Thursday, May 30, 2024

OnePlus 12 review: the new Android phone to beat in 2024

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OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald held in hand.

OnePlus 12
MSRP $800.00

Score Details

DT Editors’ Choice

“The OnePlus 12 is a tremendous smartphone value — and one of the top Android phones to beat in 2024.”

Pros

  • Beautiful curved display
  • Flowy Emerald is a truly unique color
  • Powerful performance
  • Hasselblad camera system delivers great results
  • Two-day battery
  • Very fast wired and wireless charging

Cons

  • Back glass is slippery
  • Curved screen has some annoyances
  • Large size can be unwieldy

We have a lot of exciting flagship phones arriving in 2024, and one of the first to be released this year was the OnePlus 12, along with its more affordable sibling, the OnePlus 12R.

Contents

  • About our OnePlus 12 review
  • OnePlus 12: three months later
  • OnePlus 12: design
  • OnePlus 12: screen
  • OnePlus 12: performance and software
  • OnePlus 12: cameras
  • OnePlus 12: battery and charging
  • OnePlus 12: price and availability
  • OnePlus 12: verdictShow 4 more items

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The OnePlus 11 was a solid successor to the OnePlus 10T, and it brought back some of that OnePlus magic that had been missing, meaning the OnePlus 12 has a lot to live up to. Happily, it fixes some of the shortcomings of older models and is set to be a strong rival to the competition from Samsung, Google, and Apple, as we found out in our review.

About our OnePlus 12 review

Christine Romero-Chan reviewed the OnePlus 12 upon release at the end of January 2024 and used a U.S. version of the phone in the Flowy Emerald color. In April 2024, Andy Boxall revisited the OnePlus 12, this time using a U.K. model in Silky Black. Andy’s experience with the phone can be found in the “three months later” section directly below, but the review score remains unchanged, and it’s still a highly recommended smartphone.

OnePlus 12: three months later

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I was disappointed not to have the chance to fully review the OnePlus 12 when it was first released, but logistics meant it wasn’t possible, and I had to wait until it was feasible for me to spend a longer period of time with the phone. I’m very pleased to say it was worth the wait. What a great smartphone it is: cleanly designed, very powerful, and extremely efficient. It builds on the positive feelings I had about the OnePlus 11 and brings back a lot of what made me love OnePlus’s devices from the very beginning.

I’ve come to terms with the software, which has improved a lot over the last few years and reduced the amount of annoyances and interruptions that plagued it early on after Oppo came along. I still find the menu design less than ideal, particularly some of the color schemes, and consider it a lesser version of Samsung’s One UI and not as seamless and friction-free to use as Android on a Pixel 8 Pro. But the good thing is, it hasn’t gotten worse, and it has lost at least some of the irritating ColorOS influence from the early versions.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Trying to put the OnePlus-ness of the OnePlus 12 and why I find it engaging into words is quite difficult. It brings together many of the aspects I liked about old OnePlus phones, such as strong performance, fast charging, a great screen, and an affordable price. Bringing all this together into a desirable device is surprisingly hard, and OnePlus used to be a master at it until it slightly lost its way with phones like the OnePlus 10T.

The OnePlus 11 was a return to form for OnePlus, and the OnePlus 12 proves it wasn’t a one-off. It’s one of 2024’s best Android smartphones.

OnePlus 12: design

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

One of the best things about OnePlus is that it has unique designs that stand out (i.e., the OnePlus Pad), and that trend continues with the OnePlus 12. It comes in two colors for the global launch: Silky Black and Flowy Emerald. I have been using the Flowy Emerald color, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. OnePlus’ signature color seems to be green lately, and Flowy Emerald is one of the best shades the brand has come out with so far.

