The OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro are some of the most anticipated smartphones of 2021 for Android fans who don’t want to spend full flagship prices.
Despite its prices rising dramatically over the last few years, OnePlus has managed to deliver value when compared to the competition. But that may be put to the test thanks to Samsung knocking $200 off its Galaxy S21 pricing. However, that move wasn’t without its sacrifices, as Samsung removed the charger from the box and downgraded screen resolution on the Galaxy S21 and S21+. So, the “No compromises” brand should capitalize on that based on what we know about the OnePlus 9 so far this year.
While OnePlus has managed to do a pretty solid job keeping the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro under wraps so far, there’s no escaping the rumor mill. We’ve gathered all of the latest on the OnePlus 9 release date, design, specs, and more to help you decide if it’s worth the wait.
- Best smartphones in 2021
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. The company may be 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 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 significant price reduction this year, it would be a shock if OnePlus opted to raise its prices again, significantly 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 fair price advantage over Samsung. It’s something that it needs if it wants to continue to grab more market share. Rumors of an OnePlus 9 Lite also persist with a possible 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. This includes a pair of renders for both the OnePlus 9 and 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. 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; the lighting is less than stellar in those photos, but it looks quite a bit like the Lunar Silver used on the OnePlus 8T. Hopefully, they mix it up a bit more for the actual release.
OnePlus 9 cameras
Again, there have been just a couple of leaks so far regarding the OnePlus 9 cameras, which have historically been the weak point for OnePlus, so we can’t wait to hear more. An early leak from 91Mobiles pointed to a 48MP Sony IMX689 lens for the primary sensor, the same as last year for the OnePlus 8 Pro, a 48MP ultra-wide, and a third unidentified sensor, which will probably be, it will be either a monochrome or a macro lens.
These specs are expressly for the OnePlus 9; the OnePlus 9 Pro cameras have almost entirely escaped the rumor mill so far. Leaker Max Jambor claims that none of the OnePlus 9 models will feature a periscope zoom lens.
Prolific leaker Steve Hemmerstoffer (a.k.a. OnLeaks) weighed in on the OnePlus 9 Pro cameras, saying that it “includes up to four camera lenses,” but offering no specifics on the lenses.
The main challenge for OnePlus is on the software side, as GCam significantly outperforms the original OnePlus camera in most modes, even in the OnePlus 8 Pro.
OnePlus 9 display
The base OnePlus 9 is the only model to be featured in any display leaks so far, and they point to a 6.6-inch display with a 120Hz refresh rate. Expect the OnePlus 9 Pro to be slightly larger, somewhere in the 6.8-inch Galaxy S21 Ultra neighborhood, possibly 6.78, just like the OnePlus 8 Pro. As previously mentioned, the OnePlus 9 will use a standard flat display. In comparison, the 9 Pro will offer a curved display, just like 2020's pro model.
There have been no rumors so far suggesting that OnePlus has adopted an LTPO display allowing for an adaptive refresh rate, but it would be a shame if at least the Pro model does not get it.
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 see from the Galaxy S21 lineup.
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.
OnePlus has made some changes in OxygenOS 11, which were quite controversial and have affected the OnePlus experience's smoothness, but hopefully, the 9 series will be in better shape.
OnePlus 9 outlook
With the release of the OnePlus 9 getting reasonably 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 beat 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.
Meanwhile, the OnePlus 9 Lite is a bit of a wild card as it could offer some of the old affordable flagship appeals that garnered OnePlus so many fans early on. But that’s a much more crowded market today.
Camera performance and pricing will be two of the most exciting 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 Samsung's best, let alone Apple or Google.