As you’re probably already aware, OnePlus launched its third generation OnePlus device, the OnePlus 3, yesterday afternoon. The launch was a bit different from your typical product launch, as OnePlus opted to go the VR route again with their Loop app – the same as they did for the OnePlus 2 last year. However, as I didn’t watch last year’s launch, this year would be my first year experiencing such a thing.
I didn’t actually watch the launch with VR, as I didn’t grab one of OnePlus’s 30,000 free headsets in time, and my cardboard VR viewer is long gone at this point. Fortunately, OnePlus had the option for VR-less viewers to experience the launch with 360-degree view, which was nice of them to include. However, when it was actually time for the launch to begin, there ended up being a lot of unexpected roadblocks for me – roadblocks which made me realize three things.
When I got in, you could tell the OnePlus team put a lot of effort into this app. It looked good, it sounded cool, and it was just overall one of those things where you realize how far we have come in mobile. I probably looked like a total doof spinning in my chair to get the full 360 effect, but it was a fun experience. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not having a VR headset, but I have experienced VR in the past, and I’m fascinated by both 360 view and virtual reality. However, they’re still imperfect technologies. Because of this...
Perhaps this will change in the future, but I had a lot of trouble getting this ball rolling. My first complaint is that this launch was only available for Android users via OnePlus’s Loop app, which is limiting the audience. Additionally, the app was 600MB or so to download, so if you didn’t have Wi-Fi that wastes a good chunk of data for an app you might use for an hour or so at most, and that’s being generous.
The app itself also gave me issues once installed. It started out okay. When asked if I had a VR headset or not and I pressed “No”, the app prompted me to plug in a pair of headphones and tilt my phone. Every time I did this, my phone went to sleep. I was even met with my old friend, “Unfortunately, this app has stopped working.” I eventually figured out that unplugging my headphones – the same headphones that my phone was shipped with, so it wouldn’t seem like a compatibility issue – finally made the app work.
In the app I also experienced some issues, such as the design portion of the app shows the phones in a permanently liquefied state (a temporary glitch; when I "left" the room and came back, the phones were solid and normal looking again). Sometimes the app would stutter and blink in weird ways. I would have been able to deal with a little lag, but these issues made the overall experience unpleasant.
I can’t blame the app entirely for its poor performance on my phone (the Samsung Galaxy S7). There are a lot of potential factors as to why the app acted like it did on my device. Maybe it was the app, or maybe it was the phone itself. Perhaps it’s because I have the Snapdragon version of the S7 instead of the Exynos. Maybe it’s because I have the AT&T version of the S7 rather than unlocked. I don’t know where the issue actually was, but I do think that making the launch available via an exclusive app isn’t the best idea. VR and 360-degree viewing is certainly flashy, new, and even interesting, but I can't imagine I was the only one that experienced issues. While I wouldn’t say that OnePlus (or other companies) shouldn’t do VR or 360 launch campaigns in the future, I do think they should include an alternate desktop option for easy-viewing as well in the future.
I have had issues with my Galaxy S7 force closing and stuttering recently (more than I expected, which is a little disappointing given its flagship status and price tag) but none were as extensive as what I experienced with OnePlus’s Loop app, which leads me to believe this is issue is a result of both the app and the Galaxy S7 combined. It's mostly disappointing because I think I expected better consistent performance out of a flagship phone, and my particular S7 has trouble keeping up sometimes.
Fortunately, while the launch of the OnePlus may have been an abysmal experience for me, it looks like a solid phone with a solid price tag, and should definitely be considered if you’re in the market for a new daily driver. I think the idea of launching in VR is interesting, but I don’t think it’s the best way to launch a product yet.