix that with a small, affordable product of its own. It’s likely to be a device that acts as a bridge, letting you send media content seamlessly from your phone to your TV, letting you enjoy the benefits of a bigger screen when you’re at home. It could even go beyond the traditional idea of media content, working in some way to extend you smartphone to the TV in its entirety. Perhaps we’ll be able to talk to the OnePlus TV the same way we talk to AI-based products, and transform the way we use our phones.
Whatever the OnePlus TV is, we’ll find out in December – the contest mentions December 17 as the date before which the name will be revealed. For now though, let’s turn our collective attention to the next OnePlus product: the OnePlus 6T.