The OnePlus 9 Pro may be good enough to turn OnePlus into a household name

Oneplus 9 Pro Prototype Leak
Oneplus 9 Pro Prototype Leak (Image credit: Dave2D)

Most of us don't buy electronics the same way a typical consumer does. We're enthusiasts who like to read websites that bring news and commentary about the products that interest us and a list of something like the best Android phones include offerings from companies like Google and OnePlus in addition to Samsung.

Making the best product isn't enough to sell the most phones.

But if you walk into a retail store that sells phones, you'll quickly notice a lack of diverse products that we all know are really great. Instead, everyone is either buying an iPhone or a Samsung phone. That's fine because both companies make great products that appeal to people for more reasons than just the name.

But every one of the companies that aren't in that elite tier when it comes to sales, like OnePlus or Xiaomi, would love to be there. What "holds them back" in the west is a weird market where making the best product isn't enough to sell the most. For OnePlus, the OnePlus 9 Pro could help bring about that change.

I'm not saying it will, or that I even think OnePlus is suddenly going to sell even half as many phones as Samsung. I'm just saying that this year's launch has almost every ingredient to make it happen.

OnePlus 8

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

The most important of those ingredients is evident when you look at the most recent models and compare them. This probably isn't what you would expect to hear from me if you know me just a little bit, but OnePlus and Samsung both make the best phone for me right now — the OnePlus 8 and the Galaxy S21.

Even with newer hardware, there isn't really anything that makes the Galaxy S21 a better product than the OnePlus 8 for me.

The two are both very well made and beautiful to look at, but more importantly, they work exactly the way you expect an expensive phone to operate. The interface is smooth and lag-free, the display is gorgeous, all of my apps work as intended, and I think they offer the best value when it comes to features versus price. I'm using the S21, but the only reason I picked it over the OP 8 was that Google Fi was being squirrely the night I tried to activate a new phone and the Galaxy was the one that ended up working. (For what it's worth, the OP 8 works fine too. Google was just being Google that night.)

I think you would love either phone, but there are some differences that favor Samsung. Device-wise, that would be the camera, but there isn't really anything else that Samsung does better than OnePlus here even with newer hardware inside. The other difference — and one that keeps OnePlus from sliding into some sort of top-tier phone makers club — is marketing. Especially retailer marketing.

There is a reason why you won't notice a OnePlus phone in a carrier store and there's not much OnePlus can do about it — carriers would rather sell you a Samsung phone (we'll leave Apple out of the discussion from now on). OnePlus does make a Verizon 5G model and a T-Mobile 5G model, and technically the unlocked model should work on AT&T, but it doesn't. You might walk in knowing what you want, but a large chunk of the phone-buying public wants to hear the sales pitch when it comes to buying a phone in-person.

Samsung earned its spot as the top phone maker and it wants to keep it.

Carriers are confident that you'll walk out the door as a happy customer if you buy a new Galaxy because Samsung can 1) make enough phones, 2) sell them to carriers at the right price, and 3) has an existing reputation for making high-quality phones that people love. A happy customer is a returning customer. And a lot of weight needs to be placed on Samsung's marketing, which pounds home the fact that it makes great products that you should walk into that carrier store and buy.

OnePlus can't offer those same three things in the same way Samsung does. We know that OnePlus makes great phones because OnePlus places emphasis on a type of community-based grassroots marketing approach and we're Android phone enthusiasts. We read the reviews. We read Reddit. We know OnePlus makes really good stuff. Your neighbor, who probably isn't a phone enthusiast, doesn't know any of this. They may have seen someone say it on the internet, but it doesn't carry the same weight as seeing your favorite phone reviewer give a stamp of approval or seeing online forums filled with happy users.

The OnePlus 9 is the phone that could move the sales needle.

This is what OnePlus needs to address if it ever wants to get on the A-list and now would be a smart time to do it. The OnePlus 9 Pro is an expensive Android phone with what appears to be a great camera and should stand tall against anything that Samsung can pit against it. It has a few things that Samsung can't offer, like super-fast wireless charging, too. As a bonus, the BBK Group probably could build as many of them as it could sell if it wanted to, and OnePlus isn't in any danger of being canceled by the U.S. Government.

OnePlus Nord Ash Grey

Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

In case you didn't know, BBK is the "parent" company of Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, Realme, and other smaller brands we never talk about. The company sold 21% of all smartphones in Q4 2020, which is more than Apple and the same number that Samsung sold during the same period.

