The OnePlus One is a great phone. A high-quality flagship Android phone with the very best specifications at a staggeringly cheap price. It is the best deal smartphone of 2014. There is only one caveat: it is hard to get hold of. To buy the One from OnePlus you need an invite. Once you have the invite you click a link into the email you are sent, log in to the OnePlus site and make your purchase. Here we explain how to get a OnePlus One phone invite, and how to buy a OnePlus One phone without an invite. (See also: Inside the OnePlus One phone: What the specs don't tell you.)
How to get a OnePlus One phone invite
The easiest way is to ask someone who has a OnePlus One to send you an invite. Everyone who purchases a OnePlus One receives a number of invites which they can dole out to friends and family. If you can't immediately bring to mind anyone with a OnePlus One phone, don't be shy. Ask around, post a request on Facebook or Twitter: you never know, you may be able to find a friend with an invite. We wouldn't recommend that you accept an invite from a total stranger, but business is based on connections and you never know your luck.
The other way to get a OnePlus One invite is to enter contests and promotional events hosted on the OnePlus Forums or OnePlus' social media channels, or those hosted by third parties. There's no guarantee that you will win of course. And you will be giving away your data. But if you can stomach those odds it may be worth a shot. (See also: Where is the OnePlus One phone? OnePlus One shipments delayed by customs.)
How to get OnePlus One phone without an invite
You don't actually need an invite to buy the OnePlus One, although there are risks and you won't get quite as good a bargain. Third-party vendors such as MobiCity.co.uk and AliExpress.com claim to have stock that they are willing to ship to the UK. There are other sites listing OnePlus One phones as being in stock. Some of them are via Amazon, too. This offers an additional layer of protection. We're not recommending this route, or any of the sites listed here. But it is an option if you are keen.
AliExpress is up front about the fact that it is shipping from China. It charges $495 for the 64GB OnePlus One, and there are additional fees for shipping. You may well be charged import duty by Customs and Excise, too (I had to pay £31 - since refunded - to import my OnePlus One via OnePlus itself).
Be aware also that the spec may not be exactly the same as the UK version of the phone. You won't have a UK charger, for instance, although any USB charger will work. And you will want to check that the correct LTE bands will work in the UK. Finally, AliExpress is to be credited for being upfront about delivery times. It claims that you may have to wait three weeks or more to get your OnePlus phone.
MobiCity quotes a UK price of £367.19 inc VAT for the 64GB OnePlus One. In the specs it states: 'Please note that this is the Chinese variant of the mobile, with CyanogenMod and Google Play installed prior to order fulfilment.' Delivery times are estimated as 'Dispatched in 7 working days' with an additional box that states: 'This item is being restocked or is located in a secondary warehouse. Such items can take up to 3-7 days to be dispatched. Once shipped tracking details will be emailed to you.' I would expect that you would have to wait a good couple of weeks to get hold of the OnePlus One - at the earliest.
With all of these there are a couple of caveats. For one thing, whenever you purchase from an online store with no UK street address you are running a risk. Mitigate these risks by using a credit card - if the purchase goes wrong it is the bank's money. Also read all the small print to make sure you know exactly what you are getting. Both of the sites mentioned above are clear that they are selling Chinese-spec phone handsets. Be sure that is what you want. (You may also wonder from where they are getting their stock.)
You are also overpaying somewhat. The OnePLus One is great, principally because it is a high-calibre smartphone at a bargain price. The 64GB model sold in the examples above retails from OnePlus for £269 inc VAT and delivery. AliExpress' $495 is £290 before delivery and import tax. MobiCity's £367 is probably about where you'd end up from AliExpress. There's nothing wrong with this, per se. The vendors are charging a premium for grey imports of in-demand products. But by overpaying you are reducing the reasons for choosing the OnePlus. (See also: OnePlus One release date, price, specs, pre-orders: Storm of Invites despite customs delay.)
OnePlus One pre-order system
OnePlus is now also working on a pre-order system for buying the OnePlus One, without needing an invite. It says you'll be able to cancel your order at any time up until the order is processed. The pre-order system is set to go live late October and information will be available one week ahead of it so stay tuned.
"During a limited time window, you will be able to place an order for the OnePlus One. If we have the items in stock, we’ll ship immediately. If we don’t, it will automatically become a pre-order. No matter what, we’ll always tell you our best approximation for when it will ship before you submit the payment authorization (we’ll reserve the payment and charge you when we ship)," the firm said in a blog post.
It also added that while there's a time limit, any amount of orders can be made. The orders which are received, the longer a shipping estimation will be. Customers will be able to choose things like accessories days before placing a pre-order so when the system is live, it will be a simple click of a button.