OnePlus gives away 30,000 VR headsets ahead of latest smartphone launch

OnePlus is making another push into VR after it announced plans to run the launch of its next smartphone in virtual reality (again), with a shopping experience to match.

The China-based firm jumped on the VR wagon when it launched the OnePlus 2 last summer. For that launch, OnePlus gave away over 30,000 specially customized Google Cardboard viewers to let its community of fans tune in and watch the unveiling in a lot more detail than usual.

This time around it is offer more sturdy VR headsets. The company gave away — past tense because they are sold out — 30,000 ‘Loop VR’ headsets, made by partner firm AntVR, for free. The theme of this year’s launch is space, as co-founder Carl Pei explained:

We believe we, and the tech industry as a whole, have only scratched the surface of what can be done in VR, and there’s much more immersive experiences to be had. Inspired by a certain fan video, we took to our imagination of where OnePlus would be decades from now, having moved our headquarters to space. Our space station is called The Loop, and we’re excited for you to check it out.

There’s no date for the launch yet. But, beyond watching the unveiling, the 30,000 people with a Loop VR headset will also get exclusive early access to buy the device — OnePlus initially made its name limiting sales of its phones to those with invitations — through the virtuality world. That’s an interesting concept, and one that major e-commerce players like Alibaba are exploring on a more permanent basis than just a single product launch.

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Pei, who dropped a sly dig at Samsung “for being the world’s second company to launch a product in VR” after OnePlus, didn’t give away too many details, but he did stress that the event is about letting OnePlus’s community of fans connect with the company and its products more closely.

The Android smartphone world is hugely competitive and OnePlus, to its credit, has come up with some unique ways to assemble and retain a company of tech lovers. (Although it has made mistakes along the way.)

Not much is known about the OnePlus 3 itself at this point. Serial smartphone leaker Evan Blass suggested that the device will have an AMOLED display and larger capacity 3000mAh battery, while OnePlus is being tipped to offer two different models: one with 32GB of storage and 4GB RAM, and a more advanced device with 64GB storage and 6GB RAM.