Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The One Phone

20141002_132743-Edit-EditWith some smartphones, you’ve got to wait in line, a very long one, to lay your hands on them. With others, you need to make a mad rush for an online order or preorder system. Which smartphone, can you make a guess, requires you to get invited to buy the gadget? How absurd can that be?

You can’t just buy the phone. You actually have to get invites. Yes, imagine that, you need to be invited to give the company money. We’re not talking about Apple’s iPhone here. Not Samsung. Not even the budget Xiaomi smartphones which saw insanely hot demand in their online sales in the first couple of months they became available.

It’s quite unimaginable. So what smartphone is this, you wonder? It’s the One, from OnePlus. The OnePlus One. If you haven’t heard of this name, then even the name is going to sound confusing to you. The company is called OnePlus. They’ve only thus far produced and sold just one phone ever, and it’s called the One. The OnePlus One is often abbreviated OPO in the online community.

By this time of the year, the OnePlus One is definitely not among the best spec’ed smartphone. The specs are still pretty decent, however. It’s the price that seems to be one of its most stellar attraction, selling at US$299 with 16GB of internal flash memory. It costs just US$50 more, at US$349, for the 64GB version. The OnePlus One design is pretty nice, and it comes loaded with Cyanogenmod 11S, community software built upon the official Android Open Source Project (AOSP). You can read more OnePlus One reviews on Engadget.

The way OnePlus has been selling their One is through an invite system. Yes, can you imagine that, you need to receive an invitation to buy the One. How does one get oneself an invite? There are two primary channels for getting invites:

  1. By entering contests and promotional events on the OnePlus community forums and social media. There are several of them going around from time to time, one just needs to look out for them.
  2. By asking other people who’ve already bought the One for an invite. They’ll need an invite to begin with to buy their One. Once they’ve bought their One, they’ll receive a couple of invites to give out to others.

As if the One is such a hot and desirable gadget, there some sort of market sprung up to exchange or trade in invites. Oh yes. Not surprising, if you think about it. Money isn’t enough to buy the phone. Invites are apparently the scarcer resources. So we have enterprising fellas selling invites on eBay. Friendly people who post their invites freely in community forums find that bots are snatching away the invites instantly. There are even scams to trick people into accepting an invite, buy the One, and then have the One hijacked from them.

I’ve not heard this happening with any other smartphone, or phone of any sort. In fact, people are even begging for invites in the OnePlus forums. This is just amazing, isn’t it? All from a brand you, or at least most people, haven’t heard of.

OnePlus doesn’t spend on advertising or marketing. You don’t see any OnePlus advertisements. Their entire marketing seems to revolve around their clearly ingenious invite systems. That’s their marketing, one that doesn’t seem to need much money at all. Yet they’ve generated so much hype, so much demand, people are going crazy over getting invites to give money to OnePlus.

How the OnePlus and their One come about is also a rather interesting story. They are a Chinese company, not even a year old, founded by the previous Vice President of OPPO, another Chinese smartphone manufacturer. OPPO turns out to be also a big investor in OnePlus, so the companies seem to in sort of a parent-subsidiary relationship. Furthermore, OnePlus doesn’t have their own manufacturing plant, but instead leverages on OPPO’s. It sounds like OnePlus is an experimental no-frills setup by OPPO.

Are you longing for the One?

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