Back in April, the OnePlus 9R presented itself as a logical and enticing option for smartphone buyers not seeking to cross the Rs 40,000 mark. We reviewed it, liked the package, the value, the features, and almost everything (except the cameras). Then 2021 launches rained and suddenly, the OnePlus 9R wasn’t as competitive it was– it became just the most affordable way to access the premium OnePlus experience. Also Read - Confirmed! OnePlus 9T series not launching, but there’s OnePlus 9 RT coming soon
Fast forward to August 2021 and rumours of a OnePlus 9RT are keeping the internet hyped up. So far, it is said that the 9RT will essentially be a minor update to the 9R, wherein it borrows components from the cheaper Nord 2. That’s not a bad formula, given that the OnePlus 9R was in dire need of 2021-spec camera hardware. Also Read - OnePlus, Oppo unified OS to launch in 2022, will debut on OnePlus 10 flagship phone
But will this be enough for the OnePlus 9RT to soldier on until the OnePlus 10 arrives? Also Read - Best 12GB RAM phones for gaming to buy in September 2021
OnePlus 9RT rumoured upgrades
Based on the report from Android Central, the OnePlus 9RT will get some polishing apart from the Nord 2 derived cameras. The Snapdragon 870 chip will stay but OnePlus could overclock it to improve the performance. This is unlikely to offer the same levels of performance as the Snapdragon 888 phones but it will give OnePlus a good enough reason to make you do the upgrade.
Other features will remain unchanged, such as the 120Hz AMOLED display, the 4500mAh battery, and the 65W fast wired charging. Will it look the same? There’s no info on that front yet.
But is that enough?
If you visit the OnePlus website, or catch up with the launch event video on YouTube, you will catch OnePlus categorising the 9R as a gaming smartphone. OnePlus even debuted clip-on triggers for gamers to give themselves an edge while playing multiplayer shooters. With the Snapdragon 870 and the fast 120Hz display, it seemed primed for gaming needs.
However, ever since the OnePlus 9R happened, the market has gone competitive. Phones of the same calibre as the OnePlus 9R are now available for less than Rs 30,000. The Realme X7 Max, Xiaomi Mi 11X, and OnePlus’ own Nord 2 offer the same formula that’s more pocket friendly. And, in the midst of all this dropped the Poco F3 GT.
Poco, similar to OnePlus, promised a high-performance gaming phone from the beginning and it delivered with the F3 GT. The phone has got a similarly powerful Dimensity 1200 chip and a smooth 120Hz display. However, Poco adds additional extras like the pop-out Maglev keys acting as shoulder triggers, RGB lighting, an aggressive gamer design, and a large 5065mAh battery with a 67W fast charging solution. If I want a gaming phone, the Poco F3 GT comes to mind first, not the OnePlus 9R.
What more can OnePlus do?
There are two directions OnePlus can go with the OnePlus 9RT.
– The most logical one would be to deck up the 9RT like a gaming phone. With the core hardware capable of handling games well, all OnePlus needs to do is ask Oppo’s design team to go crazy with rear; maybe throw some aggressive RGB lighting. To keep R&D costs low, touch-sensitive shoulder buttons, like the ROG Phone 5, could be made possible. Also, with more resources now, OnePlus could give the 9RT a “game-ry version” of OxygenOS 12, with special themes and gaming tools. This could set the R series as a gaming phone lineup within the flagship number series, and challenge the ROG Phone at the same time.
– The other route is to do the 9RT the way OnePlus intends it to but drop the prices a notch. Snapdragon 870 phones start at Rs 30,000 in India (on average) and unless the phone offers some special extra (like the Vivo X60 Pro), it becomes difficult to justify spending almost Rs 10,000 more for a phone with the same performance potential wearing the OnePlus badge. Yes, the Nord 2 sits around the Rs 30,000 mark but OnePlus selling the 9RT with its mild camera upgrades starting at Rs 35,000 won’t be cannibalizing the sales of the Nord 2. Or, maybe do it the other way, where the OnePlus 9R sees a drop in the prices while the 9RT takes its place. The permutations are endless.
Marketing is a brainiac’s job and surely, the white-collar chaps at OnePlus know the market way better than myself and you. No wonder, the OnePlus 9R is among the top sellers for the company, driving its market dominance in the premium segment (says Counterpoint). However, as a consumer seeking a high-performance smartphone, I now have more options ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000, and most of the OnePlus alternatives are either better equipped or offer something special. Even parent brand Oppo garners more attention with its exciting Reno 6 models, offering similar performance and better cameras.
Of course, the OxygenOS experience is what drives sales for OnePlus, delivering that hyped OnePlus experience we all talk about. However, I am not wrong to point out that the OnePlus 9R is currently just “that another phone I may look at.” OnePlus has the opportunity to do something special; something to entice the consumer and gain back our attention, just like it did with the OnePlus 7T in 2019.
Surprise us, OnePlus!