OnePlus changed its fall launch strategy last year; it eschewed the OnePlus 8T Pro in favor of a single model, the OnePlus 8T, and the Chinese manufacturer is set to follow a similar pattern this year. We've already heard that there will not be a OnePlus 9T this time, but OnePlus is going to release a device in the numbered flagship series.
According to information from my insider sources, OnePlus will unveil the OnePlus 9 RT in the month of October. The phone will offer modest upgrades over the OnePlus 9R and will be limited to select markets. This is the only phone in the numbered flagship series that's on the cards for later this year; there will be two Nord launches, but no new devices aimed at the high-end segment.
OnePlus 9 RT specs and launch date
As for the hardware on offer, the OnePlus 9 RT uses the 9R as a foundation, so it will feature the same 120Hz AMOLED panel, a higher-binned version of the Snapdragon 870 — it isn't getting the Snapdragon 888 — and a 4500mAh battery with 65W charging.
There will be camera-focused upgrades, with the phone picking up the 50MP Sony IMX766 that's featured in the OnePlus 9 series as well as the Nord 2. While the sensor served as the wide-angle lens on the OnePlus 9 series, it became the primary module on the Nord 2, and that will be the case on the OnePlus 9 RT as well.
As for availability, the OnePlus 9 RT will debut in India and China, similar to the 9R. There will not be another offering in the numbered flagship series in Europe or North America this year, and that makes sense when you look at how OnePlus is positioning itself in these markets.
OnePlus is increasingly focusing on the budget segment in North America with the Nord N series, with the base model of the OnePlus 9 Pro not even going up for sale in the region. In Europe, OnePlus is offering the Nord 2 as a viable alternative to the best cheap Android phones from the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi, and Realme. With the OnePlus 9 RT essentially undercutting the OnePlus 9, it is understandable that OnePlus doesn't want to launch it in global markets.
OnePlus 9 RT: First phone with OxygenOS 12
What's particularly interesting about the OnePlus 9 RT is that it will be the first OnePlus phone to run OxygenOS 12 based on Android 12 out of the box. OnePlus now uses ColorOS as the base for OxygenOS, and we already got a good look at what that integration looks like with the Nord 2.
OxygenOS 12 builds on that in significant ways, effectively bringing together OnePlus' and OPPO's disparate software efforts. The skin will emulate ColorOS to a bigger extent, but it will continue to offer the OnePlus Launcher and unique OnePlus features like Work-Life Balance, Zen Mode, Scout, and Shelf.
I have been using an internal build of OxygenOS 12 for a few weeks now, and there are a few new feature additions. OxygenOS 12 is getting floating windows, and the feature works similar to ColorOS 11 — you'll be able to resize windows to fit them anywhere on the screen.
While OxygenOS had accent color and icon customization for a while now, it was missing a theme store. That's changing with OxygenOS 12, which gets a theme store that's nearly identical to the one you'll find on ColorOS. OxygenOS 12 is getting a few privacy-focused additions as well; you can now set up alerts when an app accesses your clipboard contents, and ColorOS' Private Safe is being ported over. You'll need to set a privacy password, and then you can lock sensitive data — including photos, videos, and documents — in the safe.
OxygenOS has a Hidden Space mode that lets you hide apps from the app drawer, and Private Safe builds on that by giving you the ability to lock sensitive documents and photos. There's also a redesigned Settings page with better menu categorization, but this particular change is already live in OxygenOS 11.3 on the Nord 2.
As for the design, OxygenOS 12 will not feature Google's new Material You aesthetic; the design language is nearly unchanged from OxygenOS 11.3. My sources indicate that OnePlus was aiming to get a closed beta of OxygenOS 12 out by now, but the sheer amount of bugs has prevented the manufacturer from doing so. I have been told that the focus for the entire software team is to fix the lingering issues in OxygenOS 12 so that an OTA build can be delivered to closed beta testers.
The build that I have been using is ridden with bugs as well, with frequent crashes, camera issues, and missing features. It doesn't seem like these issues are limited to OnePlus; even on my Pixel 4 XL running the latest Android 12 beta, there are more bugs than at this point last year.
OnePlus' current internal timeline suggests the closed beta for OxygenOS 12 will kick off sometime by the end of August — it is already recruiting testers for the same. The public beta should be available two to three weeks following the closed beta, so we should see an OxygenOS 12 beta build by the time Google releases the stable version of Android 12 next month.
Value above all
The value flagship to beat
With the latest internal hardware and a gorgeous 120Hz AMOLED screen, the OnePlus 9 nails the fundamentals. It takes great photos, has a clean software, and has all-day battery life with fast 65W fast charging. If you're in the market for value, you can't go wrong here.
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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.