Is the OnePlus 9 Pro Really “Overpriced”?

It is about a week since it was released. And the latest OnePlus flagship, the OnePlus 9 Pro, has been labeled as “overpriced” and “too expensive” in many circles. Accusations have been leveled at the brand for having deserted its core philosophy of being a “flagship killer” (mind you, the brand itself stopped using that term a while ago, something a lot of folks seem to have conveniently forgotten). To an extent this is understandable. After all, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s starting price of Rs 64,999 is the highest for any base model of a regular (non-special edition) OnePlus. And indeed, is a far far cry from the Rs 19,999 at which the original OnePlus One was launched in India in late 2014.

oneplus 9 pro camera review

The biggest price rise was NOT the OnePlus 9 Pro

Seen in that context, the OnePlus 9 Pro definitely seems to be an expensive proposition. Take a closer look at the pricing of the OnePlus range, however, and things start changing. We are considering only the prices of the flagships for better context:

Year Flagship Model Starting Price Price increase (approx)
2014 OnePlus One Rs 21,999
(Rs 19,999 variant introduced later)
2015 OnePlus 2 Rs 22,999 4.5%
2016 OnePlus 3 Rs 27,999 21.7%
2016 OnePlus 3T Rs 29,999 7.1%
2017 OnePlus 5 Rs 32,999 10%
2017 OnePlus 5T Rs 32,999 0%
2018 OnePlus 6 Rs 34,999 6.1%
2018 OnePlus 6T Rs 37,999 8.6%
2019 OnePlus 7 Pro Rs 48,999 28.9%
2019 OnePlus 7T Pro Rs 53,999 10.2%
2020 OnePlus 8 Pro Rs 54,999 1.9%
2021 OnePlus 9 Pro Rs 64,999 18.2%

As you can see, the price of the OnePlus flagship device has always followed an upward curve – the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T represented the only time when prices did not change between successive models. And in fact, in sheer percentage terms, the price increase from the OnePlus 8 Pro to the OnePlus 9 Pro is not the highest price change in the range. That was when the price leaped by 28.9 percent from the OnePlus 6T to the OnePlus 7 Pro when OnePlus introduced the Pro range. Even before that, OnePlus had increased the price of the OnePlus 3 by 21.7 percent, marking a move to a higher price segment.

(This also pokes a hole in the conspiracy theory that OnePlus “used” the Hasselblad partnership to drive up prices – the brand has pushed higher price increases in the past without any such tie-ups as justification.)

On a premium path for a while

The stark fact is that right from the OnePlus 3 in particular, the brand has been moving steadily upward the price ladder, sometimes taking a tiny step, and sometimes a larger one, but seldom staying at the same price point.

The interesting point is that its upward movement has in fact coincided with the decline of the “budget flagship” segment in Android. When OnePlus had arrived in India, there were a few players playing the budget flagship game – Xiaomi (which perhaps invented the segment in India with the crazy-priced Mi 3), Motorola and Asus, and Google also had affordable Nexus options. However, as time passed, these faded out, and what’s more, even the high-end Android market started emptying, with the likes of Sony, HTC, LG, and Google losing market share.

OnePlus 9 Pro

So come 2018, OnePlus decided to split its endeavors and come up with two devices, one that was closer to the budget flagship segment, where it was increasingly becoming the only real option, and another targeted at the slightly more pricey premium segment, which also was now really becoming a Samsung monopoly of sorts. In fact, some observers felt that OnePlus’ move into the premium segment also came at a time when the premium segment itself began to get into five-figure territory in India, with phones getting close to the Rs 1,00,000 mark (blame it on Apple again).

The Pro is premium, but a sort of “budget premium”

And OnePlus’ Pro series has been its “premium” segment model. Obviously, while it has come with a significantly higher price tag than its non-Pro counterparts, it has still been relatively below the pricing of the premium Galaxy S flagships.

In 2019:
OnePlus 7 Pro:Rs 48,999
OnePlus 7T Pro: Rs 53,999
Samsung Galaxy S10+: Rs 73,900

In 2020:
OnePlus 8 Pro: Rs 54,999
Samsung Galaxy S20+: Rs 73,999

In 2021:
OnePlus 9 Pro: Rs 64,999
Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus: Rs 81,999

samsung galaxy s21 plus review 17

As you can see, the difference between the OnePlus Pro variants and its Galaxy S counterparts has always been in the region of about Rs 20,000. We have kept the base and Ultra variants of the S series out of contention because the base simply did not have the spec levels to challenge the OnePlus Pro (and was more in line with the non-Pro OnePlus), while the Ultra was for an extremely niche segment and more of an iPhone challenger.

This is not to say that the OnePlus 9 Pro is a super affordable phone that is bang in the budget flagship segment. No, it is definitely a premium-priced device, but the important point to keep in mind is that it is still way more affordable than the only other consistent player in the premium segment, the Galaxy S series.

Now dealing in budget flagships, premium budget flagships and more…

As for the allegation that OnePlus has stepped away from its core audience, the non-Pro and now the 9R have kept the “older OnePlus” flag flying in that zone, providing devices with close to flagship specs at close to Rs 40,000, a price about which there were not that many complaints. There is also the Nord series which is doing very well in the Rs 30,000 region.

oneplus nord gray ash 4

In fact, even while a number of folks have been complaining about OnePlus’ increasing prices, the brand right now has offerings at Rs 25,000 -30,000 (the Nord), Rs 30,000 – 40,000 (the still very good OnePlus 7T, the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 9R), Rs 40,000 – 50,000 (the OnePlus 8T and OnePlus 9) and above Rs 50,000 (the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OnePlus 9 Pro).

So yes, OnePlus has definitely moved up the price ladder. And the OnePlus 9 Pro is totally a premium-priced phone. But its pricing should not really come as a big surprise to anyone who has been tracking OnePlus. The brand has been moving steadily down the premium path. And the OnePlus 9 Pro is another step in that direction. OnePlus is no longer a flagship killer, but then it no longer claims to be one – it is a title that some of its “followers” insist on still foisting on it. It instead seems to be evolving into a brand with a much wider portfolio and audience. How that will pay off will be decided by the market forces. But perhaps right now, it is not fair to accuse the brand of overpricing its flagship or forgetting its users. If anything, that user base is expanding.

You would expect a brand that claims to Never Settle to keep changing, wouldn’t you?

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