Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central

The launch of the OnePlus 9 series this week marks a major milestone for a once brave upstart brand. With these co-branded Hasselblad phones, OnePlus has reached an important milestone on the road it began two years ago with its first true premium flagship, the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is now a full-fledged, large-scale phone company that competes in the same space as Samsung and some of the best android phones on the market.

Sure, you could argue that any niche smartphone brand will eventually get out of hand or become mainstream – and that as such, OnePlus would inevitably either die out or transform into what it is today. (YouTuber TechAltar made this case in a 2017 video entitled “Why enthusiastic brands will betray you”.) Nevertheless, the development of the company in recent years has to be observed. OnePlus certainly has changed more than any other phone brand at the time – if not always for the better.

With the introduction of the 9 series, the transformation of OnePlus is complete.

For the first three years there was only one major product drop per year, with a focus on the balance between price and specs being undercut. In 2021, OnePlus will not only be offering the flagship OnePlus 9 Pro with its nearly four-digit starting price, but also an extensive selection of cheaper Nord devices and various “T” models as well as countless accessories. And they’re not just being sold directly to a small number of fans, but through carrier partnerships around the world.

On the one hand is OnePlus more successful Working with premium handset designs today and making great strides in mobile photography – even before the latest Hasselblad partnership. But in other areas it has probably decreased. The phones typically only get bimonthly security patches and only get a two-year warranty on Android platform updates, versus three years for Samsung and Google, which release security patches every month. Some cheaper OnePlus phones only show one platform update in their lifespan and the contractual minimum of at least one security patch every three months prescribed by Google.

In addition, many in the Twittersphere have pointed out that even OnePlus flagships are often forgotten when they are no longer the new edge. After a quick platform update – for example Android 10 of the OnePlus 7 series – even high-end models have to wait longer than many competitors for older versions of the operating system.

Samsung runs OnePlus in terms of software support

Over the next twelve months, OnePlus will have to show that it can compete with the well-known phone brands not only in terms of design, specs and hype, but also in terms of long-term software support across the product range. While prices vary from country to country, a significant part of the world pays as much for a OnePlus 9 Pro as it does for a Galaxy S21 Ultra. In return, the OnePlus phone gives them a poorer support lifespan. With Qualcomm, Samsung, and Google already working together to ensure that some Snapdragon 888 powered phones are supported over Android 14, much of the tech in the Android code base has already been taken care of.

The bar is even lower for cheaper OnePlus Nord devices like the N10 and N100 that shipped on Android 10 and haven’t yet received a promised upgrade to Android 11. These phones, launched in late 2020, will not receive platform updates about the version of Android released in their launch year.

Needless to say, OnePlus has ample room for its full range of phones in terms of support, and there are few excuses left to drag its feet further.

OnePlus 9 Pro

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central

Where OnePlus has shown the greatest improvement over the past year is undoubtedly photography. As we showed in ours OnePlus 9 Pro reviewThe company’s latest flagship suits Samsung in many key areas such as photography and low-light video.

OnePlus’ investment in mobile photography is starting to pay off.

These advances have been a long time coming, no doubt backed by the company’s Taipei camera lab, which opened in 2019. And the relationship with Hasselblad, which a source tells me is just over six months old, will continue to help in the future. As we know from the relatively slow pace of Huawei’s partnership with Leica, these things are slow to bear fruit. Perhaps the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 11 are the real test of this joint venture.

At the same time, OnePlus is bundling its photographic resources with its sister brand Oppo. In fact, OnePlus appears to have been ranked as the largest camera-centric phone brand this year. This is a significant development as the Oppo brand is synonymous with the term “camera phone” in many advertisements across Asia.

OnePlus 9 series

Source: Alex Dobie / Android Central

High quality mobile photo editing is one of the few remaining justifications for a $ 1,000 smartphone, as evidenced by Samsung’s current flagship and impressive quad camera setup. If OnePlus wants to make a name for itself in the top premium segment, photography has to nail it next year and every year after that. The company has made strides towards that goal over the past twelve months, but its continued success in 2022 and beyond will depend on catching up with Samsung and Huawei in telephotography where it is currently lagging behind.

OnePlus is also facing challenges in the US, where its new phones are not yet certified for 5G with one of the three major network operators. And the latest devices from OnePlus are also comparatively more expensive in the USA. The 9 Pro is right next to the recently reduced Galaxy S21 Ultra. (Compare that to the UK starting price of £ 829 for the same phone.) These teething troubles need to be addressed if OnePlus is not to break into the US market.

Nonetheless, OnePlus has overtaken many of its more established competitors in the last seven years and has the strongest high-end lineup of all time with the 9 series. It will be fascinating to see how the story continues as you branch into smartwatches, headphones, and other devices.

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