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SZ start-up's one phone opens for online sales

2015-February-12       Source: Szdaily.com

A local start-up made a stir on the Internet on Tuesday when it made its mobile phones — OnePlus — available for sale globally online for a 24-hour window.

A local start-up made a stir on the Internet on Tuesday when it made its mobile phones — OnePlus — available for sale globally online for a 24-hour window.

The company said the OnePlus was available online only every Tuesday. For the remaining six days of the week, a prospect buyer will need an invitation from existing OnePlus users to buy a OnePlus handset.

The invitation method was first adopted by the firm as an effective way to control the company’s inventory and grow along with demand, said Pete Liu, 40.

Liu founded the company in late 2013 with Carl Pei, 25. Both formerly worked at electronics maker Oppo.

Even though its sales may look small compared to those of the big players like Xiaomi, which sold more than 7 million units of its first phone, OnePlus has made more in-roads in the international market — selling in 19 countries compared with Xiaomi, which is selling in seven.

More than half of OnePlus’ sales have been to developed markets like the United States and Europe.

“We want to build a respected global brand and to provide the best product,” said Liu.

The One uses a niche version of Google’s Android operating system that is winning the approval of tech enthusiasts. The Guardian said it offered the best combination of hardware and software, comparing it with the top high-end phones from Samsung, HTC and even Apple.

Such is this rare combination in a smartphone that it prompted a New York Times review to dub it the “unicorn” of smartphones. It is sold at US$299, almost half the price of other smartphones.

OnePlus has spent little on marketing. You can only buy the One online. “At the beginning, we were also under financial pressure,” Liu said.

The team came up with the invitation system to build the brand by word of mouth.

That was how Isobel McKenzie, a children’s newspaper editor in Hong Kong, decided on the phone. Her boyfriend Patrick Heffernan Ho, who helped her scour online sites, said: “I was looking for the best phone with the cheapest deal online and the top one that popped up was OnePlus’ One. It got the biggest number of best reviews ... and the only thing about this phone was how difficult it was to get your hands on it. There are people who spent US$20 to buy an invite.”

The by-invitation approach had helped keep costs low, said Liu. The company has not had to spend huge sums on distribution, marketing or advertising.

“We just have to make sure our product is the best. We’ll make a reasonable profit out of our products … For phones that sell at 4,000 to 5,000 yuan, the cost is just like ours.”

More than the price, McKenzie said she was impressed by the speed and design of the phone.

“I have been using it for one month now and I haven’t found any fault with it. The look is beautiful and the battery is fantastic. It lasts two days. Solid,” she said.

Editor: 王凯

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