It is hard to get excited about something that is very frequent. That’s pretty much how phone launches work these days. It is all a sea of sameness. And numbers. In the midst of all that, every once in a while, along comes a phone that really gets your attention. Not just because it is trying something different. Not just because it may be affordable. It is often said that history repeats itself. In a positive and a negative sense, it works both ways. History is exactly what OnePlus looked at closely over the past few months. In the most positive sense. Perhaps to search for meaning. Maybe to look for a direction. Which reminds me, I must search for meaning and direction too. Anyway. In the end, the journey took OnePlus back to a few years ago when they launched the OnePlus One, amidst much sense of amazement. A phone that cost much less than the expensive Android flagship phones cost then (or have always costed) yet offered a similar user experience. It changed the direction of Android smartphones as we know them. We need something like that right now, more than ever. Enter, the OnePlus Nord. A reboot as perfect as there could have ever been.
Many OnePlus rivals may not take kindly to this, but we needed a phone that was genuinely affordable and actually delivered a premium smartphone usage experience as a whole—not just specs. That means a premium build (not just claims of glass and metal), very good cameras (not just throw megapixels back in our face) and slick software (no preloaded clutter and bloat). That neatly leads us to the OnePlus Nord, the latest and greatest OnePlus phone yet, all things considered. With price tags of Rs 24,999, Rs 27,999 and Rs 29,999 and what it offers in terms of specs and the experience, the OnePlus Nord is actually threatening the well-being of a lot of the more expensive Android flagship phones. For most users, the OnePlus Nord will be more phone than they need. And it will not damage their bank account to procure either.
What You See Is What You Get
The OnePlus Nord is priced Rs 24,999 onwards and is available in three variants and you get the choice of Blue Marble and Gray Onyx colour options. These go on sale from August 4 on Amazon.in and OnePlus India stores, online and offline. The OnePlus Nord variants that will be available in India include the India-exclusive 6GB RAM and 64GB storage option, with a price tag of Rs 24,999. This will be available only in the Onyx Grey colour option and the only catch is, it goes on sale in September. However, you don’t have to wait too long for the other variants. These include the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage as well as the 12GB RAM with 256GB storage options—these will be priced at Rs 27,999 and Rs 29,999 respectively. It was important for OnePlus to stay below the Rs 30,000 price point and also keep enough of a gap to the OnePlus 8.
Are We Back To The “Flagship Killer” Days? Great!
On the spec sheet, the OnePlus Nord definitely seems to be revisiting the “flagship killer” definition, a term that we haven’t really heard in a while. It has a 90Hz refresh rate display, 8GB and 12GB RAM options, 128GB and 256GB storage options, a quad camera setup at the back led by the same 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor also seen in the OnePlus 8 and a large 4115mAh battery with the WarpCharge30T fast charging. The OnePlus Nord is also 5G capable with the Snapdragon X52 5G modem, as and when 5G mobile networks go Live in India. No corners cut there, then, quite clearly.
A Beautiful Slab of Marble And Much More
I like marble. I like marble on things. I like marble tables, in particular. I like marble finish on things. It exudes a sense of sophistication and class. That is exactly what OnePlus have delivered on a smartphone. The OnePlus Nord, at least the Blue Marble finish, as the name suggests, has that exact persona. And you don’t even need to look too closely to understand the fineness of it all. The other colour option for you is Gray Onyx, but I would seriously urge you to consider the Blue variant. Even if you are to hide it behind a cover, you’ll still know you own a fine piece of art. That is what the OnePlus Nord is.
The OnePlus Nord is also one of the very few compact smartphones in the Android ecosystem. And that in no way means the screen size is compromised. For a phone that gets you a 6.44-inch display, this measures 158.3 x 73.3. x. 8.2 mm in footprint. If you were eyeing the OnePlus 8, you won’t be compromising much on the screen size—the elder sibling gets you a 6.55-inch display instead and measures 160.2 x 72.9 x 8 mm. The Nord weighs 184 grams and has the Corning Gorilla Glass doing the anti-scratch duties on the back.
