Billy Zhang is not your typical manager. Although now holding One of the most important positions in Oppo (Vice President and Head of Overseas Sales and Services, aka Oppo’s top executive outside China) prefers to describe himself as a “product engineer and tech savvy.” These are no empty words: Billy has been at Oppo since 2008 and has gone through multiple positions and departments to reach his current role. Although this is mostly related to sales, Billy Zhang admits that he is aware of everything about the product.
Experienced Oppo’s transformation firsthand: the company started in 2004 mp3 players and DVDs and released its first smartphone in 2011. Since then the Chinese brand made a significant leap in growth It managed to rank among the top five manufacturers in sales both in China and Europe, without making the headlines as much as other brands.
On the occasion of MWC, I had the opportunity to sit down with Billy Zhang and talk about Oppo’s past, present and future. We started our interview by talking about exactly that. Changes in the company since 2008, date of establishment, until now. He confirms that although he started working in the MP3 product division, Oppo was already working on mobile phones that year and they moved away from the rest of the business in the following years.
Zhang describes 2015 as a milestone when they started working on “a complete ecosystem with a mobile phone at the center, powered by other accessories.” However, the Oppo executive emphasizes that something has not changed since 2008: “Your work culture”. “We’re very focused on creating great products. That’s the starting point for all the work we do from the ground up. Even though I’m currently working in the sales department, I also spend a lot of time tracking the progress of the product itself.”
Big bet on folding phones
Billy Zhang is a big fan of flip phones and He believes they are the phones of the future.: “If we’re cautious about it, our estimate is that foldable phone shipment volume will be around 42 million units by 2026.” And also the present: the manager assures that the shipment volume is increasing at the moment.
“Future foldable phones will have the potential to offer the same level and experience as traditional phones”
While Oppo isn’t the first brand to launch a foldable phone, Billy Zhang explains it. have been working on it for years and they didn’t launch it until they were convinced of the final product (Oppo Find N arrived in December 2021). That’s why he says they have a great deal of experience: “We’ve worked on 6 prototypes for 4 years, we have about 1,600 patents on them, we have a team of over 300 people dedicated solely to the development of folding”, he reassures. We believe that foldable phones in the future have the potential to deliver the same level of experience and experience as traditional phones, if not better, so they have the potential to replace traditional phones.”
“I’ve seen the next two or three generations of our foldable phones. They’re great products and I think they’re going to replace traditional phones,” he says, both convinced and excited at the same time. I feel the nervousness of all Oppo employees who witnessed the interview. Luckily for them, and unfortunately for me, Billy Zhang didn’t see fit to share more details with us.
Beyond this interview, it’s clear that Oppo is betting heavily on foldable devices after Oppo first launched a phone with these features outside of China: the Oppo Find N2 Flip in “clamshell” format. The Oppo Find N2 in book format is not and seems unlikely to be available in Spain. We’ll see if that changes in the next generations.
However What if that’s not the case and foldable phones remain niche? What about Oppo and its big bet? “Impossible. We are so confident in our product that it is impossible,” Billy Zhang says with a laugh. Now more seriously, he explains that they have already started showing their new generation folds to their partners and distributors. “Everyone is excited for them, so it’s impossible.”
Entry-level phones? Folding tablets?
Regarding what other products we can expect from Oppo, Billy Zhang hinted that they will launch a tablet: “We think this type of device has great potential to offer a connected experience with the smartphone itself. As well as accessories like a keyboard or a Bluetooth mouse. has the potential to replace the laptop.” The tablet, meanwhile, was presented by Oppo a few days later: the Oppo Pad.
I had the opportunity to ask If Oppo launches a foldable tablet. “It’s a secret,” Zhang replies with a laugh. I have no proof, but I have no doubt that both Oppo and other manufacturers have been experimenting with this format for years. In fact, Samsung recently dared to show a prototype (very prototype) to the public.
I’m also very curious about Oppo’s strategy. They’re very focused on the premium range, and although they do have the occasional mid-range alternative, the entry-range and A-series have been somewhat abandoned lately. For Billy Zhang, there are two keys when thinking about phones and prices. The first is that a product must always “meet the user’s needs in a way that he expects in a price range”. The latter is already more economical: “The second idea is that any product we launch should provide a margin. We can’t sacrifice margin just to get into a price war.”
One of Oppo’s challenges is to better understand the consumer outside of China.
When I ask the Oppo Vice President about the challenges Oppo is facing, he clearly answers: “I think one of these challenges is internal. We are currently developing our business abroad and there are still many unmet needs for foreign consumers.
Their second challenge is to communicate their philosophy to the public so they can see that they are a brand that cares about the end product and user experience. “That’s why we think Expertise Instill confidence, that’s Oppo’s motto. For example, we need to make consumers understand that we have a strong market. Expertise in the field of technology. Let’s take shipping as an example. While other competitors measure battery health at just 800 charge cycles, we measure battery health up to 1,600 charge cycles.”
I ask him about the current state of mobile phone sales, though he doesn’t refer to it as a challenge, and 2023 is not a very good year for these mobile devices: fewer smartphones are sold In 2022, that is, in 2021… 2023 is in this respect the worst year since 2013. Zhang is optimistic: “There should be a global development in the third quarter. In some markets, like China or India, it will happen sooner.”
Where will Oppo be in five years?
I end the interview with one of my favorite questions: If Billy Zhang and I sat down and talked again in five years, what would we be talking about? About what technology or products? What shall we say about Oppo? Billy Zhang is clear on this: In addition to continuing to focus on users and work to associate the Oppo brand with a trusted brand, We’re not just talking about phones..
“We will have tablets, we will have wearables, and we will have smart services based on these products, including smart learning and smart entertainment. All this complements the product experience and gives our brand recognition by users. I think we will do very well in these areas,” he said. Zhang says.
Billy Zhang’s passion for foldable phones can be seen right down to the last sentence he told me in the interview: “Maybe by then, we will be a major competitor, a very important competitor in the global foldable phone market. maybe number one“.
on Xataka | The future of the smartphone is folding. They only have two problems to overcome
Emma Ortiz is a gadget expert and author at Div Bracket. She provides in-depth coverage of the latest and greatest in consumer technology, offering readers an inside look at the latest trends and innovations in the world of gadgets.