OnePlus 9
Image: Andrew Hoyle/CNET

OnePlus was founded in 2013 to serve an untapped market: those who want flagship-quality phones without having to pay flagship prices. Even better, the OnePlus lineup was one of the first mass-market phones to be sold unlocked; this made the OnePlus devices particularly appealing to those who didn’t want to be locked into a particular carrier.

And almost without fail, each OnePlus release was a hit. The combination of sleek hardware, outstanding performance and low cost have made OnePlus devices a mainstay in the Android phone market. With the 9th iteration, OnePlus has released a smartphone (as well as Pro edition of it) that ups its camera game, which is an area where the phone has lagged behind the competition year after year.

Let’s find out if the OnePlus 9 or the OnePlus 9 Pro is the right Android phone to meet your needs. We’ll update this OnePlus 9 cheat sheet as new information about the OnePlus devices is available.

SEE: Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What is the OnePlus 9?

The OnePlus 9 series is the latest 5G-compatible smartphone release from the Chinese company OnePlus, which is focused on flagship phones at discounted prices. The series includes two Android phones: the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro.

OnePlus devices tend to not include some of the bells and whistles found on the competition (especially the Samsung line of Android phones), but that minimalist take on Android phones made it possible for the company to sell mobile devices at prices Samsung and Google simply could not compete with.

However, with the OnePlus 9, that all changes. OnePlus has been slowly shrugging off the mantle of “cheap phones” for some time now, and with the OnePlus 9, the company finally opted to release flagship devices at flagship prices. The OnePlus 9 starts at $729, and the OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $1,069. Those figures are still lower than the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy but slightly above the Pixel 5.

SEE: 5G: What it means for edge computing (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What makes the OnePlus 9 different is that the company realized how far behind in the photography game it was, so OnePlus partnered with Hasselblad (a leading Swedish manufacturer of digital medium format cameras) to greatly improve the color performance of the OnePlus cameras–specifically, to bring authentic color and even more natural skin tone into the mix. This partnership accomplished the goal with a mixture of hardware and software improvements, and the OnePlus 9 could compete against industry-leading cameras in the Samsung Galaxy 20 and Pixel 5 devices.

But the OnePlus 9 isn’t just about the camera. The company uses its own take on Android, called OxygenOS, which is one of the better flavors of Android on the market (the only superior version being the pure version found on the Pixel line of devices).

So if you’re looking for an unlocked phone with a camera that can compete against the best in class, and you’re not interested in a pure Android experience, the OnePlus 9 might be the phone for you.

Differences between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro

OnePlus is offering two smartphone models in this lineup: the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro. There are some significant differences between the OnePlus 9 and the OnePlus 9 Pro.

First and foremost, the OnePlus 9 has a 6.5-inch FHD display running at a 2400×1080 resolution, whereas the OnePlus 9 Pro has a 6.7-inch QHD display running at a 3168×1440 resolution.

The next variation is the camera spec. While the OnePlus 9 includes 48MP main, 50MP ultrawide and 2MP monochrome cameras, the OnePlus 9 Pro adds an 8MP telephoto into the mix.

Finally, the charging of the devices varies. The OnePlus 9 includes 65W wired and 15W wireless charging, whereas the OnePlus 9 Pro includes 65W wired and 50W wireless charging capability.

SEE: Hiring kit: Android Developer (TechRepublic Premium)

Specs for the OnePlus 9 series

The OnePlus 9 specs validate its flagship moniker. The latest device from the company can stand up to just about any phone on the market. Here’s the full spec sheet.

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

  • Display: 6.7 inches, 3216 x 1440 pixels resolution (525 PPI), AMOLED with LTPO and smart 120Hz refresh rate

  • OS: Android 11 with OxygenOS 11.2.x

  • RAM: 8GB/12GB LPDDR5

  • Internal storage: 128GB/256GB UFS 3.1

  • Rear cameras: 8MP f/2.4 telephoto with 3x optical zoom, Custom Sony 48MP f/1.8, 50MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera with Freeform lens, and 2MP monochrome camera

  • Front camera: 16MP f/2.4

  • Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS/Galileo/GLONASS/Beidou, NFC

  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ultrasonic Fingerprint Sensor, Gyroscope, Electronic Compass, Proximity Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Laser Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor

  • Dust and water resistance: IP68 rating

  • Battery: 4,500mAh non-removable with Warp Charge 65T wired and Warp Charge 50 wireless technologies

  • Dimensions: 163.2 x 73.6 x 8.7mm and 197g

  • Available colors: Morning Mist, Forest Green and Stellar Black (only available outside the U.S.)

The OnePlus 9 has very minimal bezels and a flat display, which OnePlus calls its Fluid Display.

What are some of the standout features of the OnePlus 9?

Warp Charge 65T

This might be one of the more appealing features, especially for business users. With Warp Charge 65T, you can get a full day’s worth of charge in 15 minutes or go from 1% to 100% of battery life in under 30 minutes. Few other phones can claim such speedy charges. And since OnePlus includes the charger, you don’t have to purchase special hardware to achieve these incredible speeds.

Along with the Warp Charge 65T is reverse wireless charging, so you can charge your other devices while you’re on the go.

No bloatware

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy line of devices, the OnePlus phones do not include any bloatware. Outside of OxygenOS, you won’t find any unnecessary or redundant apps or services running on the device. There are also zero ads to deal with, so your privacy remains intact.

