Earlier this week, OnePlus announced that a number of its smartphones this year will feature a 120 Hz refresh rate. Why would OnePlus confirm a feature months before the expected launch of the handsets?
Because it has worked before.
Co-founder and director of the Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus, Carl Pei gestures as he speaks on … [+]
AFP via Getty Images
First of all, the timing of the announcement should be considered. The press release hit on Monday 13th January. CES 2020 had taken place the previous week. Mid range devices such as the TCL 10 range, the Android Go powered Alcatel 1B, and the portfolio confusing Galaxy S10 Lite were all revealed.
Also on the show floor was the OnePlus Concept One. As well as the McLaren styling, stitching, and leather, it also features a glass cover over the rear camera assembly. This would darken when not in use, and open up to light when the user wants to take a phone.
It caught a huge amount of attention from the Las Vegas show floor and featured in many ‘best of show’ lists over that weekend. And on the Monday right after that weekend, OnePlus reinforced that message of innovation not with another concept, but the confirmation of a 120 Hz refreshing screen (stepping up from 2019’s 90 Hz screens) would be shipping on production devices in 2020.
As well as reinforcing the message from CES, it also puts down a marker with the media (and in part with the public) ahead of Mobile World Congress taking place in Barcelona in late February. There’s going to be a flood of phones coming out of the key mobile conference of the year, as well as heavy hitters such as Samsung launching flagships just before the event to try and dominate the media coverage.
The expectation is that the move to 5G will again be one of the key discussion points for the industry, and the wider adoption of screens with faster refresh rates and faster touch sensitivity will be one of the main features in the high-end smartphone market during 2020.
OnePlus has decided to go for fist mover advantage by confirming the 120 Hz ‘Fluid Display’ is not only something it is working on, but also will be featured on its handsets this year; with the tacit message that consumers can skip these handsets announced in February and wait for the presumptively named OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.
It also plays into a marketing strategy that OnePlus has employed with great effect in previous years. While some manufacturers will assume that nobody knows anything about their latest smartphone every September and expect everyone in the hall to cheer and applause features that were leaked months in advance, OnePlus takes a different route.
There is still the audience whooping and ramping it up, but in most cases these are fans of OnePlus who have purchased tickets to attend the launch, rather than members of the world’s press.
Instead, OnePlus takes steps to confirm a number of key features ahead of a press launch. This could be through confirmations such as the one made over the Fluid Display, it could be the CEO deciding to tweet details about the camera, or it could be part of a presentation at a business conference in the weeks before.
Add these confirmations on top of the usual leaks from the supply chain and associated partners, and OnePlus can set the scene and the story of its new handsets before stepping up in front of the geekerati.
OnePlus is not the only smartphone manufacturer to take this approach, but it wears this approach proudly on its sleeve. With the announcement of the Fluid Display, the Shenzhen-based success is gearing up for another year of storytelling and smartphone surprises.