We Don’t Think Users are Completely in Tune With What Stock Android is Anymore: OnePlus

Indian users prefer Oxygen OS over iOS!


In a recent study conducted by CyberMedia Research (CMR), OnePlus’ Oxygen OS was adjudged the most preferred smartphone OS by survey respondents. The research revealed that The degree of consumer satisfaction is the highest with OxygenOS from OnePlus (74%) followed by Apple’s iOS (72%).

To understand why users think so and what makes Oxygen OS very popular in India, we had an email interaction with Sam Twist, Senior Product Manager, OnePlus. Here’re the unedited responses from Twist to our questions.

  1. Congratulations on being adjudged the “Most Preferred Smartphone OS” in CMR’s ‘The State of SmartphoneOS Experience’ survey. Why do you think users prefer OxygenOS over other Android skins and iOS?

With OxygenOS 11, OnePlus set out to continue to deliver on the promise of a burdenless experience. Keeping this in mind, our goal was to create an OS that is fast, lightweight, highly customizable that provides a clean user interface and operating system paired with simple aesthetics which can be easily used and understood by our community.

We believe the reason users have preferred Oxygen OS is because the offering was created with the help of our users. Every feature on the OxygenOS was created through community feedback and multiple rounds of testing in both Open and Closed Beta phases. We also believe that another aspect that has been deeply appreciated was our attempt to  bring users quality features that enhanced their experience while interacting with our offerings instead of any array of features, some of which are introduced for the sake of availability. With OxygenOS we have always strived to build on and optimize the stock-android experience and address the evolving needs and preferences of our growing user base. 

Additionally, the community has been very open to providing feedback with software development especially with regards to popular OxygenOS features like Zen Mode. We have added five new themes and additional timing options for Zen mode users. We have also introduced the Group feature in Zen Mode. This has been specially curated to help users interact with their devices in a more intelligent and seamless manner, while maintaining the clean Android experience.

Another feature that is a fitting representation of OnePlus’ philosophy to co-create with the community is Always-On Display. This feature has been highly requested by the community and is something they have shown great keenness towards. We collaborated with Parson’s School of Design, drawing insights from the best in the business to bring the eagerly awaited Always-On Display to OxygenOS11. We also partnered with Snapchat to launch Bitmoji AOD for OxygenOS 11. Not only does this feature liven up a user’s ambient display with a personal Bitmoji avatar, but the Bitmoji will update throughout the day based on a user’s activity and what’s happening around them.

  1. What is wrong with the design of other Android-based skins by competing brands? If you can highlight a couple of points.

With the launch of OxygenOS11, OnePlus’s primary aim was not to move away from Android-based skins, it was to make a dynamic and customizable experience available to consumers. While stock Android makes for a great platform to optimize and further develop, people tend to lose sight of what stock Android really stands for. While users may know theoretically what stock is, we do not think they are completely in tune with what stock is anymore. We believe that the ‘stock feeling’ is about giving users a clean, swift, and highly personalized user experience, and we aim to deliver on all those fronts by building upon the platform.

It is not about creating a clear divide between the Weather, Pay and Cricket Scores apps that users have in India, but it is about empowering the consumer and giving them the option to choose. OxygenOS 11 is the next step in our unending journey to give our users the fastest and smoothest Android experience possible. And, more importantly, OnePlus is proud to consistently be among the first companies to bring the newest versions of Android to our users. In fact, the OnePlus 8T is among the first smartphones globally to launch with Android 11 out of the box.  

  1. How much of Oxygen OS is actually based out of the R&D work that happens in India? 

OxygenOS 11 was created by The OxygenOS team, consisting of 191 members in total. Of these, 30 employees have been solely working on the design for OxygenOS 11. As part of the OxygenOS team, I work with a smaller group called OneLab. This team has offices in London, Taipei, and New York. This group works independently to bring an external perspective to the company, allowing for both a fast and smooth experience. OneLab’s role involves identifying key technology trends from Western markets and partnering with Silicon Valley companies to deliver features that bring about a meaningful experience for our users.

Also read: OnePlus 8T review – polished to a T but missing the X factor

The India R&D team has made contributions to a number of innovative OxygenOS features which have been researched, conceptualized, developed, and tested by India R&D, specifically for the Indian market, from product planning and design perspective. For instance, the team has worked towards developing the all new OnePlus Scout. This allows users to find anything on their device via the current app drawer. Users can easily find anything stored in their device, ranging from files, contacts, documents, to music and apps. Scout also lets users browse content in their apps, such as movies, nearby location, services, and much more. The Indian team is also working on other OxygenOS 11 features for India like Work-Life Balance 2.0 and OnePlus Sport (which earlier allowed easy access of cricket scores and will soon be expanded to include football).

