And the circus begins: OnePlus waitlist for reservations, and all the #hype that goes with them

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Almost exactly one year ago I shared some observations about the geek-hype surrounding the OnePlus One, and the terrible invite system put in place to control manufacturing and inventory demands.

Now, here we are, on the cusp of the unveiling of the highly-anticipated OnePlus 2, Cardboard apps ready, and out of the gate, the invite request portal could not handle the all-too-expected bump in data traffic – just not up to the task of simply compiling email addresses.

I am already on the record about the invite system. I understand why a company like OnePlus would do it, at least at the beginning of production runs. Beyond that though, the invite system serves little use. The company has stated emphatically that the invite system is a necessary mechanism to prevent overstocking and not so much about the hype that accompanies the invites themselves.

This is a parallel model to the “just-in-time” supplier fulfillment used in manufacturing processes around the world, but in this case, it is a “just-in-time inventory” idea. It may prove to be a workable model for extra lean businesses, but it also makes it impossible to keep up with demand, and it puts OnePlus at the mercy of its suppliers and manufacturing partners.

Since OnePlus has stated it plans to have significant extra capacity and inventory available to meet demand, one can hope that will translate to a shorter period of dealing with actual invitations. One can hope.

Trying out the hype

Last year, I did not buy into the hype of the OnePlus One. I had no doubts about the build quality of the device, as OnePlus’ manufacturing partner, Oppo, is well regarded. I also had few doubts about the Cyanogen skin that offered up all manner of customizations for the savvy Android user. Our own review of the OnePlus One proved that to the case.

This time, I thought I would give the hype a spin. I signed up for a forum account, have been participating enough without trolling, and being an honest steward of online interaction. At the time, I had not decided if I was going to chronicle my journey through the process, thinking that in itself, it would be fairly uneventful. I will probably share the experience once an invitation is received and I place an order.

OnePlus did announce a new process for invitations this time around with a promise that things would operate a bit more smoothly, and that invitations would be sent out faster than last year. Early supporters and OnePlus One owners will be prioritized, with easy access to invites. Those that have a profile with OnePlus should be on some sort of track to receive an invitation already.

Activity is so hot

This weekend, OnePlus opened up requests for invitations on its website “for those who don’t have time” to work the forums and participate in social media trends. It is nothing more than a portal that accepts email addresses.

As extra or unused invitations become available, those who submit their email address on this “reservation list” should be afforded an opportunity to buy a OnePlus 2. Given the hype started with the OnePlus One, and already brewing with the new device, interest is sure to be substantial, and as it happens, it is.

Indeed, for most of day Saturday, people that wanted to provide their email to get on the reservation list were often confronted with a popup error, “Subscribe failed. The activity is so hot, try later.” Bear in mind, this is not so much a list to actually receive an invitation, it is a list to get a chance to receive an invitation, which in turn gives you the opportunity to order a OnePlus 2.

Seriously, scarcity must be finite

Thankfully, it looked like OnePlus got that portal working properly by early Sunday morning. The company successfully fueled up the hype for the OnePlus 2. The vocal and loyal OnePlus One user base is properly excited to see what the young company has up its sleeve. OnePlus, as a company, has certainly gained wider notoriety thanks to its previous campaigns (good and bad).

The company said it was going to be able to handle increased demand, and when it comes to fulfilling actual orders for the OnePlus 2, I have no reason to doubt that claim. However, the initial impression one might have had from not being able to simply submit their email address is not a great way to instill confidence. The scarcity angles must have a limited shelf life this time around.

If this was a scarcity tactic, then it overplayed that hand by a wide margin. First, the return of the invitation system does enough to stoke those flames, and second, it potentially alienates consumers who want to be a part of the OnePlus story, but cannot spend hours-on-end yapping on forums or waiting on contests. Yes, the purists will claim those folks simply “don’t get it,” but gaining wider appeal ultimately means offering wider access.

If this was simply poor network planning then all you can say about that is, "Really?!" Who didn't see this coming? Everyone touts "hype" and they aren't ready for the...hype.

Either way, bottlenecks like this cast a shadow on the hype, something that OnePlus can do without. While I would love to compare this to Google’s rollout of the Nexus 6, at least that internet giant got thwarted by the demand of those trying to actually buy something, not collect names. If invitations are still the way to go by the holidays, then what good is being served by that point?

Has the circus come to town?

We are sure to see some interesting promotions that will give away some invitations, and I’m sure someone, somewhere, will get offended in some way. That’s cool, some folks like to have fun with marketing pushes like this, but it should exploit talent, not stuff like “smash your phone.” Maybe we’ll get to observe something cool like an Instagram photo contest, or perhaps something witty like a haiku competition. Who knows?

One thing is for certain, the games cannot last. OnePlus is selling the OnePlus 2 at some type of mark-up, a premium above the first generation “flagship killer,” prices are said to be “under” $450. However, there are new players about to enter the fray, most notably, the ZTE Axon, whose form factor and price point ($450) hold a lot of appeal.

Then there’s the Nexus 6, currently marked down to a very reasonable $499, and we don’t even know if Cyanogen is going to surprise the market with something new later this year as well. If the OnePlus 2 is really as good as claimed, good enough to be a "2016 flagship killer," then OnePlus needs to be ready to actually make the phone and offer people to actually buy it.

I have every reason to expect that OnePlus will deliver the goods when it announces the OnePlus 2. However, it’s not the announcement that concerns me, it’s the circus that might follow, the three-ring extravaganza of odd promos jammed in a clown car, or the disjointed invitation provisioning swinging like a trapeze artist with no net. I think the market has had enough of sideshows.

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