For a China-based company that released its first smartphone just last year with almost no marketing budget, OnePlus showed an undeniable flair for getting people's attention. Its very first campaign, "Smash the Past," sought 100 people prepared to destroy their high-end smartphones to win OnePlus' debut product.
And there were 140,000 applicants, according to the company, whose high-spec but affordable debut product won glowing reviews and became a favorite of gadget geeks. YouTube videos show one guy sacrificing his phone on a train track and another sawing his in half with a rotary tool. (The contest, which gave away 100 phones for $1 each, was controversial; in the end the brand also allowed people to donate their phones to charity instead.)
The company, whose biggest markets are the U.S. and India, sold 1.5 million OnePlus One phones. Now the Shenzhen-based company is releasing its followup, the OnePlus 2, which starts at a modest $329. It asked people to use Google cardboard viewers to view what it billed as the "world's first product launch in VR." And it hosted pop-up stands in nine cities globally, including a crowded one in New York's Times Square, to show the product off before it goes on sale.
"Normally people queue up for an Apple launch, but they queue up to buy a product," said Carl Pei, OnePlus co-founder and head of global. "For OnePlus you actually queue up to see the product." (This is a brand with a certain amount of swagger.)