Like Samsung before it with the Galaxy S21 lineup, OnePlus is set to debut its new crop of flagships in the OnePlus 9 range earlier than ever this year. Next week, the company has scheduled a surprise announcement on March 8th, which many people expect to be a tease for the actual unveiling of the devices later this month.
During the product launch, OnePlus is expected to introduce updates to its current two flagships with the 9 and 9 Pro, and it is also rumored to be launching a third "value flagship" in the OnePlus 9R. OnePlus made a name for itself as the Flagship Killer by offering great design and specs for lower prices than its competitors, but its prices have crept higher and higher in recent years. The company made a bit of a course correction on the lower and mid-range with its Nord line, but after seeing the success of phones like the Google Pixel 5, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, OnePlus is looking to regain its position as the Android value king.
I wrote earlier this year about how I wanted to see OnePlus introduce a more affordable flagship phone like the good old OnePlus X, and it looks like that's just what we might be getting in a few weeks. Can OnePlus pull off with the 9R what Samsung did with the Galaxy S20 FE and produce a device worthy of being called the best Android phone for most people? Well, if it fulfills most or all of my wishes below, it certainly has a chance!
Here 5 things that I want to see from the OnePlus 9R.
The OnePlus 9R should be pretty
A great way to make a phone stand out is through its design, and nothing stands out more than gorgeous and novel colors. You can't tell me that one of the reasons that the Galaxy S20 FE sold so well wasn't the fact that it came in six beautiful colors. Of course, the feature set and price were major factors, but if that phone only came in only standard white or boring black, I don't think it would have been the runaway success that it has become.
OnePlus has a tradition of introducing gorgeous colors in its phone designs, dating back to the Silk White and Red of the OnePlus 6, the Thunder Purple of the OnePlus 6T, the Nebula Blue of the OnePlus 7 Pro series, the Aquamarine Green and Lunar Silver of the OnePlus 8T, and the Blue Marble of the OnePlus Nord.
Since we are pretty sure that the 9R will have lesser specs than the 9 and 9 Pro, let's hope OnePlus lets it stand out from its siblings with one or two colors unique to that model. How about another stab at a purple variant or even vibrant emerald green? Or what about something really off the wall like the fun yellow of the POCO M3?
The OnePlus 9R should have an official IP rating
I realize that I'm probably not going to get this wish, particularly on a device that doesn't sit at the top of the OnePlus food chain, but I'm going to ask for it anyway. Last year was the first time OnePlus delivered phones that were officially IP certified for water and dust resistance in the 8 and 8 Pro, and even then, it was only printed on the box for carriers (though the company said the unlocked versions were identical).
For years, OnePlus has said that its phones were water-resistant, but it never sprung for the official certification to back up that claim because it felt doing so was an unnecessary expense that it didn't want to pass along to its customers. I'm here to say enough is enough, OnePlus. It's fine if you want to pull that no-IP certification stuff with the cheaper Nord line, but the flagship series should all be officially waterproof.
Most other phones that cost over $600 have IP certification (foldables notwithstanding), including the 9R's biggest competitors — the Pixel 5, Galaxy S20 FE, and Galaxy S21. Pay the certification fee and slap that guarantee on the box.
The OnePlus 9R should have better cameras
If there is one area where OnePlus phones have consistently underperformed, it is the cameras. That's not to say that the cameras are bad, nor that they have not been improving at a steady clip. The 8 Pro is arguably one of the best Android camera phones that you can buy, even though it is probably behind the Pixel 5, Galaxy S21 Ultra, and niche high-end cameras from Sony and Huawei.
Rumors point to a collaboration between OnePlus and camera titan Hasselblad, which could mean marked improvements in sensor capability and processing prowess. I would expect the best camera features to be reserved for the 9 Pro and 9, respectively, but Android Central has heard rumblings that the 9R will also benefit from this premium partnership.
My colleague Harish Jonnalagadda said that the cameras on the 8T were ok at launch and improved over time with software updates. Honestly, if we could see something around that level — or even a little bit better — with the 9R, I'd be pretty happy with that. Give me a good primary and ultra-wide shooter, and maybe, maybe a modest zoom lens, and we're good. Skip the macro lens and weird color or black and white lenses — nobody needs those.
The OnePlus 9R should charge fast
The OnePlus 8T ships with an impressive 65W wired Warp Charger and I'd like to see the same with the 9R. I don't need wireless charging at this price point, so if OnePlus wants to reserve that for the 9 Pro, that's perfectly fine by me. Sure, wireless charging is a nice to have, but it's not a need to have... not for me, anyway.
Assuming that the display is 1080p and not Quad HD+ and that the device will have a 600 or 700 series Snapdragon processor rather than an 865+ or 888, the battery life on this phone should be excellent. As long as OnePlus doesn't downgrade the charging experience from the 8T, I think that's a win.
The OnePlus 9R should cost less than the 8T
This could be tricky, but hear me out. The OnePlus 8T debuted at $750, which was right in line with the value flagships of last fall, but I think the 9R should be priced at around $700, or even $650 if I'm pushing it. If it doesn't have the highest-end processor and doesn't go for a dramatically new design, I think that could be achieved. Plus, this phone's biggest competitors are all priced well-below $750.
The Galaxy S20 FE debuted at $700, though you can usually find it for $600 or less these days, and its newer sibling, the Galaxy S21, debuted at $800 but can be had for around $700. The Pixel 5 is also around $700. With the OnePlus Nord line priced several hundred dollars less, there is plenty of room for OnePlus to take the price of the 9R down a notch or two, especially if it wants to pull a Samsung and reduce the price of its premier flagships from last year.
What do you want to see in a OnePlus value flagship?
I love to see phone manufacturers offering more for less, and I'm glad to see the value flagship space continue to grow. Does my wishlist for the OnePlus 9R match yours, or are there things that I've left off that you think the new device should have?