In case you have had your head buried in the sand for the past couple of months there will be a phone officially announced by a new startup company at 6pm today (AEST). The level of interest in this phone, the OnePlus One, is unprecedented considering the company has never produced a device of any sort before and very few people have seen the actual phone. There have been leaks galore, but the only leaks that seem anywhere close to real are those that have been carefully released by OnePlus itself.
OnePlus is a company started by Pete Lau, a former VP of Oppo, another Chinese phone manufacturer. Incidentally the OnePlus One is to be manufactured by Oppo itself. Some have speculated that both companies are owned by the same company but at this stage that is unknown. It is not uncommon for a company to have more than one brand/face in the same industry. Pete has said all along that he is making a phone designed for the enthusiast. They want the best available specifications at the best possible price. Evidence of this is their motto “#NeverSettle”. How do they plan on doing this? By spending very little on marketing, instead relying on word of mouth and marketing via social media channels.
They will not have traditional distribution channels, instead shipping the devices from their own warehouses at various locations around the world. Sounds great doesn’t it. There is a catch though. They will not ship to all countries around the world. Why? No one knows for sure. Being a startup company I suspect that they are starting off small but if successful they will spread to other countries.
Australia is NOT one of the lucky 16 countries or regions that they will ship to. This has annoyed many people who were interested in this device, one of them being one of our esteemed editors. Without naming names I can understand why he is upset with them for this. How hard is it to stick an Australian address on a label rather than a USA label? Ask DHL how much the shipping is, pass this onto the buyer. Easily done.
Their older sibling Oppo is able to ship phones to anyplace on the planet so why can’t OnePlus? Could it be the possible warranty issues? They want to limit it until their company grows and they can handle warranty issues worldwide? Surely it would just be a case of sending the device back to the country of origin? For us it would most likely be Hong Kong. So if you are interested in purchasing the OnePlus One you will have to use a mail forwarder from the States. Simple right? Unfortunately not.
OnePlus, due mostly to what is suspected to be a limited supply of phones, have introduced an invite system if you wish to purchase a OnePlus One you will need to receive an invite to get one. Sounds elitist right? Sounds like Willy Wonka and his golden ticket doesn’t it?
How do you get an invite? No one knows.
Once you do get one though and you purchase a phone you will then have a couple of invites to give away to others in need. Pay it forward. Why are they doing it this way? I suspect it is for a couple of reasons. This way they cannot sell more devices than they have in stock. They will release invites as they make devices. This way the device won’t sell out, although I still think a pre-order process would be much more effective.
The second reason I think they may be doing it this way is to prevent meltdown of their servers from thousands of people hitting f5 for their site repeatedly at a specific time. OnePlus would be able to give out a certain number of invites per hour and thus their servers will not come under the pressure that even Google’s servers have cracked under (remember the Nexus 4 debacle?). Hopefully it will result in a seamless experience for all those lucky enough to receive an invite.
One thing though, judging by the comments on their Google+ page and in their forums this invite strategy has put a lot of people off purchasing this device. Some think it sounds very elitist. If I want to give my money to someone to buy their product then I should be able to.
So what do we know so far about the OnePlus One? It will have:
- 5.5in 1080p LCD screen
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 clocked at 2.5GHz (MSM8974AC)
- 3GB RAM
- 16GB or 64GB variants
- GSM and LTE (compatible with Australian frequencies)
- Android Version 4.4.2, CyanogenMod 11S
- 3100mAh non-removable battery
- “Always on” voice listening
- Announced at 6pm AEST, Wednesday 23rd April
- Under $400US
So there we have it. Some extremely impressive specs on a device running an optimised version of CyanogenMod. This device has been built specifically with CyanogenMod in mind. The software will be optimised for the hardware, without the usual bloat that accompanies Android in most of the manufacturers’ Android device offerings (with Motorola and to a lesser extent Sony being the only exceptions).
Why it needs to succeed?
I have been criticised for continuing to cover this device even after Australia missed the list of official release countries. I have several reasons for this, and at least one of this is not just the fact that I am an obstinate old man. (Ed: Agreed!)
Earlier this year there was a fairly strong rumour circulating that Google were going to kill the Nexus program. There are many people out there who love pure stock Android on a device that is built the way Google think an Android device should be built. If it is true that Google are in fact ending the Nexus program then we will not have that anymore.
Sure we will have stock Android devices via the GPE program (although they are not available to Australians- sounds familiar) but those devices are built with the manufacturers software in mind, not Google’s vision.
Does anyone think that Google do not have nightmares about Samsung and the buttons on all their devices, tablets included? We need a manufacturer to keep pushing the stock Android barrow. Who knows where Motorola will end up in the Lenovo scheme of things? Maybe they will also keep pushing the stock Android software, but is just one manufacturer enough?
As I touched on above, GPE devices are devices that have hardware designed for the manufacturer’s Android skin but Google has whacked on their stock Android instead. The device is not optimised for the Google software thus resulting in a compromised experience. Same goes for Nexus devices.
Rarely do we see them get the optimisation to perform flawlessly with the hardware. It is suspected that manufacturers do not spend the time or money optimising the Nexus hardware to the Nexus software that they spend optimising their own devices. Those who have applied the Moto X dalvik and bionic library optimisations to their Nexus 5 will see what a difference a manufacturer optimisation can make. By all accounts the Moto X software runs amazingly well on hardware that is nearly two years old. This is assumed to be due to the optimisations Motorola have performed on it.
Imagine a device that runs pure stock Android (or close to it such as CyanogenMod 11S) where the manufacturer has worked hand in hand with the developer of a custom ROM to optimise the software to the device itself. The OnePlus One device promises to fly. Those of us who love custom ROMs and the customisations they provide will find this device heaven-sent.
The entire industry needs OnePlus to succeed. They need a company that listens to what its punters want and act on it. Not everyone can be satisfied but they do listen. An example of this is the early change from the Snapdragon 800 processor to the 801AC processor after feedback/criticism from their followers.
They have also included both capacitive and soft buttons on the device, allowing for each person’s personal preference (they found that having them didn’t increase the size of the device and they knew that some people didn’t like them so they added the option to turn them off if not wanted).
How many other companies do this?
Other, bigger, more-established companies need to see that a company that listens to its customers and builds a device thinking of them and not the bottom line of their investors can be successful.
A successful OnePlus will shake up the market. It will make manufacturers sit up and take notice.
What are OnePlus doing that makes them so successful? Why do they have such a loyal following that can be likened to the iSheep? How can they offer a device at such a reasonable price and yet still be successful? If OnePlus are not successful (and especially if Google kill the Nexus program) then the average price for a flagship device will be up around the $900 mark.
It doesn’t need to be there.
OnePlus have stated that their OnePlus One will be priced UNDER $400US. Those are Nexus prices. Other manufacturers need to look at this attempt to emulate it, within reason. For instance, if the HTC One M8 was priced under $600 rather than over $800, imagine how many more they would sell. Maybe it would be enough to put them back in the black?
So while many have jumped off the OnePlus bandwagon I am firmly on it. I will be following the announcement this evening (albeit on Twitter- but don’t get me started on the lack of a live stream) closely and I will be doing all that I can to get my hands on an invite to buy a OnePlus One. I am willing to be the guinea pig. I am willing to support the underdog.
I want OnePlus to be successful and will support them by buying their device. In saying that though I will be reviewing it openly and honestly.
Are you interested in the OnePlus One? Will you be parting with your hard-earned to snaffle one?