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OnePlus 9 leak shows why OnePlus is flailing in the smartphone wars

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

If any company can be said to not care what the competition is doing, it’s OnePlus. For years it’s been content to do things its own way, taking feedback from its loyal fanbase in the process, but generally acting as though it doesn’t matter what the rest of the smartphone industry is doing. Or so it seems from the outside.

Of course, this means OnePlus phones don’t always have the kind of features most people would consider standard. It took until the launch of the OnePlus 7 for OnePlus to include stereo speakers, and it’s still not clear what future there is for wireless charging and IP water resistance ratings. Both were included on the OnePlus 8 Pro, but vanished when the OnePlus 8T rolled around.

The latest rumor from long-time OnePlus leaker Max Jambor says that the OnePlus 9 Pro comes with an IP rating, though the regular OnePlus 9 will not. If that's the case, it may well be that we see history repeat itself, with wireless charging similarly restricted to the more expensive handset. The question is, why? Why can’t OnePlus introduce a feature and stick with it across the whole lineup?

Of course, OnePlus has been asked these questions before, and the answers are always the same. While water resistance has been on their phones for years, the official line has been that IP ratings cost money, which would be passed onto the consumer. Furthermore while an IP rating alleviates the anxiety of water damage, it doesn’t mean your warranty will cover it.

Why can’t OnePlus introduce a feature and stick with it across the whole lineup?

As for wireless charging, the excuse has been that because it wasn’t as good or efficient as wired charging, it wasn’t ready for OnePlus phones. And in fairness, once it did debut on the OnePlus 8 Pro it was quite effective. It offered the same charging speed as Warp Charge 30 (50% in 30 minutes), and didn’t pump out the excess heat other fast wireless charging standards are known for. It wasn’t as fast as the OnePlus 8 Pro’s wired charging (70% charge in 30 minutes), but it was pretty good.

Then the OnePlus 8T skipped them both, and the absence of an 8T Pro meant they IP ratings and wireless charging have been missing since the 8 Pro launched back in April.

The honest truth is that these features are not particularly special. They’re standard on every other flagship, and even a number of mid-range phones as well. They haven’t quite made it to the budget and lower-mid-range devices yet, but that’s to be expected. The fact it took OnePlus so long to introduce them is one thing, but the fact they’re being inconsistently implemented is totally different.

But maybe I’m being unfair with the word inconsistent, because we’ve only seen one Pro model since IP and wireless charging arrived on a OnePlus device. The OnePlus 9 may have both, and so might the OnePlus 9T Pro and 10 Pro if they ever get made.

But if that’s the case it means OnePlus is holding those things back for the people who will pay for it. Even though, as we’ve mentioned, IP water resistance and wireless charging are available as standard on countless other devices. All the while OnePlus is championing other high-end features that, while nice, are not really necessary. Features like curved screens, high refresh rates and under-display fingerprint scanners. 

Those features can be great additions to any phone, but not at the expense of the basics. Skipping the simple stuff is not cutting it, and it seems contrary to OnePlus’s “Never Settle” mantra. After all, you can’t give a customer the best experience possible if you’re deliberately withholding certain basic features.

But maybe, once OnePlus figures that out, it can start focussing on bigger and better things.

More from Tom's Guide

Tom Pritchard

Tom covers a little bit of everything at Tom’s Guide, ranging from the latest electric cars all the way down to hot takes on why Christopher Nolan is wrong about everything. Appliances are also muscling their way into his routine, which is a pretty long way from his days as Editor at Gizmodo UK. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online. 

  • fir89
    I registered for an account just because I disagree with your article.

    I never saw this as a problem. I need a phone. Not a GoPro. Splash resistant is good enough. Wireless charging is useless compared to warp. $1000+ phones are ridiculous as it is. Leave those cost-incurring nonsense at the Pro model. There is a reason why OnePlus is doing awesome as a brand. It does not need to be another Samsung or Apple.
    Reply