The standout inclusions were the use of an older flagship-class chipset (the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801), in place of a dedicated mid-range chip and the offering of more exotic materials in its design, with a ceramic-bodied special edition.
The X didn't shake up the market the way OnePlus had hoped, being pulled from sale seven months after release, but its existence left fans wondering whether the company would ever re-tread the mid-range sector while continuing to release its bread-and-butter flagship devices.
OnePlus 8 Lite, OnePlus Z or OnePlus Nord?
Firstly, there was talk of a 'OnePlus 8 Lite', which gave rise to the possibility of its mid-range standing. Then the name shifted to the OnePlus Z, which complements the company's existing naming convention, based on the 'letters instead of numbers' approach seen with the OnePlus X.
Jump to late June a newly-created official OnePlus Instagram account called OnePlusLiteZThing (since renamed to OnePlus.Nord) posted and then promptly removed a series of images, the first of which all-but-confirmed the 'Nord' naming convention. Here's the image in question as captured by Tech Cosmos:
The firm's CEO, Pete Lau, confirmed that OnePlus would be getting back to its roots with more affordable phones. Talking about future strategy to Fast Company, Lau said, "We can look at it as having a more affordable product offering,"
Adding later that “What we’re seeing is that with current products, there’s still a demand from a large consumer base for a more suitable price that enables more consumers to be able to access OnePlus products”. “That’s a really important insight and it’s something that we’re taking into very serious consideration.”
Then, in a post on the official OnePlus forums on 23 June titled 'Introducing a New OnePlus Smartphone Series', Lau detailed the company's intentions "to start relatively small with this new product line by first introducing it in Europe and India." He also confirmed that his company intends to bring affordable phones (although not necessarily this one) to the US market at some point too.
On 30 June, OnePlus officially confirmed the OnePlus Nord's existence and teased a few additional details about it latest project - read on to find out more.
When does the OnePlus Nord launch?
Once the possibility of a third OnePlus phone in the first half of 2020 was on the table, many expected it to arrive alongside the OnePlus 8 series. Whether it was because of the effects of the global pandemic or some other reason, no such handset materialised at the April launch of the OnePlus 8, which begged the question, "if not now, then when?"
For this, we first turned to Twitter-based tipster and leaker, Max J. who posted the above tweet featuring the outline of the supposed OnePlus Nord with the date 'July 2020' positioned either side of it.
Then, on 8 June Android Central reported that an 'insider' had informed them of a launch on 10 July; with the reveal set to take place at a special event in India.
Any point within July makes for a smart release window on OnePlus' part, as it gives the company a device to sell mid-year, a time when its launch schedule is usually quiet.
On 25 June, OnePlus also released the teaser for its four-part documentary, titled 'New Beginnings' (embedded below) looking at the company's efforts in creating the OnePlus Nord.
Part one of the documentary first aired on 30 June. For more information on the series and how to watch, check out our dedicated How to watch OnePlus' New Beginnings documentary article.
To coincide with the release of part one, OnePlus also confirmed that the OnePlus Nord would arrive, not as a singular phone but rather a new product line.
The official release states, "The first device under the OnePlus Nord line will be available in Europe and India. A select number of users in North America will also get a chance to experience the new device through a highly limited beta program after launch."
The following day, on 1 July, OnePlus then offered up just 100 pre-order opportunities (which were exhausted almost immediately), with two more scheduled for 10am CEST (9am BST) on 8 July and 15 July, respectively.
OnePlus is also bundling additional OnePlus Nord merch in for those who pre-order, with the earlier pre-orders benefitting from more swag than the later ones.
Presently pre-orders are available to customers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with Indian pre-orders expected to follow soon.
How much will the OnePlus Nord cost?
Our initial estimations came based on the phones the Nord line is likely to come up against, paired with how OnePlus has played things in the past.
The OnePlus X was approximately 20% less expensive than the base OnePlus 2 at launch and better yet, it positioned itself just underneath the £200 price bracket.
Using the OnePlus 8 as the equivalent flagship for 2020, which starts at £599, the first entry in the OnePlus Nord line would come in at around £479, lining up perfectly with our Best mid-range phones 2020 roundup - the maximum threshold of which is £500.
As luck would have it, three minutes and forty seconds into part one of the New Beginnings documentary, CEO Pete Lau smiles and proclaims, "Nord will be our first product below (US)$500 in recent years."
Using direct conversion at the time of writing, a US$499.99 OnePlus phone would cost £407.
Since part one aired, OnePlus' Carl Pei confirmed in an interview with Tech Radar, that the phone will also definitely cost under €500 as well - which makes sense, given current exchange rates.
What features will the OnePlus Nord have?
As with the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, the Nord line is likely to support 5G, which gave rise to speculation around the hardware its debut offering will be using.
Initial reports pointed towards MediaTek's Dimensity 1000 or 1000L - some of the chip maker's first 5G SoCs, however, on 1 June a benchmark score appeared on Geekbench's results browser referencing the 'OnePlus AC2003'.
Reaching a single-core score of 612 and a multi-core score of 1955, the AC2003 - believed to be the first OnePlus Nord entrant - was thought to be running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, paired with 12GB of RAM. The device in question is also listed as running on Android 10.
Following this, in the aforementioned interview with Carl Pei published on 1 July, the director and co-founder outright confirmed that the debut Nord handset would indeed be leveraging the power of the Snapdragon 765G and support 5G.
What will the OnePlus Nord look like?
Back in December 2019, known tipster OnLeaks (on Twitter) once again partnered with website 91mobiles to assemble some CAD-based renders of what the OnePlus Nord (then still called the OnePlus 8 Lite) might look like.
As reflected in Max J.'s launch date tweet, the front of the phone appears to sport a flat display with broader bezels compared to the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, alongside a centrally-positioned single hole-punch front-facing camera.
The rear camera arrangement, meanwhile, features an offset design that appears to use a dual-sensor setup, set into what is either a glass or plastic back. There's also no 3.5mm headphone jack visible anywhere within the renders.
Jump forward to June 2020, however, and another post from Max J. hints at the inclusion of a quad-camera setup in place of the dual sensors depicted above.
The camera lenses set within the 'o's of 'sooooN' might point at a more versatile camera setup than even the OnePlus 8 Pro, while the capital 'N' might emphasis the use of the 'Nord' nomenclature.
Of course, if Max J. is the creator of this image, he could simply be excising some creative license in order to whip up excitement for the device or simply garner fresh attention. Whatever the case, we shouldn't have to wait much longer to see the finished article.
A source separately told Android Central that, contrary to the above concept renders, the phone will also boast dual front-facing cameras, sporting a 32Mp and 8Mp sensor setup respectively - something not even the OnePlus 8 Pro offers.
Much like the Realme X50 Pro, that secondary front sensor will supposedly offer a wider field of view and the whole arrangement will sit within a hole-punch design in the corner of the Nord's display.