Two high-profile departures poised to shake up OnePlus and HMD Global
HMD Global and OnePlus are some of the most important players in the smartphone industry right now. Neither company has been around longer than a decade, but HMD Global has managed to carve out a niche selling budget phones with stock-like Android, while OnePlus is setting its sights high with premium phones. However, both companies are now losing key executives, potentially indicating a shift in strategy could be on the way.
Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer at HMD Global, announced on Friday that he had “made the tough decision that is time to move on.” Sarvikas (pictured above) has been one of the most prominent figures at HMD Global, maker of Nokia-branded Android phones, since the company was founded.
After amazing 15 years with Nokia and HMD, I have made the tough decision that is time to move on. I’m so proud of what we have achieved together and know that the success of HMD & Nokia phones will continue. Follow @nokiamobile for Nokia Phones news. Thank you for everything 🙏 pic.twitter.com/ZyCIsu7ouV
— Juho Sarvikas (@sarvikas) March 26, 2021
Sarvikas joined HMD Global as a founding member in 2016 as Chief Product Officer, leading HMD’s engineering, design, and marketing teams. He later became Vice President of HMD Global’s North American operations while maintaining his role as CFO. Before joining HMD Global, he worked at Microsoft as the head of Nokia’s feature phone business, following eight years at Nokia’s original phone division in various management roles. He hasn’t yet indicated where he will work next.
Meanwhile, another top executive at OnePlus is leaving the company: Chief Marking Officer Kyle Kiang (via Input). The news broke shortly after the OnePlus 9 series and OnePlus Watch were revealed. Kiang has worked at OnePlus since 2015, first as the Global Head of Marketing then as Chief Marking Officer since 2019. From 2017 to 2019, he was also the company’s general manager for the North American region. Before OnePlus, he worked at LG and PepsiCo in marketing.
OnePlus has seen other high-profile departures over the past few months, indicating the company may be shifting in a new direction. Carl Pei, one of the co-founders, left OnePlus last year. He’s now working at a London-based startup called Nothing, which aims to launch wireless headphones and other tech products. Several top-level communication members also left OnePlus in 2020.
It’s not clear how Sarvikas leaving HMD Global will impact the company’s product plans, though a shakeup might be exactly what HMD needs. HMD Global has mirrored Motorola’s strategy of releasing a constant barrage of smartphones at similar prices, many of which don’t stand out from the competition. The company’s most recent premium phone is the Nokia 8 V 5G UW, a Verizon exclusive in the United States originally priced at $700 (despite having a mid-range Snapdragon 765G chipset), with only a single promised OS update. Android 11 didn’t start rolling out to HMD Global’s Nokia lineup until February.
OnePlus has also had several missteps recently, though the company remains on a strong trajectory in the flagship smartphone lineup. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro are some of its best phones to date, and OnePlus is expanding into new product categories, like wearables and TVs. However, it’s easy to make the argument that OnePlus is moving away from its roots — pricing for its phones has increased with nearly every generation, and OxygenOS has deviated far from stock Android.
Here’s hoping HMD Global and OnePlus continue to release high-quality and competitive smartphones, because the last thing we all need is a duopoly between Samsung and Apple.