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Game of Phones

No brand can afford to have its phones look or feel ancient in any way

brunch Updated: Nov 27, 2017 13:35 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Game of Phones,Pixel 2,One Plus 5T
One Plus 5T has the Face ID and fingerprint scanner too

I may have borrowed and twisted the name of an iconic fantasy drama TV series, but in doing so I couldn’t have been more accurate. A game is being played in the phone business that is as fantastical, blood curdling and savage – and the objective remains exactly the same too. Supremacy for the crown of the best phone in the World. I’m going to start with the One Plus 5T as it is a perfect example of the gallant heroics at play – but there are many other characters within.

One Plus 5T

The One Plus 5 (left) was replaced by One Plus 5T

First things first. The One Plus 5T as a phone is great. It’s got a 6-inch edge-to-edge screen to take on almost all the competition. It has got Face ID to take on the iPhone X, and still got a fingerprint scanner (at the back now) to make Apple look a bit ridiculous. The One Plus 5T has a new low light sensor secondary camera to take on the Google Pixel 2, it has still got a 3.5mm headphone jack to make other phone manufacturers who abandoned that feel foolish and has succumbed to the silliness of eradicating the MicroSD slot like many others have done.

The iPhone X has Face ID but no fingerprint scanner

The no-bezel look is very well done, the screen is brilliant and works well even in sunlight, Face ID is okay and isn’t at the same level as the iPhone X and the camera takes some really good low light shots that will surprise you. The phone in itself is almost identical to the One Plus 5 – just longer and beautifully crafted. It’s still a powerhouse inside with a Snapdragon 835 processor, upto 8GB RAM and a Fast ‘Dash’ charger. Surprisingly for a phone that has been brought in to take on the competition, it still lacks wireless charging and isn’t water resistant either. The other shocker. With all the add-ons and improvements, the One Plus 5T is priced exactly the same as the One Plus 5. So, one of the best phones in the world right now at an awesome price. Yes, but within all this is another intriguing story.

The 5 gone in 5?

The One Plus 5T offers great features to take on both the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X

As you read about the One Plus 5T, did something very jarring jump out and hit you across your head? A bludgeoning blow? Okay, here it is. The One Plus 5T has replaced a brand new One Plus 5 that was introduced barely five months ago. That’s just 150 days ago! A phone launched with much fanfare at one of the glitziest announcement events ever. And now that phone is gone. Kaput! Out! Redundant! That’s because One Plus only has one model out at any given time. The previous phone is retired immediately. So anyone that bought a brand new One Plus 5 will be in a bit of a shock right now. Yes, the phone that you bought just a month ago is now a previous generation phone that doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of people will call this a bold and gutsy move. But remember – you have to be bold and gutsy to jump off a building too. Just bold and gutsy doesn’t translate into an awesome strategy.

The new new thing

The Pixel 2 offers great pictures in low light too

There’s a reason why something like this has happened. With more than a 100 actively aggressive brands in the market now, standing out above the noise is critical. But even more critical is making sure that your brand doesn’t have phones that look or feel ancient. Hardware has reached a parity and it is impossible for a phone to tout inner hardware as a differentiator. Thus edge-to-edge screens, dual cameras, low light sensors in optics and Face ID are the current buzzwords and brands that don’t have a phone with all of them look obsolete and archaic. One Plus has a single phone at a time strategy and got caught in that cycle. Thus it had to retire a brand new phone and come up with the 5T. Others are playing a different game and rushing to fill in these gaps with newer models at the speed of light.

While it may seem like good news for consumers, it’s actually the exact opposite. Any product category that gets caught in very fast refresh cycles means that anything you buy may well be replaced with something within days. And not necessary by something better or something which is a huge technological move forward. It’ll mostly be window dressing and catching up with fads but you’ll feel compelled to buy and replace much faster as even the brand new phone in your hand will feel strangely old.

The Game of Phones is playing out savagely and like the TV series, some main characters may get assassinated along the way.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, November 26, 2017

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First Published: Nov 25, 2017 21:50 IST