Unless you have been living under a rock the last year (if you have and the first site you’re visiting is Techaeris, thanks!), you’ll know about OnePlus’ Invites system to sell their phones. When it was first introduced, it was questioned and ridiculed but people accepted it (at least, as best as anyone accepts anything on the internet) and moved on. But now that they’ve announced their decision to stick with the system for the OnePlus Two, I thought it was time to take another look at it.
Let’s consider why they opted for the system in the first place. OnePlus’ FAQs page says “Instead of limited stock runs, we prefer to have people know for sure when they will be able to purchase their OnePlus One.” That makes sense, the company was just a few months old back then and they weren’t sure if they’d be able to meet the demand for the OnePlus One. The FAQs also go on to say “If you receive an invite, it means that there is a OnePlus One waiting for you at our warehouse, ready to be shipped!” Fair enough, I say.
Then, OnePlus went and lost some of my (and many others’) respect by pulling rather ridiculous, and one outright sexist, stunts. Sure, they apologized for the sexist one, but it often felt like the company enjoyed watching customers jump through hoops to get their hands on a OnePlus One. It did get easier as time passed, but the newer phones released, some with pretty good specs, made trying to get an invite seem pointless.
But, okay, let’s accept it was necessary for the first phone. Yes, they were only a few months old and perhaps would have found it difficult to meet the tremendous demand for the OnePlus One. But now, a year later, the entire tactic feels pointless. OnePlus has established itself and has (hopefully) figured things out with production. They are backed by Oppo and they obviously do have the means to make high quality phones with great specs without making much profit. Now, the entire Invites system feels more like a marketing gimmick, simply to increase the hype and keep the discussions going, thus getting more attention for the phones, especially since almost all of OnePlus’ marketing campaigns are conducted online, for free. OnePlus spends next to nothing in advertisements, by their own admission.
So what’s the alternative? Even if it isn’t immediately possible for OnePlus to sell its phones regularly like other manufacturers, they could have a pre-ordering or a flash sales system, like their competitors Mi, among others. However, OnePlus’ co-founder Carl Pei has made his displeasure with the pre-ordering and flash sales system quite clear, in this post on the OnePlus forums. However, in my very humble opinion, participating in weird contests and waiting for an invite is just as bad as waiting for a flash sale to start or for the delivery of a pre-ordered phone. Also, getting an invite isn’t as great an honor as OnePlus often makes it out to be.
Here’s hoping that the Invites system is abolished as soon as possible. Making the phone difficult to buy might get attention but actually selling it to the customers, who have alternatives to look at now, will help OnePlus in the long run.