There's a new smartphone builder making waves on the Internet. OnePlus, a subsidiary of Oppo Electronics out of China, has a new low-cost Android phone out -- the OnePlus One -- that is putting the hard word on Samsung, HTC, Sony and LG. But OnePlus' most recent marketing stunt is just stupid.
The OnePlus 'Smash The Past' campaign encourages applicants to smash their 'old' phones, for a chance to win one of 100 OnePlus One phones and an invitation for three friends to buy the new 'flagship killer' early. The One (that's the OnePlus, not the HTC One M8) is a new smartphone from a new company, but no matter how special it is, it's not worth smashing any electronics for.
There's a lot to like about the One. It has competitive specs, with a large, 5.5-inch display, Qualcomm's newest Snapdragon 801 system-on-chip processor, and 3GB of RAM -- it's basically a 2014 update of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. OnePlus' handset is cheap, too -- US$299 for a 16GB model, and only $50 more for a full 64GB of storage.
The One is also one of the first phones to launch in partnership with CyanogenMod, one of the most famous and accomplished Android hacking teams around. The Oppo N1 was the first official CM handset, so there's a clear link already existing between OnePlus and Cyanogen, but the OS hackers' long history of smart interface tweaks and regular software updates makes the OnePlus One a genuinely attractive proposition for Android fanboys.
But 'Smash The Past' is both financially stupid and environmentally irresponsible. Apart from the most obvious reason of gaining a bit of notoriety and social media attention, OnePlus is encouraging its potential buyers to destroy devices that can go to any number of worthwhile causes. They're also putting competition entrants at risk.
To make matters worse, only a select list of new smartphones are eligible for the contest. Apparently OnePlus thinks it's worthwhile destroying an iPhone 5S, to switch to a smartphone that is one quarter of its cost. Every single phone in this list is better off in the pocket of someone that could make good use of it for years to come, rather than smashed by some dolt looking for attention on the Internet and a free OnePlus One.
A pleading post on Reddit outlines the issue -- electronic waste is already a huge problem worldwide, especially with yearly phone upgrades. Recycling is a much smarter way to go about getting rid of your own old handset, and even throwing it in the bin should be a last resort -- every city will have dozens of charities and not-for-profit organisations that would jump at the chance to distribute a perfectly serviceable smartphone to someone who could make good use of it.
It didn't help that the competition was poorly presented to start with. There are at least a few people out there that saw the chance to get a new handset, and broke their old smartphones without actually reading the fine print -- OnePlus has to pick you to destroy your phone, then you'll get a new handset after you do the company's dirty work. Various competition changes and re-writes have clarified things somewhat, but that doesn't change the fact that 'Smash The Past' simply isn't a good idea.
Oddly enough, OnePlus is presenting itself as the underdog in the smartphone arms race, denying any speculation that it is owned by Oppo -- despite clear evidence to the contrary, and the fact that its phones look incredibly similar to the new Oppo Find 7. Ex-Oppo VP Pete Lau is in charge of OnePlus, so there's another obvious link.
Oppo got a lot of buzz in late 2012 and early 2013, with the Find 5 being the first smartphone with a 5-inch 1080p display. It turned out to not have the same level of polish as the Samsungs and Sonys of 2013, but some effective online marketing and the underdog image helped Oppo get its phone into a lot of pockets that it otherwise would not have captured. It seems like the same thing might be happening with OnePlus. There's not a great deal to criticise about the phone itself -- we actually quite like the look of it -- but whoever suggested 'Smash The Past' needs to be shown the door.