Sunday, June 16, 2024

The OnePlus 12 is the OnePlus phone I’ve been waiting for

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The back of the OnePlus 12.Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Since it arrived, the OnePlus 12 has been sitting on a shelf, unused, behind my desk. Apart from a few days when I tested out the camera, battery, and performance, I haven’t had a chance to really dig into the phone.

Contents

  • Why did it have to wait?
  • Predictable in a good way
  • OnePlus of old
  • Worth the wait

Don’t mistake this for indifference, though. I’ve been itching to use it for more than just those early few days, but due to various reasons, it hasn’t been possible until now. Was it worth the wait?

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Why did it have to wait?

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’m always excited about a new OnePlus phone, and the OnePlus 12 was no different. I have a personal affinity with the brand, and when talking over the basis of this article with Joe Maring, Digital Trends’ mobile editor,  I realized why. It turns out I’ve reviewed almost every major OnePlus phone release starting with the OnePlus 2 in 2015 and right up to the OnePlus 11 last year — and even including the OnePlus X and models like the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren Edition. I feel like I know the brand pretty well.

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To see the OnePlus 12 waiting for me hurt, but unfortunately, due to logistics and timing, it made more sense for my colleague Christine Romero-Chan to fully review the phone and for me to revisit it a few months after release to see how it was holding up. It joins the OnePlus Open folding phone as one of the few flagship OnePlus phones that doesn’t have my name at the top of the review on Digital Trends.

Last week, it was finally time for me to put the OnePlus 12 into daily use and prepare for a separate forthcoming story on the camera, too. As I set the phone up, I wondered what kind of OnePlus phone it would be, as there have been a few times I’ve lost a little faith in the brand over the past few years. I really liked the OnePlus 11 and consider it a recent high point for the company, and I wanted to feel the same way about the OnePlus 12.

Predictable in a good way

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

However, when I last used the OnePlus 11 at the end of 2023, it was a bit boring. Excellent, just not very exciting. I had been spoiled by the influx of superb devices with great design and plenty of character we saw toward the end of last year, which made the OnePlus phone appear a little stale. The OnePlus 12 isn’t all that different from the OnePlus 11 when it comes to design and software, but where it absolutely excels is in its total reliability and absolute efficiency.

I certainly don’t need to charge the OnePlus 12 every night, even with three hours of screen time during the day. Its incredible efficiency was something I immediately noticed over those initial few days, and it is helped greatly by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor. Right now, at the time of writing, I’ve used the OnePlus 12 for 30 minutes today, and it has eaten one single percent of battery life. It gives me complete confidence that I won’t have to touch the charger the next night, provided I don’t suddenly do something dramatically different from my usual use. I love this predictability.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’m learning to trust the software more, too. OxygenOS isn’t (and never will be) like it was before Oppo came on the scene, but it’s definitely better these days, provided you accept it needs some care and attention during the first few weeks. For example, it’s overly protective of the battery, forcing you to interact with various alerts just to keep things running, but once you’ve done this, it doesn’t feel the need to ask twice.

Now that I’m past this, I can enjoy how friendly and welcoming the phone feels, including the wonderfully tactile haptic vibration alerts and the “aquamorphic” sounds, along with the polar bear on the always-on screen. The software is fast and reliable, too, plus I’ve had it connected to the Xiaomi Watch S3 for some of the time, which hasn’t significantly drained the battery or caused problems with notifications. Predictable and reliable sounds boring, but it has been a huge part of the OnePlus 12’s appeal while using it this time.

OnePlus of old

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Looking back at my reviews of old OnePlus phones, I can see a very similar pattern. I rarely got excited about one particular aspect of the phone, but usually admired how well the fundamental features had been implemented. A OnePlus phone should do what I ask, when I ask, without much fuss. There have been a few odd decisions over the years, such as the OnePlus 8 Pro’s bizarre Color Filter camera and the horrid misstep that was the OnePlus 10T. But almost without exception, a OnePlus phone has been a superb choice for fuss-free use.

I’m so pleased to find the tradition continues with the OnePlus 12. I’ve accepted the OnePlus of old has gone forever, but I am relieved the brand has settled down to produce good flagship phones again — and at a reasonable price. The OnePlus 11 was a genuine return to form, and the OnePlus 12 continues it. I don’t think it’ll ever make you say “wow” about one particular feature, but it will cause you to breathe a sigh of relief when you go to use it, knowing it’s just going to work and work well.

Further proof that OnePlus has gone back to its old ways is the OnePlus 12R, which is a fantastic phone for the price. It reminds me of the days when there was a choice between the OnePlus 8 Pro and the OnePlus 8. Back then, the OnePlus 8 had many of the same positive aspects the OnePlus 12R has today, but was hard to recommend at $700 or more. But the OnePlus 12R is $500, making it a great value. This focus on value and cost is another OnePlus trait that I’m happy has returned.

Worth the wait

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It has taken me a while to get to the OnePlus 12, but it was worth the wait. I was due to return to it after I had reviewed the Punkt MC02, but that did not go to plan at all, making it even more special to start using a phone with superb hardware, a powerful processor, an enviable camera, and software I quickly understood and appreciated. From the matte textured rear panel to the glossy, 3D-effect camera module design, there’s a lot to like here. I’m even fond of the basic black color scheme, and still absentmindedly push the Alert Slider up and down when it’s in my pocket, just like I have on so many OnePlus phones.

The OnePlus 12 is like so many of the great OnePlus phones I’ve reviewed over the years, and I’m going to use what I said about the OnePlus 6 to describe how I feel about it — it delivers everything you want from a phone at a price you don’t mind paying. It makes me happy that OnePlus has found its way back from a short time out in the wilderness, and although I didn’t get to fully review the OnePlus 12, that doesn’t stop me from giving it a strong recommendation here.

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