I’ve always wanted a OnePlus One.
It’s the smartphone that really opened my eyes to the China smartphone industry. I know what you’re thinking: Chinese brands – can they be trusted? And statistically, I’d reply with an emphatic “no”. China has no less than 40 individual smartphone brands, most of which are cheap imitators. But there are a handful which are breaking the stereotype, each with its unique strategy. Which one you’ve heard about really depends on where on Earth you live in, literally.
OnePlus is either Oppo’s best bluff, or the world’s best up-and-coming smartphone startup. There are reasons to believe OnePlus is the former – the phone’s design and its specs are virtually identical to the Oppo Find 7; in China, OnePlus ships with Oppo’s proprietary operating system, ColorOS; and the OnePlus team is made entirely of “former Oppo employees”; Oppo’s phones and the OnePlus One, OnePlus’ only phone, are made in the same factories.
Of course, there are reasons for the latter, too. Both OnePlus and Oppo deny the connection, and internationally, the OnePlus One ships with Cyanogenmod CM11S operating system based on Android. Well…that’s about it, really. OnePlus’ claim to fame is its low price, good design and high-end specs – just US$299 for a 16GB version. The catch? The company spends absolutely zero on marketing, relying instead, on word-of-mouth. Has it worked? Certainly, it remains one of 2014’s most desired phones. Double standards in supply chain management issues means that the phone is free for purchase in China, while the world is kept waiting through an invite system. Scalpers who’ve had the chance to resell Chinese phones overseas confirm the phone’s hype, and this has only converted more people.
I badly wanted to replace my ageing iPhone 4. The camera wasn’t up to standard, the battery had deteriorated and the phone was quite honestly, struggling to cope with the increasingly updated apps. I’m not the kind of guy who switches phones – I search long and hard until the right one comes up, and it’s a long-term relationship. And, like many who’ve heard of the OnePlus story, I quickly became a fan and wanted a OnePlus One. Yet, when the delays began, extended time and time again, it seemed like I’d have to go without the One. The next best alternative, well, wasn’t too difficult of a search. The Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One were, well, virtually the same thing.
Being my first China brand purchase, the Find 7 was impressive. The 4K display isn’t very apparent until I glanced over at a friend’s Samsung S5, and realized how impressive my resolution was. The music player too, was equally mind-blowing. It seemed to be the perfect phone until…I tried to update my apps one mid-August Sunday. It couldn’t – there wasn’t enough space. In an effort to reconcile the phone’s high specs with its battery, Oppo had set a 3GB storage download limit on apps. No matter, I thought, these 20 or so apps don’t need to be updated, right? Wrong, as one by one, they stopped working, crashed or hung on me. I began deleting apps in an effort to create space. With such an active ecosystem, I was deleting apps on a weekly basis. This was not a plan.
Frustrated, and ready to put money down for another phone, I began a search. The Find 7’s specifications was only matched by the LG G3 which I looked at, but that came out empty. LG, as it turned out, continued to demonstrate why it’s not a preferred brand. The phone visibly struggles to cope with the 4K display, lagging, jerkiness…not a good fit. As for Samsung? With phones almost intentionally designed to look cheap, it was never a consideration. Nokia? No Windows phones for me. HTC? Asus? Nothing there either. I had to relook at what my options in China were.
Xiaomi? As long as they refuse to put 4G LTE into their devices, it was out of the question. Meizu MX4? Good, but too new, and it likely wouldn’t be available for a few months. For me, I wanted the Nubia Z7 Max – great specs, great battery, great everything. I really wanted it, until the friendly guy at Burlington Square (I do recommend “Mobile Hardware” if you don’t want anything mainstream, or you want something mainstream within a week of its official release) recalled last minute that he sold all his Nubia sets. I was like, “what else do you have?”
Feeling like Harry Potter at Olivander’s, I was acquainted with a range of phones to play around and test. From the mainstream-ish Samsung S5 and the LG G3, to the Google Nexus 5 and China’s Vivo Xshot. Oh, my requests were demanding…no branding on the screen, good camera, good music, good battery life, et cetera. With every phone I tried, each disappointed me in some way or another. Then, it came…a phone whose back was literally furnished in sandstone, and that recognizable mathematical equation “1+” that was OnePlus. I was in love.
Well, not instantly. I was skeptical, to be honest, but I was allowed to play with the OnePlus One for as long as I wanted, and I slowly but surely, warmed up to it.
After purchasing my phone, I hopped onto Victor’s Kitchen for some dim sum before I met Philbert, a Taiwanese acquaintance-friend for dinner. Sure, I had came from Kit and Chuan Swee’s wedding lunch, but the affair was dragged across several hours which ensured I was seriously hungry. Victor’s Kitchen was curiously less crowded than my last visit, but it could be the timing which I went. Either way, I was glad that I could dine here.
The menu has expanded somewhat to include more dishes, in particular, rice-based ones, I suppose, to appeal to the art students studying in the area. Curiously, the ubiquitous char siew bao is apparently, not ubiquitous anymore, having been dropped from the menu. Just as well, as my previous recollection of the bun was sub-par. However, that seems to have somehow improved the quality of the liu sha bao. Seriously, I had Swee Choon just days previously, and I found this to be starkingly superior. Or maybe I was just hungry.
All pictures shot with the OnePlus One =D