For the past few years one of the best smartphones available has not been available directly in Australia. This year, once again, it is no different. The OnePlus 9 Pro is OnePlus’ flagship device of 2021 and once again they have thrown the kitchen sink at it with some amazing hardware and a great software experience.
OnePlus is a relatively small company born from a couple of former OPPO employees who wanted to make smartphones for enthusiasts. The company, owned by BBK Electronics who also own OPPO, Vivo and realme, has since grown to become much more mainstream and have many carrier deals worldwide — especially in the US where their carrier deals net them a tidy profit.
Unfortunately due to the size of our market they are yet to make a permanent foray into Australia but for people comfortable ordering from companies such as Kogan or other grey market importers, or even ordering themselves from overseas using a mail forwarder, that is not an issue.
Let’s discuss reasons why you would consider importing a OnePlus 9 Pro for yourself and explore some reasons not to.
Reason to import 1: That gorgeous display
The display is amazing, just as last year’s flagship was. The AMOLED displays that OnePlus use in their flagships have for the past two years have scored the highest rating possible from DisplayMate and are extremely similar to that on the OPPO Find X3 Pro (as you would expect for companies that share some R&D, some supply chains and some employees).
Spec-wise, the display ticks every box. The 6.7-inch 1440P display has a possible refresh rate of 120Hz but can be scaled down to as low as 1Hz by the operating system based on what you are currently doing on the device (to conserve battery). The display is curved although the curve is not a slow one like it is on the OPPO Find X3 Pro which makes it easier to use.
The display will provide sharpness, clarity, brightness (up to 1300nits) and colours the likes of which many of you will never have experienced on a smartphone before (it supports sRGB, Display P3 and 10-bit Colour Depth). It is this experience that is a great start in why you would consider importing one.
Reason to import 2: Perfect charging solutions
Charging. This feature, so often overlooked by so many companies (most notably Samsung and Apple), is one that simply cannot be overstated as to its importance in a smartphone experience. Give me the best phone in the world but if I’m out of juice in half a day and need an hour or two to charge it you’ve got a waste of a device. This is where the OnePlus 9 Pro excels.
The OnePlus 9 Pro houses the same dual battery technology that OPPO uses in the Find X3 Pro but the difference between the two is in the charging algorithm — OPPO calls their charging solution SuperVOOC 2.0 while OnePlus calls theirs WarpCharge 65T. In essence the chargers are pretty much interchangeable with the charging speeds almost identical. The OnePlus 9 Pro will charge its battery using WarpCharge 65T from empty to full in a tick or two under 30minutes — OPPO’s Find X3 Pro is a tick or two over 30 minutes. Either way, see you’re running out of charge, plug it in for 10 minutes and you have more than 40% more to play with.
In 2021 charging is not just wired charging with many of us preferring the simplicity of wireless charging. Unfortunately for some manufacturers (see names above), even if they include wireless charging it is slow 5-15W charging. The OnePlus 9 Pro supports these qi-standard speeds but also they support 30W (using their charger from last year) and their new 50W WarpCharge wireless charger (out of interest, both of these chargers will provide 30W wireless charging to the OPPO Find X3 Pro as well). If you are importing a OnePlus 9 Pro, I would definitely recommend importing a Warp Charge 50 Wireless charger alongside it.
The battery itself may struggle to last a day if you use it at full refresh rate and resolution but with charging speeds this fast always in reach (OPPO’s 65W car charger also charges it at 65W) this is not a concern.
Reason to import 3: Oxygen OS is still number one
It’s a spec beast which translates to performance in most cases but how much performance improvements made with all the best hardware differs from one manufacturer to another. This is usually due to the Android skin they use on top of pure Android and how resource hungry said skin is.
Oxygen OS is my favourite Android skin, even more so than the Pixel Experience from Google. While the animations aren’t as smooth as Google’s (no ones are), they are still smoother and quicker than every other manufacturer. The apps switch from one to the other quickly and features within each app work seamlessly and quickly each and every time. Not only that but OnePlus gives you a large number of incredibly useful tweaks and modifications you can make to the settings to customise the phone to your liking.
In the end Qualcomm’s best chipset, the Snapdragon 888, along with 12GB of RAM along with 256GB of storage combined with a well refined operating system provide a great personal experience.
Reason to import 4: An improved camera
This year OnePlus decided to partner up with well-known photography brand Hasselblad in a bid to improve their smartphone photography. In past years OnePlus have promised the world with their cameras but have failed to live up to expectations.