That doesn’t mean OxygenOS is bereft of its own tools. You’ll find a few extra features within the OS, such as Quick Launcher, Quick Gestures and Gaming Mode (which optimizes the Android experience for gamers).

SEE: All of TechRepublic’s cheat sheets and smart person’s guides (TechRepublic)

But speaking of the camera

We have to return to the camera because it is the best feature of the OnePlus 9. Within the camera software, you’ll find a Pro Mode that allows users to take complete control over their photo taking. The Pro Mode resembles the famous Hasselblad interface and even includes the iconic sound of the Hasselblad cameras. If you know anything about taking photos with a DSLR, you should feel right at home in Pro Mode and will be empowered to take stunning photos.

Another feature of the OnePlus 9 that photogs will greatly enjoy is the Tilt-Shift mode. This mode makes it possible to create almost toyish-looking photos of real-life images; in the OnePlus 9, this is achieved via software and not hardware. But for anyone who wishes they could snap such photos from their phone, the wait is over.

For anyone who likes to take panoramic photos, the OnePlus 9 includes an ultra-wide lens. OnePlus has also packed in an 8 MP telephoto lens that provides a 3.3x optical zoom. Unfortunately, the zoom isn’t perfect; so if a zoom camera is critical for you, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

SEE: The 7 best photography apps for business pros with an eye for branding in the digital age (TechRepublic)

The OnePlus 9 is capable of shooting 8K video, which is a bit of overkill on a phone, and a single minute of 8K video will consume 1GB of internal memory. So chances are, you won’t be filming much in 8K with the OnePlus 9.

How does the OnePlus 9 compare to the OnePlus 8?

The OnePlus 8 absolutely pales in comparison to the OnePlus 9 with regards to the camera and battery charging. To get a better idea, here are the important OnePlus 8 specs.

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 865

  • Display: Fluide 6.55″ AMOLED 90Hz, HDR10+ @ 1080×2400 20:9

  • GPU: Adreno 650

  • Storage: 128GB

  • RAM: 8GB/12GB

  • Battery: Li-Po 4300 mAh Fast charging 30W, 50% in 22 min

The difference is apparent: The OnePlus 9 has a much faster CPU, a better display and a greatly-improved battery. These improvements will make a huge difference especially for power users who depend on their devices throughout the day. Although the OnePlus 8 had a perfectly capable battery that would last through the day, when you start hammering apps, videos, audio and the network, no phone battery can last an entire day. This is especially so when using a phone for video calls such as Zoom meetings. If video conference calls make up a good part of your day, you’ll be thankful for the OnePlus Warp Charge 65T found on the OnePlus 9.

The upgrade to the Snapdragon 888 will give users approximately 22% faster performance than the Snapdragon 865–that’s considerable. The Snapdragon 888 has a smaller transistor than the Snapdragon 865 (5nm vs 7nm) and a higher GPU frequency (~43%). The Snapdragon 888 also sees the following improvements over the Snapdragon 865:

  • 40% performance increase in floating-point computations.

  • Supports 16% higher memory bandwidth (51.2 against 44 GB/s).

  • Shows up to a 20% improvement in AnTuTu 8 score – 721K vs 600K.

  • Better instruction set architecture.

SEE: Top 5 programming languages for mobile app developers to learn (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What are the OnePlus 9’s main competitors?

The main competitors for the OnePlus 9 center mostly around the camera features. Because of this, the devices that will compete for attention are the iPhone 12 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 5.

  • The iPhone 12 Pro Max has probably the single best ultra-wide lens on the market.

  • The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a dual telephoto lens with 10x zoom and a laser AF sensor cannot be beat.

  • The Pixel 5 has an outstanding ultrawide lens, great portrait mode and some of the best natural coloration available.

Ultimately, the biggest competitor the OnePlus 9 will face is the OnePlus 8. With a cheaper price tag and specs that are still relevant today, OnePlus users might not be inclined to upgrade until the price comes down on the OnePlus 9 or unless the Hasselblad camera is a must-have.

Should businesses and professionals buy the OnePlus 9?

The primary draw of the OnePlus 9 is the WarpCharge 65T. Any business or professional looking for a phone with a battery that nearly every other device on the market cannot compare to will want to consider the OnePlus 9 or OnePlus 9 Pro. This is especially so if you’re looking for a well-designed interface and aren’t a purist when it comes to Android.

SEE: Power checklist: Managing and troubleshooting Android devices (TechRepublic Premium)

Beyond the battery, if you or your company depend on phones to take photos for business, you cannot beat the OnePlus 9 camera for flexibility. Although some may argue the iPhone 12 has a better panoramic option, the OnePlus 9 offers more control over your photos.

Overall, the OnePlus 9 is an intriguing package for businesses and pros. With a smart combination of just the right features, all the power you need and a lack of bloatware, this phone is a great all-around deal.

When and where will the OnePlus 9 be available?

At the moment, you can only pre-order the OnePlus 9 (starts at $729) or the OnePlus 9 Pro (starts at $1,069), both of which ship March 26, 2021. If I get more details from OnePlus about the availability of the OnePlus 9, I will update this article with that information.

Both the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro are limited to 4G LTE on the Verizon network even though the hardware supports 5G; so, if your carrier is Verizon, think twice about the OnePlus 9 or OnePlus 9 Pro. According to OnePlus, the OnePlus 9 is compatible with the following networks.


Support Band (LTE)

Support Band (NR)