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OnePlus 10 could surprise everyone with this major hardware change

Renders of the OnePlus 10 Pro
(Image credit: Zouton | OnLeaks)

Update: a new OnePlus 10 Pro leak tips a brace of big upgrades

The OnePlus 10 could surprise everyone by trading out the type of chip OnePlus has used since its first flagship for a different brand. 

As reliable leaker Ice Universe wrote in a new tweet, OnePlus could be one of the first companies to receive MediaTek's new Dimensity 9000 system-on-chip. With the chipset having just been announced, the specs point to it being a flagship-worthy piece of silicon, and therefore something that would belong in the OnePlus 10 rather than one of its cheaper Nord devices.

Historically, OnePlus always used Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips. This changed earlier this year when the OnePlus Nord 2 launched with a Dimensity 1200-AI. This mid-range chip, armed with either 8GB or 12GB RAM depending on the model, proved to be just as capable as an equivalent Snapdragon 7-series chip, outperforming similar Android phones on some of our tests.

The newly-revealed Dimensity 9000 (via GSMArena) is notable for several world firsts. It's built on a 4-nanometre process, making it a denser chip compared to the 5nm Apple A15 chip in the iPhone 13 or the Snapdragon 888 found in the Galaxy S21, OnePlus 9 and many other flagship Android phones. 

The 9000 chip is also claimed by MediaTek to be the first chip to support up to 320MP photography, to support three simultaneous 4K video recordings, and to use Bluetooth 5.3 for better, more stable connections to peripherals. The benchmark scores MediaTek have achieved with the chip also apparently beat the "Android flagship" and "2021 flagship," which could refer to the Snapdragon 888 and A15.

Ice Universe also mentions Vivo, Realme, Xiaomi, Oppo, Motorola and Samsung as using the Dimensity 9000 chip. Samsung here is a particular surprise, since it produces its own Exynos line of chips. What exactly it has in mind for this new MediaTek chip is a mystery for now, so we hope new rumors will fill in the gaps soon enough.

The chip we'd expected to find in the OnePlus 10, the Snapdragon 898, hasn't been officially announced yet. But it's what will likely run the majority of Android flagships next year, such as the Samsung Galaxy S22. Of course it's possible OnePlus will still use this chip. With the OnePlus 10 likely having basic and Pro models, the plan could be to differentiate the two handsets further by offering different chips on each.

The OnePlus 10 is slowly coming into focus thanks to an increasing number of leaks. We've had a look at the apparent new design for the OnePlus 10 Pro, with a distinct square camera block once again bearing the name of Hasselblad, the Swedish camera maker that helped OnePlus tune the cameras of the OnePlus 9 series. 

For the phone's specs, we've heard there may not be that much of a difference from the OnePlus 9. However, the fresh design with only three rear cameras (rather than 4 on the OnePlus 9 Pro), the introduction of a ColorOS-derived operating system (due to OnePlus merging with associated phone maker Oppo), and a new 5x optical zoom telephoto camera all suggest this will still feel like a significantly different phone.

In terms of a launch date, there could actually be two for the OnePlus 10. A recent rumor says that OnePlus intends to hold a China-only launch for the phone in January or February, slightly earlier than normal. The global release could then come around in March, the normal month for OnePlus flagship announcements.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.