This year the specs have changed with a 48MP f/1.8 main camera with support for omnidirectional PDAF, Laser autofocus and optical image stabilisation, a 50MP ultrawide camera, an 8MP telephoto lens along with a 2MP monochrome lens. Video-wise is capable of 8K video at 30fps and 4K at 30/60/120 fps which is impressive along with super slow-motion capture — 1080p video at 240 fps.
The software in the camera system allows for their Nightscape mode, SuperMacro and all the usual portrait, panorama etc modes. There is also cat or dog face focus AI software as well — as you’ve probably seen in my reviews, the dog photos get a good run a lot of the time.
The end result is good. The images are not earth shattering and fall just behind those you get with the OPPO Find X3 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Apple iPhone 12 Max Pro but not far behind. Like the OPPO, the OnePlus produces real-to-life colours without a lot of the over-processing and colour “enhancements” that some other phones perform in post-production.
The results are testament to OnePlus’ commitment to improving their imaging — something that they certainly have needed to do. We never see a perfect phone, but this would be as close as it could get for me if OnePlus managed to absolutely nail the camera — until then it’s just another damn good phone.
Reason to import 5: Other miscellaneous awesomeness
All the other little miscellaneous included doo-dads and thinga-me-bobs.
This is for every other spec OnePlus have thrown in — Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6, NFC, 5G, a full IP68 waterproof rating, an extremely fast, accurate and secure in-display fingerprint sensor, one of the fastest face-unlocks you’ll ever use and last but far from least, the Alert Slider. Shamelessly “borrowed” from Apple, the Alert Slider on the OnePlus 9 Pro takes things a step further with the ability to not just switch between ring, vibrate and silent modes but to also customise each mode and what it means for varying sounds and notifications.
Sounds like a great phone, why wouldn’t you import one here?
If the phone were sold directly into our market here a recommendation to purchase it would be a no brainer but will the relative hassle of importing one there are some things to keep in mind:
This is the big one that causes a lot of people to avoid importing phones, and rightly so. If you import it yourself from OnePlus (either their website or Amazon etc) you will not have any semblance of a local warranty and would have to send it back to the place of purchase (most likely) for repairs.
If you use an importer of lesser reputation then, although they are required to provide after sales service and repair, you may struggle to get any commitment or service from some of them — the Aussie Whirlpool forums are littered with tales of bad experiences from some of these.
If you really wanted a OnePlus 9 Pro then Kogan may be your best bet. They will offer warranty in accordance with ACCC guidelines — ie. your phone should be warrantied for as long as you would expect it to last for given what it is and how much you paid for it. For some people they may consider this 3-4 years but you may struggle to convince anyone to repair it after two years — do not be fooled by those offering “12 months warranty only”.
Not all 5G bands are created equal and not all countries use the same 5G bands and neither do all phones support all 5G bands. For this reason if you are interested in 5G service you should ensure that the version of the OnePlus 9 Pro you are buying is compatible with our 5G bands here in Australia. N78 and n40 are the two 5G bands you should be looking for depending on where you are purchasing it from.
There’s no escaping it, the Aussie dollar isn’t in great shape at the moment and to import a phone you will need to pay a bit more than you’d expect. If you import it yourself expect to pay the import taxes as well.
The final conclusion
In the end the big decision you’ll have to make is whether it is worth it for you. There was a time when the OnePlus software experience did make it worth it — in my opinion. In the last couple of years other Android manufacturers have improved their skins to narrow the gap between them and Oxygen OS. Now the choice is less clear.
The two main competitors to the OnePlus 9 Pro in the Android space are the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and the OPPO Find X3 Pro. All of them are ultra-premium prices with their equivalent models coming in at $1700-ish. The OnePlus 9 Pro 5G, with Aussie 5G bands, will set you back around $1400-ish + shipping from Kogan.
The Samsung and the OPPO have better cameras than the OnePlus but the OnePlus 9 Pro has better software. OPPO has extremely equivalent charging solutions to the OnePlus 9 Pro (65W and 30W wireless versus 65W and 50W wireless) while the Samsung solutions are beyond disappointing.
If you have used a OnePlus device before and you want a new phone you can certainly get yourself a 5G-capable OnePlus 9 Pro for less than the price of a locally purchased ultra-premium device. You had better make sure you are happy with any warranty arrangements you will have to partake should any issues occur along with any import fees if applicable.
Is it as good as the local options — in the end so many of us use the camera so much these days that if you are buying at this end of the market you may as well get the best camera possible — at the moment for me that is not the OnePlus 9 Pro. It’s $300 cheaper and a great phone still but it’s not perfect. Maybe one day they’ll bring them here officially and give us a much easier choice.