OnePlus 9 Lite with Snapdragon 865 will launch alongside OnePlus 9/9 Pro

OnePlus 8T review
OnePlus 8T review (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The OnePlus 9 series will have three models at launch: OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, and OnePlus 9 Lite.
  • The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro will be powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 888 chipset, but the 9 Lite will get the Snapdragon 865.
  • All three devices will be unveiled in Q1 2021.

OnePlus makes some of the best Android phones money can buy today, and the Chinese manufacturer is set to launch its 2021 flagship phones in the coming months. We already got a good look at the design of the OnePlus 9 thanks to leaked photos of the device, and we can now reveal additional details around the internal hardware.

OnePlus 9 series: OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, OnePlus 9 Lite

According to my insider source, the OnePlus 9 series will offer three models at launch: the OnePlus 9, OnePlus 9 Pro, and OnePlus 9 Lite. The OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro will feature Qualcomm's latest 5nm chipset, the Snapdragon 888, but the OnePlus 9 Lite will be powered by the Snapdragon 865 instead.

OnePlus usually launches two models in its numbered flagship series, with a regular model joined by a Pro version that includes all the extras. But with the T refresh earlier this year, the company eschewed the Pro version and released just the OnePlus 8T.

With the OnePlus 9 series, it makes sense for OnePlus to launch a Lite model alongside the Pro and regular versions. The OnePlus 8T starts off at $749, and if history is any indication, the regular OnePlus 9 will be in the vicinity of $780 to $800, with the Pro model debuting at a $150 to $200 premium.

The OnePlus 9 Lite could debut at around $600.

In this scenario, OnePlus could launch the OnePlus 9 Lite at around $600, allowing the company to target value flagship buyers. With the Galaxy S20 FE and Pixel 5 dominating this segment, OnePlus needs a strong offering to take on Samsung and Google, and the OnePlus 9 Lite could just be that device.

In that context, it's interesting that OnePlus is opting for the Snapdragon 865 in favor of the Snapdragon 888. The Snapdragon 865 may be a year old at this point, but it delivers blistering performance and should hold its own for several years to come. Going with the older chipset allows OnePlus to save some cash with the bill of materials, and should still make for an exciting phone in 2021.

Comparing OnePlus 9 Lite to OnePlus 8T/8

OnePlus has mastered the art of iteration over the last five years. The company has managed to launch a new phone once in six months, subtly changing the hardware and design with every new generation. Essentially, this means there is a lot of similarity in the manufacturer's portfolio: the OnePlus 8 is nearly identical to the OnePlus 7T on the hardware side of things, and the OnePlus 7 was the same phone as the OnePlus 6T with a few subtle hardware changes.

The OnePlus 9 Lite should feature the same hardware as the 8T.

So with the OnePlus 9 Lite, it is entirely likely we'll get a phone that shares a lot of hardware fundamentals with the OnePlus 8T. It will be powered by the Snapdragon 865, and should have a 90 or 120Hz AMOLED panel along with 65W fast charging. I don't have the full details of the hardware just yet, but I should know more very soon.

It is also likely to share the camera optics with the 8T, with the regular OnePlus 9 and the 9 Pro getting the newer camera modules instead. Reusing components across generations is a strategy that has served OnePlus very well in the past, and it is looking to continue that into 2021.

The OnePlus 9 Lite could feature a plastic back and more mainstream design to differentiate itself from the costlier 8T. OnePlus is clearly emulating what Samsung did with the Galaxy S20 FE, and it will be interesting to see what the phone has to offer.

With the OnePlus 9 series slated for an official launch in Q1 2021, we should have much more details shortly. In the meantime, what do you think is a good price point for the OnePlus 9 Lite? Let us know in the comments.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.