Confused yet? That’s fair. Let’s recap. It’s been rumoured pretty much ever since the OnePlus 7T series came out that the company would be trying something different with the 8, and expanding its range to three phones at once for the first time ever.
The Lite was rumoured to drop down to a cheaper MediaTek processor - rather than the Snapdragon 865 found in the 8 and 8 Pro - along with downgrades in screen size and refresh rate, supporting neither 120Hz or 90Hz. It was still expected to pack a triple-camera setup on the rear, but with lower specs across those lenses, and with neither the wireless charging nor IP68 rating found in the 8 Pro.
The design differences were more striking though. Early leaks and renders suggested a squared off camera module placed in the corner of the phone, rather than its centre, while conversely the front-facing punch-hole camera was found in the middle of the screen’s top edge rather than its corner.
It might be those design differences, more than the spec downgrades, that led to reports from prolific leakers Max Weinbach and Ishan Agarwal that the OnePlus 8 Lite was no longer the 8 Lite at all: it would be the OnePlus Z.
Harking back to 2015’s OnePlus X, the company’s only attempt at a budget phone so far, the move makes some sense. It marks the Z as its own device, and frees it from unfavourable comparisons to the higher-specced 8 - though of course sacrifices some of that brand cachet in the process.
It also lets OnePlus release the phone later in the year, which will presumably ease the strain on its supply chain. That’s more important than ever this year of course, and trying to build and distribute two phones must be much more manageable than handling three at once.
Of course, OnePlus won’t say that’s the reason, and for now it won’t officially confirm that there ever was a OnePlus 8 Lite, that it got cancelled, or that it might become the OnePlus Z.
Right now though, that’s what looks most likely - so look out for the Z later this year, and save your money for now if you’re hoping for a cheaper OnePlus phone. Or just grab one of last year’s 7 or 7T phones as prices on them plummet.