As the popularity of OnePlus devices has grown, the price tag has continued to rise, culminating in the OnePlus 8 Pro and it’s $899 price tag for the base model. We are far from the OnePlus One days, where the device took the Android world by storm with a flagship experience at just $299. And even though the standard OnePlus 8 is priced at $699, that’s still a bit too steep for some to stomach, unless you go the carrier route and get monthly installments.
Before diving into the OnePlus Nord, let’s take a look at the surprising release of the Pixel 3a lineup last year. The 3a was priced at $399 with the larger 3a XL coming in at $479, and Android users everywhere rejoiced because these handsets had many of the same features of the Pixel 4, along with great cameras and stock Android for an ultra-low price. The rumors have been swirling around the Pixel 4a, and Google even accidentally shared a promotional image on its storefront before it was subsequently (and quickly) pulled. But whether it’s strictly because of the ongoing pandemic or for another reason, the 4a continues to be a unicorn with no release date in sight.
Why is the OnePlus Nord going to dominate 2020?
That’s where the OnePlus Nord can come in and save the day for Android users who want a mid-range phone that looks and feels like a flagship. The Nord has been shown off (thanks to an MKBHD interview with Carl Pei), and many of the underlying specs have already been shared by OnePlus itself. All of the headlines and spec drops have been in an effort to build up the hype train and OnePlus has just done that.
In case you haven’t seen them yet, here are the rumored and confirmed specs for the Nord.
- 6.55-inch Super AMOLED Display
- 90Hz Refresh rate
- Front Cameras: 8MP Ultrawide / 32MP Primary
- Rear Cameras: 48MP Wide / 8MP Ultrawide / 5MP Depth / 2MP Macro
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
- Up to 12GB of RAM
- 128GB of storage
- 4,300 mAh battery
- 30W charging
Incredible 90Hz Display
In a recent post on the OnePlus forums, the Head of Product for Nord shared that the display coming to this device will be even better than that of the OnePlus 7T. For reference, the 7T launched with a 90Hz display and was priced at $599, but can now be found for around $499. The forum post shares that not only will the Nord sport a 90Hz refresh rate, but that the technology has also been improved with the Touch Sampling Rate being increased to 135Hz.
Touch sampling rate basically measures how fast a screen responds to your every touch, swipe, and scrolling gesture per second.
With Nord, we’ve upped its peak touch sampling rate from 135 Hz on the OnePlus 7T to 180 Hz for specific tasks like gaming, where the timing of every input can decide whether you finally take down a fearsome boss or succumb to its wrath once more.
You would expect for display technology to improve over time, even short periods of time as more R&D is performed and new solutions are discovered. But to put a display touted as being better than the 7T at this price point is just amazing, and is something that smartphone makers should start doing.
Power & Speed
So when OnePlus decided on the Snapdragon 765G, they likely didn’t know or didn’t have enough time to transition to the recently announced Snapdragon 768G. Nonetheless, this new processor matches up to the Snapdragon 845 (from 2018) in terms of performance, while offering better GPU and gaming performance, along with support for up to 120Hz displays.
But the really exciting part has nothing to do with how well you can play PUBG or Call of Duty on the Nord. Instead, it’s the fact that the Nord is offering 5G on a budget-minded handset. With current 5G devices like the Galaxy S20 being priced at $1,000, having 5G on a device for half the price is something else that cannot be understated.
Outside of the Pixel, OxygenOS is the best software on an Android phone. You could even make the argument that it’s better than what Google packs into the Pixel lineup of phones, purely because of the various customization options that you get. We’re not talking Samsung-levels of endless menus, but OxygenOS focuses on the good stuff and lets you make your phone, yours.
On the camera front, the rumors are that there could be a total of SIX cameras packed into the Nord, with four on the back and two on the front. OnePlus is slowly getting better with both the camera software and hardware, but on a mid-range device, having more options is probably better as we wouldn’t expect the Nord to give you potato quality. It’s more than likely that sensors from the OnePlus 7 Pro or something slightly updated will be included with the Nord.
There’s a common theme when it comes to all of the aforementioned reasons why the Nord will be the best phone of 2020 — price. OnePlus confirmed that the handset will be priced at €500, and when you combine everything that OnePlus is offering into a sleek package at that price point, you have a winner. This is what the Pixel 4a could have been, had it launched when Google originally intended, but now the Nord could come in and swoop up the folks who have been waiting.
In an era where smartphones are going for at least $1,000, the Nord could save the day and bring everyone a great experience without backing up the Brinks truck.
Where the OnePlus Nord could fall flat
I’m excited about the Nord, and even though I’m usually excited about everything OnePlus does (even as an iOS-first user), there is one major reason why the Nord could fall flat. The OnePlus, the Nord is currently only slated to come to Europe and India, with no concrete or definitive plans for a North American launch. It seems that there is going to be a “highly limited beta program”, but the chances of anyone getting in on that are pretty much slim to none.
As I sat down to write this piece, it turns out there is a little sliver of hope for a US launch. In an interview with Tom’s Guide, OnePlus’ head of European Strategy shared that a US launch is possible. All of it comes down to how well the Nord performs when it officially launches in Europe and India. However, if we were to go off the rate at which pre-orders are selling out, then maybe there’s a chance after all.