OnePlus 9 Series: The Morning After

Posted on March 26, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Hardware, Mobile with 8 Comments

After posting my first impressions of the OnePlus 9 Series, I swapped my Mint SIM card over to the OnePlus 9 Pro and began installing and configuring apps. Here are some further impressions.

My most obvious observation, and I guess I should have seen this one coming, is that the OnePlus 9 Pro, which is much bigger and heavier than the Google Pixel 4a 5G I’ve been using since November, feels much bigger and heavier than the Google Pixel 4a 5G I’ve been using since November. Looking at them side-by-side, the OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t that much bigger—it’s barely half an inch taller—but at these sizes, every little bit counts.

Here are the numbers: The OnePlus 9 Pro has a tall 6.7-inch display with a 20.1:9 aspect ratio, compared to 6.2 inches and 19.5:9 for the Pixel 4a 5G. Its body is 6.43 inches tall, compared to 6.06 inches for the Pixel. And it weighs 6.95 ounces, compared to 5.93 ounces for the Pixel.

You can really feel the weight difference, which I know sounds obvious, and it’s a stretch to reach the top of the screen with a single hand, even one as big as my gorilla mitts. It almost feels top-heavy to me. But I’ll get used to it, of course, and if I were coming from a modern Samsung or Apple flagship, I’d probably not notice this at all. In fact, my iPhone 11 Pro Max is even bigger overall (but not taller) and heavier (7.97 ounces).

The display is … amazing. I’ve experimented with a variety of apps, including several video and reading apps, and it’s just so much more immersive than the Pixel’s dim display. Colors pop, the performance is amazing—with one exception noted below—the customization options that OnePlus provides really help you personalize what you’re seeing. I’ve missed OnePlus’s unique font, and I like customizing the home screen and notification shade with One UI-style icons.

This was the first phone I configured from scratch since I wrote my article about using Microsoft for your password management across platforms and autofill on mobile. And for reasons I can’t quite explain, my experience auto-filling passwords in apps has been mixed. Sometimes I saw a Microsoft Authenticator pop-up for auto-filling a password, sometimes it was handled by Google Smart Lock, and sometimes it wasn’t handled at all, leaving me to manually fumble around for my usernames and passwords. In the latter case, I was sometimes—but not always—prompted to save the credentials I had just entered into the Microsoft system. None of this is on OnePlus, of course. It’s just something that happened.

Zipping around the interface, I was reminded anew of how great it is to have leading-edge hardware and the performance it generates. But as noted, there has been one odd exception: When I open Microsoft Edge and select the address bar, the virtual keyboard is supposed to pop-up immediately so that I can type something. Instead, 2 or 3 long seconds go by before that keyboard appears. Concerned about this, I started testing other instances in which tapping on a text field will display the keyboard, and it’s faster, if not immediate, in other apps. So, again, this might not be on OnePlus, but it’s something that happened.

This example of English as a second language isn’t confidence-inspiring

After getting all the apps I use installed and configured—a self-inflicted laborious process because I choose to do this manually rather than import settings and configurations from a previous phone—I set down that familiar path where apps will issue notifications I don’t want and then I turn that off one by one. During this time, I made and received a few test phone calls and texts, observed how different media apps like Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, and others do or do not fill the entire screen with video—a potential frustration for me when I’m watching part of a movie on the elliptical at the gym—and downloaded a few podcasts. And then I basically just started using it.

Unfortunately, it rained all day yesterday and it’s going to be overcast all day today, so it’s not really the best environment for testing photos. But I did take dozens of sample shots inside the house, both before and after dark, and then outside this morning while walking the dog.

Normal shot in the dark

Same scene (with different colored lights) but with Nightscape mode

I may have some good news. With the understanding that it’s still very early and that I’ve not really had enough time to test the camera system in a variety of conditions and see whether it’s at least more reliable than that in previous OnePlus handsets, the photos I’ve taken so far seem to be about as good as anything I’d take with the Pixel.

