OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro Lite are among the most anticipated smartphones of 2021 for Android fans, promising hardware that challenges some of the best from Samsung with near Pixel level software support.
This has always been the promise of OnePlus and while the company's prices have escalated a bit in recent years, it still has earned a place among the best smartphones based on the strong value proposition. However, with Samsung dropping the starting price of its Galaxy S lineup by $200 this year that is going to be a more serious challenge than in years past. The Galaxy S21 price cut certainly meant some sacrifices for the phones, so this is where OnePlus will need to capitalize, by continuing to offer some of the features that Samsung dropped.
With less than a month until the anticipated launch of the OnePlus 9 lineup there have been considerable leaks including some excellent photos of the phones. Here's all of the latest on the full OnePlus 9 lineup including release date, design, specs and more.
OnePlus 9 release date
While OnePlus hasn’t made an official announcement yet, rumors suggest the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will be arriving about a month earlier than the OnePlus 8, similar to what we saw with Samsung’s Galaxy S21 release.
This would start to be a trend as the OnePlus 8 launched a month earlier than the traditional May release for OnePlus flagships. It’s possible the company is looking to cut down on Samsung’s time as the lone new flagship offering of the year or get as far as possible from the annual iPhone launch in September. Regardless of the reasoning, we’re looking for a March launch for the OnePlus 9, which will likely be another standalone virtual event as we saw with the OnePlus 8T.
OnePlus 9 price
There have been no credible rumors as of yet regarding the pricing for the OnePlus 9, but we can come up with a reasonable estimate based on the company’s past pricing. OnePlus has dramatically raised its prices in recent years, much to the chagrin of many early fans who liked the affordable cost and “no compromises” mantra, regardless of whether some compromises were being made.
Back in 2018, the OnePlus 6 debuted for just $529. Two years later, the OnePlus 8 was up to $699, and the OnePlus 8 Pro went right in with Samsung and Apple at $899. The OnePlus 8T then inched up a bit higher than the OnePlus 8 at $749.
In light of Samsung’s big price reduction this year, it would be a shock if OnePlus opted to raise its prices again, especially more than $50. If it can hold the line at $699 and $899 for the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, respectively, that will likely give it a reasonable price advantage over Samsung. It’s something that it needs if it wants to continue to grab more market share. Rumors of a OnePlus 9 Lite also persist with a potential price at around $600, which could be a real difference-maker.
OnePlus 9 design
The OnePlus 9 design won’t stray far from what we saw with the OnePlus 8T based on the leaks we have seen to date. This includes a render of the OnePlus 9 and alleged hands-on photos of the OnePlus 9 Pro showing the rear camera array returning to the upper-left corner, protruding slightly from the back, but not to the degree that we’ve seen with Samsung.
Around the front, the display will be flat on the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Lite, while the OnePlus 9 Pro will again go curved; this is similar to the split we see from Samsung with the Galaxy S21 lineup. One slight change noticed for the OnePlus 9 Pro is a slight indent on one side for the ringer switch and volume buttons, but this likely won't be noticeable in use.
The front-facing camera is a small hole-punch in the upper-left corner. The device otherwise features a very traditional modern smartphone design with rounded edges and corners; there's nothing too out of the ordinary here.
The prototype gave us a look at a potential color option: light gray; it's a bit hard to tell with the prototype images, but in the OnePlus 9 Pro hands-on photos it looks virtually identical to the Lunar Silver of the OnePlus 8T with the exception of a glossy rather than matte finish.
OnePlus 9 cameras
Camera performance has traditionally been a weakness for OnePlus, particularly at launch, so this is one we are keeping a careful eye on with the company claiming to have made significant strides. An early leak from 91Mobiles pointed to a solid 48MP Sony IMX689 lens for the primary wide-angle sensor, a 48MP ultra-wide and a third unidentified sensor. Don’t get excited on that last one; in all likelihood, it will be either a monochrome or macro lens.
These specs are expressly for the OnePlus 9; the OnePlus 9 Pro cameras after evading the rumor mill for a long time were revealed in the aforementioned hands-on. The main revelation there was that the OnePlus 9 Pro cameras would feature Hasselblad branding, the venerable Swedish camera company, and as previously indicated by Steve Hemmerstoffer (a.k.a. OnLeaks) will feature four lenses.
