OnePlus had a lackluster 2020 in the flagship category, and it is looking to bounce back this year with the OnePlus 9 series. The OnePlus 9 series will continue the Chinese manufacturer's push as the maker of the best Android phones, and we're likely to see a slew of exciting additions that should make the phones stand out from their 2020 counterparts.
We've had a few nuggets of information on the OnePlus 9; there will be three models in the series — OnePlus 9, 9 Pro, and 9 Lite — and they will debut at an earlier-than-usual release window in March 2021. Here's what you need to know about the OnePlus 9 release date, specs, pricing, and availability.
OnePlus 9 Announcement and release date
OnePlus usually launches its flagships in May, but in 2020, the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro were unveiled on April 14. Here's when OnePlus released some of its earlier flagships (we're counting just the numbered series here and not the T refresh that usually debuts in the fall):
- OnePlus 8 series: April 14, 2020
- OnePlus 7 series: May 14, 2019
- OnePlus 6: May 16, 2018
- OnePlus 5: June 20, 2017
The company is changing its strategy once again for 2021, with the OnePlus 9 set to be released in March. There's no exact launch date yet, but we've heard from reliable sources within the company that the OnePlus 9 will make its debut sometime in mid-March.
That information is unchanged in February, and from what I understand, the manufacturer is getting ready to start sharing information as we get closer to the launch window. So you should start seeing the first set of teasers sometime in mid-February.
OnePlus 9 Price
We'll have to wait until closer to the launch date to get a better idea as to how much the OnePlus 9 will cost. Having said that, OnePlus has followed a consistent pattern over the years in terms of pricing, with every new model retailing for $30 to $100 over the previous generation. Here's a refresher of OnePlus pricing for previous generations:
- OnePlus 8T: $749 / ₹42,999
- OnePlus 8 Pro: $899 / ₹54,999
- OnePlus 8: $699 / ₹41,999
- OnePlus 7T: $599 / ₹37,999
- OnePlus 7 Pro: $669 / ₹48,999
- OnePlus 7: £499 / ₹32,999
- OnePlus 6T: $549 / ₹37,999
- OnePlus 6: $529 / ₹34,999
As you can make out from the list above, last year saw a huge increase in pricing for OnePlus. The OnePlus 8 series introduced premium designs and a host of exciting upgrades — particularly with the OnePlus 8 Pro — and that led to a $100 increase in the OnePlus 8 from the OnePlus 7T and a $230 uptick from the OnePlus 7 Pro to the OnePlus 8 Pro.
We're not going to see as substantial an increase with the OnePlus 9 series. OnePlus is struggling to maintain an edge in the high-end segment, and it is likely we will see a price correction to position the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro aggressively next to the Galaxy S21 series, which starts off at $799.
If I had to venture a guess, the regular OnePlus 9 could be priced at the same $749 retail figure as the OnePlus 8T, with the OnePlus 9 Pro slotting in for $949. OnePlus is already close to the threshold in terms of pricing, and it does not have the clout yet to charge over $1,000 for the base variant of its flagship.
OnePlus has been aggressive in India for the last two launch cycles, and we see that continuing with the OnePlus 9 series. The OnePlus 9 price in India should be around the ₹44,999 figure, and the OnePlus 9 Pro should debut for ₹58,999 or thereabouts. India is the largest market for OnePlus, and the company would want to retain its position as the best-selling manufacturer in the premium category in 2021.
OnePlus 9 Models
The OnePlus 8 series featured two models: a regular version and a Pro model. With the OnePlus 9 series, we'll get three models at launch: a OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro to succeed last year's handsets, and a third model in the form of the OnePlus 9 Lite.
With the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro, they're about what you'd expect from new OnePlus flagships. Both phones are anticipated to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset and other top-tier specs, but with the OnePlus 9 Lite, it'll be powered by last year's Snapdragon 865. The 865 is far from a slouch here in 2021, and with word on the street being that the 9 Lite will cost as little as $600, you'll be getting impressive horsepower for a very reasonable price.
The OnePlus 9 Lite could be fierce competition for the likes of the Galaxy S20 FE and Google Pixel 5 — both of which currently dominate the value flagship space. That said, if OnePlus focuses on incredible value for the 9 Lite and a top-tier flagship experience with the 9 Pro, it could put the regular OnePlus 9 in an awkward spot similar to what we saw with the OnePlus 8.
