For a company that promises its users will “Never Settle” if they buy its products, OnePlus has been quite happy to embrace the idea of cutting down on features and specifications to keep prices low. After offering only one smartphone at a time for years, we now have a very clearly stratified lineup with four current models plus previous-gen ones still on sale. The OnePlus 9R has only been launched in India so far and is a direct reaction to the rising prices of the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro. So has the company found a good balance between capabilities and cost, and what does this say about the more expensive 9 series? Here's a quick first look.
OnePlus promises that even though the OnePlus 9R costs less than its siblings, it delivers the same design and still delivers flagship-class power. It's priced starting at Rs. 39,999 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, and there's a variant with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage priced at Rs. 43,999. It will be available in Lake Blue, which has a smooth, glossy finish, as well as Carbon Black which has a frosted texture.
The front and back are made of Corning's Gorilla Glass, and you do get the feeling that this is a relatively premium phone. The glass on the rear is curved at the sides and the corners are nicely rounded too, making this phone comfortable enough in the hand. However, my Lake Blue unit does feel a little slippery and it picks up smudges fairly easily. At 189g in weight and 8.4mm in thickness, this phone is quite comfortable to hold and use. Don't expect an IP rating though.
The large camera bump on the rear has a metallic texture and protrudes just a little bit. Interestingly, with four visible lenses, the OnePlus 9R looks more like the OnePlus 9 Pro (Review) than its closer sibling, the OnePlus 9 (Review). The cameras themselves aren't anywhere near as elaborate though; you get a 48-megapixel primary camera with OIS, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 5-megapixel macro camera and a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor. There's no Hasselblad branding anywhere.
The screen measures 6.55 inches diagonally and has a full-HD+ resolution with a 120Hz maximum resolution. There's no mention of HDR. You get a 16-megapixel front camera in a relatively large hole in the upper left corner, plus an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Under the hood, OnePlus has gone with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 870 SoC which is a step down from the current flagship Snapdragon 888, but still extremely high-end. This should be more than enough to handle current-day games, and could give this phone an edge over discounted previous-gen flagships. OnePlus says it has used an elaborate cooling system with multiple temperature sensors, so we'll have to see whether the rear panel gets hot while gaming.
There's a 4500mAh battery which seems a bit small, but we'll test battery life fully when we review the OnePlus 9R fully. It supports 65W fast charging and a matching adapter is included in the box. There's no wireless charging, which is unfortunate. You do get Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 with aptX HD, NFC, multiple navigation systems, haptic vibration, and stereo speakers. OnePlus has used UFS 3.1 for faster storage, but there's no microSD card slot for expansion. The Alert Slider on the right remains a unique touch for the brand, letting you quickly switch between sound profiles.
OnePlus continues to develop its OxygenOS UI for Android 11, and it's one of the brand's bigger selling points. You'll find plenty of little touches including a crisp design, custom navigation gestures, always-on display, a work-life balance mode, and plenty of customisation options.
In terms of pricing, OnePlus has likely found a balance that many fans of the brand will be willing to pay for. It's interesting that the OnePlus 8T remains on sale for now at Rs. 3,000 more for the same variants. There are some other interesting options around such as the new Vivo X60 series, Oppo Reno 5 series, Mi 10T series, and some of Samsung's older S-series models. The OnePlus 9R's value will depend on its performance, camera quality, software, and ease of use, which we will dive into in great detail in our full review, so stay tuned to Gadgets 360.
Is OnePlus 9R old wine in a new bottle — or something more? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 23:00), we talk about the new OnePlus Watch. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.