Aluminum alloy and glass make up the chassis of the OnePlus 12, and it feels hefty and premium. The frosted back glass has a smooth, matte finish that does not attract fingerprints or smudges super easily, which I appreciate. The Flowy Emerald color also has a marbled, wavy pattern and shimmer throughout the back glass, giving it a distinctive aesthetic. However, one thing to note about this frosted glass is that it doesn’t do any favors in terms of adding grip. In fact, it feels a bit more slippery than I’d like. I would definitely recommend using a case.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The camera module on the OnePlus 12 looks like its predecessor but with a few aesthetic changes. For one, the module is now color-matched with the rest of the body, which is much more pleasing to the eyes. And for the emerald color, the camera module has a subtle silver shimmer that matches the frosted glass. OnePlus has also changed the “Hasselblad” branding, simply reducing it to the “H” logo, just like it did on the OnePlus Open.

The frame has rounded edges on the sides, but the top and bottom edges have a flat side, similar to how someone would cut a piece off a fruit by slicing it with a knife. I’m not sure what the point of this design is, though — it feels like a weird mashup of rounded and flat edges of most modern phones.


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OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald flat on surface showing angled view of alert slider and flat top edge.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald angled to show flat edge bottom.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

OnePlus 12 Flowy Emerald laying flat showing off the alert slider.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The front glass curves into the side edges of the frame to give the appearance that the bezel is thinner than the top and bottom. However, they are about the same, but this illusion helps provide a more immersive experience. The volume and sleep/wake buttons are on the top right side, while the signature alert slider has been moved to the left side. There’s a textured pattern on the alert slider to provide tactility, and it feels satisfying when you use it.

While the OnePlus 12 is another glass slab phone, it carries a certain elegance and distinguished look, especially in the green color, to stand out. Other phone companies: Take note of what OnePlus is doing here.

OnePlus 12: screen

Christine Romero-Chan. / Digital Trends

OnePlus equipped the OnePlus 12 with a 6.8-inch LTPO AMOLED display that has 1440 x 3168-pixel resolution at 510 ppi (pixels per inch), a 120Hz refresh rate, and support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Brightness levels can reach up to 4,500 nits.

In other words, this display is absolutely fantastic. It’s bright and vivid with colors and deep, rich blacks. Graphics and text look crisp and sharp, and scrolling is buttery smooth with the 120Hz refresh rate.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

By default, the OnePlus 12 is set to the standard resolution of 2376 x 1080 and Auto for the refresh rate, which provides the optimal refresh rate for whatever you’re doing. Both of these settings are to help preserve battery life. However, you can choose to go for the high resolution (1440 x 3168) and always have a high refresh rate, which is what I’ve done. Of course, doing so will affect the battery life. There’s even an option to set the refresh rate on an app-by-app basis, if you prefer.

This display is absolutely fantastic.

There are stereo speakers on the OnePlus 12, and they’re actually pretty decent. But if you have proper wireless headphones or earbuds, you can get even more out of the OnePlus 12, as it supports Dolby Atmos, Spatial Audio, and even Holo Audio.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

As I mentioned earlier, the sides of the OnePlus 12 display curve into the frame slightly, which gives the illusion of thinner side bezels and provides a more immersive experience. However, due to the curved edges, I often find myself doing accidental swipes on the screen when I try to use it with one hand, or I can’t tap on things because it registers my other finger touching the edge while holding the phone. It’s an annoyance that comes with curved screens on any phone, and it’s no different on the OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12: performance and software

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Inside the OnePlus 12 is Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip. I have the 512GB storage version, which has 16GB RAM. If you opt for the 256GB version, it has 12GB RAM. There are also two 1TB versions with either 16GB or 24GB RAM. OnePlus also lets you expand the RAM if you have enough storage space available, and this can get you up to 12GB of additional RAM.

The OnePlus 12 ships with Android 14 and OxygenOS 14 layered on top. It’s a relatively clean version of Android that reminds me of Google’s Pixel phones. It’s easy to navigate, and the settings are laid out pretty well. Multitasking is easily initiated with a three-finger swipe gesture for a split screen, and you can even have floating windows if need be.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

So far, I’ve used the OnePlus 12 to do my usual routine of checking my email, social media, and work messages on Teams, viewing and editing pictures in Google Photos, watching Disney+, taking a lot of photos and videos, sharing photos of my daughter with family and friends, and more. The OnePlus 12 has handled everything quite well without skipping a beat. I haven’t had any issues with choppy frame rates, lag, or stutter, and moving between apps has been a breeze. The under-display fingerprint sensor has been reliable and speedy, and the face unlock also works well.

