We published our OnePlus 8 Pro review well over a month ago, on April 29. And since then, it's been incredibly hard to buy one. The OnePlus 8 Pro has been out of stock on its own website for weeks, and the Amazon listing has fluctuated between coming soon, vague ship dates, and now no availability at all. And this lack of consistent availability makes it really hard to recommend the OnePlus 8 Pro — sure, it's a great phone, but how great is it if you can't actually buy one when you want (or need) a new phone?
OnePlus has always had a hit-or-miss record with keeping phones in stock, reaching back to its early days of flash sales and invite codes. But even now, as the company has clearly grown up in so many ways, it's still far less than a guarantee that you can go to the OnePlus website on any given day and buy the company's latest phone. It's bad enough that we've wrangled with the decision over listing the OnePlus 8 Pro as our top pick in the collection of best Android phones purely because it's really hard to know when it's actually going to be available.
OnePlus's commitments to carriers, now both T-Mobile and Verizon, likely have something to do with this issue. Even though the 8 Pro isn't available through carriers, the 8 is — and carriers are very demanding. They don't take kindly to being left in the cold without stock of a new phone, particularly one like the OnePlus 8 that fills an "affordable 5G" segment. You can bet that if OnePlus is dealing with limited manufacturing and shipping capacity that it's going to prioritize phones headed to T-Mobile and Verizon, which have even more stock needs by design because they offer in-store pickup in addition to direct online sales.
This is subsequently the first time OnePlus has sold directly on Amazon in the U.S., bringing its own problems. It, too, works extremely hard to uphold the customer experience of having products in-stock and ready to ship immediately. So it's not particularly surprising to me that now Amazon has removed the OnePlus 8 Pro listing altogether — visiting the OnePlus storefront on Amazon shows the 8 Pro, but clicking takes you to a product listing that only has the smaller OnePlus 8.
This is the first time OnePlus has had to keep two carriers, and Amazon, happy at the same time.
Thankfully the base OnePlus 8 is finally consistently in stock, both at Amazon and OnePlus unlocked, as well as from T-Mobile and in special mmWave 5G flavor on Verizon, after weeks of dodgy availability as well.
There are, of course, macroeconomic factors at play for OnePlus. Given the state of the world dealing with the effects of coronavirus, a variety of issues have led to global smartphone production being down considerably for the start of the year. Q1 smartphone production was down 10% year-over-year, and Q2 is trending to be down over 16%. Some companies had completely halted smartphone production in China and India (where OnePlus operates), with the latter only having some companies starting to come back in mid-May. Companies with more diverse manufacturing or primary factories in less-effected countries made it through better, but there are still overall issues with individual component suppliers and shipping that hurt everyone. OnePlus declined to comment when asked about the 8 Pro's stock issues.
There are clearly bigger factors at play right now, but this still further hurts the company's image.
But no matter the variety of factors at play this time around, the end result is the same story as before: it's tougher to recommend OnePlus phones because you just don't know whether they'll be available when you go to buy one. And as OnePlus continues to expand its brand appeal to a more mainstream customer base, consistent retail availability becomes even more important.
There are several ways the Galaxy S20+ comes up short compared to the OnePlus 8 Pro, but as I recently pointed out, Samsung deserves a ton of credit for its how well it sells phones. Samsung just never has these sort of availability issues, despite selling globally, partnering with carriers, and selling through just about any retail partner you could imagine. Obviously Samsung is a dramatically larger company than OnePlus, but that excuse doesn't matter much when all you care about is buying a phone that you want.
Sometimes you just can't wait for a phone; you need one as soon as possible because your current phone is broken, or you're buying it as a gift for someone else. Sometimes you're willing to wait for a phone; perhaps three days or a week for delayed shipping because you really want that model. But what if you have no idea when the phone will ship? Hitting "notify me" on the OnePlus website could lead to a week of waiting, or a month. In a world of OnePlus phones that are only relevant for six months before being replaced by a refreshed model, it seems silly that over a month after launch you still can't just buy a OnePlus 8 Pro.
Great when you can get it
OnePlus 8 Pro
The best phone OnePlus has ever made, challenging all high-end competition
The OnePlus 8 Pro steps up to new heights of features and quality, with an excellent screen and new cameras. It also continues the OnePlus advantages of fantastic software, excellent specs and simple hardware.
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