The demand for value smartphones – not just cheap or super high-end smartphones, but a solid middle ground – is higher than ever.
Google’s Nexus program has helped shape and change the direction of the smartphone market, if only slightly, in favor of smartphones with a whole lot of value and superb performance for as little cash as possible.
And even Motorola has lent a hand in pushing for better smartphone pricing; both the Moto X and Moto G, as we’ve explained several times now, have proven that specs and pricing don’t have to be over the top to provide a solid user experience and stellar performance. In fact, Motorola has gone against the grain and created to mediocre devices with attractive pricing, and in the process, it grabbed everyone’s attention. We heard Motorola loud and clear.
Nokia has also added to the extreme value side of the smartphone equation, with devices like the Lumia 520 and 630.
Now more manufacturers want in on the more spicy side of the market – the value side of the market that seems to drum up more attention and excitement than any other part.
OnePlus, in particular, is one company which is raising the bar in a big way. It’s been causing waves for the last few months, purposefully teasing the phone and assuring everyone of how disruptive it will be once it’s finally released.
Yesterday, the startup officially announced the OnePlus One, calling it the “2014 flagship killer.” On the surface, that’s exactly what it seems to be. It has specs which are comparable to – if not better than – all the biggest players’ flagships: a Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB RAM 16 or 64GB storage, 3,100mAh battery, 13-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX 214 camera, and a 5.5-inch 1080p LCD. All of that can be had for the starting price of $299 once it officially becomes available, or you can opt for the 64GB model for an additional $50.
The maxed-out OnePlus One will be sold for $50 less than a base model Moto X or Nexus 5. That’s not just a great deal, it’s a statement: OnePlus isn’t playing around and it means business.
But the One and its attractive price and value pose a serious problem: incredibly high demand, at least inside the tech enthusiasts crowd. As such, OnePlus has prepared for a barrage of sales by crafting a unique – and admittedly clever – launch process.
Starting sometime tomorrow, OnePlus will open the flood gates in what the company is calling the OnePlus Phone Smash. The first 100 Ones will be available to applicants willing to smash their current phone in exchange for paying only $1 for a One. Those chosen will then have the ability to invite their friends to buy the OnePlus One at full price.
And this is where I have an issue with the OnePlus One launch schedule.
The OnePlus One will initially launch in 15 countries worldwide: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States. Only 100 people will have the ability to get the OnePlus One initially, and everyone else will have to wait to be invited. The odds of you actually knowing someone who was accepted and getting invited are pretty low, which means you will inevitably have to wait – unless you or a close friend are very lucky.
Then there’s the bigger question: how many invites to applicants get? Do those who are invited also get to invite more people? How quickly is OnePlus going to allow this invitation process to spread? How long will it be before everyone can get their hands on a OnePlus One?
Yes, the OnePlus One is a bargain – no question. It’s enticing at its price point, and the marketing behind it is genius. Smash your current phone to get a new one for $1. I imagine there are thousands upon thousands who would be willing to do that for a OnePlus One this second. It’s really, really clever.
Frankly, however, I’m not virtually lining up to buy one, to smash any of my phones, or to buy into this fabricated elitist invite-only launch.
As I told Michael when he and I were discussing the matter this afternoon, none of this actually encourages me to buy the phone – at least no more than I’m willing to buy something like the Nexus 5. It’s a great deal and I like the idea of rooting for the underdog who wants to fix the broken model of the smartphone market. I’m all for that. But I’m not actually encouraged to spend $349 on the OnePlus One.
I, like most, am enticed to smash some old phone I have laying around to get a OnePlus One for $1 (until I think of how gimmicky and wasteful that actually is, as well as how slim the odds are of me actually being chosen).
But the whole invite-only schtick is not my cup of tea. Thanks to cheap, one-day delivery and countless on-demand services, my patience is very short-lived these days. I want and expect things immediately, and just the idea of waiting for someone I know to invite me to buy a phone does not appeal to me. Waiting for the Nexus 5 to come back in stock (more than once) played a major part in pushing me to buy a One M8 instead.
I would much rather see a more traditional approach. We have 100,000 units at launch. Come get ’em.
Still, I understand why the company is doing it this way, and I think it’s made the best of the all-too-common conundrum of excessive demand. It’s a small-scale company and had to do something to soften the blow. But the invite-only process has all but made me not want a OnePlus One – at least not until the initial rush is over.
I definitely want to try one out at some point. But I don’t care to partake in the additional demand that has been created out of thin air. I’d rather duke it out with hundreds of thousands of other people in a sprint to click the Add to Cart button first than to hurry up and wait for someone to invite me to buy one.
What say you, folks? Do you like how OnePlus has approached the launch of its 2014 flagship killer? Do you enjoy the exclusive feeling of an invite-only launch schedule? Or do you prefer the traditional click race instead? Take to the comments to share you thoughts!