No compromise on the little attention to detail either. The Alert Slider is still very much there, letting you switch between Ring, Silent and Vibrate modes without having to unlock the phone and change it from the quick access menu. The Nord isn’t slippery either and in fact, feels very well balanced as you go about using it. It doesn’t feel top heavy, it doesn’t feel disconcertingly small or ungainly big as you hold it. Everything just seems to fall into place and fall within the range of your fingers. One-hand use is very much an option, at least for me.
Nord Is More Than Just A Name
Phone makers don’t usually give their new phones names with deeper meaning. The focus, more likely, is on recall, ease of remembering them and perhaps even continuity. The OnePlus Nord bucks that trend. It surely makes me think. The name Nord comes from the term Nord, which in European languages means North. As OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei explained in a tweet, “It comes from the concept of true north. We each have this inner compass that guides us. This product line reminds us to always search for our true north, and we hope it will keep reminding you of yours.” I am searching for my true north. Hopefully, I’ll find it soon.
Performance Is So Smooth, You Will Recheck The Price Tag
The OnePlus Nord is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G mobile platform and you will have the option of choosing the OnePlus Nord variant with 8GB RAM or 12GB RAM. The Snapdragon 765G succeeds the Snapdragon 730G—with faster CPU cores, faster RAM, smaller 7nm architecture, support for 12GB RAM as well as 5G capabilities in tow. This also takes advantage of the fifth generation Qualcomm AI Engine to improve overall performance. Clock speeds go up to 2.4GHz with the Qualcomm Kryo 475 CPU and also runs the newer Qualcomm Adreno 620 graphics. You would perhaps have been rooting for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform to power the OnePlus Nord, but one of the probable reasons why OnePlus have gone for the impressive Snapdragon 765G mobile platform instead is the cost. That being said, while this isn’t a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8-series chip, the Snapdragon 765G is mighty powerful, nevertheless. At no point did we see any stutters while gaming or multitasking.
OnePlus also says they have made as many as 300 under-the-hood optimizations to make the OnePlus Nord work smoothly. These include OxygenOS updates, tweaking of visual elements, animation optimizations, changes to multi-tasking menus as well as 2048 brightness levels for smoother changes and more eye comfort. The OnePlus Nord will receive software updates for 2 years and security updates for three years—this is in line with the more expensive OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro phones as well. On the face of it, OxygenOS on the OnePlus Nord looks the same as the OxygenOS on the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro. There is really no cost cutting on the visual and the user experience with the OnePlus Nord and I cannot stress enough that its priceless. There are no preloaded apps that add to the clutter or bloat or even privacy issues, and this clean experience has always been OnePlus’ way of doing things with their phones. And a big advantage over many of its rivals who struggle with bloatware.
The one area where OnePlus Nord differentiates from the OnePlus 8 series is the storage type. While the OnePlus 8 series gets the UFS 3.0 storage, the Nord has to make do with UFS 2.1, irrespective of whether it is the 128GB or the 256GB storage variant. OnePlus at that time had claimed that the much faster UFS 3.0 storage offers up to 125% faster read and write speeds. I’ll stick my neck out and say you will just not feel any difference in the real-world usage with the OnePlus Nord, because everything is just snappy and fast. Including gaming, which exhibited no signs of lags, slowdowns or stutters even if the Fnatic Mode was not activated.
The large 4115mAh battery takes advantage of the WarpCharge30T Fast Charging feature—a fully discharged battery will charge up to 70% in 30 minutes. There is no wireless charging though, but really, I don’t care.
Google’s Own Apps Make Their Presence Felt
There is no other way of saying this, but it has to be addressed. OnePlus Nord, out of the box, runs Google’s own Google Messages and Google Phone app as default. That means the former is your messaging app for SMS and the latter is what you go to when you need to make a phone call or check the phonebook. No problems there, but it has meant that OnePlus had to strip out its own Messages and Phone app which it had developed over the years. The OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro, the phones that preceded the OnePlus Nord, took advantage of OnePlus’ efforts. In fact, the OnePlus Messages app did the AI led message bundles very well—personal, transactions and promotional, for instance. At the time of writing this, I couldn’t see the option to download these apps from the Play Store on the OnePlus Nord. Guess that’s a change that’ll become a part of the routine soon enough.
