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This lesser-known Android phone is everything I wish the OnePlus 10T was

Have you heard of iQoo? I’m going to guess you haven’t, so here’s an introduction. It’s a spin-off brand of Vivo that launched in 2019 and is part of the BBK Electronics empire along with Realme, Oppo, and OnePlus.It’s the connection to OnePlus that’s relevant here, because iQoo’s latest phone, the iQoo 9T, goes head-to-head with the OnePlus 10T in price.

We couldn’t recommend buying the OnePlus 10T, and having now spent some time with the iQoo 9T, it’s even clearer where OnePlus went wrong with it. I’d recommend the iQoo over the OnePlus, but there’s a slight problem with buying one that we will come back to shortly.

The iQoo 9T Legend showing its rear panel design.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

But before that, here’s how the iQoo 9T takes on the OnePlus 10T — and gives it a thorough beating.

It’s premium and cool

The OnePlus 10T’s plastic frame really lets it down, and while the back of the phone is glass, it doesn’t really feel very special. The iQoo 9T has an aluminum frame, a super slim volume rocker, and a textured power key that, on our review model, has a cool blue color. I’ve been using the iQoo 9T Legend, the name given to this special edition with BMW M Motorsport branding, and it looks fantastic.

The back of the OnePlus 10T and iQoo 9T.
iQoo 9T Legend (left) and OnePlus 10T (right) Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iconic red, black, and blue stripe runs down the side of the frosted white glass panel covering two-thirds of the phone’s rear panel, topped by a section containing the camera module. It has a glossy finish, and when you get it in the right light, a carbon fiber effect can be seen. It’s subtle, yet ties in really well with the phone’s motorsport theme. If you don’t want the Legend edition, there’s a standard black edition available as well.

Next to the iQoo 9T Legend, the OnePlus 10T looks rather ordinary, and, handling the two together, feels cheaper. Despite that, the two cost about the same. The iQoo 9T’s mix of different textured glass on the back is hard to manufacture, the easy-to-locate power button is a nice touch, and the partnership with BMW Motorsport is unique and cool. No, the big square camera module on the iQoo 9T isn’t very pretty, but the carbon fiber effect under the glass makes up for it.

The camera is better

The iQoo 9T has a Samsung GN5 50-megapixel main camera, a 13MP wide-angle camera, and a 12MP portrait camera with a 2x optical zoom mode. It’s powered by Vivo’s custom V1+ image signal processor (ISP) that’s also found in the top-of-the-range Vivo X80 Pro smartphone. It also has optical image stabilization and the ability to shoot video at up to 4K and 60 fps.

The main camera’s photos can be too saturated, but in the right environment, this adds to the emotion. These three examples below were taken in the evening, and the iQoo 9T captures the warm glow of the sun more effectively than the OnePlus 9T. Wide-angle shots are hugely superior, with so much more detail, better focus, and less noise. The 2x optical shots are also better than the OnePlus 10T’s 2x digital photos, which contain a lot of noise and artificial edge enhancement.

I really like the photos the iQoo 9T takes. There’s plenty of color (even if the saturation is sometimes too strong), the main and wide-angle cameras are generally consistent, and the 2x optical zoom adds further creative fun. I’ve felt confident taking photos in any environment with the iQoo 9T, and that’s really important. The OnePlus 10T’s camera isn’t terrible, but it lacks features, and the wide-angle camera really lets it down. Give me the iQoo 9T’s camera any day.

What about performance?

Inside the iQoo 9T is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, just like the OnePlus 10T, but with a little less RAM at 12GB instead of 16GB. The screen is a 6.78-inch AMOLED with a 2400 x 1080 pixel resolution, HDR10+, plus a 120Hz refresh rate, and that’s the same as the OnePlus 10T too. You can probably spot the difference in aspect ratio, as the iQoo 9T has an old-school 20:9 aspect ratio that’s wider than the OnePlus’s 20.1:9 ratio. Performance is identical when playing video, but the OnePlus 10T’s speakers distort less than the iQoo 9T’s.

OnePlus 10T and iQoo 9T's screens.
iQoo 9T Legend (left) and OnePlus 10T (right) Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Battery life on the iQoo 9T has been excellent, and I have consistently got two days of moderate use from the 4,700 mAh cell, which matches the use I got with the OnePlus 10T. Wired charging on the iQoo 9T comes from a Vivo FlashCharge 120W charger, so slightly “slower” than the OnePlus 10T’s 125W (or 150W if you’re outside the U.S.) charging. What does that mean in the real world?

The iQoo 9T with its 120W charger.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

After plugging in the iQoo 9T at around 7%, it completed charging in 19 minutes, which is about a minute behind what I’ve seen with the OnePlus 10T. My life isn’t so hectic that one minute will make any difference to it. Overall, the iQoo 9T has been very fast, the screen is very smooth, and the battery life is suitably long for such a capable device. In other words, it matches the OnePlus 10T in these important areas.

Funtouch vs. OxygenOS

Since OnePlus’s OxygenOS took on Oppo’s ColorOS’s look, it has split public opinion. Although the iQoo comes from the same stable as OnePlus and Oppo, it uses Vivo’s Funtouch software, which doesn’t look exactly the same as the software on OnePlus, Oppo, or Realme phones. There are similarities, but the default icons are more attractive, the camera app has its own look, and the Settings menu isn’t just a carbon copy of ColorOS. It’s different enough to give iQoo (and Vivo) phones an individual identity — something OxygenOS lacks today.

It’s not perfect, though. Google Discover has crashed once or twice, Dark mode didn’t work correctly at first but has mysteriously fixed itself since, and — for some reason — the always-on screen has a hard limit of four apps from which to show notifications. Most annoying of all are the endless agreements you have to check before using just about every feature for the first time. It’s not just the one single agreement during setup, but dozens of little ones afterward, too.

I don’t think Funtouch is the best Android-based operating system out there, but it’s no worse than OxygenOS, ColorOS, or RealmeOS. The fact that it’s distinct really helps me warm to it, far more than seeing the same problems across multiple devices from multiple manufacturers.

The one big problem for the iQoo 9T

It was interesting to experience jumping directly from the OnePlus 10T into the iQoo 9T. I wasn’t enamored by the 10T and was pleased to try something new — and was then surprised to find how similar the iQoo 9T was in terms of spec and price, yet how much the overall experience was improved. I prefer the build, the materials, and the camera. Meanwhile, the battery life, charging, and performance are all about the same.

The iQoo 9T's camera module.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

What’s frustrating is most people can go and buy the OnePlus 10T, but getting the iQoo 9T is much harder. It’s not officially available in the U.S. or U.K. It’s being released in India, where it costs about the same as the OnePlus 10T. Given the choice between them, I’d have the iQoo 9T every time.

It’s absolutely the phone the OnePlus 10T should have been, should OnePlus have really wanted to shake things up again, instead of releasing a mediocre phone with few reasons to buy it. Unfortunately, the OnePus 10T as we have it lacks any kind of desirability, while the iQoo 9T (particularly in Legend form) has it in spades. The fact we can’t buy the iQoo 9T over it from a local source is infuriating.

But if you are lucky enough to buy the iQoo 9T, it’s not a phone to be ignored. It’s flashy, unique, and exciting in all the ways the OnePlus10T is not.

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