OnePlus has just announced the Nord CE 3 Lite 5G. An affordable phone with a name so long you wouldn't want to ask for it by name. But it's also a phone with a spec sheet fairly similar to its Nord CE 2 Lite predecessor, including one major camera absence that, well, leaves me just confused.
OnePlus' approach to cameras has its highs, don't get me wrong: some of the Hasselblad implementation over the years has been great, such as in the OnePlus 10 Pro released in 2022. But that's the high-end of the market, whereas the Nord CE 3 Lite looks to fill the more affordable section, acting as the polar opposite really – and priced at a very reasonable £299 in the UK.
And that's fine. The best cheap phones earn their place and satisfy many millions of users around the globe. But even when parting with less cash to own a phone (and I'm not suggesting that three-hundred quid is in any way insignificant), I don't think that means an immediate acceptance of getting less when it comes to the cameras department. A bit of a compromise, I get that, sure.
But here's the problem I have with the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite: it doesn't have a wide-angle camera. Neither did the Nord CE 2 Lite. But the Nord CE 2 (not Lite!) does – and that's the same price or less than the Nord CE 3 Lite (at the time of writing, as the shopping widget below shows, it's actually cheaper than either!). The words 'too many phones' seem to be circling around my brain.
I think that's a shame, especially as the Nord CE 3 Lite does purport to have a triple camera system. It's just that one of them is a macro camera (meh), the other a depth sensor (double meh) and just as I've said for years to any manufacturer putting these extra lenses into phones to up the number count: I'm not bothered; I don't think anybody is bothered.
The same goes for monochrome cameras, such as the one found in the OnePlus Nord 2 (yes, yet another Nord model). It's just eating up space and something to muck around with for a few minutes, not something critical for purchase.
OnePlus is clearly very proud it's put a 108-megapixel main camera into the Nord CE 3 Lite though. Fair play, I say, as I'm certainly not against the 9-in-1 processing and most likely decent results (I'm yet to receive the phone at the time of writing, it's currently in the post). But, actually, here's where I'd prefer to compromise: give me a 50-megapixel main, plus a wide-angle, keep the depth sensor if you have to, and that's a sensible compromise.
The bigger picture of the OnePlus Nord CE 3 Lite is that it's otherwise got a really competitive specification. The screen is 6.72-inches and Full HD+ resolution with 120Hz refresh. Boom! The battery is a 5,000mAh cell with 67W fast-charging. Ker-pow! The Pastel Lime finish actually looks awesome. Pow! I don't know why I've got all Batman here, but the point is that this affordable OnePlus largely looks to knock it out of the park.
Except, of course, in those pared-down cameras. Do we really need a Nord, a Nord CE, and a CE Lite in the range? And a different one in the USA? Just give me an affordable OnePlus with a decent main and wide-angle camera and I'll be happy. The mass of phones and the confusing choices when it comes to cameras aren't helping. But, hey, I'm still glad OnePlus is here to stay. It just needs to tidy up its range.