The OnePlus 9 might not make as big a splash as its more expensive sibling, the OnePlus 9 Pro, but it still has the potential to be a great flagship. And that potential is what I’m taking a look at here.
I can’t call this phone a flagship killer as it’s priced well in the flagship range. Still, it’s slightly more affordable than others with many of the same specs.
Is it worth getting the OnePlus 9? I list the reasons why you might want to get this phone. I can’t compare it to the Pro version as I haven’t gotten to try that device yet, so let’s explore what this handset has to offer on its own. And if the reasons I’ve shared lined up with what you need. It might be time to snatch one up.
With a 120Hz refresh rate, the OnePlus 9 does significant damage to its battery life regularly. I average around six to seven hours of screen-on time per charge, which usually translates to starting the day at about 8 am fully charged and then needing to top up again around 5 or 6 pm. I could save some battery by reverting to 60Hz and not having its Ambient Display (always-on display), but that takes away from the flagship experience of this phone.
The great thing about the OnePlus 9 is that I could leave the phone alone for under an hour to completely charge. It just takes around 45 minutes on average to fully charge from 0%, with its support for 65-watt wired charging.
There’s also 15-watt wireless charging available. But that super-fast wired charging really took away any interest I had with wireless charging. The OnePlus 9 also offers reverse wireless charging for other Qi-enabled devices.
LiTT Tip #1: Enable Optimized Charging in the Battery settings. As OnePlus describes it, the feature optimizes the charging pattern according to your usage habits, so it reduces battery load and helps extend battery life.
Smooth scrolling, enjoyable viewing and gaming
With the OnePlus 9, you get a sizeable 6.55-inch Full HD+ AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz touch sampling rate. This translates to a smoother scrolling experience on the phone and better viewing and gaming. With support for HDR10+ and Widevine L1, you can enjoy Full HD resolution from Netflix.
The viewing angles on this phone are great. It’s not the brightest screen out there, but the blacks are deep enough for me. And I can use it without any trouble when I’m outdoors, and the sun is blazing. And with the cutout for the selfie camera relegated to the top left, I can ignore it while I enjoy episodes of Demon Slayer on Netflix or Sixth Sense on Viu.
LiTT Tip #2: If you’re well-versed in screen tech, you can calibrate the display to suit your needs. Head to Display > Advanced > Screen Calibration in the Settings. The OnePlus 9 supports AMOLED Wide Gamut, sRGB, and Display P3.
LiTT Tip #3: If you want to improve video quality on apps like Instagram, OnePlus also offers Ultra-high Video Resolution accessible in the Display settings. The company cautions that power consumption may increase a bit with this feature enabled.
It works, and it works well
Armed with the latest and greatest, the OnePlus 9 delivers when it comes to performance. With my test unit, OnePlus pairs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage to offer snappy performance, whether you’re working, socializing, playing, or watching.
I’ve had the unit for over a month, and I’ve never had issues with crashing or lagging, no matter what I did. Playing many hours of Cooking Battle and a bit of PUBG, Marvel Super War, and Alto’s Odyssey are all great experiences on this phone. You can max out the settings, and the phone will hardly complain. If I use the camera for too long or switch between heavy tasks continuously, the phone will heat up slightly. It will warn you about it and mitigate that. But otherwise, I’ve never felt restricted while using the OnePlus 9.
OxygenOS is also one of my favorite Android-based operating systems and user interfaces. There aren’t too many unnecessary pre-installed apps. OnePlus doesn’t try to compete with Google’s default apps, and I like that. OnePlus recently announced that it will be merging OxygenOS with ColorOS. I’m not sure how that will affect the look of OnePlus phones, but the promise is they won’t change too much. I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for that.
No matter what you might feel about this merger between OnePlus and OPPO. OnePlus owners are promised extended Android support, a move that Samsung started with third-party Android phone manufacturers. According to a recent announcement, the OnePlus series and newer flagships will get three major Android updates and four years of security updates moving forward. That means we can expect Android 12 and two other OS updates that Google will release in the future. If OnePlus stands by its word, this bodes well for the longevity of the OnePlus 9.
But, of course, some things are missing that I wish OnePlus included. There’s no expandable storage here, but the same can be said for the OnePlus 9 Pro. But at least, its more powerful brother gets IP68 water and dust resistance, which the OnePlus 9 doesn’t have.
Speaking of things that are just missing that extra spark, the design of this handset leaves much to be desired. If you’re utilitarian and want a more understated look, you might like the OnePlus 9’s Astral Black option. It’s just too plain for my taste. I do appreciate that OnePlus opts for a more understated mention of its partnership with Hasselblad on the rear panel.
