OnePlus 8 budget phone is OnePlus Z: What to expect

(Image credit: 91Mobiles and @OnLeaks)

The upcoming OnePlus 8 launch will include at least one model that hearkens back to OnePlus' budget phone maker roots. And it could sport a new name that will be somewhat familiar to long-time OnePlus fans.

Leaker Max Weinbach took to Twitter this weekend to report that the Chinese phone maker was looking to revive its old OnePlus X handset. In a subsequent tweet spotted by 9to5Google, Weinbach said his source told him that the budget phone would be known as the OnePlus Z, and that it's almost certainly the rumored OnePlus 8 Lite model that will feature some — but not all — of the specs planned for the upcoming OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro.

You may recall that in lat 2015, OnePlus released the OnePlus X as a lower-cost alternative to its main flagship. Back then, we praised the OnePlus X's high-end design, though we were less impressed with its mediocre cameras and subpar battery life. For smartphone shoppers, though, the key spec was that the $249 OnePlus X cost $80 less than the OnePlus 2, the company's flagship device at the time.

If Weinbach's tweet is accurate, history could be repeating itself with the soon-to-launch OnePlus 8 lineup. We've been hearing rumors about a lite version of that phone since late last year when mock-ups of a budget OnePlus handset first appeared. And now it sounds as if the OnePlus Z will stand as a lower-cost alternative to the more fully-featured OnePlus 8 models.

Based on earlier leaks, we already have an ideal of what OnePlus might be planning for the OnePlus 8 Lite/OnePlus Z. Like the other OnePlus 8 models, the OnePlus Z would feature a display with a 90Hz refresh rate, though its panel could be slightly smaller at 6.4 inches. Spec leaks also suggest that the OnePlus Z would have three rear cameras and a 4,000 mAh battery.

The biggest difference between the OnePlus Z and the pricier OnePlus 8 models could be its processor. Where the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro are expected to feature a Snapdragon 865 chipset, the OnePlus Z could instead use a MediaTek Dimensity 1000 system-on-chip. That chipset still features a 5G modem so you wouldn't be giving up 5G connectivity with the OnePlus Z.

We're still unsure what the price would be, though rumors and OnePlus' history suggest a OnePlus 8 Lite/OnePlus Z model would be anywhere from $50 to $100 less than the standard model. Leaked specs from Giztop showed a OnePlus 8 Lite with a $499 price, but we have no idea if that's accurate or not. 

The OnePlus 8 is expected to debut in April. It's unclear if the OnePlus Z would join that launch or if OnePlus would hold that phone to introduce later in the year. We expect more details about OnePlus' phone plans to leak between now and the rumored April launch date.

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.