If you’d been listening to OnePlus over the past few weeks, you’ll have seen a huge amount of hype surrounding its Nord phone, due to launch later today.
The company has been talking about the launch of the Nord as a “new beginning”, spending time flooding social media with the tale of its inception, roping in YouTube royalty for its big reveal, desperately trying to make sure everyone knows that it’s launching a new phone.
But the OnePlus Nord isn’t the only phone in this category. In fact, this is less about a new beginning and more about following the pack, despite OnePlus’ narrative. It all comes down to the simple fact that flagship phones have become increasingly expensive and the experience gap between flagship and the step below – sub-flagship if you will – has narrowed drastically.
Indeed, it’s not uncommon to hear about smartphone manufacturers selling many more phones outside of its flagship range than it does its premium device – that applies to Google, Apple, Samsung and that’s why these devices exist.
What’s changed in 2020?
So what happened in 2020 to make the sub-flagship category the most exciting thing in smartphones? It’s all about that closing experience gap and something that Qualcomm announced in December 2019 – the Snapdragon 765.
That’s what a lot of these phones have in common. They sit on the same platform and it’s a platform that was designed to bring that great experience into more affordable devices. It also incorporates 5G, so manufacturers don’t have to compromise on features, they can develop a phone that’s going to be future proof, supporting next-gen connectivity when customers want it.
There’s actually two versions of this platform, the Snapdragon 765 and the 765G. The latter has about a 10 per cent performance boost and was originally pitched as offering more power for gaming.
Before the 2019 launch of this hardware, we’d already found that in day-to-day use, there was less and less difference between Snapdragon 700 series devices and Snapdragon 800 series devices. While benchmarks and other synthetic tests will always side with the top-tier hardware, they never consider value for money, performance for money or the fact that, often, these lower spec devices have much better battery life than top spec phones.
What are the OnePlus Nord rivals?
We said that OnePlus was following the pack. Ok, let’s be fair: OnePlus wants to make the sub-flagship category sexy, rather than it being the phone you buy if you can’t afford the best. That’s something that’s being echoed elsewhere and we’ve already seen it happening in 2020.
Beyond the phones that have already been announced – listed below – there’s also been talk that Google might put the Pixel 5 on Snapdragon 765 too. Here are some of the devices that also share the Snapdragon 765 platform.
LG surprised everyone when it said it wasn’t launching the LG G9 and instead said it was doing something different. In fact, it was pretty advanced in coming forward and saying it was launching the LG Velvet, which also sits on Snapdragon 765. You can read the full review of the LG Velvet here.
Xiaomi Mi 10 Lite
Xiaomi brought in a “Lite” version of its flagship sitting on the SD765 and priced aggressively. The result is that you get a great phone for your money. You can read our full review of Xiaomi’s phone here.
One of the early launches was the Motorola Edge, again using Snapdragon 765 and sitting below the Edge+ as a flagship level device. The Edge was a nice first attempt, but it’s relatively expensive compared to some rival devices – including Motorola’s other phone on this list. You can read our Moto Edge review here.
Vivo X50 Pro
Vivo has its own take, pushing the camera angle a little harder with a gimble to stabilise the main camera. It’s another SD765G phone although it’s not quite as affordable as some others on this list. You can read our full review of the Realme X50 5G right here.
Moto G 5G Plus
Adding 5G to the Moto G family means next-gen connectivity and a low price. That’s what you get from the Moto G 5G Plus; again, it uses the Snapdragon 765 and we expect this phone to be closely related to the Nord on the spec sheet. You can see how those devices compare right here.
Nokia was one of the first to announce that it wanted to offer affordable 5G and the Nokia 8.3 was the result. It was announced in March 2020, aiming to launch alongside the latest James Bond movie, but those plans were waylaid. It also uses the SD765G but we’re still waiting for it to go on sale.
Realme X50 5G
Realme – the affordable arm of Oppo – has the X50 5G, which sits under the X50 Pro which is a flagship phone. This is an affordable phone, but packs in a 120Hz display and offers 30W fast charging on the SD765G platform. These are flagship features at a fraction of the price.
Oppo Find X2 Neo
Oppo naturally has its own Find X2 model, this time it’s the Neo that slips into the sub-flagship space, with Snapdragon 765G and some big spec, but still a lot cheaper than a flagship phone. Of course, Oppo also has a cheaper version of this phone.
Oppo Find X2 Lite
That’s right, the X2 Lite also offers Snapdragon 765G, so in many ways it’s close to the X2 Neo in its offering, but moves to a slightly more affordable build and has a flatter display, all aiming to give you better value for money.