The OnePlus 12 is packed with enough power to handle pretty much anything you throw at it.

The OnePlus 12 also has a new dual cryo-velocity cooling system witj the largest vapor chamber in a phone so far. This is designed to help keep the OnePlus 12 from overheating and remain cool, even during graphically intensive gaming sessions. I’ve never felt the OnePlus 12 get warm, so I assume the new cooling system is doing its job.

As far as software updates go, the OnePlus 12 should get about four years of major Android OS updates and five years of security patches. So, if you get the OnePlus 12, it should get you through Android 18 at least.

OnePlus 12: cameras

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

OnePlus packed an impressive array of cameras on the OnePlus 12. The rear camera setup consists of a 50-megapixel main camera, a 64MP periscope telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, and a 48MP ultrawide camera with a 114-degree field of view. On the front, we have a 32MP selfie camera. And on top of it all, the cameras are all Hasselblad-tuned for better colors and clarity.

I’ve been relatively pleased with the results I’m getting from the OnePlus 12’s cameras. During the day, the colors in my photos are true-to-life and realistic, and white balance and exposure are handled accurately. It’s also quite fast at capturing images, as I was able to get some good action shots of my daughter playing with a bubble wand from Disneyland.


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Girl playing with bubble wand taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan. / Digital Trends

Rose garden at park taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Park monument taken with OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 main camera Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Hasselblad enhancements also spread out to Portrait mode photos. OnePlus has included enhancements to the camera sensors and processing algorithms so that Portrait mode images get wider possible portrait angles and better framing. The natural bokeh and flare effects also simulate Hasselblad cameras for a better look.

In my tests, Portraits look good for the most part, but the edge detection can still be a hit or miss, depending on the background. That’s the problem with software-based portrait mode images — it’s still not perfect. Close, but not quite. However, it gets skin tone pretty accurate, which is a big plus.


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Macro shot of water drops on plant taken with OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 macro shot Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Water drop hanging from plant stem taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Water drops on flower petal taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

I also tried getting a few macro images of raindrops on leaves once the storm took a break. Macros look pretty good if you can keep the OnePlus 12 steady while being up close.

I did have an issue where I was about to press the shutter button for a macro image, but then it would go out of macro mode for some reason and then appear completely out of focus. It kept happening at a certain distance that I wanted to take the photo at, so I’m not sure what was going on there. But for successful macro images, they look good with a natural bokeh effect in the background.


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Girl at park taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Girl at park playing in evening taken with OnePlus 12.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Though I did not use the OnePlus 11, it’s well-known that it struggled a bit with lowlight images. It looks like OnePlus fixed that with the OnePlus 12, as I captured some good shots of my daughter on the playground in the evening. It did struggle slightly to focus when there was movement, but otherwise, it captured the scene well.


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Zoomed in photo of palm tree against blue sky taken with OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 telephoto camera Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The 64MP telephoto can capture some pretty great closeups. It has 3x optical zoom support, 6x in-sensor zoom, plus the option for 120x hybrid zoom if needed. I don’t use the telephoto too often except when trying to get a good shot of some city wildlife, but it’s nice to have it just in case.

Overall, the cameras on the OnePlus 12 are quite capable. It’s easy to get some great-looking photos without too much adjustment. There is also a Master Mode that lets you fine-tune settings in the viewfinder before you press the shutter button if you want to take things up a notch.

OnePlus 12: battery and charging

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

OnePlus devices typically do well in terms of battery life and charging, and the OnePlus 12 is no exception. It has a 5,400mAh battery packed inside, which will net you around two full days of use on a single charge. Of course, this depends on your display settings and usage, but more than a single full day is pretty much guaranteed.

