The OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro may not have the mainstream interest of the next phone from Apple or Samsung, but phone enthusiasts are eagerly anticipating this launch.
There are a couple of factors that make this a particularly intriguing launch for OnePlus. From a hardware standpoint, the biggest question concerns the OnePlus 10 cameras. After a year of working with Hasselblad, last year’s software enhancements impressed, but will Hasselblad have a hardware-level impact on the OnePlus 10. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the spark for the other burning question about the OnePlus 10, which is the pricing. Google shocked everyone with its flagship Pixel pricing and OnePlus may have trouble keeping up.
While there are no official announcements regarding the OnePlus 10 or OnePlus 10 Pro yet, there have been enough leaked details that we can start to paint a pretty clear picture of what to expect.
OnePlus 10 release date
OnePlus has slowly pushed up the release date for its flagship phones over the last few years, so it’s a tougher prediction now than in the past. Last year, the OnePlus 9 arrived on March 23, while the year before the OnePlus 8 didn’t make its appearance until April 14.
Prolific leaker Max Jambor recently weighed in suggesting that his sources point to a OnePlus 10 announcement on January 5 at CES 2022. While OnePlus has invited the press to an event at CES on that date, it’s not unheard of for a company to merely show off its existing product lineup at CES, so that alone doesn’t confirm anything.
What gives some credence to this claim is that the OnePlus 10 was already rumored to be launching in China well ahead of its global launch. If that’s true, then an early January launch in China just about fits with a mid-March launch globally. However, this again is merely a rumor, so it’s a bit of a house of cards.
Another interesting puzzle piece to fit in here is that the Galaxy S21 FE is rumored to be launching at CES 2022 as well. If we could see both of these devices arrive at CES, it would be the biggest pair of phone launches there in years.
OnePlus 10 price
There are no credible rumors on OnePlus 10 or OnePlus 10 Pro pricing yet and as I mentioned at the outset, this is a huge question for these phones with make-or-break implications.
Obviously, the hardware for the OnePlus 10 was in place long before the company had any idea what the pricing for the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro would be, but those devices have stolen the “budget flagship” thunder from OnePlus. While OnePlus could make some adjustments to bring prices down, if the hardware costs are too high to undercut or match the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, that is going to be a challenge.
Last year, the OnePlus 9 and OnePlus 9 Pro launched at $729 and $969 respectively.
Given the price pressure from Google and even Samsung with its FE line, it seems reasonable to expect the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro to come down slightly from there in order to remain competitive. Again, this is barring a substantial hardware upgrade, which obviously would tie their hands and force them to either hold the line or raise prices.
OnePlus 10 design
The design of the OnePlus 10 has come into focus already thanks to a series of leaked renders and dummy units. If accurate, it isn’t a full redesign, but the rear camera array is certainly a departure from last year.
The renders and dummy units have all been for the OnePlus 10 Pro. However, given that OnePlus typically hews pretty closely to a single design with both models, it’s reasonable to assume this year will be no different. The front of the phone shows a waterfall display with a hole-punch camera in the upper-left corner. The OnePlus 10 would presumably swap that for a flat display.
The biggest change appear to come from the rear camera array that takes a page from the Galaxy S21’s Contour Cut camera housing playbook, wrapping directly from the back to the edge of the phone.
There are a few notable differences in that it is roughly square and only connects at the side, rather than at the top and side.
The renders and dummy units show four distinct lenses on the OnePlus 10 Pro. We’ll get into the specifics of the camera later, but that would match the count for the OnePlus 9 Pro. Presumably, the OnePlus 10 will drop at least one of those lenses, although it’s possible it merely swaps one out for a less costly option like a dedicated macro or black and white lens.
It would be nice to see OnePlus find a unique design identity, but if these design leaks are true, I think it’s at least an improvement over the old design, even if it is a bit derivative of Samsung.
OnePlus 10 cameras
Unfortunately, we know next to nothing about the most intriguing hardware on the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro yet. The camera hardware should now be at least partially informed by the company’s partnership with Hasselblad or at a minimum, the tuning for the hardware should be much more refined.
The design leaks show fairly massive lenses on the OnePlus 10 Pro, but it’s hard to take too much from that. Another leak from a since-deleted Weibo post indicated that the Pro model will make the leap to a 5x zoom, up from 3.3x on the OnePlus 9 Pro. That’s still a far cry from the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 10x optical zoom, but it does outclass the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro at 3x and 4x respectively.
Given the considerable investment in the multi-year Hasselblad partnership, the expectations are high for the OnePlus 10 cameras. We were thoroughly impressed by what was achieved in a relatively short time with the OnePlus 9, so there’s plenty of reason for hope that the OnePlus cameras may take a significant leap this year.
OnePlus 10 performance
No surprises are expected here, the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro should both be running the newly announced Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. While Qualcomm has made considerable bold pronouncements about this new SoC, we’ll have to wait and see how it performs in both our lab and real-world tests.
Like Apple’s Bionic/M1 and Google’s Tensor chips, one of the big talking points for Qualcomm is the improved AI performance of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, 4x faster than its predecessor. Other highlights include the somewhat controversial “always-on AI, always-on camera.” The new ISP will allow for more camera data as well, opening devices up to 8K HDR video capture, better low-light and night photos and video bokeh similar to Cinematic mode on the iPhone 13.
From a raw CPU perspective, Qualcomm is promising 60% faster Vulkan performance, with a 30% boost to the GPU and 25% better battery savings.
Again, we need to see it for ourselves. But while Apple retains an otherworldly lead in the SoC department, the truth is that Qualcomm’s latest and greatest has had more than enough power for any smartphone tasks as well. Battery life and some of the AI enhancements will be the more interesting features to watch for me.
OnePlus 10 outlook
OnePlus is in an odd position this year with the merger with Oppo somewhat clouding the future for the company and its handsets. It’s certainly possible that everything will go as they outlined with the shared resources of the two companies helping to deliver superior hardware and speedier updates.
The new commitment to three years of major OS updates and four years of security updates was incredibly encouraging. Previously, the company’s lackluster upgrades had been holding me back from wholeheartedly recommending OnePlus hardware in recent years.
While those behind-the-scenes issues are swirling, the biggest problem facing the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro from a consumer standpoint is whether they can find a way to stand out against the incredibly formidable lineup of flagship phones available right now. The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro have gone for the budget flagship jugular, while Samsung and Apple have a stranglehold on the $1,000 plus flagship market. Even when it had a clear price advantage, it was difficult for OnePlus to make inroads and the narrow window for it in the market has closed down even further.
We’re still eager to see what the OnePlus 10 and OnePlus 10 Pro have to offer, but there’s no question the company needs to have some incredible tricks up its sleeve this year.