"The perfect smartphone." "The world's best smartphone." "The best smartphone ever." The promise of the OnePlus One was so great that disappointment was perhaps inevitable, after the company raised hopes and expectations to somewhat unrealistic levels in the months before its launch.
The device itself is rather good by all accounts, but the company behind it has stumbled from one misstep to another - and it's not done yet. In the latest chapter of How Not to Launch 'The Perfect Phone at a Disruptive Price', OnePlus has now revealed that it is abandoning the interchangeable 'StyleSwap' covers that it previously announced, due to multiple issues.
First: the company says it has "experienced technical difficulties in mass producing the StyleSwap covers at an acceptable level of quality", highlighting the bamboo covers as being particularly problematic: "The number of Bamboo StyleSwap covers that have passed our Quality Assurance tests is much lower than we had hoped."
Second: the company acknowledges that it did a poor job in designing the covers in the first place: "Now we know that we could have designed the removal process of the back covers better; it's tricky and makes frequent switches difficult."
Third: whether as a result of bad design or quality control issues, the company says that swapping the covers "can also leave the back cover slightly creaky or loose, and it risks damage to the battery which is exposed for a short time."
For those still hoping to get their hands on a bamboo cover, OnePlus does say that it has "a small number... that have already been produced and look amazing." It plans to sell the few that it has, "and will provide explicit instructions on how to replace your cover without damaging the cover, phone or battery." The company adds that it is considering the release of "limited editions Ones which come with a Kevlar or Denim cover out of the box."
Finally, if you're not quite up to speed with the many blunders of OnePlus, here are some highlights:
- Rather than allow people to simply buy or pre-order the One, the company requires customers to have an invite to do so. To get an invite, people have to jump through hoops, such as taking part in social media activities, entering 'contests', or simply begging others who might have one.
- One such contest, called 'Ladies First', encouraged women to "draw the OnePlus logo on a piece of paper or on your hand/face/wherever", and take a photo of themselves to be posted on a thread on the company's forums to be judged. Unsurprisingly, the sexist photo contest was not well received.
- In another contest, the company encouraged people to smash up their flagship phones in the hopes of winning the chance to buy a OnePlus One. This short video should tell you all that you need to know about why that's a really, really stupid idea. Indeed, OnePlus staff may have eventually worked out for themselves how volatile smartphone batteries can be, when one of their own handsets exploded in a customer's pocket recently.
- OnePlus redesigned the regulatory European 'CE' mark - a symbol that must never be altered by manufacturers - which resulted in an entire shipment of its handsets being returned by European authorities. Rather than correct its mistake, OnePlus apparently shipped those devices directly to consumers anyway, as revealed by MoDaCo's Paul O'Brien, who later received a OnePlus One featuring the illegitimate modified CE mark.
- There are numerous reports too of various issues with OnePlus One handsets that have been shipped to customers. Chief among these is a 'yellow banding' problem with the handset's display, along with astonishing accusations that the company has been deleting complaints from users on its forums, and even banning some users who have highlighted the problem. Some have also claimed that the company has been charging up to $88 to consumers to return the phone for an exchange under warranty. Other reported issues include handsets arriving with damaged bezels, buttons missing (!) or simply not working properly, and devices being shipped without accessories in the box.
Those customers who have managed to see past all these problems, and bought a OnePlus One, will sadly have to settle for a device that doesn't feature the swappable covers that they were originally promised. "Never settle", indeed.