Is The Screen The Mirror To A Phone’s Soul?
The OnePlus Nord gets a 6.44-inch FluidAMOLED display. The resolution is ticked off at 2400 x 1080 pixels and this display supports the 90Hz refresh rate as a well as the Display P3 standard. In fact, you see a lot of the same set of features as there are on the OnePlus 8 and the OnePlus 8 Pro smartphones too, including the AMOLED Wide Gamut, Vibrant Colour Effect, Video Enhancer, Reading Mode and Night Mode.
This FluidAMOLED simply delivers on the experience, at every point. Be it while reading, editing photos, browsing Instagram, watching something on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video or even playing a game, this screen is a delight to view things on. To be honest, I have never complained about wanting more pixels on a smartphone display—this does the balancing act perfectly and also keeps it real when it comes to battery consumption. In fact, this is the same resolution as the OnePlus 8, albeit on a slightly smaller display size. I really liked how the colours look after you’ve tweaked the display settings—my preferences keep alternating between AMOLED Wide Gamut and Display P3, and in both modes, the colours look gorgeous. Real, well distinguished, lively yet never overbearing.
As far as the size goes, this is one of the smaller screen sizes that you get right now among the powerful options in the world of Android phones. If you are already using a screen size larger than this 6.44-inch real estate, then you may have something new to get used to. Switching from larger to smaller screens is never easy. If you are still clinging on to an older Android phone, chances are this is already bigger than the screen you are used to. And that would be great news.
OnePlus Nord Gets The Cameras Spot On. Almost.
As far as the cameras go, the OnePlus Nord leads the quad camera setup at the back with the same 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 sensor that also does the photography duties in the OnePlus 8. This has the large f/1.75 aperture and optical image stabilization. Joining in are an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera, a 5-megapixel depth sensor and a 2-megapixel macro camera.
For once, out of the box, the cameras are absolutely brilliant. Photos in good light look very detailed, crisp and show off the sort of dynamic range that you would expect from an optical setup as capable as this. The finer details are picked out very well. Colours are rendered brilliantly as well—for instance, the different green shades on trees are distinguished extremely nicely. Then there is the 48-megapixel mode for photos that might require a bit more detailing and the OnePlus Nord just delivers very well on that front too—you can zoom in on these photos to really get the finer details that you perhaps wanted.
In terms of video, there is just one limitation—this tops out at 4K 30fps for the rear cameras, though you do also get the 4K Cine 30fps which refers to the wider 20:9 aspect ratio videos. That is a bit of a downer if you were looking forward to 4K at the smoother 60fps though. The front cameras can record 4K 60fps videos. If 60fps for 4K isn’t something you are cut up about, the OnePlus Nord delivers on the video front as well. Though you sometimes need to manually work the focus in case of changing ambient light.
Front cameras are even more relevant than before since we are spending more time in video calls and video meetings these days, and there are the 32-megapixel and an 8-megapixel ultra-wide camera combining for your video calls and selfies. In fact, the ultra-wide camera has a 105-degree field of view—hopefully, all your friends will fit in. The front cameras however tend to struggle a bit with exposure in case the lighting around you isn’t perfect—and that is particularly true for video calls. It has improved significantly in the couple of updates that have rolled out since, but in comparison with the 40-megapixel Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra for instance, it is comparatively still not as dynamic or bright. Still being the operative word, because updates can and will most likely set things right soon enough.
The Last Word: This Is More Phone Than You May Have Imagined
The OnePlus Nord is a truly remarkable smartphone. The list of things that it is doing well include pretty much everything you would want in a smartphone—cool design, eye catching blue colour, compact form factor, a very powerful processor, futureproofing with 12GB RAM and 5G for instance, a display that shows you everything brilliantly, battery life that doesn’t give you any anxiety and cameras that will take photos as you want it to. All this, at a price much lesser than traditional Android flagship phones. Clearly, OnePlus has revisited “flagship killer” and given us an updated answer. In style. You have your pick from three variants priced between Rs 24,999 and Rs 29,999 and each of them will deliver the sort of premium user experience that most rivals just cannot match. For most users, the OnePlus Nord will be more phone than they need. And while at it, the Nord’s price tag is its biggest asset.