OnePlus 9 Design
The first CAD render of the OnePlus 9 was shared on November 14, and as expected, it's a refinement of what we got with the 8T. The camera housing is still positioned in the left corner, though the glass surrounding the sensors now appears to match the color of the phone. In other words, it sure seems like OnePlus is now trying to mimic the Note 20 aesthetic with the OnePlus 9 where the 8T strongly resembles the Galaxy S20.
A few days later, the OnePlus 9 Pro broke cover for the first time in the form of a an even higher-quality render. It looks to share the same general design of the OnePlus 9 render seen above, though the rear camera housing is a bit different. We also get to see it in a dark navy color, which looks quite nice.
If you prefer hands-on images over renders, our first leak came on December 12. What you're looking at is a prototype of the OnePlus 9, and while it's possible the final design could change between now and release, this is more than likely what the final product will end up looking like. The camera housing is in line with that initial CAD render, we get a look at a nice silver/gray color, and there's a left-mounted hole punch cutout for the selfie camera.
Speaking of hands-on, we were treated to even more real-world images of the OnePlus 9 Pro thanks to a video by YouTuber Dave2D. In the video, Dave highlights a variety of hands-on images of a OnePlus 9 Pro prototype that reveals the phone from a variety of different angles.
One of the most interesting tidbits is the Hasselblad branding on the OnePlus 9 Pro's rear camera housing. Hasselblad is a seriously powerful name in the camera space, so the fact that it's working with OnePlus to some degree is really exciting. While the company's previous attempt at making a camera Moto Mod for the Moto Z left a lot to be desired, we're still looking forward to what we could get as a reslt of this partnership.
OnePlus 9 Specs
OnePlus' differentiator is the hardware, so we can once again look forward to seeing the latest silicon that Qualcomm has to offer. For 2021 that's the Snapdragon 888, the company's first chipset built on the 5nm node.
Elsewhere, the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro will get the new Warp Charge 65 standard, and both models should get an IP68 rating and in-screen fingerprint sensors. Considering OnePlus will be aggressive to go up against the S21, we don't see the storage configurations changing for 2021.
For now, here's a very early look at what where we're at right now based on the latest speculation:
|OnePlus 9||OnePlus 9 Pro||OnePlus 9 Lite|
|Operating system||Android 11
120Hz refresh rate
120Hz refresh rate
|Chipset||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 888||Snapdragon 865|
|RAM||8GB/12GB LPDDR5||8GB/12GB LPDDR5||?|
|Storage||128GB/256GB UFS3.1||128GB/256GB UFS3.1||?|
|Rear Camera 1||48MP primary||48MP primary||?|
|Rear Camera 2||48MP ultra-wide||48MP ultra-wide||?|
|Rear Camera 3||Telephoto||Telephoto||?|
Warp Charge 65 (10V/6.5A)
30W wireless charging
Warp Charge 65 (10V/6.5A)
30W wireless charging
Warp Charge 65 (10V/6.5A)
|Security||In-display fingerprint (optical)||In-display fingerprint (optical)||?|
We got our first details on the OnePlus 9's camera setup thanks to a leak from 91Mobiles, with the site noting that the OnePlus 9 will feature a 48MP Sony IMX689 for the primary camera, a 48MP ultra-wide camera, and a third mystery sensor. Many of the other specs were leaked courtesy of a tipster in China, detailing things like the display hardware, processor, etc.
As far as the display is concerned, we should be in for a real treat. A report from February 18 suggested that the OnePlus 9 Pro will come equipped with an LTPO panel — the same display tech we see in devices like the Apple Watch and more recent Samsung phones. This allows for greater variability with refresh rates, meaning the OnePlus 9 Pro should be able to scale anywhere from 120Hz all the way down to 10Hz.
OnePlus 9 FAQ
Why is OnePlus launching the OnePlus 9 so early?
While OnePlus used to launch phones in June a few years ago, it has realized that an earlier launch window is better for positioning its products against rivals like Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others.
With these manufacturers releasing their products in February and March, OnePlus will be able to position the OnePlus 9 series as a viable alternative to the S21, Mi 11, and other upcoming flagships by releasing it earlier than before. Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 a month earlier than usual, so it makes a lot of sense that OnePlus would want to follow an accelerated release schedule to get the OnePlus 9 series out the door early.