Mobile startup OnePlus has been causing quite a stir in tech circles over the past few months, but the company's latest activities are anything but positive.
The Chinese company's One "flagship killer" smartphone has impressed plenty across the globe with its smooth performance, clean interface and – best of all – fairly modest £229 price tag.
However, it has struggled with production issues, and has implemented an unusual invitation-only system for potential new OnePlus customers. Basically, only people with special permission from the company are allowed to buy the One phone.
This week, the firm launched an unbelievably ill-advised contest called "Ladies First", in which women were encouraged to submit pictures of themselves with the OnePlus logo drawn on their bodies. These would then be rated by other members of the online community.
"In true gentlemen fashion and because chivalry is not dead, we are giving the lovely ladies of OnePlus a chance to skip the invite line," read a description of the competition. "OnePlus wants to give a shout out to the few but beautiful female fans in our community." Quite.
The top 50 "most well liked" contestants would be rewarded with a free t-shirt and the option of buying the One mobile – at no discount, I hasten to add.
Needless to say, the competition did not go down well, and was pulled by the company shortly after launch. A few people submitted pictures, but most of them were Photoshopped fakes uploaded by men, as one user pointed out.
"It is only me who has noticed that 99% of the posters in this thread are male? I've only seen one pic of a girl who's entered."
A handful of snaps, however, were uploaded by women speaking out against the inherently sexist contest. One person held up a sign reading, "This contest is sexist and insulting. Way to inflict self-esteem issues, we don't have enough of those in our society," while another opted for the middle finger salute. Written on the back of her right hand was the message, "Don't be sexist!"
OnePlus has issued an apology for its activities.
"OnePlus is thrilled to have a small but growing number of women active in our online community," it said. "We want to encourage even more women to get involved with and excited about the amazing things happening in tech right now.
"The 'Ladies First' contest was a very misguided effort by a few isolated employees to do just that, however there is no question the post not only failed to better include our female community but actually perpetuated a stereotype that OnePlus in no way supports or condones.
"We deeply regret any offense caused by this contest."