But I wished the plastic black had a bit more flair and personality, given that you are paying a premium for this phone. It is also a bit of a smudge magnet, so I immediately put on the included jelly case. One nice touch is that the jelly case has OnePlus’ Never Settle logo at the bottom right.
I also like that OnePlus keeps its Alert Slider for easy switching between Silent, Vibrate, and Ring modes. The OnePlus 9’s panel is flat, so accidental side touches aren’t an issue here. Of course, there is no 3.5mm audio jack or any adapters for a 3.5mm port. You’ll have to use Bluetooth earbuds or headphones to listen to music and other audio content privately.
You get an under-display fingerprint sensor that’s already been pointed out as being placed lower than what I’ve seen on other smartphones. The haptics on this phone is also on the weaker side. If you’re looking for stronger haptic feedback, this might not be for you.
LiTT Tip #4: Maybe you find it hard to separate yourself from your phone. OnePlus offers its Zen Mode feature on the OnePlus 9. You can access it via the Quick Settings menu at the top. If you can’t find the option, tap on the Pencil icon to drag it into your Quick Settings menu. What Zen Mode does is
LiTT Tip #5: One of the many customization features on the OnePlus 9 that we love is the new Canvas animation for your lock screen. It can basically turn a photo of yourself or someone else into your wallpaper and lock screen. The version on the always-on display will be a sketched version of the picture, which is a nice touch. You can access this through Customization > Canvas in the Settings menu.
You want natural-looking photos and a capable ultra-wide camera
OnePlus and the renowned camera Hasselblad kicked off their partnership by tweaking the color tuning on the OnePlus 9 series. And we see glimpses of what this collaboration can bring. Photos come out a bit more subdued and natural-looking. It tends to boost the highlights a bit, but I don’t find them too heavily processed.
Hasselblad hasn’t gotten to working on the OnePlus’ camera hardware yet, but you do get a capable set of cameras on the OnePlus 9. It has a 48-megapixel Sony IMX689 sensor, a 50-megapixel ultra-wide Sony IMX766 sensor, and a 2-megapixel monochrome lens at the back. That last sensor we definitely think you can do without. In front, there’s a 16-megapixel selfie camera.
By default, you get 12-megapixel shots, but you also have the option to use the full 48-megapixel sensor in High-res mode. For video, you can get up to 8K at 30 frames per second. It’s also possible to record videos with the ultra-wide sensor. And with its high-quality sensor, you can get some decent videos.
There’s one glaring omission, though, that we wished OnePlus didn’t take out. This is the first OnePlus flagship to not have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), which will make it tough to take non-blurry images or shaky videos, especially in low light. It can be seen as a push from the company to upsell you to the OnePlus 9 Pro, but there must have been other features OnePlus could’ve taken out instead of this.
As you can see in my sample shots, you can still get amazing pictures in bright conditions. But you will need some patience and perhaps even a tripod to get it to work in low light. You can get a lot of use from the Hasselblad Pro Mode, which offers features like focus peaking and color rendition within the default Camera app.
Nightscape works best when there’s a bit of light it can pull from. It can brighten up an image instantly. But if you want more control, using the Pro Mode.
I like that the Camera app sticks to the essentials more when it comes to features. Aside from the Pro Mode, you get modes like Photo, Video, Portrait, Nightscape, Tilt Shift, Super Macro (within the Photo mode), Slow Motion, Panorama, and Time-Lapse.
As I mentioned, you get high-quality ultra-wide photos with minimal to no distortion. You can also zoom in digitally up to 10x. The best quality for zooming in is around 2x to 3x.
While I’ve had a mostly positive experience with the rear cameras. The selfie camera is a bit of a mixed bag. In good lighting, you get good selfies with good skin tone. OnePlus and Hasselblad paid close attention to getting skin tone right. But I found once it hit dusk or when I’m in low light conditions, it is hit or miss. My selfies turn out grainy and look heavily processed. Here’s hoping OnePlus fixes this issue with a software update.
What’s lit and what’s not?
What’s lit about it:
- Blazing fast charging
- 120Hz refresh rate display
- Fast performance
- Clean UI without too many pre-installed apps
- Promised longer Android support
- More natural-looking photos
What needs the extra spark:
- Design is a bit uninspired
- No official waterproof rating
- Haptics is a bit on the weak side
- No OIS
- So-so selfie cam performance
There’s potential for the OnePlus 9 to be a great flagship that ticks all the boxes, but it does have some compromises that may or may not fly with you. It’s great for consuming content, work, and playing games. The lighting fast wired charging is super convenient. You can get some great, more natural shots out of its camera, but OnePlus crippled its capabilities by taking out OIS and a telephoto lens. There’s a bunch of push and pull with this phone that can dictate whether you’re willing to compromise to get it.
The OnePlus 9 retails for PHP 38,990.