All present OnePlus users want to know is whether the new versions will improve on the camera, which is already one of the best in the Android world. And with the OnePlus 9 camera, more than the display or battery life, it is the new Hasselblad-branded camera system that has piqued interest among OnePlus fans.
OnePlus phones have always had capable cameras, but they lacked the competitive edge over the likes of iPhone and Galaxy S smartphones. The new OnePlus 9 tried to address the concerns of die-hard fans with the improved camera but will it be enough to excite consumers to pay a premium for a phone when your competition is the iPhone 12.
I’ve been using the phone for well over a week, testing the design and performance and using the cameras in various situations. Here is my review.
OnePlus 9 specifications: 6.55-inch (2400×1080 pixels) 120Hz AMOLED display|Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB/12GB LPDDR5 RAM|128GB/256GB UFS3.1|In-display fingerprint sacanner|4500mAh battery, Wrap Charge 65T|Stereo speakers|5G|Triple rear camera system, 16MP front camera|Android 11, OxygenOS 11
OnePlus 9 price in India: Rs 49,999 onwards
The OnePlus 9 isn’t redesigned for the outside and the company takes strong design cues from previous generations of OnePlus smartphones. Design-wise, I would say the OnePlus 9 looks a lot similar to the OnePlus 8T, adopting a traditional flat-screen rather than one that curves at the sides. The sides of the phone are aluminum and the back, as expected from a premium device, is glass. The lilac purple colour variant, or Winter Mist as OnePlus likes to call it, is refreshing. The phone has a familiar alert slider on the side, a pair of stereo speakers, and a USB-C port for charging on the button. OnePlus offers no headphone jack nor an IP rating for water resistance.
The camera housing on the OnePlus 9, however, has changed from last year. It’s larger and the cameras stick out from the body. Notably, the Hasselblad-branded camera system dominates the OnePlus 9’s back panel. OnePlus 9 is a large phone, though it doesn’t feel bigger in hand. And since the phone is curved towards the edges, it is easier to hold the phone. There’s a fingerprint sensor built into the screen, which seemed quicker to unlock in my testing.
For OnePlus, this year the focus is clearly on cameras. Its collaboration with Hasselblad, the iconic Swedish camera company may have helped OnePlus to fine-tune the software part of the camera experience – and that’s clearly visible in the OnePlus 9.
There are three cameras, a wide, ultra-wide and monochrome lens on the OnePlus 9. You will find a 48MP Sony IMX689 primary camera, a 50MP IMX766 ultra-wide camera and a 2MP monochrome camera on the phone. This is a step from the OnePlus 8T, though a telephoto zoom camera is still missing from the OnePlus 9.
I have taken the OnePlus 9 for a spin around Delhi, and I have been impressed by the results so far. The OnePlus 9’s shots have more colours and better contrast, resulting in better images. If you look carefully (see camera samples below), you will notice that the shots are not only detailed but also have this natural look, something only Apple has managed to achieve before. I am not saying the OnePlus 9 beats the iPhone 12 in photography, but it’s definitely an improvement.
Daytime shots are brighter, with much more visible detail visible. Shots in low-light also look exceptional on the OnePlus 9. I took some night shots and was consistently impressed with how well the OnePlus 9 performed. The ultrawide camera is superior as it’s quite useful for well-lit landscapes or tight spaces. Then there is a 2MP monochrome camera, though it doesn’t shoot directly. Instead, the phone captures photos with the main camera and applies a monochrome filter. It’s actually fun to use, though don’t expect the results to be exceptionally brilliant.
OnePlus 9’s camera is easy to use; there is no learning curve involved. For a change, though, OnePlus has renamed the Pro mode on the OnePlus 9 to the Hasselblad Pro mode. It’s kind of giving users more manual control over how you take pictures using the OnePlus 9 but it’s strictly for someone who wishes to explore mobile photography more seriously. The 16MP front-facing camera, meanwhile, will be appreciated by selfie lovers. I got accurate colours of my skin tone while maintaining sharpness.
Video capture from the rear camera is fantastic, a major improvement from previous generation OnePlus phones.
The 6.5-inch AMOLED screen is spectacular. The phone has 2400x1080p (FHD+) screen resolution at 408 ppi with 625 nits brightness, maxing out at 1100 nits for HDR, which provides fantastic colours and brightness, especially in bright lighting situations. Around the front, the OnePlus 9 includes a punch-hole camera in the top-left corner. The bezels are minimal, and they are actually useful.
Most high-end Android phones now have high-resolution displays, and the OnePlus 9 is no different. The screen’s images refresh 120 times a second, moving smoothly, making animation look noticeably smoother.
Speaking of performance, the device is powered by a Snapdragon 888, which is the fastest mobile processor you could get on a smartphone. I mean, this phone feels fast and responsive. I never had any issues playing games, watching videos, or switching between apps. The unit I tested has 12GB of RAM and 256GB of internal storage. Truth be told, even 8GB RAM is enough; most people aren’t going to need 12GB of RAM on a smartphone, that’s just overkill.
The phone runs on OxygenOS 11, which is a customised version of Android 11. Although many say OxygenOS 11 has taken some elements from Samsung’s OneUI, the fact is OnePlus’ execution is fantastic. The OxygenOS is hard to beat; it’s super responsive and the lack of bloatware makes the OnePlus 9 one of the fastest smartphones on the market.
Which leads me to the battery life on the OnePlus 9. The 4,500 mAh battery lasts me a full day of juice with heavy use. Someone who attends Zoom and Teams calls all day, listens to Apple Music for about 2-3 hours via Bluetooth headphones, watches YouTube videos for more than an hour, and plays games occasionally when bored. For that type of user, if a phone’s battery lasts a full day, choosing the OnePlus 9 seems a no-brainer. And, of course, the OnePlus 9 also supports Warp Charge 65T, OnePlus’ proprietary charging adapter that promises a full recharge in 29 minutes.
Here’s the thing: I have always admired OnePlus for bringing features that really matter to consumers, an approach similar to that of Apple’s. While I do like OnePlus 9, it’s not perfect. There’s also no IP rating for water resistance or wireless charging support (at least on the Indian variant). There’s also no way to expand the internal storage, though OnePlus has been generous in including a power adapter inside the box.
OnePlus 9 is being positioned as the phone for most people, a move intended to take on the iPhone 12. There aren’t drastic changes made to the OnePlus 9, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The display, new camera system, performance, and battery life all stand out. The reason I probably think you would want to pick the OnePlus 9 is because of the cameras though. If you are someone jumping straight from the OnePlus 5T or OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 9 does offer a huge improvement in the camera system. I think OnePlus never wanted to make OnePlus 9 an extraordinary device in the first place. The idea has always been to address the issues consumers had with the camera on previous-generation models.