It seems like the BBK Group doesn't want OnePlus to compete.

It just seems that OnePlus, along with its parent BBK, doesn't want to make the company a household brand. In China, BBK was able to outpace Xiaomi to the top because it invested in its own retail shops while Xiaomi depended on online sales. But the focus was on the Oppo brand, with OnePlus being the high-profile "luxury" brand that you bought online. The same sort of marketing is what makes the same phones wildly popular in India, too. This makes sense because OnePlus is actually a subsidiary of Oppo, which is a subsidiary of BBK. For OnePlus to survive, Oppo and BBK must thrive.

It seems that the whole "chain of command" would rather focus on making budget phones like the Nord series for the western market instead of wanting a phone like the OnePlus 9 Pro on a sign in the carrier store's front window. It's not because the phones aren't good enough, because they are. If OnePlus, Oppo, BBK, or whoever has the final say wanted to challenge Samsung when it comes to sales, right now would be the best time to do it.

If you've not tried a OnePlus phone in the past few years, now would be a good time for you to do it, too.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • My household name is my S21+, Samsung? One Plus has to prove that Hasselblad Cameras can keep up with the top 🐕's? Yikes! Maybe, maybe not?
  • They need an S21 sized option flagship. They can't be making all flagships the size of the Pro Max.
  • This is a very good point. Only Apple and Samsung seem to get this.
  • Oneplus charging tech is the best there is. Although proprietary sucks. But what I've learned is that I don't care. I don't want a phone that goes from zero to 60% in 15 minutes... I want a phone that I charge overnight and then it lasts all day. If it does that, it doesn't matter how fast it charges. I'm talking about this because it's the only thing that really distinguishes oneplus... In every other category you're hit with "why not just buy a Samsung".
  • Different software, less bloat.
  • Samsung has DeX. I'm not sure if OnePlus does. Same for the S-pen.
  • You can use the stock Android desktop. It isn't as good as DeX though.
  • Does anyone even use DeX? I forgot it even existed since trying it once many years ago
  • No because Dex is a niche gimmick. A handful of people use it but most see its major shortcomings. It's ChromeOS Lite 😅
  • I use it on my Tab S7+...but that is the only Samsung product I own. No other OEM can compete in the TAB realm on Android.
  • I'd buy a OnePlus, but they're all just too dang big!
  • I've just come to have a look at this app for first time in ages and the content is absolutely abysmal with more ads than articles! Used to love this site around 1-2 years ago but it's decline has been rapid and it's just become the equivalent of getting junk mail through the door. The articles that are relevant are poorly written and there are hardly any phone reviews of interest. I'm from UK and realise that North America doesn't get a lot of phones that are released internationally but if you interested in knowing what's being released almost daily incase you want to import them check out GSM arena it's chock full of new phone releases and if like me you enjoy seeing what new phones are actually out there just out of pure interest instead of ads for robovac or ring doorbell etc give it a try. Sorry but this site is absolute trash these days.
  • The internet exist and we know how to search and read. But, thanks. 😉
  • So you come to a site (with a heavy US presence) only to complain they don't review enough UK phones? Lol...
  • Not gonna touch any Chinese phone with a 10 foot pole. But I like OP for the fact that they offer better alternatives to the big names. Their only problem is how to keep their phone prices from escalating. Already, OP doesn't generate the same excitement as they did 5 yrs ago due to high prices.
  • SO what phone exists that is not touched by China in one way or another? Chinese companies...made in China, assembled in China...or maybe some of the parts are made in China. When I was a kid we used to laugh when some toy was labeled "Made In Japan" hahahahahaha. Who got the last laugh on that one?
    Everything is made in China whether the product is owned by a Chinese company or not. If not China, then Taiwan, Korea, Japan, or maybe even Viet Nam! Six of one half a dozen of the other.
  •'re not too bright are ya? If you don't want anything Chinese you better burn your house down because it's full of Chinese stuff.
  • Since Samsung is a major component supplier to Apple, the market is really a quasi-duopoly. And it stays like that not for reasons of product superiority but because Uncle Sam makes sure it does. Samsung is allowed a market share so Apple can claim "Not a monopoly" - just as MacOS does for Windows - but any threat to Apple's, and by extension the US, market dominance is dealt with. Remember Huawei? Remember Nokia? BlackBerry with its too good encryption?
  • The Chinese stuff in our house doesn't send our personal data to servers in China though.
  • Wtf they're already a household 🤨
