Coming from a consumer perspective, there are a few key things that make me excited that the OnePlus One exists. As a disclaimer, no, I do not own one of these phones, so I am simply going off the specifications offered on their website, along with a few of my own opinions. That's valid enough, I think.
Edge-to-edge, 5.5" display
One of my favorite design decisions about the OnePlus One is the edge-to-edge display. Although it's not a new concept, as most newer phones on the market also have this feature, I still consider it a good design choice. So again, not new, but still good.
Curvature of the phone
Ergonomically speaking, I have no physical evidence that the curvature of this phone is good. However, from my perspective, any slight curvature is good slight curvature. Understand where I'm coming from: the two smartphones I have owned in my time are an iPhone 4S and a Samsung Galaxy S3. The iPhone basically has no curvature, while the Galaxy offers a bit, but it didn't really make a difference, in my opinion.
Honestly, these last two points weren't what sold me with the OnePlus One, but they were nice included features, nonetheless. So, let's go on to a few of the things on their website that I think demonstrate the difference between good design and great design.
Party in the front, business in the back
This is a very powerful camera for a phone. As a comparison, the iPhone 5S "iSight" camera is 8 megapixels, while the Samsung Galaxy S5 boasts a 16 megapixel camera. I won't even bother mentioning the Lumia resolution because, well, look at it (Lumia 1020). The iPhone is rumored to have the same camera that the OnePlus One has in the latest to-be-released iPhone 6, although that's hard to confirm until it comes out. But while most of these phones have the OnePlus One beat in the back, the One also has a 5 megapixel front-facing camera, which is loads bigger than most of the ones mentioned.
Why is this a good design? I think smartphones equipped with high-powered back-facing cameras is a great way to mitigate the process of taking out and turning on a separate device for most users, who aren't necessarily aiming to be the next great photographer. After all, most of us just want that really clear Instagram shot of our favorite comfort food. #nofilter, right? But I think what really separates good and great this time is the front-facing camera.
Why is this great design? While I am no connoisseur of selfies (aside: I'm slightly angry my computer no longer identifies "selfie" as a typo. I blame you, Oxford), I think adding a powerful front-facing camera coincides with the times. With so many people around the globe becoming better at taking photos of themselves, this 5-megapixel camera really caters to a newer, younger, and maybe self-absorbed generation. Even though I sit here now and think to myself that I would have no need of such a camera, I know I'd be all over it if I ever got my hands on one of these phones.
There's a gyroscope and accelerometer
I'm actually not sure how many newer phones have these features. I'm also not sure why having them distinguishes between good and great design. The engineer in me just likes it. That's all.
Can read my, yes he can read my interface
What I want to mention before continuing on is that I've never really been a fan of the iPhone, and the main reason is the interface. While there's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, I'm part of the crowd of people that likes to be able to personalize everything. I mean, everything. So when I first got my hands on an Android phone, I believed everything in my life to be correct at that moment. On the other hand, when my screen cracked and I temporarily switched to an iPhone (what I have right now), I spent a few good hours changing everything I could in vain, because I knew that at the end of the day, the contents of my phone would look the same as almost everyone else who had an iPhone. Again, nothing wrong with it, but it didn't sit well with me. Looking at the OnePlus One, they mention that, along with the standard Android options, they also offer a few that are specific to the One. And all these added personalizing features on a 1080p display? Aha. I'm in love.
Why is this great design? I think customizability (how is this not a word, but "selfie" is? Dear Lord) can be the greatest strength of many products on the market today. When you tell people that they have a choice to make something more personal, we go wild. Take a look at the iPhone 5C. Get a candy blue one, if you'd like; or even a yellow one if you feel up to it. It doesn't matter, but people still want it. Here's another example: if any one of you likes to play MMORPG's, you will likely admit that one of the most challenging stages of every game is, in fact, the part where you have to create your own character. Choose a name? 1 hour, gone. Choose a class? 2 hours, gone. Choose your eye color? Bye-bye social life, forever. But any chance you get to give your customers or users a way to personalize something, your sales go up, their satisfaction goes up, and anything that happens thereon can only be blamed on the user him- or herself. The customizability of the interface on Android phones is no different. However, I think when a company takes an existing concept (Android OS) and adds something new to it (Quiet Hours, etc.), they bring something that adds to the uniqueness hierarchy. Again, the One is not the only phone on the market to do this, but I felt it was worth mentioning nonetheless.
Wondering how to get your hands on a OnePlus One? Well, according to their site, you can either receive an invite from someone who owns the phone, or you can register on their forums and enter their promotions or contests. Looks like you can't just walk into your AT&T store and pick one up. There's a certain genius to all of this.
Why is this great design? First of all, I was not a marketing major, so I don't actually know if anything I say from here on out is true from a business perspective, but I'd imagine it's at least somewhat correct. I think that marketing any product this way is a very high-risk/high-reward move. It could be a complete disaster, and you could lose a ton of money just on advertising alone. Or could you? Depending on how many units of your product you make, you could actually be saving money on advertising costs if all your advertising is done by word of mouth. It doesn't cost anything to have people gush about their new device or gadget (well, it shouldn't, at least). So then the next question becomes, do you save money during production and manufacturing? I'm sure the price would go up for you if you minimize production because you're unsure of how well your product will fare. Ever bought and sold a t-shirt at school? Prices always drop the more you make. It's not all that different from manufacturing other products: of course, if you can manage to afford a factory and make multiple units a day, this would be significantly less expensive than making units as per order, where you might only be ordering ten or twenty every so often. But, wait, you're super confident that your product will sell, which is why you trust word of mouth rather than printing advertisements, right? So why not just go ahead and secure the entire manufacturing process for this product? I don't actually know if that's what the good people at OnePlus have done, so this is just a thought. Anyway, I wouldn't be surprised if they are prepared for many orders to come. Besides, if everyone with one of their phones invites ten other people, even if only two people decide to get the phone, that becomes twenty more people that could be invited. From there, two-hundred. If we were to follow the six degrees of separation, that would mean that sooner or later, I get an invite.
That's not the end of the story
There are many, many other features included in the OnePlus One, many of which I don't know much about. All the resources are on their webpage if you'd like to check it out for yourself.
After reading this, you're probably wondering what exactly it is about this phone that got me excited. After all, most of the things I mentioned were also applicable to pretty much every other current generation of smartphones, barring the camera. Honestly, I just think that it is a devastatingly well-made phone, from an aesthetic perspective rather than a technical one. I think the people at OnePlus have a really good eye for user experience over anything else. As an engineer, I am always on the lookout for ways that aesthetics and mechanics can mesh together as cleanly as possible, and I think the OnePlus One accomplished that quite well.
So, as with many of my posts, I have to admit that this particular post probably doesn't discuss anything very well, and is more of a rant than anything. But it's a positive rant. Like a... I don't know. My pun machine broke. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far, and don't forget to check out the OnePlus One! Try to get an invite, too, so you can invite me... [: