OnePlus has been a fan-favorite among Android enthusiasts going on seven years now. In its early days, the company cultivated a reputation for making good phones and selling them for fair prices. As time has gone on, though, that's become less true. OnePlus phones are still good, broadly speaking, but they're increasingly quirky in ways we don't love. In our review, we weren't very enthusiastic about this year's 9 Pro — for a lot of reasons. Here are five (or so) of the things we'd most like to change.
5. Curved screen
Displays that dramatically spill over their phones' edges have been trendy for a few years now, but they're kind of a pain in the ass. Without UI optimization, on-screen elements close to the edge of the screen can get distorted and awkward to reach, and without finely tuned accidental touch rejection, you're bound to do things you didn't mean to. And have you ever tried typing on one of these screens in bed, holding the phone above your face? (If you haven't: it sucks.)
The industry is slowly moving away from designs like these; Samsung, who started the whole trend, has started scaling its curves back, and even the regular OnePlus 9 has a flat display. But not the 9 Pro. OnePlus, please: stop this.
4. Battery life inconsistency
Snapdragon's top-tier SoCs are known to be power hungry, and the OnePlus 9 Pro packs the latest and greatest(?) Snapdragon 888 chipset. In his time with the phone, Android Police's Ryne found that while sometimes, he could squeeze more than five hours of screen time out across a full three days, other times, using the phone in similar ways for the same duration in a single day could drain it. That amount of time stretched out over half a week is super impressive. In a single day, it's more or less average for a phone this size. The 9 Pro charges ludicrously fast, but we'd like to rely on that speed less frequently.
3. Camera inconsistency and heat issues
The 9 Pro can take some very nice photos in the right conditions — as any flagship device should be able to do. Per his review, Ryne loves its color science, and shots from the primary and ultra-wide lenses are generally very good, even in low light. Its macro mode, which takes advantage of the ultra-wide shooter's very short minimum focal distance, is also miles ahead of most phones' dedicated macro lenses.
But its telephoto camera tends to kick out images that are a little cooler and muddier than the rest, and the the 9 Pro also has a dedicated monochrome sensor that doesn't seem to do a whole lot. For this much money, all the cameras should be good — and there sure shouldn't be an extra, questionably useful one just to technically qualify for a quad camera flex.
Getting really tired of this. pic.twitter.com/h30dcIB8y1
— Artem Russakovskii (@ArtemR) April 6, 2021
There have also been a number of complaints about the way the phone manages heat, particularly when taking photos and videos: it's known to show an overheating error and seize up entirely until it cools off, even under conditions that aren't especially harsh. OnePlus says a fix is inbound in the next few weeks, and let's hope that's true — hotter weather is just around the corner.
It's a tired story in tech journalism at this point, but OnePlus's phones used to be cheap — the company carved out a niche for itself building "flagship killer" devices that cost hundreds of dollars less than the competition. With each new generation, though, OnePlus's highest-end phones have been climbing in price, and the returns on those increased consumer costs are diminishing.
The OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $969 for the model with eight gigabytes of RAM (and you actually can't even buy that one yet, so you're stuck paying $100 more or waiting). That's just 30 bucks less than the Samsung Galaxy S21+, which has the same processor, a flat screen, and a markedly better update policy. Sure, the 9 Pro boasts some benefits over the S21+ — but for a phone that costs four figures, you wouldn't be wrong to expect no compromises (Never Settle™ and all). Price it lower or make it better.
1. Update commitment
Possibly the worst thing about the 9 Pro is OnePlus's absolute garbage update policy. The company has promised just two OS version updates, plus three years of security patches — delivered every other month. That's the kind of support you'd expect from a much less expensive device from a much lower-profile company.
Phones from Google and Samsung — phones that cost half as much as the 9 Pro or less — promise three OS updates and monthly security updates. A lot of Samsung phones also promise four years of security patches — and not just the expensive ones. We'd like to see similar commitment from OnePlus: three years of OS updates and a minimum of three years of security support, delivered monthly.
Bonus: Finger print sensor location
OnePlus has had quality in-display fingerprint sensors for years, and that's still true in the 9 Pro: as you can see above, all it takes is a quick tap, and you're in. But the sensor here is positioned bizarrely low in the screen, less than an inch from the bottom of the phone's frame. You get used to it, but why? Just scooch it up a bit.