The OnePlus One was launched earlier this year amidst some very grandiose ideas from OnePlus, it would ‘Never Settle’, including only the best hardware and software. OnePlus quickly went after the Android enthusiasts as a great way to market their phone, promising that rooting would not void warranty, although running CyanogenMod 11S (CM11S) software would mostly negate the need to root. It sounded great in theory and promised to sell by the truckload but now it seems that it may be too late for them.
The OnePlus One seems to have been quite a success story so far: the forums buzzing with excitement as readers receive invites, phones arrive, the “new toy” excitement and discussion of the phones killer features. Users literally were, and some still are, waiting months for an invite to buy the device, hoping that they’re next on the list to get an elusive invite. Waiting months to join the somewhat exclusive number of users rocking the OnePlus One seems to us to be counterproductive to successfully selling a new product, yet the hype surrounding it seemed to be ongoing. Now, several months after release, it seems the hype is dying down with reports of invites, once snapped up in seconds, going unclaimed and thus unused. Let’s look into why this is happening so soon into a product’s life cycle and where to in the future for OnePlus.
Bugs, Bugs, and more Bugs
In the hype that Cyanogen Inc (CM Inc) and OnePlus have created around the phone, they’ve failed on a crucial point: The OnePlus One, when released was not ready to be a daily driver for the average person. As Scott mentioned in his review of the OnePlus One there’s some pretty telling bugs that are/were present that could be a deal breaker for some.
There has been a number of attempts to squash these bugs since either of us have had a OnePlus One (the third OTA was announced last week) and despite their previous updates promising to do so the touchscreen gremlins are yet to be exorcised from the devices. It’s very easy to form an argument that something this pressing impacting the basic functionality of the device should have been resolved before releasing the device to the public – even to people who accept that they’re beta testing the device. Whether this is impacting on sales is unknown but if we had been aware of this issue this late on in the lifespan of the device we may not have purchased so we feel that it must be affecting some people considering the One. OnePlus obviously are aware of the issue and are feeling the heat on it but so far a fix has not been forthcoming.
A number of factors, some of which were public and others merely speculation, contributed to this issue. Some sites have reported that there were some fairly significant under-staffing issues throughout the project. Apparently CM Inc. did not have enough staff to resolve all bugs and present a well-polished operating system in the beginning. They did not realise the amount of work that would be required to put out a stable ROM on a phone, even with access to the entire source code, drivers etc from an early date. Perhaps there was an underestimation of the time investment that the independent contributors to their open source CyanogenMod make for the love/kudos? At this stage on the CyanogenMod bug tracker there are still 396 issues still unassigned to a developer to fix. While many are quite possibly duplicates as people don’t know how to search, there are 7 major bugs still listed, unresolved, not ideal for a phone being marketed as “#NeverSettle”
The Invite System
When OnePlus first announced that they would be releasing the phone via an invite system it was met with hostility and disbelief. To buy a OnePlus One you would have to be lucky to receive an invite to buy one from either OnePlus or someone who previously had bought a device. The amount of people on social media channels and on various forums begging for invites was ugly. Never before had an Android enthusiast had to beg to a company for a CHANCE to buy their phone. http://ausdroid.net/2014/04/17/oneplus-willy-wonka/
There are two theories on why OnePlus used an invite system to sell one of the most sought after phones in recent history. The first reason for the invite system came from OnePlus themselves and was two-fold in it’s explanation. OnePlus state that they were a new company with entire new systems in place with respect to customer support, delivery, return and warranty systems and that they did not have the confidence in their setup it seems to run with a large scale release. They wanted to build it up and let their support systems grow and mature as more devices were released into the market. As it was there was a lot of issues with people getting poor customer support, with some not receiving replies for over a week.
OnePlus’ other reason was that because they were a new startup company operating on a small budget with very little room to move either way (they are selling the phone at cost price apparently) that they could not afford to have stock sitting on shelves. They needed to sell stock as fast as they made it to pay for everything and keep their heads above water. Why they couldn’t do this with a pre-order system is beyond me but the invite system was the way they chose.
The second and non-official reason for the invite system is the theory that they only had limited access to parts and were not able to fulfill demand. I am yet to see any evidence backing this up but support is simple mathematics. If a company has a product to sell, for example LCD screens, are they going to sell it to the large company with an order of over a million screens knowing the company will be back for another order in a month or two and again next year and so on or are they going to sell it to a small startup company with an order of only 10-100 thousand? Obviously they are going to look after the company that will make them more money in the long term first before filling the orders of the small startup. OnePlus were very ambitious with the hardware they put in the OnePlus One and promoted it as being best around and thus could not change it when they realised that the parts required were scarce.
If you believe OnePlus you will subscribe to the first theory and if you are a realist you will subscribe to the second. Either way the invite system in itself may have helped out the company one way or another (depending on which theory you believe) but was a nightmare for customers. It turned many customers away from purchasing the phone and continues to do so. Invites continue to be hard to find at times and at other times they seem to go unused. The hype around the phone is dying down. OnePlus needed to capitalise on the hype they created at the time, not trying to six months later. OnePlus are starting to introduce pre-orders but even those are limited in numbers so we think it is all a little too late.
Limited Purchase and Shipping Locations
There’s a limited number of countries that OnePlus will ship to currently, so even if you get an invite outside of those locations you have to pay extra shipping via a provider like ComGateway to get your device.
