Producing The OnePlus One
TH: So the OnePlus One has been pretty popular. Has production been able to keep up with demand?
CP: Production is ramping up a lot. I think it’s near parity with demand, but it’s always really hard to tell. For us, we still have to always keep it in the back of our mind that if we have a little bit more inventory than what we can sell, then that will become a direct loss for us because we don’t have a lot of margin on the product itself. So if we have to discount the product, then we’re going to lose money on each product we sell. We still have to be conservative and make sure that our supply never exceeds the demand.
TH: Did you, as a startup, experience any manufacturing issues as you began to ramp up production?
CP: We had some issues. For one, we had issues with our StyleSwap back covers that we announced before we launched the phone. We said users would be able to choose from bamboo wood and kevlar [and denim], but in the end we only released bamboo and only very limited quantities. It was really hard to produce the back covers with an acceptable yield rate. Our yield rate is only around 30%, so that means that for every one hundred we make we can only sell around thirty. The main problem is that our antennae design is inside the back covers, and our NFC antennae is actually there, so it’s been pretty hard to manufacture this. What else? On the Silk White version we released it in larger quantities recently, but in the very beginning we had a small batch of these units available. The first batch we had was kind of like this but white [points to black version of OnePlus One], but the batch we’re selling now has a dot that sticks out of the phone. This means that if you put it on a flat surface, this dot will actually tilt the phone upwards a little bit so you won't scratch the back. So we’re always making small adjustments to manufacturing. In addition, we also include a nanoSIM adapter in the package now, whereas we didn’t before. This is based on user feedback. We also noticed that a lot of people had problems with figuring out what’s the right way to put in the SIM card because it almost fits both ways. So now we’ve redesigned our sticker that’s on the phone with clear instructions on how to put the SIM card in.
TH: So, a lot of people have had issues with touchscreen sensitivity, and I know there’s been several software updates to address this. Has this finally been solved and what was the root cause?
CP: The root cause I think was that we weren’t agile enough. We didn’t see this as a big problem in the beginning. It took us a few weeks before we started noticing more and more people having this problem. Back then, it happened to all phones. As soon as you started typing quick enough there would sometimes be ghost swipes. So when we escalated this to be a high priority issue, we started communicating with our touchscreen driver provider Synaptics, and we started working on revisions. There’s been a few revisions. The latest one is pretty good, but in some edge cases it can still happen, so we’re actually still in communication with them. But after the latest update, we noticed that most of the users—the vast majority—have no problems. People experience it to be much more responsive.
TH: A lot of phones use Synaptics. Why do you think you had more trouble? Was it because you didn’t have the experience, this being your first phone?
CP: I think it’s because our engineers are based in China and we actually had no feedback about this from China [users]. It’s because, when you type in Chinese you don’t need to type that fast, because it’s a 3x3 [grid]. There’s only nine buttons when you type. It’s not like English where you have to type 26 characters. So I think that’s the reason we received no feedback from our users in China about this, and in the beginning, China had much more momentum than our global markets. So I think this is the main reason.