WHEN THE REMARKABLE ONEPLUSOne arrived two years ago, it made people reimagine the $300 smartphone. But it also made everyone reimagine how they buy a phone, with an invitation-based system as frustrating as it was arcane. Now, with the imminent launch of the OnePlus 3 flagship on June 14th, that madness ends and you’ll buy the phone like any other phone.
Reviewers heaped praise upon the OnePlus One and its follow-up, the OnePlus 2, but it’s understandable if you haven’t heard of them. Blame that, in part, on an invite system that required signing up for a reservation or hitting a social media promotion jackpot or receiving an invitation from a friend with a OnePlus. It was an absurd inconvenience for a gadget ostensibly designed to make life easier.
It also was the only way to ensure the company stayed afloat, says founder Carl Pei.
“When we started this company, we had no idea how many people would want to buy our products. We didn’t want to risk a situation where people would come to our website and find out we had no stock, and no ETA on when we would get it,” he says. “For us it’s more important to grow sustainably rather than fast, so we’d rather err on the side of caution.”
The circumspection paid off. Pei says he expected to sell 50,000 units and shipped nearly 1 million. People may have waited months to buy a OnePlus One, but when they did, it shipped immediately.
The system also protected OnePlus against underestimating demand—or being overly confident about it. Sitting on unsold inventory strains any business—even Amazon, which logged a $170 million write-down on its Fire Phone flop—but it can ruin a flegshipone. Not that this excuses turning a simple transaction into migraine.