Only five years into the business, Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus is now expanding overseas.
The company also plans to enter the television manufacturing market with a new smart TV model scheduled for launch in India in 2020.
The TV set is emerging as the new battlefield for gadget makers as they try to harness the opportunities of the smart home trend. A smart TV could serve as the center of all smart home appliances as its display panel enables users to interact with all the artificial intelligence-assisted devices at home.
In October, OnePlus announced plans to enter the smart TV market, saying it is part of its mission to “improve the human experience through simplicity, efficiency and intelligent functionality”.
Market watchers believe the move is part of the natural progression for the OnePlus brand.
The company will be able to bring to the smart TV market its high-quality hardware, ability to offer seamless user experience, and expertise in making classic, minimalistic designs.
OnePlus chief executive Pete Lau said its smart TV will be launched in India and is expected to be sold through Amazon. The product is scheduled to be rolled out in 2020, just when 5G technology is expected to have taken root in the market.
By entering the highly competitive smart TV market, OnePlus is also expanding into the Internet of Things business. The company wants to play an active role in building the connected home, which will become the hub of family activities as it provides access to the digital world.
The smart TV concept has been in the market for a long time. Currently, many top TV models have internet connectivity, which allows users to browse online content on the TV screen, or to stream content from their mobile apps like Netflix to the TV set.
Many people think that this is the extent of the smart TV experience. They think it is simply watching TV programs from both free and pay TV broadcasters.
Only a fraction of users know how to connect their TV with a set-top box such as an Apple TV to browse additional programs online.
In entering the market, therefore, OnePlus may need to educate the public on the much wider scope of a smart TV.
Manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung and LG – and even Apple – have studied how to change the traditional TV function, and tried to change how users control TV and consume content.
But although they have prepared the market for the smart TV concept for many years, the use of the TV has not changed much from its traditional concept.
While OnePlus prepares to introduce its smart TV products in India in two years’ time, its rival Xiaomi has been in the market for years.
Xiaomi shipped a total of 5.2 million units of smart TV in the first nine months of this year, and about a million units in October alone, enabling it to become the market leader in China and India.
Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun said earlier this month that the company is developing an IoT ecosystem by connecting different devices to the internet with the mobile phone serving as the remote control and the TV the display.
The core of Xiaomi’s TV strategy is still content consumption. It has, in fact, spent a lot of money on content production, which it will then bundle into its smart TV package for free or for a small monthly charge.
While OnePlus is still exploring how its TV business will provide a sustainable revenue stream, Lau believes that as 5G and IoT technologies become mainstream in the next decade, the role of TV will also undergo a massive change, serving as the center of smart living at home.
Lau said in the future people’s daily activities will take place at home, in the office or on the go, and the smart TV plus the smartphone will provide a way for users to coordinate all these activities.
Lau’s concept for OnePlus TV remains a plan. But given the track record of Lau and his team, it is a plan that one can expect to become a reality soon. Stay tuned.
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