Currently the shipping locations are limited to
While this looks to be a decent selection of countries, it’s only sixteen countries with twelve of them in Europe. In the age of a worldwide economy, with courier companies willing to, and used to, shipping packages worldwide on a moments notice at a low cost there should be no excuse for OnePlus not to ship devices worldwide. Their excuse is warranty claims and service providers in each country. It turns out now that even those who are in release countries still have to send their devices back to China for warranty/service so that excuse is now null and void. Google have performed warranty claims and service internationally for many of their Nexus devices so it can be done. This is one place OnePlus need to improve next year.
Too late, it’s Nexus Time!
If the release went perfectly for OnePlus: the bugs all got squashed with their updates, there are no return issues, supply is high, they go to a retail release system (not requiring invite): there’s a big problem looming large for them and it goes by the name Nexus.
The Nexus 6 release is just around the corner!
The Nexus is known to be an “open” phone, easy to unlock, root, and flash a custom ROM onto. The Nexus 6 is apparently (not confirmed through a reliable or verified source) a 5.9” phone, with the direct backing of Google. There’s been very few issues with returning faulty Nexus devices in recent history (the Nexus One is another story) and finally, lets be honest, Nexus phones are usually very attractive pricing. The customers buying OnePlus Ones are the same demographic of enthusiasts who also purchase Nexus devices. This creates direct competition for OnePlus.
When you stack that up, the potential buyers of the OnePlus are likely now going to be in a holding pattern to see what the Nexus 6 actually brings us. If they don’t like what they see they’ll go back and wait for a OnePlus invite but it could spell bad news for OnePlus. If the buyers do like what they see in the new Nexus, the seemingly endless delays in getting invites out and phones in the hands of users will have resulted in lost sales.
It is, without a doubt, an opportunity missed. OnePlus could have sold so many more phones if they’d had stock ready to go in April/May when they announced the phone. Despite this the phone has exceeded all their own expectations so hopefully they release a OnePlus Two next year. OnePlus didn’t expect there to be this much interest in the phone and I don’t think planned on selling as many as they have. To them, the OnePlus One has been successful, particularly with their apparent sales success in China. Hopefully, for their sake it appears that way to their investors so they can work on improving their service next year. Imagine being able to buy a Nexus-type hackers device twice a year- the Nexus in November and the OnePlus in May.
Will there be a OnePlus Two?
We think so. OnePlus is backed by some very rich investors and the phone has sold more than expected. If they look back at their original business plan I am sure it will be deemed a success. We hope they have learned a lot from the experience this year so they can fix the issues for next year. Scrapping the invite system for one would be nice and worldwide shipping would top that off nicely.
Will the OnePlus Two run CM?
We don’t see why not. Word has it Cyanogen Inc. are moving onto other things but we believe that CM Inc. are in it for the long haul. They want companies to see that they can build roms for their phones and CM Inc want to be on as many phones as possible so it doesn’t make sense for them to just drop OnePlus. While the whole OnePlus experience hasn’t been as smooth sailing as CM Inc. had hoped for we think it will look good for future partnerships if they stick it out with OnePlus. We believe their whole business plan is to become an alternative to stock Android. Manufacturers would not have to come up with their own differentiating factors/ROM and could instead put all their time and effort into hardware. They could each get their own versions of CyanogenMod.
We would expect CM Inc. to move to other devices (they did meet with Amazon to discuss this) but continue to work for OnePlus as well. Why only contract for one company when you can expand and work for many? CM Inc. will need to dramatically increase in size if they are going to be able to meet the demand that multiple companies/devices will create. CM Inc. learnt that the hard way earlier this year but if you look through XDA there is no shortage of talented developers around who would jump at the chance to develop on Android for a living so we don’t think CM Inc. will be caught short again.
Unless CM Inc. get a massive exclusivity offer from elsewhere the expectation is they will continue their relationship with OnePlus. This is all on the proviso that OnePlus want them back. My guess would be yes. Why wouldn’t they? Without CM Inc. I have no doubt that the hype internationally around the OnePlus One would have been greatly diminished. There aren’t too many people clamouring to get hold of a phone running ColorOS and high end hardware is a dime a dozen in China. CM11S was the differentiating factor.
So what happens now?
We both have OnePlus Ones. Does it now demonstrate a weakness in the OnePlus One that we are both considering purchasing the Nexus 6? Can anyone else see the problem when we have a phone that runs stock Android (sort of) that we both love and prefer, has not been superseded by any of the new hardware out there (including the upcoming Nexus 6), and is only a few months old but we are still looking elsewhere? Surely if the OnePlus One was a true success we would not even be considering a new phone? So why are we? It’s the bugs still associated with the phone (be they software or hardware). They can make the OnePlus One a very frustrating experience when it should be the opposite. The alternative is a Nexus so of course we are looking elsewhere. The Nexus name is synonymous with Google and Android and thus is always at the forefront of our thoughts. OnePlus needed to be earlier and needed to be available to all.
Hopefully the OnePlus Two irons out all these bugs and we can all buy it directly from them, without the need for an invite. This is a worldwide economy now. It can’t be that hard to slap a Fedex sticker on it and post it to Australia. If they want our money next year we feel they need to lift their game and actually offer a good experience throughout the entire process, from researching and purchasing the device to using it every day.
How about this for a process for purchasing the OnePlus Two:
- Open up Oneplus.net
- Click on the OnePlus Two
- Read the specs
- Click “Buy It Now”
- Enter CC/PayPal details
- Enter Australian shipping address
- Receive phone in mail 5 days later
- Enjoy a fully functional bug-free phone
Seems simple doesn’t it? Unfortunately OnePlus could not deliver that experience this year but we have high hopes for next year.