OnePlus 9 Lite could be 2021's Samsung Galaxy S20 FE-killer

OnePlus 9 Pro renders
(Image credit: Lets Go Digital/Concept Creator)

Last year OnePlus got back into the business of making cheaper phones, with the launch of the OnePlus Nord. Rumors promise there are more Nords coming, but there's another new cheaper device on the way: the OnePlus 9 Lite.

This phone will launch alongside the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro, and is set to come with a Snapdragon 865 chipset. That’s instead of the flagship Snapdragon 888 that we’re expecting in the other two, as well as upcoming Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21

This news comes from an Android Central source, who claims that OnePlus’s typical two-phone launch will now include a third. Though being a cheaper phone some things will have to be sacrificed to save money, hence the Snapdragon 865.

While OnePlus has made more of a push into making budget to mid-range phones, rather than just the flagship-chasing handsets it's known for, opting for a Snapdragon 865 doesn't mean the OnePlus 9 Lite will be a budget handset. 

The Snapdragon 865 featured in a lot of 2020s flagship phones and is still a very powerful chip despite being superseded by the Snapdragon 888. As such, the OnePlus 9 Lite is likely to be a slightly cheaper take on the OnePlus 9, offering a lot of its features with a few cut corners, say a one less camera lens or less RAM. We've seen such a situation with the $699 Samsung Galaxy S20 FE - a premium mid-range take on the Galaxy S20 -  so we'd not be surprised to see OnePlus attempt to do that with the 9 Lite. 

This segment of the smartphone market has really heated up this year, as not only is the Galaxy S20 FE leading the charge, but there's also the Google Pixel 5 and iPhone 12, all priced at $699. At $749, the OnePlus 8T could be seen as a contender in that arena, but its higher price puts it at a disadvantage. So there's scope for OnePlus to use a 'Lite' handset that delivers a premium mid-range phone that could undercut rivals for Samsung, Google and Apple.  

What'll also be interesting to see is how OnePlus differentiates the 9 Lite from its predecessors, given it's set to use the same chipset. But by using a slightly older chip the company is set to save some money developing the phone; savings that could then be passed onto its customers.

We don’t know much else about the OnePlus 9 Lite, but we can expect the rest of its specs to be fairly similar to the standard OnePlus 9. The OnePlus 9 is also expected to come with an FHD+ 6.55-inch with a 120Hz refresh rate, a 4,500 mAh battery, three rear cameras, and one variant with at least 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. 

The OnePlus 9 Lite could share a lot of those specs but potentially use a smaller display, have less memory, and one less rear camera; that's all speculation, however. 

The OnePlus 9 range is tipped to launch in mid-March 2021, so we should expect to hear more about the OnePlus 9 Lite over the coming weeks as we head into 2021.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.