Interview with Liu Zuohu, Chief Product Officer of OPPO: How to make the popularization of folding screens?

In many public occasions before, Liu Zuohu would put the title of "chief product manager" before "founder". This is not so much the willfulness of the boss, as it is that he always puts the product first in his heart. After he returned to OPPO, his Weibo profile was changed to "OPPO Chief Product Officer, OnePlus Founder". No matter how many changes, the product priority remains the same.

When this interview did not start with a product issue, Liu Zuohu bluntly said, "Talk about what is going on, it has nothing to do with the theme, let's talk about the product." Then, OPPO Find N was taken out by him, which was responsible after he returned to OPPO. The first product, a folding screen mobile phone that broke the price ceiling of OPPO's ordinary mass-produced phones, and took four years and six prototypes to be released.

How does Liu Zuohu make good use of the popular folding screen?

Although folding screen mobile phones are not uncommon, this new category is separated from popularization by a door. There are several locks on the door: bulky size, deep screen creases, system software is not well adapted, and the price is more than 10,000 yuan. .

Each of these is a pain point for consumers. When the four pain points come together, it is difficult for manufacturers to persuade consumers to buy and use a folding screen mobile phone for a long time, except for having money and curiosity to try new things.

OPPO's call out "from early adopters to common use" actually requires courage and insight. After all, the grand nihilism similar to "folding a new era and opening a new world" is not even responsible. Who says the new world is better? But to be used frequently, it must be easy to use.

When I was chatting with a colleague who reviewed Find N the night before, I asked about his experience. His answer was simple:

It can be used as a main engine.

Folding screens want users to use them conveniently and conveniently, and it takes several times the effort of ordinary mobile phones, as well as years of observation and thinking. Liu Zuohu said frankly that when he saw the foldable screen phone coming out in 2018, he had not yet figured out what is the different experience and value of it.

It was also at this time that OPPO had already started the research and development of folding screen mobile phones. Four years had passed by the time Find N was released.

However, OPPO has always had the tradition of "competing first in the future". Liu Zuohu wants to use Find N to unlock the door and make this phone a popular work for folding screens.

The origin of the Find N gold size

The beginning of Find N was actually a flash of inspiration.

Just as the period between Find 7 and Find X was exactly 4 years, and many unavailable Find 9s were cut off in the middle, Liu Zuohu actually had 26 versions of the whole machine design plan in front of him, more than 120 model machines, of which only 5.49 inches outside. The screen with a 7.1-inch internal screen made Liu Zuohu's eyes shine.

Liu Zuohu has repeatedly emphasized that this feeling is what he wants. The feeling of taking Find N out of a crowded elevator without feeling cramped or embarrassing, because it is delicate enough not to be as big as a flat plate after unfolding, and not to be closed after being closed. Long as a remote control.

Liu Zuohu's famous saying is "feeling really TM cool." Since then, he has always emphasized the feel of the product. In fact, the hand feel is a kind of sensibility based on rationality. Here, Liu Zuohu has a considerable say and self-confidence. The current size is determined by him. Liu Zuohu said:

Didn’t I keep talking about the feel, after all, the phone has been with you for too long, so it must make you comfortable together. We had several models to choose at the time, and there was one that was slightly longer than this one. Many people chose that one. In fact, this is my arbitrariness. I said that I would choose this size because this size is quite special. .

I can't say that it really makes you uncomfortable when it grows so little, but it's just a feeling.

In fact, it is difficult for you to grasp the degree of the product. There is no data formula. In the past, we pursued the thickness of mobile phones, but now it is 7.9 mm. Multiple 0.1 mm batteries can be added to 70 mAh. Do you think 1 mm has much effect on your feel? In fact, you can't say that it will make people crazy if it is 0.1 mm more. No, you can have 0.1 mm more today. It is 8 mm. Can more than 0.1 mm work? It doesn't seem to be a problem. But the product does not do this. Sometimes it is a kind of your pursuit and intuition. It is controlled to a certain degree. It feels really cool when you get it for a moment. It can be controlled with one hand, which is intuition.

This is more like a process of "enlightenment". In the words of OPPO employees, it is a process of "thinking". This process is "I didn't think clearly" in 2018, and "it is it" in 2021.

After "thinking", it is "doing it".

Liu Zuohu said that in order to popularize folding screens, in addition to choosing a golden size that does not sacrifice experience, two industry problems must be solved in hardware: crease and durability.

How to achieve almost no crease?

In order to solve the crease problem, OPPO innovatively replaced the traditional folding "U-shaped half-fold" solution with a "drop-shaped folding" solution. However, to actually realize the folding of the screen like a water droplet, the key is hinge technology.

When asked about this key technology, Liu Zuohu directly spoke out the result:

When I had a chat with the people from the hinge factory, they said that this is the best hinge design they have ever seen in the industry.

