OnePlus has been selling smartphones since 2014. Next year the company plans to launch its first television.
Details are scarce, but the move isn’t a huge surprise. A lot of the technology behind smartphones and smart TVs is similar. Both are internet-connected devices designed to run a series of apps, for example. And companies including Google, Apple, Samsung, and Xiaomi are in both the smartphone and smart TV business.
And it’s not hard to see why: controlling the platform you use to watch videos, stream music, or play games on both your phone and TV is a way to lock users into your ecosystem while promising a more seamless experience.
What remains to be seen is how the upcoming OnePlus TV will stand out in a crowded space.
The original OnePlus One earned a reputation as a solid smartphone with a relatively low price tag, top-tier specs, and software that was both easy to use but also aimed at power users. It seemed to be in line with the company’s motto: “Never Settle.”
Since then the company has released a range of phones, some of which are better than others and many of which make some sort of trade-off: slimmer bezels are offset by a notch. The OnePlus 2 lacked NFC support. And the company’s next phone is expected to have an in-display fingerprint sensor that’s partially made possible by eliminating the headphone jack. And while the company’s phones are still usually cheaper than flagships from rivals including Samsung and Apple, OnePlus has a habit of increasing the starting price year after year.
All of which is to say that while OnePlus still knows how to make some decent hardware, its phones may not be as distinctive as they once were. And so I can’t help but wonder what OnePlus will bring to the smart TV table that Samsung, Sony, LG, Toshiba, TCL, or other major players aren’t already offering.
In an interview with Business Insider, OnePlus founder Pete Lau says the goal is to provide a TV that offers “seamless connectivity between your smartphone and TV, as well as the type of AI smarts and assistive functionality offered by devices like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.” But that’s hardly unique: Apple, Google, Amazon, and Samsung all offer a combination of smartphone, smart TV, and virtual assistant software that runs across a range of products. Even Roku is developing a virtual assistant.
Lau also tells Business Insider that the company’s TV will have a camera, enabling support for video calls, among other things. There will be some sort of privacy feature to keep it from recording you unexpectedly (I suspect it could be a low-tech solution like a shutter that covers the camera when it’s not in use).
The company is also taking an unconventional approach to naming the upcoming TV: it’s asking users to submit idea for a name. If you get your submission in by October 17th, you’ll be eligible for a chance to win a prize.
Finalists will get a pair of wireless headphones, the grand prize winner will get one of the first TVs produced, plus a trip to the launch event — if the company decides to use a name offered by a contestant. It seems like OnePlus is reserving the right to choose a different name altogether.