OnePlus takes a very risky bet with OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro pricing in India

OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 9 Pro
OnePlus 9 vs. OnePlus 9 Pro (Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

OnePlus has unveiled its 2021 flagships. The OnePlus 9 delivers considerable upgrades from last year, and the OnePlus 9 Pro has the best cameras you'll find on any Android phone today.

Both phones have benefitted from the Hasselblad partnership, and they also have a new design language that makes them stand out a bit more from their predecessors. The internal hardware has also been updated for 2021, and these are two of the fastest Android phones in the market today.

Because of the upgrades on offer, these phones aren't necessarily affordable. The regular OnePlus 9 debuts at $729 in the U.S., and that's pretty decent considering the number of new features on offer and the new cameras. Then there's the OnePlus 9 Pro: the phone starts off at $969 — $240 more than the standard variant — and the 12GB/256GB edition costs $1,069. The 9 Pro is slotting in for $70 more than its predecessor, a price hike of 7% over last year.

Once again, that's not bad when you factor in all the upgrades — particularly the cameras. However, things are a little different in India with this launch. OnePlus made a bold move last year when it undercut the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro in India by a significant amount over other regions, and in doing so made them a standout value.

It's not doing that this year. Here's the full breakdown of the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro pricing in India:

  • OnePlus 9 (8GB/128GB): ₹49,999 ($690)
  • OnePlus 9 (12GB/256GB): ₹54,999 ($760)
  • OnePlus 9 Pro (8GB/128GB): ₹64,999 ($900)
  • OnePlus 9 Pro (12GB/256GB): ₹69,999 ($970)

Here's how that contrasts to what the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro debuted at last year:

  • OnePlus 8 (6GB/128GB): ₹41,999 ($580)
  • OnePlus 8 (8GB/128GB): ₹44,999 ($620)
  • OnePlus 8 (12GB/256GB): ₹49,999 ($690)
  • OnePlus 8 Pro (8GB/128GB): ₹54,999 ($760)
  • OnePlus 8 Pro (12GB/256GB): ₹59,999 ($830)

OnePlus set an unrealistic expectation in terms of pricing with the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, and it's trying to change course this year. But the move has a potential to backfire spectacularly; India is a very price-conscious market, and the fact that the OnePlus 9 and 9 Pro cost up to 16% more than last year's offerings makes an already daunting task all the more impossible.

India is the second-largest smartphone market in the world, but over 90% of sales occur in the budget and mid-range segments. OnePlus knows this well; that statistic was one of the main driving factors behind the introduction of the Nord series last year, and a bulk of OnePlus' momentum in India now comes because of the Nord.

With the OnePlus 9 series, OnePlus has priced itself out of contention in India.

With the OnePlus 9 series, OnePlus has effectively priced itself out of contention in India. While the phones undoubtedly offer better cameras and upgraded internal hardware, they miss out on value — the one trait that potential customers in India care about more than anything else. I really like the cameras on the OnePlus 9 Pro in particular, but I feel that the phone costs ₹5,000 ($70) more than it should — OnePlus would have had an easier time if the 9 Pro debuted at ₹59,999 ($830).

Then there's also the fact that the OnePlus 9 misses out on wireless charging in India — a bizarre omission in a key market. With the potential launch of the Xiaomi Mi 11 in India and plenty of lower-priced alternatives available in this category — including the Galaxy S20 FE — OnePlus is looking at the OnePlus 9R as the value-focused option in India. That particular phone debuts at ₹39,999 ($550) for the 8GB/128GB model, making it a much more enticing option.

Does this mean you shouldn't buy the OnePlus 9 or 9 Pro in India? No. These are the best phones OnePlus has manufactured by some margin, and while they don't have the same value as before, they still have a lot to offer. OnePlus just isn't being aggressive in this category, and that leaves the door wide open for Xiaomi and others.

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.