Smartphone boutique OnePlus reveals another model you can’t get

Ceramic version has traces of Unobtanium, probably

So long as Shenzhen smartphone upstart OnePlus insists on rationing the distribution of its products, it’s going to remain a boutique player.

Quite literally.

As OnePlus announced its third phone in London today, it added that it would create a pop-up in the Colette boutique concept store in Paris.

Where better to show off something that will be, to all intents and purposes, as elusive as the fictional compound Unobtanium?

The company’s third phone – the One Plus X – actually comes in two cases, the “mass market” Onyx glass back, and one with a limited edition ceramic back.

The X is actually a £199, five-inch compact with decent specs – representing excellent value for money. But as with the One and Two predecessors, artificial scarcity ensures you will have great difficulty getting hold of one.

By the way, choosing to make a ceramic version seems particularly perverse.

Carl Pei, head of Global at OnePlus, described the expensive and time-consuming production process for the £269 ceramic version of the X. Each ceramic backplate takes 25 days to produce. They're baked twice. “And the yield is only 20 per cent. For every 100 we make, only 20 are viable for production.”

“It seems crazy to take a month to make a product ... It’s why you don’t see many ceramic phones,” said Pei.

Um, well, yes.

As “brand building exercises” go, OnePlus will probably be studied in marketing classes, but for many, the desperate search to find differentiation in a commodity market has now reached absurd proportions.

Both models will only available through the tightly rationed invitation system, and invitations are only available for minutes at a time, although this would be extended “from one hour to two hours, to half a day, to a full day,” Pei promised.

Well, OnePlus insists that it makes a profit margin on every phone. Not a very big profit margin, but a margin all the same. And that gives us an indication of where the cut throat mid market is going.

Which in turns points to what kind of discounts you may be able to wrangle for phones you can actually buy.

So this means £199 (or $249 or €269) buys you an full HD five-inch AMOLED display, 13MP camera with phase detection autofocus, 2525mAh battery, and two nano SIM slots (one does the Huawei trick of doubling up as a MicroSD slot).

Is there something missing from here that you really need? Probably not. A fingerprint sensor perhaps, or waterproofing. ®

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022