Alongside codenames, specs and renders, there are also a growing number of spy shots worming their way out of the woodwork, so we have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the new phones.
When does the OnePlus 9 launch?
Sources told Android Central that the company plans to bring the OnePlus 9 - codenamed "Lemonade" - to market in March 2021, approximately a month earlier than last year's OnePlus 8 series - which was announced on 14 April and on sale from 29 April 2020.
The reasoning behind this is thought to be in order to give the phones more time to compete against rival devices like Samsung's Galaxy S21 line (which also launched earlier than 2020's S20 line) before the typical T-series mid-cycle refresh manifests.
There's also the matter of the OnePlus Nord line, which was introduced in mid-2020. Previously, OnePlus only had two discreet releases every 12-month span and adding in Nord devices at around the mid-point has given the company flexibility to move its other big launches around so that they are able to release hardware at a more consistent pace.
As for where you'll be able to pick a 9 series device up, while we're expecting them to launch in the company's most prominent markets across the UK, Europe and the US, it looks like we already have a little more detail on their Stateside release.
XDA Developers member Some_Random_Username unearthed code within the company's OxygenOS user experience that points to some carrier-specific SKUs of both the OnePlus 9 and the 9 Pro.
Along with a standard version, there will apparently be two carrier-bound variants of the OnePlus 9, destined for T-Mobile and Verizon, respectively (with the Verizon model assumed to support mmWave 5G). A T-Mobile flavour of OnePlus 9 Pro also makes an appearance, while the Verizon-centric 9 Pro appears to be absent as of right now.
How much will the OnePlus 9 cost?
We're yet to hear anything official around the OnePlus 9's price. That said, we can look at the company's existing strategy to see where pricing for this year's phones may fall.
The company's handsets are becoming increasingly high-spec with each generation, but as a byproduct of that they've also slowly become more expensive - the OnePlus 8 Pro is the company's priciest handset to date.
That changed a little with the OnePlus 8T, which dropped slightly in price relative to the prior OnePlus 8. We'd be surprised to see OnePlus bring prices back up again so soon after that. So, with that in mind, we'd expect the base OnePlus 9 to start at ￡549/$649 and the OnePlus 9 Pro to arrive at ￡749/$849.
The OnePlus 9 Lite should be even cheaper still. This may or may not be the third model alluded to by tipster Max Jambor, which he originally referred to as the 'OnePlus 9E'. He didn't predict a price, but we expect that there will be an entry in the lineup below ￡500/$500.
What will be the OnePlus 9 specs & design?
Let's start with the specs and details of the regular OnePlus 9, before we move onto the Pro and Lite variants. Leaks from TechDroider on Twitter served up our first morsels of possible OnePlus hardware, starting with some model numbers.
Similarly to their predecessors, 2021's model names start with the first letters of their codename - 'LE' for 'Lemonade' - followed by various numbers that denote model and region. LE2110, LE2117 and LE2119 apparently relate to the OnePlus 9, while LE2120 and LE2127 are thought to reference the OnePlus 9 Pro.
There has been some confusion around whether these model numbers could be allocated differently, with LE2127 potentially referring to the 9E/9 Lite mentioned above, however, there's little in the structure of this naming convention to prove anything just yet.
It's assumed that the next OnePlus flagships will utilise Qualcomm's latest and greatest chipset - the Snapdragon 888 - and Geekbench scores for a device called the 'LuBan LE2117' (thought to be the OnePlus 9) suggest that to be the case.
The LE2117, which is listed as running on 8GB of RAM and with a base CPU frequency of 1.8GHz, achieved a single-core score of 1122 and a multi-core score of 2733.
That matches the specs of the Snapdragon 888 processor and unsurprisingly OnePlus is listed as one of the OEMs confirmed to be working on a phone using the chip - almost certainly the OnePlus 9 series.
TechDroider claims that the OnePlus 9 will employ a 144Hz high refresh rate display with a centrally positioned front camera (though renders so far disagree, all showing a corner-mounter selfie shooter), NFC, dual stereo speakers, 65W fast charging and 40W fast wireless charging. A larger 4500mAh battery is also said to feature.
Rival tipster Digital Chat Station disagrees with some of those details, instead stating that the 9 will feature a 6.55in, FHD+, 120Hz flat display, with a 3.8mm punch-hole camera in the upper-left corner. He also notes that it will weigh less than 200g and echoes reports that it will feature the Snapdragon 888, a 4500mAh battery, and 65W charging.
Max Jambor is the latest to claim a 4500mAh battery, tweeting that both the 9 and 9 Pro will feature that capacity, so this spec at least looks near-certain.
In a separate post, Digital Chat Station suggests that the base OnePlus 9 will in fact use the exact same 6.55in panel already found on the OnePlus 8T, which would align with the specs mentioned above. As such, the display on the 9 will likely continue to offer HDR10+ support and sport a flat design, as seen in the spy shots below.
#DigitalChatStation— Digital Chat Station (@chat_station) February 4, 2021
The 1080p screen of the OnePlus 8T is second only to Samsung Note20 Ultra in DxOMark, which is higher than the 2K screen score of the OnePlus 8 Pro.
Is this the reason why the OnePlus 9 continues to use, the high-quality e3 flexible straight screen...?? pic.twitter.com/jJWSAFX2sK
The OnePlus 8T's screen achieved one of the highest ratings currently listed by a device, according to independent testing body DXOMark, so things look promising for the viewing experience on the 9.
If you want a better look at the 9's potential form, PhoneArena was sent some leaked spy shots of an actual device. The logo isn't OnePlus's own but the company has been known to use placeholder logos during device development.