OPPO is one of the few manufacturers in the industry with extensive experience in mechanical structure, from the sliding cover structure of OPPO's first Android phone Find, to the manual flip camera of N1, to the stepper motor flip camera of N3, to Find X The dual-track periscope lifting structure, this company rooted in the hot land of Chinese hardware design and manufacturing, is very fond of inserting exquisite mechanical structures in the square inch of the mobile phone. This time, Find N's "precision pseudo-vertical hinge" is even more so. .

Structurally, the hinge determines the opening and closing of the mobile phone and is a key part of the folding screen mobile phone. Functionally, whether the hinge can hover determines how many forms the phone has and how many functions it extends. The most important thing is whether the hinge design and manufacturing level can turn the innovative idea of ​​"drop-shaped folding" into reality, which ultimately determines the size of the screen crease.

When it comes to hinges, it is also when Liu Zuohu was happiest and most willing to show during the interview: he asked Find N to clamp a piece of ordinary A4 paper, because the hinge is precise and firm, and the folding screen is tightly stitched after being closed, so that you can hold A4 in your hand. Paper, the Find N below can hold the paper firmly like a clip without falling, which avoids the safety hazards of the user during daily use. "If some sand or other foreign objects are sewn from this, the phone may be in trouble. ."

This hinge manufacturer calls it the best design in the industry. It is completely independently developed by OPPO. It has 125 patents and 136 parts. The processing accuracy reaches 0.01mm, which is equivalent to 1/10 of a hair. The hinge is more than 3 times higher than other U-shaped hinges and costs more than $100. The results are also gratifying: the screen creases are 48% less than similar.

And some experiences that are difficult to express with data: the subtle changes in force between opening and closing, the steady sound of the phone closing, the third hovering experience besides folding opening and closing…

Must be durable

In addition to reaching the shallowest crease in the industry, OPPO also needs to overcome the durability of the screen itself. This is also a psychological obstacle that affects many users' "commonly used folding screens".

In addition to the large volume of goods and the advantages of "doing business", the reason why OPPO is so popular with supply chain partners is that they can always further optimize the supply chain plan. Find N's folding inner screen solution-"UTG ultra-thin flexible glass" and "patent gradient mesh matrix" are jointly developed by OPPO and Samsung, which means that OPPO did not get this E5 luminous material, 120Hz refresh rate screen device Go up and you're done.

The thickness of this piece of UTG flexible ultra-thin glass is only 0.03 mm, which is 1/20 of the glass cover of a conventional mobile phone. After special nano-level tempering, a strong prestress is formed on the glass surface, so that the glass can be folded freely. 200,000 times without damage.

The patented simple texture matrix is ​​another example, and it is also a point that Liu Zuohu is quite proud of: Initially, the Samsung Display team insisted on persuading OPPO to use its own solution, but after verification, it was found that OPPO's gradient texture matrix solution was more reliable.

In terms of the current technical level, this time, Liu Zuohu and his team have almost turned user pain points and technical difficulties into bright spots. This folding screen can be bent 200,000 times in an environment of minus 20 degrees Celsius without physical damage, ensuring the user's normal use for more than 5 years.

The harder thing to do than hardware is to make software for folding screens

ColorOS has gone from a mediocre reputation to a good reputation now. It has also undergone several generations of updates in the middle, from a short board to a long board.

But when this long board is to be installed on the folding screen, it may not fit perfectly.

The problems to be solved by folding screen mobile phones are not only on the hardware, but also on the system software. The development trend of mobile phones, tablets and TVs tells us that large screens are justice, but in the process of becoming larger, problems continue to emerge. Forcibly stretching the screen without applying application adaptation may bring an appalling experience.

The hardware problem is solved once and for all, but the software problem is Sisyphus-like, pushing the stone up forever. Liu Zuohu said:

The problem of adaptation is indeed a very challenging thing. The workload is four to five times that of an ordinary flagship machine, and even they told me last time it might be six times. Because we need to talk about adaptation one by one for the application of this head. Including our own system applications, we also need to design separately. For example, the software that I just showed you to take pictures, we have some innovative user experiences, which have to be re-developed, and some of this architecture needs to be rewritten. For example, the architecture of software stores will also need to be changed according to the screen reproduction architecture. This workload is indeed very large, and the challenge is greater than the hardware.

The final result is that the current split-screen adaptation rate of Top1000 applications has reached 90%, and the large-screen adaptation rate has reached 80%. Of course, this ratio will increase over time.

From the user's point of view, it is actually a matter of doing well to adapt the folding screen system and software, but Liu Zuohu obviously puts forward higher requirements for product managers. In essence, folding screens are not for users. Mobile phones with larger screens are more possibilities brought about by more forms.

