Earlier this year, we saw the release of the OnePlus 3 and it was instantly lauded as one of the best phones you could buy for the price, and everything that the OnePlus brand was supposed to be. It was no surprise then that the launch of the OnePlus 3T was met with equal parts delight and disappointment. People who were on the fence to buy a smartphone for around Rs. 30,000 could now purchase a slightly better version of a good product. But if you had already bought the OnePlus 3, then you were understandably going to feel cheated.
The OnePlus 3T has a slightly-better Snapdragon 821 chip (compared to the Snapdragon 820 on the OnePlus 3), a higher-resolution 16-megapixel front-facing camera, and a bigger 3400mAh battery, up from 3000mAh, all packed in the same-sized body. Although most users may not notice a difference in performance, the camera and battery improvements are certainly tangible, as we mentioned in our review.
But OnePlus isn’t the first company to have done this to early adopters. Looking back, we realised that a number of phone companies have actually managed to piss off customers with these out of turn updates, even in recent times. Here are some of the standout instances, in no particular order.
1) Moto G Turbo
The Moto G (Gen 3) was launched in July 2015 to much fanfare, thanks to the popularity of its previous two iterations. It was a great update to the Moto G (Gen 2), with a grippier design, a reasonable 2GB RAM, and 16GB storage, IPX7 water resistance, better battery life, and an updated Snapdragon 410 quad-core chip, among other things.
Priced at just Rs. 2,500 more than the Moto G (Gen 3), the Turbo Edition added an octa-core Snapdragon 615 chip, IP67 certified dust as well as water resistance, and more importantly, a ‘TurboPower’ charger in the box that reportedly delivered six hours of use in just 15 minutes of charging.
2) Galaxy Note 5 Dual SIM
While this year hasn’t been any good for the Galaxy Note series either, last year too Samsung managed to piss off some Note owners (and no, we’re not referring to the comedic stylus issue either).
The Galaxy Note 5 launched in September 2015 in India. This was an interesting year for the Note - generally the Galaxy S series phones would get features first seen on Notes the previous year - but this year it went the other way around. The Note 5 was based on the same glass and aluminium design as the Galaxy S6, and the same 14-nanometer Exynos 7420 octa-core SoC, with some improvements such as more RAM, a bigger battery, and some evolutionary stylus-related features exclusive to the Note line.
And then, just four months later, Samsung pushed out a dual SIM version of the phone, at about the same price. It is a well-known fact that phones with multiple SIM card slots are in high demand in markets like India and China. Knowing this, the fact that Samsung chose to launch the single-SIM version first with no indication that the other phone was coming pissed off a lot of early adopters, who had paid close to Rs. 50,000 for their Note.
3) Oppo F1s
The Oppo F1s was a decent product launched in August this year. With an iPhone-like appearance, a reasonable price tag, good overall performance and interesting features such as panorama-selfies, the F1s had many things going for it.
Which is why it is amusing that just three months after launch, an ‘upgraded version’ of the Oppo F1s was announced, with 4GB RAM instead of 3GB, and double the storage (64GB instead of 32GB). The price difference between the two, you ask? Just Rs. 1,000. It's a pretty big upgrade for a pretty small price bump, and we can only feel sorry for people who bought the original version of the phone.
Beyond these, there are others that also would’ve made existing buyers feel some remorse. For instance, the Xiaomi Mi5 launched in India in February 2016, only to be put out of the spotlight by the Mi5s that was out this September. It hasn't launched in India yet, and it's probably going to take just long enough that people won't feel the sting, just like in the home market of China, but even so, we're certain that people here would have looked a little askance at the announcement.
Then there's Sony of course, which for years had an absurd 6 month release cycle for its flagship Z series phones, making owners feel terrible like clockwork. HTC too has a very confusing product line at times. The most recent example is the HTC 10 evo, which HTC positioned as a watered-down version of the HTC 10, except it also trumps the latter in some ways, such as by offering water resistance.
Last year, HTC launched two versions of its flagship for different markets. Western markets got the HTC One M9 with a full-HD display, running on a Qualcomm chip, whereas markets like India got the One M9+, with a quad-HD display, and a MediaTek chip. At that point, you don't know whether to be angry or just confused.
Companies are of course free to tweak their product lines as they see fit, but we hope they also keep an eye on how users perceive this behaviour. For now, as consumers, we can only look at what brands have done in the past, and try and see which phones are worth buying right away, and which ones should give you pause and make you wait a few months, just to be safe.