It may mean a lot. It may not amount to anything significant. We are hearing that OnePlus will be relying heavily on Swedish photography giants Hasselblad to optimise the cameras on the upcoming OnePlus 9 smartphone. Could it be the secret weapon for the OnePlus 9, as it inevitably battles the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the Xiaomi Mi 11 in due course of time? the thing is, camera co-development isn’t exactly a new thing. We’ve seen it before and we will continue to get a taste of it in smartphones from time to time. That being said, there is no historical trend to indicate this is a sure-shot recipe for success. Or not. But what we are hearing about the OnePlus 9 surely builds from what the company has been saying, off late.
There isn’t much to go on at this point, except a purported leaked image of the OnePlus 9 which clearly has the Hasselblad brand around the cameras. Hard to say if it is true or not, with due respect to everyone. Yet, for whatever it is worth, this is indicative of the fact that OnePlus takes smartphone photography very seriously. And it has also scanned the landscape and knows rivals are upping the game too. Then there is the whole aspect of perception. Hasselblad is known as a premium camera maker, and sits above the more affordable cameras from the likes of Canon, Nikon and Leica, to name a few. The association hopes to add a dash of premium photography foundations, something that could give the OnePlus 9 a significant advantage on the shopfloor.
It was last month when OnePlus co-founder and CEO Pete Lau had said that the company is looking to seriously upgrade the photography experience on the OnePlus phones and intends to invest heavily. In a Weibo conversation that was later reported, Lau said, “this year we will invest huge resources in cameras.” Even more important, considering OnePlus is now firmly in the Android flagship smartphone battles as far as the pricing is concerned and doesn’t have the leeway that the more affordable “flagship killer” era provided.
But before we think of the Hasselblad association, if it happen, as some kind of a certainty for success, it may not be that. Hasselblad are the same brand that worked with Moto many years ago, at a time when Moto was a stronger force in the smartphone space, and made a Moto Mod meant for photography enthusiasts. The results weren’t exactly as glowing as one would have expected. It is interesting that Vivo, a sister brand in many ways, is partnering with Zeiss to work on the cameras on their phones. That was announced late last year, and the true impact of that partnership will be seen through the next few months. Clearly, OnePlus didn’t want to take the easy route and join in on that deal.
OnePlus clearly has eyes on the competition. Samsung has seriously upped the game, albeit with a serious of minor and major hardware and software tweaks on the Galaxy S21 series, compared with the Galaxy S20 phones. At the same time, Xiaomi is also utilizing Samsung’s 108-megapixel mobile camera sensor for its higher-end Mi series phones. And this is what the OnePlus 9 will be up against. There were also reports early last year that Xiaomi wants to work with camera majors including Canon or Nikon, following a survey in which they asked customers which company should Xiaomi collaborate with for smartphone camera optimization. If we do hear of some progress on that this year, that’ll add to the competition for upcoming OnePlus phones.
The thing about OnePlus phones is that you get exactly what you expect—smartphones that last, well built, consistent experience and regular software updates to fix bugs or add new features. If OnePlus can also really flex its photography prowess and add that into the mix, the Android flagship space will again see close competition that we really haven’t seen for a while.