Tuesday, October 28, 2014

OnePlus' failures

This is an opinion (and essay-style) post (sorta).

Yesterday, OnePlus finally had a milestone in their overall story of the OnePlus One. After months of saying that the invite system would disappear, they are finally making progress. Although, the invite system is still around.

Everyone should know the core reason behind the invite system. It was an easy way to limit the demand as a result of the lacking supply. Demand for this device was overwhelming. According to OnePlus, they are "selling every phone we make". Despite this, they really have been hyping up their new "FlagShip Killer" despite their ongoing inability to meet demand. Well, this device isn't exactly new either, but that's another issue in itself (that isn't very important right now). The pre-order system was a different way to buy the phone. instead of having an invite, which ensures that your new phone will arrive within the next week (or just a little after), you instead reserve your spot in line, receiving your device right off of the assembly line, as soon as you can get the phone shipped to you. Some people were reporting at the end of the (extended) order window that their device will arrive in 8 week. Two months, and perhaps a couple of days, until you get your device.


There's a few failures that OnePlus has had ever since their ever-so-popular device was launched. Here's a few mistakes that come to mind. Some might even tie into others, for a cumulative effect:
  1. Failed/Controversial marketing campaigns
  2. Failed planning
  3. Unplanned demand
  4.  Support system disasters
  5. "Phone defects"
OnePlus sells their phone at the bare minimum. They spend no money (or very very little) on any kind of marketing. instead, they rely on making a great product, and the friends + social media to spread the word. That being said, some of their social media campaigns were not the best. One controversial one that comes to mind was the "Ladies first" campaign. The phone was not even a prize either. It was just an invite to buy the phone. There's other well-known campaign stunts as well, all over the internet.

Failed planning is tied to other issues on this list, but is still rather significant so i decided to make it separate from others. OnePlus created a device with (then) top of the line specs, a large 5.5" screen, and pre-loaded CyanogenMod all available at a starting price of $299 ($349 64 GB Sandstone Black is the most popular and only available one, though). It's also an unlocked device, sweetening the deal even more.

OnePlus said that they mis-calculated demand by over 30x. It's pretty clear that failed planning has been one of the largest mistakes made by OnePlus, at least this time around. I hope that they don't make this mistake again.

I have an issue understanding the supply-demand issues that are in play here. You're offering a device that is a steal for the price, with the specs and design of a flagship, and with a greater value than the Nexus 5. Really though, what were OnePlus thinking? When the Nexus 4 launched on the Play store, it suffered greatly. OnePlus should have been ready for a huge demand for this device.
Yesterday's pre-order was no exception. Thousands of people were waiting for the chance to buy the OnePlus One. You had a 1-hour window. What you got was problems all across the board. It's so simple, that their issue can be demonstrated by an equation:

OnePlus certainly learned from this, and I really hope that they don't make these mistakes again. However, this time around, pre-orders were a bit of a disaster, even though over 20k orders were placed.

OnePlus' success so far has resulted in a disaster in another area -- support. onelus has spoken on their support team before, and they admitted to some issues and that they were "hiring like crazy". The OnePlus subreddit has had a lot of issue posts on there, since posts on OnePlus' own forums seemed to be taken down or hidden from the public's view.

Of course, I do want to say something that is a bit in OnePlus' favor. You are paying $349 for your device. OnePlus makes little to know profit on these devices. You are not paying a lot for your device. I think it is a little, (and I mean little) fair to lower your expectations on support, at least while they scale up their support team to meet the demand. You can't exactly expect priority one support from a startup that can't meet their demand at the moment. So, OnePlus please fix your support system. Never settle, right?

Finally, the last thing that gets to me is the various device defects/imperfections/etc. One of the major issues that ushered through the landscape is the yellow tint on screens. From my understanding, this is the result of untreated adhesive that is used to bond to the screen together. That, or the adhesive was not treated for as long as it should have. Some people suggested that having your phone out in UV light can fix the problem, but if it actually works for all is not exactly known. I understand OnePlus is always in a rush to get devices out of their factories, but this has to end. From my research, this seems to be something that can easily be fixed on their end (if it was just an adhesive issue). I really hope that the demand for this device + sense of rush didn't encourage this, but knowing OnePlus, this is a plausible case.

In recap, OnePlus by far isn't the best phone startup to exist, but it isn't the worst either. Their product is great, but isn't without its flaws. The company can use a lot of improvement in a few areas, and the OnePlus Two will be the test to see if OnePlus can live up to its motto, "Never Settle".