The primary lenses will be a wide and ultra-wide lens, but it will add a telephoto lens that appears to offer a 3.3x optical zoom and that fourth lens is likely to be a monochrome or macro lens. This confirmed leaker Max Jambor's claims that none of the OnePlus 9 models will feature a periscope zoom lens.
The Hasselblad branding is potentially exciting as the company rarely dips into the phone realm, but it's entirely possible that this is little more than a branding play, so we'll endeavor not to get our hopes up too much just yet.
OnePlus 9 display
The base OnePlus 9 is rumored to feature a 6.6-inch FHD+ display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Obviously, expect the OnePlus 9 Pro to be slightly larger, somewhere in the neighborhood of the 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra. The OnePlus 9 Pro will offer a 120Hz refresh rate at QHD+ resolution, but the real question is whether it will offer a variable refresh rate. The hands-on seemed to confirm in the software that there will be no variable refresh rate, however, a recent tweet from Max Jambor, a leaker with a reliable OnePlus history, indicated the OnePlus 9 Pro would feature the LTPO panel needed for the feature.
pic.twitter.com/YIsClmGeQuFebruary 18, 2021
One feature to look for with the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will be the superior color accuracy. OnePlus has made a point of this in recent generations, notably with the OnePlus 8T, the most color-accurate display of any smartphone that we reviewed last year.
OnePlus 9 performance
The OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, so they should be roughly on par with the performance we are seeing from the Galaxy S21 lineup. However, it’s worth noting that Samsung dropped the RAM in the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus this year. So we could see the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro pull ahead in performance in some regards.
The OnePlus 9 Pro hands-on leak showed 11GB of RAM, but the expectation is that it must be at least 12GB, that certainly doesn't bode well for the OnePlus 9 to beat the Galaxy S21's 8GB, but we'll be on the lookout for more leaks on these specs.
The OnePlus 9 Lite, on the other hand, is rumored to feature last year's Snapdragon 865 processor, making it more of a competitor for the Galaxy S20 FE from last fall.
While OnePlus has made some changes to OxygenOS, it has done an excellent job in the past of ensuring the minimal skin doesn’t impact performance, and that's unlikely to change.
OnePlus 9 battery life and charging
While we naturally won't have battery life results until we can get the OnePlus 9 models in for testing, leaks have indicated that both the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will feature a 4,500mAh battery. That's solid, coming in close to the 4,800mAh of the Galaxy S21 Plus, but it is particularly noteworthy for another reason.
This matches the size of the OnePlus 8T battery, which uses a unique dual-battery design in order to allow for super-fast 65W wired charging that can charge the phone to 93% in just 30 minutes, that's compared to 29% and 55% in 30 minutes for the iPhone 12 and Galaxy S21 respectively.
Another leak from Max Jambor in Voice back in January pointed to 45W wireless fast charging for the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. That's compared to a max of 15W for the iPhone 12 and just 10W for the Galaxy S21, so again we are talking an improbable 3-4x the speed of its competitors. He also claimed that it would finally bring reverse wireless charging, a feature that should grow in popularity with more and more wireless earbuds adopting wireless charging, which is about the size of battery and product you want to place on the back of your phone to charge.
OnePlus 9 outlook
With the release of the OnePlus 9 getting fairly close, the company has done a better job than most at keeping the details of its next flagships under wraps. But things are starting to take shape.
The basic specs are never the problem for OnePlus, and it certainly doesn’t appear that it will be an issue with the OnePlus 9. The company now has a golden opportunity to one-up Samsung on a few fronts with the hardware cuts made on the Galaxy S21. Some extra RAM and a microSD slot could go a long way to winning over Android users who value high-end specs. The OnePlus 9 Lite is a bit of a wild card as it could offer some of the old affordable flagship appeal that garnered OnePlus so many fans early on. But that’s a much more crowded market today.
Camera performance and pricing are going to be two of the most interesting things to watch for with the OnePlus 9 models. OnePlus is absolutely a step above most mid-range smartphones when it comes to photography, but it can’t match the best from Samsung, let alone Apple or Google. And while it has historically enjoyed a price advantage versus the competition, Samsung flipped the script on them a bit this year with its price drop, so we’ll need to see how OnePlus responds.