OnePlus offers impressive new flagships, needs their cameras to deliver
The one weakness of OnePlus smartphones in the spotlight ahead of reviews going live
In an online event - that worked more like official confirmation of all the information already leaked or teased than anything else - OnePlus revealed everything that was left to know about its new flagship smartphones, the OnePlus 9 and One Plus 9 Pro. Both models, as expected, sport Qualcomm's latest and greatest processor, the SnapDragon 888, 8 or 12 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of storage. They both support 5G networks, they both offer the same sizable battery and both feature extremely fast wired and wireless charging (wired charger included). They are both very well-designed and made, as one would expect of smartphones approaching the €1000 price mark in 2021.
The differences between the OnePlus 9 and its Pro variant are not many, but they are important. OnePlus 9 Pro features a slightly larger screen but of much higher resolution, better display technology and premium built quality overall. This screen also features adaptive refresh rate: it changes to anywhere between 1 and 120 Hz depending on what the device needs to do, saving precious battery life in the course of a day. The Pro variant also offers an 8MP telephoto camera that the OnePlus 9 does not, optical image stabilization and laser autofocus on the main camera, as well as IP68 dust/water resistance certification.
Speaking of cameras, both variants come with impressive setups bases on Sony's acclaimed sensors and image processors. Their main camera's resolution clocks in at 48 Megapixels, their ultrawide one at 50 Megapixels while a 2 Megapixel camera takes care of depth data. Much has already been published regarding the collaboration between OnePlus and famed Swedish company Hasselblad, which is well-respected in the photography market for its medium format photography cameras.
Hasselblad's logo is printed on the camera modules of both of these smartphones, even though what this company's experience brings to the table is not crystal clear yet. While OnePlus notes that this collaboration is a three-year one, what we do get this year is seemingly natural, more convincing colors in photographs via specialized image processing algorithms. These, according to OnePlus and Hasselblad, will make for photographs that step away from the sometimes artificial, "smartphoney" look, maybe getting closer to what people expect to see from a good DSLR camera.
That's just the thing, though: OnePlus knows that, regarding photography and videography in particular, it needs more than marketing moves this year in order to lift these phones to the level of all-around quality they actually deserve. OnePlus flagships were always competitive in terms of performance and features, on par with what other manufacturers were offering but at a lower price. The Oxygen operating system they are based on is excellent, probably the closest thing the smartphone market has to pure Android on a non-Pixel model. Battery life, wireless performance, connectivity, built quality, all great. But cameras were never up there with everything else and this is where OnePlus has to come up with the goods this year. We'll have to wait for what pro reviewers have to say about that, then.
OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro will be coming to Europe in April: the latter will be available first, on April 9th, for €1059 (8GB/128GB) or €1129 (12GB/256GB), while the former will follow on April 26th, for €829 (8GB/128GB) and €889 (12GB/256GB). Neither model offers storage expansion via microSD memory cards, so it’s something one should keep in mind when choosing which OnePlus 9 model to go for. Will the "Never Settle" motto, the one OnePlus is famous for, finally apply to photography too? Not too long before we find out!