Changing from portrait to landscape, the difference in form and display area also profoundly affects UI and interaction. How to maximize the strengths and avoid weaknesses of the golden size and make incremental value is another dimension of "easy to use", so we can See the new experience of the folding screen mobile phone in the old scene, and the new gameplay brought by the new form.

And the costly hinge can continue to play its magical function here, and it brings the third form of folding screen: free hovering.

At this point, for system and software product managers, Find N’s morphological capabilities are actually a bit overflowing, waiting for them to fulfill their imagination. Free hovering can be regarded as a full-form dual-screen mobile phone with a tripod. Camera, or new era NDS handheld, etc…

After popularizing high-screening, Liu Zuohu began to popularize folding screens

If Liu Zuohu has brought any major changes to the mobile phone industry in recent years, then he must be the first to bring high refresh rate screens to the mobile phone industry. At that time, he described the high refresh rate of mobile phones as "difficult to use once", meaning Once used, it is difficult to go back.

Facts have also proved that high screen refreshing has now become an indispensable configuration for mid-to-high-end mobile phones. If this link is missing, it will basically be labeled as "Intelligent Business Opportunity."

In the interview, Liu Zuohu took Find N and said similar things:

I think the folding screen must be a very important category in the future, even for high-end mobile phones. I can't say half of it, but at least it must be a very, very important trend. The reason for it is very simple. You will know after you have used it. If we have used it now, you will find that you can't go back. This is enough to explain the truth. Just like an electric car, many people questioned this electric car before. Really, after you have driven an electric car, you find that you can't go back.

If this was said three years ago, it is estimated that many people would point to a lot of old-fashioned electric cars that have been converted from petrol to electricity, or cheated to make up for the old man’s Le-type electric car, and said, this is not because I am difficult to recover, but I have to jump off the car at high speed.

But now, both Tesla and the domestic Weilai Xiaopeng ideals have handed over models with good consumer satisfaction. In the fields of interconnected intelligence and assisted driving, they have even left the traditional car companies behind. Personality, nowadays electric cars are no longer the right choice for those who are on the card.

In a word, the turning point has come.

Price is the last obstacle to the popularity of folding

Liu Zuohu believes that similar inflection points also exist on folding screen phones. After Find N largely solves the problems of bulkiness, creases and usability, it is already adequate for the needs of the main machine, and in many scenarios, such as video and strategic card games. , Shooting, finance, shopping and work scenes, it can provide a better experience than ordinary candy bar phones. The current situation is that everything is ready and only owes east wind, Liu Zuohu said:

One of the biggest obstacles now is that the user has not experienced it before. He doesn't know how valuable it is. I think this is not only OPPO, it needs everyone in the industry to build this kind of product together. This is everyone's work together. Only when we do it together, everyone will find that this thing is really good. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the contact surface of users. Of course, in the future, I believe that many people of our size will start to follow up.

As people ridicule, the frame of mobile phones will become narrower as the price drops. To open the door to the popularization of folding screens, in fact, the most difficult lock to open is the price.

But the final starting price of Find N of 7699 yuan is actually the best answer to the question raised by Liu Zuohu himself. The biggest obstacle is that the user has not experienced it. The biggest reason is that it is expensive. There is no doubt that Find N is currently the best on the market. Cost-effective folding screen mobile phones, even OPPO and Liu Zuohu do not like to mention the word.

If the work done by OPPO in the front is exchanged for the phrase "can be used as the main machine" from a colleague of Aifaner, then the price of 7,699 yuan will be exchanged for "The price is unexpected; optimistic." It can sell well; it can be sold as a whole."

And, the barrage in the live broadcast room will be "definitely this time" after the price is announced.

The Find series is OPPO's highest-end product line, and Find N is the highest-end product in this product line. In fact, most of the previous time, what Liu Zuohu said to Ai Faner and other media was what OPPO did in the deep water area of ​​technology research and development: to make the best hinge in the industry, and the screen with the shallowest crease in the industry. The system software in the folding screen is easier to use…

The root cause is Liu Zuohu's persistence as a product person. For him and OPPO, it is not difficult for him and OPPO to use the existing technology of the supply chain to make an industry-average folding screen mobile phone and sell it. But the more the inflection point of the mobile phone's shape changes, the more test the driving skills of cornering without slowing down.

Prior to this, OPPO dived into the deep water area of ​​charging, the deep water area of ​​the mobile phone CMF, the deep water area of ​​the mechanical structure, but just as they named their first chip "Mariana", OPPO at this stage is beginning to go to the deepest The place dived.

Thousands of words, at the end of the interview, Liu Zuohu said the most words, "deep water area." Exploring inaccessible places and finding rare fruits in the world is the methodology of Find N this time, and it will also be the methodology of many of their products in the future.

In the plastic greenhouse of destiny, every cabbage that has been sprayed with too much pesticide once had a dream of becoming a pollution-free organic vegetable.

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