It's been about two weeks since OnePlus announced that the OnePlus 9T wasn't coming. But unlike most other canceled phones, I'm still thinking about it.
It's not just because the OnePlus 9 series was so good I wanted to see how OnePlus would up its game for the T version. It's also that this phone may have been the last glimpse of OnePlus as we knew them, before its merger with Oppo takes hold fully.
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With the OnePlus 9 Pro, and to a lesser extent the base OnePlus 9, the Shenzhen-based company had got the closest it had ever been to making the best Android phone. The firm's historic weakness when it came to photography was addressed with some new sensors and a partnership with experts from Hasselblad, leaving the phone's only shortcoming low-light photography and battery life. With another crack at the same basic phone, OnePlus may finally have got these nailed down too.
Equally, I'd have been intrigued to see what OnePlus would have brought as its standout new feature for the 9T. The OnePlus 8T last year, for instance, introduced 65W charging to the OnePlus flagship line, and also the 120Hz refresh rate to OnePlus's smaller handset size. It was rumored that OnePlus would be bringing a larger 108MP main camera to the 9T, which could have been just what it needed to help boost its photography to Apple or Samsung levels of quality. It's a shame that we'll never see this, or at least that we'll have to wait until the OnePlus 10 to see if OnePlus could pull this off.
Beyond just the potential feature set of the phone, I also wanted to see the 9T because it probably will have ended up being the last phone developed by an independent OnePlus. OnePlus' stablemate at BBK Electronics, Oppo, is integrating with the company fully, after already sharing parts like batteries and displays for several years. The companies have promised this only applies to the back end, and that the two brands will continue to operate independently of each other.
The effects of the merger are already visible. OnePlus' new Android 12 skin, OxygenOS 12 is very similar to Oppo's ColorOS 12, with the two OSes scheduled to be combining completely in the near future. The same has happened with OnePlus' hardware, with several of the mid-range OnePlus Nord devices, including the latest OnePlus Nord 2, essentially being rebadged Oppo phones.
OnePlus phones will no doubt continue to have their own unique selling points compared to Oppo devices, even after this joining of forces. OnePlus should still have the U.S. market to itself too, since Oppo currently seems uninterested in introducing its products to the States. However the OnePus 10, or whatever the next OnePlus flagship ends up being named, is going to be a phone made under far different circumstances than its predecessor, which will no doubt have a host of knock-on effects on how the phone will be designed and built.
And this is why I wish we had the OnePlus 9T. It could have acted as a bridge between old and new OnePlus, helping us understand how the reformed company would work before its next full device refresh. Seeing what got introduced or focused on in the marketing would have not only been a potential teaser for next year, but also an unofficial send-off for the company as we know it.
I don't expect my pleas will change OnePlus' mind though. A business that would develop, launch and market a whole new phone just for tech nerds to analyze it or for fans to buy it as a collectible wouldn't last long.