It shows the rear dual camera setup in greater detail and in the additional shots (over on PhoneArena) the SIM tray on the phone's underside.
The source in possession of the device also sent over screenshots with notable spec tidbits too:
Following on from the above shots, the owner of the prototype in question seemingly decided to sell up, as a listing for what looks like an identical phone - photographed on what appears to be the same distinct red carpet backdrop - was posted to eBay, with a listed price of US$3,000.
The listing has since been marked as 'closed', although it's unclear if the device actually managed to sell. One of the most interesting aspects of the additional product imagery in the listing is that, originally, the product photos showed a series of numbers permanently displayed on-screen when the device is switched on.
While the seller's description highlights that they were unsure what the numbers meant, they're thought to be unique identifiers to that particular prototype and if OnePlus spotted the listing before the numbers were removed from the images, they may have been able to pinpoint the prototype's origins and how it came to be listed for sale online.
In terms of cameras, it's thought that, despite it serving as a popular feature on a number of key rivals, the OnePlus 9 series won't offer a periscopic telephoto camera across any of the launch devices (although a telephoto snapper does feature).
According to Digital Chat Station, this may have something to do with ongoing supply chain issues brought about by the effects of the global pandemic.
What about the OnePlus 9 Pro?
While the spy shots of the device above were initially thought to be the OnePlus 9 Pro, new images supplied to YouTuber Dave2D appear to depict the true OnePlus 9 Pro, complete with an enhanced camera module, a curved display and the official OnePlus logo.
The shots and specs supplied to Dave2D reveal a few new details about the 9 Pro, most excitingly the company's apparent partnership with Swedish camera specialists Hasselblad.
Previously, one leaker had claimed that the OnePlus 9 series - though they weren't sure which entry - would feature a camera collaboration with Leica; a move which would follow a similar long-standing deal between Huawei and the camera company.
However, with no apparent Leica camera setup on the spy shots around the standard OnePlus 9 leaks and no mention of one tied to the more affordable OnePlus 9 entry, it appears this leaker's source information was close but not quite right.
A dive into the leaked device's camera UI also reveals a '0.6x' ultrawide camera field of view and a 3.3x telephoto - which would be an increase from 3.0x on the OnePlus 8 Pro. A tilt-shift mode is also present within the shooting mode selection, which would make for a unique entry in the smartphone snapper space currently.
Beyond its quad-camera setup, the spy shots confirm a curved QHD+ (3120x1440) 120Hz display and an indented physical alert slider in what could well be a thinner frame set against a more pronounced curved back that we're used to seeing from the company's previous devices.
Prior renders of the 9 Pro from OnLeaks show the phone's supposed 6.7in panel and are otherwise fairly consistent with the 91mobiles' render of the standard model, and the leaked images of the Hasselblad device.
Digital Chat Station previously reinforced what now look to be accurate display specifications too, highlighting the Pro's curved 6.78in display, with its QHD+ resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. Like the 9, it has an upper-left corner selfie camera that measures 3.8mm across, along with the Snapdragon 888 chipset and at least 4500mAh battery, along with 65W charging.
Tipster Max Jambor also claims that the OnePlus 9 Pro will have an IP68 waterproof rating, like the 8 Pro before it, stating that it will once again be the only phone in the line-up with an IP rating.
In a separate post, Jambor has also revealed that the 9 Pro will boast 45W fast wireless charging (up from 30W on the OnePlus 8 Pro). Like its predecessor, it'll likely require a dedicated fast wireless charger to achieve this top charging speed. As mentioned above, Jambor also agrees with Digital Chat Station that the 9 Pro will have the same 4500mAh battery as the 9.
And the OnePlus 9 Lite / OnePlus 9E?
We know very little about the OnePlus 9 Lite or OnePlus 9E, which we presume is actually just one phone with the final name TBC.
Android Central has alluded to the Lite featuring the 2020 Snapdragon 865 processor and speculated that it will feature the same cameras as OnePlus 8T. Jambor has also claimed that it won't have an IP rating.
Qualcomm has since announced the Snapdragon 870 chipset - an over-clocked take on the 865 - and confirmed that OnePlus is one of the OEMs working on a phone with the chip. It seems plausible that this could be the 9 Lite, as previous phones predicted to use the 865 - like the Motorola Edge S - have in fact turned out to be using the 870.
OnePlus 9 wish list
With 120Hz, 65W 'Warp Charge' fast charging and 5G already in the mix, the 8T is an impressively-solid foundation on which the company can build its next major release on top of, but there are a few things that we'd like to bring in from this year's 8 Pro, as well as a few expected upgrades.
Under-display selfie camera - It's thought that Samsung shifted from including an under-display camera on its next Galaxy S phones to instead debut the feature on the rumoured Samsung Z Galaxy Fold 3, due to low yield.
With OnePlus dealing in significantly smaller unit numbers than Samsung, such a feature may not be out of the question, although it would have a notable effect on cost.
Better cameras - The OnePlus 8T relies on an ageing 48Mp (Sony IMX586) primary camera, which OnePlus has used since the OnePlus 7 series and it feels like it's time for an upgrade. There are newer and brighter sensors out there, including its direct successor - the 64Mp IMX686 - worth considering.
We also want OnePlus to ditch the gimmicky macro and mono sensors on the 8T, and instead, concentrate on giving the OnePlus 9 a capable set of ultrawide and telephoto snappers that complement the main sensor with regards to dynamic range and colour science.
Luckily, it looks as though OnePlus has already addressed most of what we expect of the OnePlus 9 series, it's now just a case of learning whether the rumoured features will span the breadth of the lineup or just grace one device or another.