  • I think not !!! Anyone who has used OnePlus knows they suck at updates. Especially security updates, and something that’s important for you Jerry as you keep saying that. And if you are on Reddit you would know they hate OnePlus in recent years 🤣 (though Reddit hates everything in general) OnePlus has a long way to go and IMO they are only getting worse every year. All these articles and hype is usual OnePlus release hype and OnePlus marketing (not this article per se) I’ll buy OP9 pro since I buy every flagship phone but no way I’m expecting it to be close my S21 Ultra, iPhone 12 Pro based on every OnePlus phone I have owned. Heck even Pixel 5 is satisfying some audience who cares about updates and now that it has great battery life (unlike Pixel 4 series) it’s a solid all rounder for small set of people. I think OnePlus is stuck in the middle with awkward pricing and identity crisis. Good luck selling expensive phones (not in Samsung and Apple quality IMO) and competing with them.
  • I completely and honestly disagree with this statement they do not suck it updates, I've been getting scaredy updates every month and every two months for my OnePlus 7t pro.
  • Maybe if you live in the US then the OnePlus updates are bimonthly but not if you live in the UK where its more than 2 months for updates, Samsung are far better with updates than OnePlus, I have had 3 updates in the space of a month since I've had my S20 FE 5G and I'm on the current March security patch where as my 7T is still stuck in the December security patch, so yeah OnePlus suck at updates and have no chance of competing with Samsung, especially in camera even with this Haasslbland partnership with their cameras, its not enough and have lost sight of what made them exciting, their low prices and what you got for that low price and now they're no longer standing out because of their higher prices and poor software updates.
  • I had nothing but LG since the Nexus 4 until last year. I couldn't find anything about a new LG and the Oneplus 7t was on sale so I gave it a shot. The proximity sensor sucks so if I have the knock on feature on the phone turns on in my pocket and sets alarms for random times. I can't separately adjust the volume of ringtones and notifications tones separately. Bluetooth volume randomly turns so the way down so it frustrated me wondering why music isn't playing on my car. Everything else is good but not sure I can give them another chance but now in hearing LG might be done with phones. This sucks. Maybe Samsung.
  • good enough? I was way more impressed with my Mate 10 Pro than I was with my OnePlus 7 Pro.
  • Samsung has earned its spot as Android top dog and i used to like OnePlus but I feel they're moving away from what made them the OEM, I admired most and Samsung has come on leaps and bounds and I'd say that One UI is better than Oxygen OS with more features than you can shake a stick at and I find a lot of these features useful and I feel OnePlus has lost sight of what made them great and let's face it, Samsung is Android and Android is what it is today because of the innovation and features Samsung brought in way before Google baked them into Android.
  • Well said, if you dig into most of the features added by google to android in the last few years, you will notice that these features were implemented by Samsung a year before. And in a side note, allot of tech reviewers are always busy that Samsung has allot of unused features, and when google implement it a year later, it's 'vanila' android...
  • Exactly, Samsung is the one driving Android, not Google, heck vanilla Android doesn't even have anything like Good Lock or anything like the edge panels nor DEX. Google is as far behind in innovation and features as Apple.
  • I have used 3 OnePlus phones...currently using the 8T. I think they're great. No problems for me. I would suggest staying away from the OnePlus community as it is filled with a bazillion uneducated whiners who no nothing about how a cell phone works. So sad really. However, if Security Updates are important to being current...then you do not want a OnePlus phone. They are ALWAYS 2 or 3 months behind...and I mean ALWAYS!
    If they would improve this...then I think they would become more popular, along with some advertising here in the USA.
  • Speaking of security updates, Samsung these days is the top when it comes to updates, they have improved in an unbelievable level, a lot of times I receive monthly updates even before pixel phones!!!
  • They sure have been impressive with updates, I've had 3 updates since I got my S20 FE 5G a month ago with the Android 11 (One UI 3.0) then One UI 3.1 and got the March security patch over a week ago, so yeah Samsung are definitely on top of updates, they're even better than Nokia now who were good but updates always arrived late and sometimes into the next month and when updating my old Nokia 8.1 to Android 10 in 2019, they dropped to being a month behind in security patches and started getting worse. So far so good for me with Samsung.
  • I'm dying to see if the cameras will be improved with Hasselblad? Maybe, maybe not? With the release tomorrow we won't have long to wait?
  • The only thing holding me back from buying their latest & greatest is their dismal trade-in values, even for their own phones.
    If they could at least come close to the trade-in deals Samsung offers, I would be all over the 9 pro!