During my testing, I used the OnePlus 12 for hours of social media, emails, Teams messages, Disney+ streaming, catching up on the news, and more. Even with the highest screen settings turned on, it would last a full day, but I can easily get around two days when more moderate display settings.

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

One of OnePlus’s best strengths is its charging speed. The OnePlus 12 can support up to 100W charging speed, but in the U.S., that cap is at 80W. Still, that’s pretty damn fast compared to the competition.

For context, Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro only gets up to 27W, while Samsung’s new Galaxy S24 Ultra maxes out at 45W. So even though the 80W speed for the OnePlus 12 isn’t the max, it’s way ahead of the competition. With the 80W speed, it takes about 12 minutes to get a 50% charge and only 30 minutes to go to 100%, provided that you use the OnePlus SuperVooc charger included in the box.

Though the OnePlus 11 lacked wireless charging, it has been brought back in the OnePlus 12 with extra benefits. It now has 50W wireless charging speeds, which is way ahead of any other smartphone in the U.S. With 50W wireless charging, that means it only takes around 23 minutes for a 50% charge and 55 minutes for 100%. Most phones charge slowly with wireless, so this is a drastic difference.

The OnePlus 12 also has reverse wireless charging at 10W, so you can juice up those wireless earbuds or other devices faster than other smartphones with this feature.

OnePlus 12: price and availability

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The OnePlus 12 comes in two colors: Silky Black and Flowy Emerald. Though it first launched in China (with a Pure White color) in December, it is now available globally as of January 23, 2024. The OnePlus 12 costs $800 for the 12GB RAM/256GB version, while the 16GB RAM/512GB variation is $900.

You can purchase the OnePlus 12 directly from OnePlus.com, Amazon, and Best Buy, both online and in-store. There will be additional benefits if you order directly from OnePlus, however. The company is bringing back its deal where you can trade in any phone in any condition for a guaranteed $100 off the OnePlus 12, and depending on the phone, you can get up to $700 trade-in instant credit. This deal is available for the lifecycle of the OnePlus 12. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also get a free 50W AirVooc wireless charger.

Considering the price, the OnePlus 12 is a pretty great value for a flagship, though there’s also some fierce competition. For example, there’s the Google Pixel 8 for $700, which is a much more manageable and compact size at 6.2-inches, runs a pure version of Android 14 with its in-house Tensor G3 chip, has great cameras (though it lacks a telephoto lens), and has cool AI-powered features like Magic Editor.

There’s also the just released Samsung Galaxy S24, which starts at $800. It has a 6.2-inch display and is also powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, has 8GB RAM with 128GB or 256GB storage, and a triple-lens camera system with 50MP main, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto sensors.

OnePlus 12: verdict

Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

For the price, the OnePlus 12 gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It’s one of the more unique slab phones around with the distinctive Hasselblad camera module, and the Flowy Emerald color is simply beautiful. In a world where most brands are coming out with boring and bland colors, the shimmery Flowy Emerald is a welcome sight to behold.

The curved 6.8-inch AMOLED display on the OnePlus 12 is stunning, making everything look great. Though I enjoy the more immersive feeling of the curved screen, it gets a bit annoying when you do accidental swipes or taps on it when you hold it with one hand.

The OnePlus 12 gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Powered by Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 and with 12GB-16GB of RAM, the OnePlus 12 is a powerhouse. OxygenOS 14 runs incredibly smoothly, and it’s seamless when running multiple apps and switching between them, even if you’re multitasking in split-screen mode. For the mobile gamers out there, the new cryo-velocity cooling system helps prevent overheating.

The triple-lens camera system is also very good, providing vibrant and realistic results without overdoing it on the color, thanks to the Hasselblad color tuning enhancements. Like a Google Pixel, I found it hard not to take a decent-looking photo under average conditions. And with the high-resolution telephoto lens, getting sharp and crisp closeups is easy.

Overall, the OnePlus 12 has been very enjoyable to use, aside from the small annoyances of a curved display and large size. I believe that the OnePlus 12 has the most value for a flagship phone right now, all things considered. And with some great deals from OnePlus, you can bring the price down even more, and this phone will easily last several years.

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