The OxygenOS team that has worked on the global version of OxygenOS 11 has representatives in all regions including India, the US, Europe, and China working together remotely.

  1. Why is Oxygen OS 11 starkly different in design language from previous iterations? What’s the reason behind it?

Through the community feedback funnel, we have seen how important a large screen is to our users, however, to give them a smooth experience while navigating the device, we have used a data-led analysis to identify areas where information could be displayed without being covered by a user’s hand. For this, we tried to build a ‘golden ratio’ which has enabled us to choose the exact screen split for the UI redesign. The broader interface changes will begin to resonate with users once they take into consideration the benefits of one-handed use and the reduced time spent searching for essential information.

What OxygenOS is, is the umbrella around the experience that brings it all together. We strongly believe and demonstrate that all these apps run the best on our devices. So, while stock Android is a great platform to build on, people lose sight of what stock Android is. While users may know theoretically what stock is, we do not think they are completely in tune with what stock is anymore. We believe that the ‘stock feeling’ is about lightweight, fast, performance and customizations, and we aim to deliver on all those fronts by building upon the platform.

It is not about fractioning everything up and putting a divide between the likes of Weather, Pay, Cricket Scores and Cricket Scores apps that users have in India, it is about empowering the consumer and giving them the option. And OnePlus’s OxygenOS 11 is what unifies everything by staying true to the ethos of stock Android with a fast and fluid interface but builds upon the feature-set with a data-driven approach.

  1. Will future iterations of Oxygen OS continue to disrupt design language or is Oxygen OS 11’s new design going to be the base on which future versions will be built?

A burdenless software experience is at the core of product development at OnePlus and will continue to be the philosophy that we build our products by. As has always been the case with OxygenOS, we believe in adding features on the device that greatly contribute to the overall user experience and don’t believe in introducing features only because it is available. With OxygenOS, we have always strived to build on the stock-android experience and address the evolving needs and preferences of our growing user base. 

For example, how we narrowed down to the ‘golden ratio’ to recreate the design UI with the exact screen split or how we collaborated with Parson’s School of Design, drawing insights from the best in the business to bring the eagerly awaited Always-On Display to OxygenOS11. Additionally, the revamped Dark Mode, achieving AA Certification under Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, uses readjusted color tones along with distinctive layers to make content easier to read, delivering a more comfortable and natural viewing experience.

Also, considering the challenges everyone in our community all around the world is facing, we quickly transitioned to help them use their devices as an extension to their thoughts which was captured by the introduction of the Notes app. It helps convert speech to text quickly and efficiently.  Users can add a new voice note directly to quick access(currently supports English and Mandarin Chinese).

With the stark changes in OOS11, we at OnePlus believe, this is another testament to providing our users with an experience that is intuitive and optimized. The primary goal with the design and aesthetic changes on the OxygenOS 11 update was to make navigation on OnePlus devices seamless with a single hand and we will continue to work towards the same goal with our future updates as well. 

  1. Why do the newer phones launched in India – OnePlus Nord and OnePlus 8 – use Google’s default Phone and Messaging apps instead of OnePlus’ homegrown apps? Especially considering a considerable amount of work was done by the Hyderabad R&D team. 

The debut of the Google messages app and the Google dialer on the OnePlus Nord and the OnePlus 8 was decided after careful consideration of ways to maximise user experience. The launch of Google Comms suite on OnePlus will provide a centralised platform of accessibility across Android devices. Hence, by having Google onboard, OnePlus is providing that familiar platform while also providing a smooth experience with OxygenOS.

  1. Will we see more India specific features on Oxygen OS going forward? If you can give us a sneak peek of any specific feature under development that would be great too.

India is the largest market for OnePlus with the biggest user-base, making the feedback funnel most enriching and diversified, giving us an opportunity to best understand what works best and narrowing down on areas that require improvements. Many OnePlus features are being piloted in India and scheduled for a roll-out world over. For instance, the Work-Life Balance 2.0 and OnePlus Sports have been initiated by the India R&D center and will be released in the coming quarter. 

  1. This is a long shot, but is OnePlus working on any sort of unified software features to bring together all the pieces of the iOT ecosystem, the one major missing piece of the puzzle that gives iOS a major advantage over Android brands?

Earlier this year, we announced our new business strategy where we announced that globally we are diversifying our business by expanding product portfolio to share OnePlus’ leading technology with more users around the world through new product lines and a wider range of price points. 

As a growing company, we are consistently exploring opportunities in innovation and giving out users a software experience which is fast, smooth, and most importantly burdenless. We always look to address the ever-changing needs of our consumers and our aim for the future is to create an ecosystem which is not only seamless and premium, but also curates an experience which is meaningful. 

So, what do you folks think of Oxygen OS 11? Do let us know in the comments section below.