5 things I love about returning to the OnePlus 9 Pro, and 1 I want to love more

I slipped my SIM card back inside the OnePlus 9 Pro just over a week ago, after using a string of cheaper but still capable Android smartphones, and since then I’ve been noticing the little things that make it special. During my return to the OnePlus 9 Pro, it’s also clear that software updates have fixed a few issues I had with the phone during my April review.

We already recommend the OnePlus 9 Pro, so that’s not about to change, but I want to highlight five things about the phone that have really stood out this time around, along with one thing that still needs attention but still manages to make me excited about the future of OnePlus phones.

Five little things

The more you use a phone, the more you begin to notice the little things that make it either special to own, or better to use than other models. Since reviewing the OnePlus 9 Pro, I’ve gone back to it several times, including for a retest of the camera, and more recently for this extended period of everyday use. Here are the five things that stood out.

Haptics

Haptics, the little vibration that accompanies screen touches, notifications, or in-game action, may sound like a feature that doesn’t vary much between phones, but that’s not the case at all. The tactility changes depending on what the phone is made of, the type of motor used, and the way it’s tuned by the company. OnePlus has always been good at haptics, but the OnePlus 9 Pro represents not just the company’s best, but possibly the best on any phone at the moment.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What makes it so good on the OnePlus 9 Pro is how subtle it is, and how it has been integrated into the software to increase tactility in all the right places. There’s the slightest of taps when you unlock the phone with the fingerprint sensor, and tiny nudges when you type away on the keyboard and when you use the slider on the side of the phone. It’s not ever-present, sensibly correlates to features that benefit from feeling more physical, never feels buzzy or cheap, and ends up making the OnePlus 9 Pro feel all the more luxurious for it.

Battery life

When I first reviewed the OnePlus 9 Pro, the battery life was adequate, but nothing more. Since then, software updates have improved the phone’s efficiency. Throughout this last week with the phone, the battery has lasted two days before it needs a recharge, provided I didn’t go overboard on gaming. Playing only about 30 minutes of Asphalt 9: Legends could drain the battery by 10%, so do that a few times and it won’t last much more than a full day.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While the OnePlus 9 Pro doesn’t have the best battery life of the current Android flagships available, I’m highlighting it here because it’s better than it was when I first reviewed the phone. It’s one of two complaints I made about the phone that have been improved through software updates, and OnePlus should be applauded for doing so. It sounds like something that should happen anyway, but that’s not always the case.

Screen sensitivity

This is the other annoyance OnePlus has obviously fixed with a software update. When I initially reviewed the OnePlus 9 Pro, the edges of the screen were overly sensitive to touch, resulting in apps being opened accidentally, words being typed badly, and other irritations. I have not encountered any of these problems this time around.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

My OnePlus 9 Pro has OxygenOS version 11.2.7.7.LE15BA installed, which does also list “reduced power consumption in specific scenarios” as one of the changes.

Fast charging

I usually charge my phone overnight, which I imagine most other people do, too. I don’t with the OnePlus 9 Pro though, due to the incredibly fast Warp Charge 65T wired fast charger included in the box. It takes about 30 minutes to a full recharge, and this speed and resulting convenience is truly transformative.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The speed means I just plug it in when I’m sitting down and not really using my phone for a while. For me, it’s usually when I’m having lunch. The charger stays on the kitchen counter, I plug it in, and it’s fully charged by the time I’m done. Instead of leaving the phone plugged in overnight, I turn it off. It’s better for the battery, less wasteful when it comes to power, and pressing the “power off” button when I go to bed is a mentally positive thing to do.

The Alert Slider

If you haven’t used a OnePlus phone before, you may not know about the Alert Slider. It’s a physical slide button on the side of the phone that changes the status between Silent, Vibrate, and Ring. It has been on OnePlus phones since the very beginning and I consider it part of the brand’s DNA, which is why I dislike it not being included on models like the OnePlus Nord CE 5G.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Like the fast charging, you don’t really get the convenience of the feature until you actually use it. I need the phone to audibly ring more often these days, due to spending more time at home and the phone sometimes being in a different room, rather than always in my pocket or hand. Quickly activating the Ring mode is a real benefit, as is switching it back to Vibrate later on, especially now that Android volume controls have become more complicated and annoying to use.

Apart from the convenience, feeling the textured slider under your thumb and absentmindedly sliding it up and down is the phone equivalent of rapidly pressing the top of a pen. It’s such a satisfying motion, especially paired to the great haptics.

One thing that still needs attention

Hasselblad and OnePlus

OnePlus has continued to do great work improving the camera on the OnePlus 9 Pro, and although some issues persist, it still manages to make me eager for the next phases of its partnership with Hasselblad. The 9 Pro’s camera can take fabulous photos, and on the right day can even outperform the iPhone 12 Pro and the Oppo Find X3 Pro. But on other days, it just can’t seem to get it exactly right.

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This inconsistency is frustrating, and is the primary area OnePlus and Hasselblad need to work together on improving. At the moment, I don’t always have confidence in the OnePlus 9 Pro, and in the back of my mind wonder if it’ll take a great photo or an average one, or sometimes a really bad one. This happens with close-ups mostly, where the camera’s focal length sees the macro mode kick in when it probably shouldn’t, lowering quality and usually requiring you to force it to focus on a specific area. But the zoom mode and the wide-angle are also problematic. Don’t leave the shutter sound on either, because it seems to slow the camera down slightly.

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As OnePlus and Hasselblad’s partnership deepens, I’m hopeful it can bring greater consistency across all the cameras, and make it more pleasurable to use in more situations. When the OnePlus 9 Pro gets it right, you can really see its potential, and I’m very hopeful the pair can really exploit that for the next model in the range.

The OnePlus 9 Pro costs $1,069 if you choose the 12GB/256GB model, which seems to be the only one available through OnePlus or Amazon at the time of writing. It’s still a recommended phone, but it’s always worth keeping watch to see if the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra can be found for less, as it remains our top Android phone choice.

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