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OnePlus 8 Lite: All I want is a cheap 8 Pro alternative (and these wishlist specs)

The time is right for a OnePlus X sequel.

- 04:05

The OnePlus X from 2015.

Josh Miller

No matter how far phone technology progresses these days (in recent years it's brought 5G, foldable screens and more), sometimes stripping out the bells and whistles can make for the most appealing option. This is particularly true with Chinese phone maker OnePlus. Little by little, the company has released details about the specs of its upcoming flagship phone, the OnePlus 8 Pro. But what's even more exciting is the rumored OnePlus 8 Lite, a simpler and cheaper version of the OnePlus 8 Pro that will serve as a sequel to the OnePlus X phone. 

Launched in 2015, the OnePlus X was a beautifully designed $300 phone that had midrange specs compared to the OnePlus 2, which was also released the same year. It was meant to be a one-off phone for the company and a successor was never mentioned. That is until this year, when rumors about an 8 Lite surfaced.

Juan Garzón/CNET

If a OnePlus 8 Lite is in the works (OnePlus declined to comment for this article), OnePlus could have a chance to go back to its roots and do what made it popular in the first place -- selling well-made phones at far lower prices than its competitors. While it's true that current OnePlus devices still sell for hundreds of dollars less than Apple, Samsung and Google, it's been hard for OnePlus to keep prices low. Compared to other brands, OnePlus has had one of the highest increases in cost from model to model.

And from what can be gathered about the OnePlus 8 Pro, it sounds like it's going to be pricey compared to past years. On Jan. 13, OnePlus confirmed that its next phone will have a 120Hz display -- an upgrade from last year's OnePlus 7 Pro, which had a display refresh rate of 90 frames a second. The company also showed off the Concept One at CES 2020, a phone with a "disappearing" rear camera that tints black when not in use. Though it's only a concept phone, as the name suggests, the company is working on applying this feature to future devices. (Other rumored specs include a hole-punch screen and a Verizon partnership.)

In a 2018 interview with CNET, CEO Pete Lau said that OnePlus was a "flagship focused" company. Creating another OnePlus X would mark a sort of "compromise, which we don't like to do in terms of specs."

OnePlus has so far stuck to the "flagship" half of that statement. Last year, it released what it considered only variants of its OnePlus 7 Pro and OnePlus 7T marquee phones. But it seems that the company has strayed from being "focused." It released so many versions of these two devices in 2019 for different markets that CNET felt compelled to write up an explainer just to keep some of them straight. (In addition to the 7 Pro and 7T, there was the OnePlus 77 Pro 5G7T Pro7T Pro McLaren and 7T Pro 5G McLaren. Phew.) 

That being said, the ship has long sailed for OnePlus to release only one or two phones a year like it used to, so launching a midrange device wouldn't be a big stretch. It would also be a great time to release an 8 Plus Lite considering how well smaller and less expensive variants of flagship phones are received: Apple's iPhone XR came out on top above all other phones in shipments in the first half of 2019 and Google's Pixel 3A doubled the company's Pixel sales. (Meanwhile the original Pixel 3 didn't sell so hot.)

Indeed, now that the iPhone XR successor has been absorbed as the main iPhone 11 line, we're now left hankering for a long-awaited iPhone SE 2, or iPhone 9, which would stand in as the smallest and cheapest iPhone. 

So what would OnePlus' version of an iPhone XR, Pixel 3A or Galaxy S10E have? Since it's been so long since the OnePlus X came out (it didn't have LTE and you could only get it initially through an invitation, way back when OnePlus used to do that), there's a lot of room for improvement. Ideally, it'd cost around $300 to $400 and it definitely doesn't need the flashy orange and leather design that come with a McLaren partnership. Here are some other features it could include.

OnePlus 8 Lite wishlist

  • 5- to 5.8-inch display or around that size
  • Multiple-rear cameras 
  • Headphone jack
  • At least a 3,000-mAh battery
  • In-screen fingerprint reader
  • Waterproof?

And to keep costs low, it'd be fine to do without certain extras.

OnePlus 8 Lite definitely doesn't need

  • 5G
  • 90Hz or 120Hz screen
  • A pop-up selfie camera
  • Disappearing, electrochromatic camera lens
Now playing: Watch this: OnePlus Concept One phone has a 'disappearing' camera

Originally published Jan. 16, 4:00 a.m. PT.