Ultra-wide view of the sunroom

I suppose the colors are maybe a bit duller—or, really, more color-accurate—than what I’m used to. But in instances where there is a splash of color, as with a flower, it does a great job.

The cameras also provide a nice macro-style effect without requiring an actual macro lens, so it’s possible to get very close to subjects—again, like a flower—and get some nice detail.

It’s not perfect. I got some motion blur on one shot of the dog this morning, for example. But the slower Pixel would have delivered the same blur, so that’s a wash in my book.

I’ll keep using the OnePlus 9 Pro and testing the camera in different conditions. But so far, I feel much better about this camera system than I had about the previous several OnePlus handsets. It’s pretty clear that the OnePlus/Hasselblad partnership, even in this early phase, has delivered some much-needed improvements.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “OnePlus 9 Series: The Morning After”

  1. wright_is

    I've noticed with LastPass and 1Password that sometimes passwords aren't offered.

    I think it has something to do with Android 10 power saving features, that it kicks the password manager out of memory. I've found that going into the password app and then starting the app where I need the password again usually gets it working.

    I have found under "automatically daily optimization" (translation from German) under Adaptive energy saving that it will automatically kick apps out of memory when they aren't used for a while. I have disabled that and will see if it brings an improvement.

    • qaelith2112

      In reply to wright_is:

      Same experience here with both 1Password and LastPass, and same solution is what I employ as well. Once in a while there is an odd app that just won't get the password manager's attention even doing that, but these are relatively rare. For those, I can usually go trigger the password manager's fill and it'll work. For some subset of these that needed a manual trigger, it won't fill and offers to copy the user ID and password (separately) to the clipboard for me instead. Then for even fewer, even that never happens and I have to find the account and cause it to copy manually.


      For that first situation you've mentioned where opening and unlocking the password manager first will get it to see the app and fill as expected, I concur that the OS's power saving feature is the likely culprit. For some of these other situations where even that doesn't quite work, I blame the apps themselves for various degrees of not doing their login forms correctly, either by failing to hook to the right API to allow the supported password fill to fully work, or worst case, using some kind of field that the password manager can't even detect at all no matter what, even invisible to the legacy form fill methods.

  2. oxymarc

    Hi Paul. Does your 9 Pro support Dual-SIM? I've heard that the North American variant may no longer support that. Thanks.

  3. eric_rasmussen

    I'm very glad to see your review of the camera. All I've seen online so far are reviews that made it sound "meh". The photos you took look great, definitely better than the OnePlus 8 was capable of. I look forward to more photos and thoughts when the weather is better - Thanks for posting this!

  4. markld

    Ultra wide shots are nice.

    I personally liked that room shot, and it's nice to have that ultra wide ability. When you don't have it, it's missed and you know when you just can't move around enough to capture what you want to in a shot. It's disappointing.

    Here now in 2021, it's not unreasonable to expect an optical zoom, an ultra wide lens, and maybe a couple lens in between, as a minimum.

    Photography on a smartphone is my most important attribute, followed by the ability to see your screen in the sunlight, an accurate colored display, and then being able to read the print on the screen. Oh storage is important too, but becoming not as much of a problem bc of cloud storage.

    If all the other things work well enough, then it's a decent phone, IMHO.

  5. truerock2

    The photos are weirdly distorted. The wine glass looks like it has been mashed out of shape.

    Poor quality photographs in my opinion.

    • wright_is

      In reply to truerock2:

      Ultra wide photos always distort towards the edges. The better the lens, the less distortion. A cheap lens will generally have a lot of distortion, an expensive lens less.

      The problem with Smartphones is that you only have a very small lens and no depth - a good wide angle lens will be at least 6cm deep, probably more, a smartphone is usually not even a centimetre deep.

      The other part is, a smartphone costs less than a mid-range lens.

      You will never reach the levels of a real camera, but the distortion here is within the limits you would expect from a smartphone.

  6. panjjj

    Nice "bottle" collection there to enjoy the Sonos system! ;)

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