For a startup that’s not even a year old, China-based OnePlus has been doing an amazing job at drumming up the excitement for its first smartphone, the OnePlus One.
And if OnePlus keeps all its promises, all the fuss might actually be worth it. Who wouldn’t be interested in an affordable device offering high-end specs and a custom version of CyanogenMod?
The only small problem? Not everyone will be able to buy the OnePlus One, at least not at launch.
In a posting on the company forums, Carl Pei, Director of OnePlus Global, announced that the One will be made available on a system called the “OnePlus Invite System”. In simple words, you will need an invitation in order to claim a OnePlus One. Each buyer will be able to send a number of invitations to their friends, while some invitations will be made available through contests and other promotional activities. The number of invitations will be limited in the beginning, and will ramp up once sales gain steam.
Why is OnePlus doing this?
In their own words, “it’s very hard to predict the future, and hardware is expensive. Producing larger batches means tying in more capital and increasing risk. Making too many devices that end up not being sold can bankrupt a business easily”.
This may be a really smart move
The company thinks the pre-order system and the batch system are frustrating and cumbersome for customers. Going for an invite system has the advantage of limiting logistic and production risks. And, if things work out as OnePlus hopes, the system could provide excellent word of mouth promotion, as well as create the illusion of scarcity, thus making the OnePlus One seem even more valuable.
But the move could also backfire. If OnePlus misjudged the interest of customers or their willingness to jump through hoops to buy the One, the whole scheme could turn into a fiasco.
Regardless of how it works out, OnePlus deserves praising for the willingness to take risks and try out new approaches. In an industry dominated by entrenched rivals with billions in their war chests, a young, gutsy company from China might actually prove you can make things differently.