OnePlus Nord: 5 things we need to know right now

OnePlus Nord
(Image credit: 91Mobiles and @OnLeaks)

The OnePlus Nord may be one of the most intriguing smartphones we know next to nothing about. Introduced at the end of June more as a concept than an actual product, OnePlus Nord marks the upstart phone maker’s effort to get back to its roots producing high-quality phones with premium features that cost much less than the leading devices. And that philosophy extends to more than just phones.

But a phone should be at the heart of OnePlus’ efforts with Nord, at least initially. The only thing is, there’s been very little official news about what form that phone will take.

That figures to change on July 7 when OnePlus is supposed to tell us more about its latest phone and how the company plans to balance high-end features with more modest prices. Here are the biggest questions facing the OnePlus Nord leading up to that event.

When will the OnePlus Nord reach the US?

The only thing we know about OnePlus’ release plans for its new phone is that the US isn’t part of the initial rollout plans, at least for the first Nord device. Even before OnePlus’ sneak peek at the OnePlus Nord, CEO Pete Lau said products would launch in India and Europe first.

"But don’t worry, we’re also looking to bring more affordable smartphones to North America in the near future as well," Lau wrote in a June 23 forum post.

“Near future” could mean a lot of things — maybe later this month, or maybe later this year around the time OnePlus would normally showcase its latest flagship (in this case, the OnePlus 8T). It’s possible OnePlus is more forthcoming about its plans on July 7 when it releases further details about its sub-$500 Nord phone, but we imagine the focus will be on India and Europe at that time.

OnePlus Nord prototype

OnePlus Nord prototype (Image credit: OnePlus)

We’ve already outlined why we think OnePlus shouldn’t wait too long to bring a Nord phone here. For now, we’ll have to content ourselves with the idea that when OnePlus says that its more affordable phone will eventually come to the US, it means sooner rather than later.

What will the OnePlus Nord's specs be?

The OnePlus Nord teaser event on June 29 didn’t offer many details about the budget phone OnePlus plans to launch. We’re expecting to hear more about the Nord phone on July 7, but until then, we’ve got the same leaks we’ve been hearing since this device was rumored to be called the OnePlus 8 Lite and later the OnePlus Z to help set expectations.

In that case, we expect the OnePlus Nord to feature a 6.4-inch AMOLED panel. It will likely feature a Snapdragon 765G system-on-chip, which delivers adequate power, game-focused performance and — perhaps most notably — affordable 5G connectivity. (The $599 Samsung Galaxy A71 5G and $699 Motorola Edge both feature Snapdragon 755 chipsets, and they’re among the cheapest 5G phones you can buy — at least for now.)

This leaked product listing from earlier this year hints at what the OnePlus Nord could offer.

This leaked product listing from earlier this year hints at what the OnePlus Nord could offer. (Image credit: GizTop)

All we know about the rear cameras on the OnePlus Nord is that there will be more than one — possibly as many as the three lenses found in the OnePlus 8. Up front, we’re expecting two cameras on the OnePlus Nord, with a 32MP main sensor and 8MP wide angle lens teaming up to snap selfies.

On the battery front, rumors suggest that the OnePlus Nord’s power pack will be slightly smaller than the 4,300 mAh battery in the OnePlus 8, though the budget phone is expected to feature OnePlus’ Warp Charge 30T technology for faster charging.

All that is just speculation for now, though. The real proof of what’s inside the OnePlus Nord will come in a few days when OnePlus tells us more about its budget phone.

How will the OnePlus Nord differ from the OnePlus 8?

If OnePlus hits that sub-$500 price tag with the Nord that it’s promised, that means the new phone will cost at least $200 less than the OnePlus 8. So how will OnePlus save on expenses without sacrificing too much on the kind of quality features that will make the OnePlus Nord appealing to budget-minded shoppers?

The OnePlus 8 debuted earlier this year.

The OnePlus 8 debuted earlier this year. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Going with a less expensive processor would certainly cut costs, which might explain the use of something other than the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 865 chipset that powered the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. Wireless charging could also wind up sacrificed at the altar of cost-consciousness for the OnePlus Nord. (The OnePlus 8 Pro could charge wireless; the OnePlus 8 could not.)

OnePlus could opt for multiple cameras on the OnePlus Nord, but that’s hardly an uncommon feature these days for budget phones. The Moto G Stylus, for example, has three rear lenses, and that phone costs $299. But not all lenses are created equal, so we’d expect the OnePlus Nord to stay true to its budget roots by sticking to more common arrays like a main sensor and a wide angle camera while eschewing pricier components like a telephoto lens. 

Just how OnePlus will differentiate the OnePlus Nord from its pricier flagships will become apparent later this month.

Will the OnePlus Nord screen feature a fast refresh rate?

One of the ways the OnePlus 8 series of phones stood out from the other best Android phones was with a faster refresh rate for their displays — 90Hz for the OnePlus 8 and 120Hz for the OnePlus 8 Pro. We’d place a significant bet that 120Hz is off the table for the OnePlus Nord, but could OnePlus defy convention and go with a 90Hz display on its budget phone? (Most smartphones — even the current iPhone 11 lineup — have a 60Hz refresh rate.)

It would certainly make the OnePlus Nord stand out from other budget offerings. To date, phones with fast-refreshing screens tend either to be pricey flagships like the Pixel 4 or Galaxy S20 or gaming phones such as the ROG Phone 2. Some rumors back in the OnePlus 8 Lite/OnePlus Z days suggested OnePlus was eying a 90Hz refresh rate for its budget phone, so we’ll see if there’s any truth to that chatter.

What else is coming to the OnePlus Nord lineup?

During the “New Beginnings” video that introduced us to the OnePlus Nord, OnePlus described Nord as more of a product line than just a phone. While an attractively priced smartphone will lead the way for OnePlus Nord, phones won’t be the only thing released under the Nord name. Instead, OnePlus sees this as “an exciting new chapter for OnePlus,” in the words of CEO Pete Lau. “The ‘Never Settle’ spirit is centered around sharing the best technology and products with the world, but it is also about challenging ourselves and going beyond our comfort zone.”

Rumored OnePlus wireless earbuds

Rumored OnePlus wireless earbuds (Image credit: Max J via Twitter (@MaxJmb))

So what does that mean in terms of other products OnePlus might introduce as part of its Nord efforts? With the new Nord coming next week, a pair of earbuds could also be in the works. Prior to the Nord event at the end of June, rumors circulated of new OnePlus wireless earbuds that could rival Apple’s AirPods. It’s possible those could soon see the light of day.

OnePlus has also gotten into the TV business producing sets for the Indian market. Just this Thursday (July 2), the company unveiled a new range of TVs highlighted by the OnePlus TV U1, a 55-inch 4K set that runs on the Android TV OS. It will cost 49,999 rupees in India, or around $668 based on current conversion rates. It’s possible Nord-branded TVs could be part of OnePlus’ plans, that could cost less, though it’s worth wondering if those models would reach the US — a country where OnePlus hasn’t launched a TV set.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.