Sunday, June 23, 2024

I tried the new OnePlus 12 in white. It’s the Elvis Presley of Android phones


OnePlus 12 Glacial White on a wrinkly satin white cloth.Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

We’re long past the days when phones were distinguished solely based on their design. Despite more modern form factors such as foldables, the contemporary slab phone design reigns supreme — because why reinvent the wheel when the current one gives you perfect traction on all roads? That said, phone brands have never stopped imagining newer design tweaks to help phones stand out, and a phone’s color is a primary focus of attention.


  • What makes the OnePlus 12 Glacial White special
  • Details that go beyond the white color
  • OnePlus knowns plain white is boring
  • As gorgeous as Elvis

Within the limited dimensions of the back panel, smartphone brands have persistently iterated different color choices, combinations, and textures over the past few years. We have seen trends such as textures under glass, gradients, vegan leather, and more. But OnePlus is taking a rather simple step of launching a new white color variant of the OnePlus 12. The Glacial White OnePlus 12 has been available in China since the phone was originally launched last December and is now moving out of the mainland as a limited edition.

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OnePlus has a long lineage of awe-inspiring designs, be it the OnePlus 11’s Marble Odyssey edition or the limited -edition OnePlus 12R with artworks inspired by the popular role-playing game Genshin Impact. Choosing a white paint job may seem like a lazy choice, but it’s actually a very bold step. Here’s why I think the new color is so outstanding.


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What makes the OnePlus 12 Glacial White special

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

White is a timeless color that signifies elegance, perfection, and purity, yet smartphone brands rarely offer a white color, especially on their more premium devices. Apple and Nothing continue to defy the trends — or rather make choices that other brands want to avoid — by consistently pumping out iterations of white phones.

Other brands, OnePlus included, have made white phones on and off. If we overlook the off-whitish Marble Odyssey OnePlus 11 (which is closer to a light yellow bamboo), the last one was the OnePlus 9. And I really admire the fact that OnePlus went down this path once again.

As a phone reviewer, I juggle between multiple phones. While the novelty of new phones and the variations that each offers in experience are exciting, it is equally distracting — especially when I have a crucial deadline to tackle. To avoid instinctually picking up phones to fish out new features, I tend to keep them on my desk with the display facing downward.

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

From among the swarm of phones, the OnePlus 12 easily stands out. The plain surface, plus the subtle reflections off its back and the camera ring, feels spellbinding to look at, even from a distance. The Glacial White OnePlus 12 is so appealing because of how rare white phones are these days.

But in addition to the rarity of white phones (or light-colored ones, in general), it is the level of finesse that makes the Glacial White OnePlus 12 so special. There is a high level of detail here that I simply cannot brush off or attribute just to the color. Instead, every detail on the white OnePlus 12 feels intentional and meticulously calculated.

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The OnePlus 12 already has a well-rounded and premium design, so there wasn’t much the brand had to improve on that front. All curves blend seamlessly across different materials and there are no sharp edges, lending the phone a very premium appeal.

Like several previous phones, OnePlus ascribes the inspiration for the color to nature: magnificent glaciers to be exact, as is also apparent from the rather straightforward naming. “It is crafted to reflect the power that balances the chaos of life,” OnePlus says. Beyond the poetic description, the phone’s in-person appearance is what makes it so captivating.

Details that go beyond the white color

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

OnePlus has an exceptional video on the making of the Glacial White OnePlus 12. But the fine artistry that went into creating it can only be witnessed when you look at it in person.

From the moment I took the phone out of the box, I couldn’t resist appreciating the pearl-like finish of the white back panel. I also couldn’t help but notice that the color is not simply a stroke of paint on the top-most layer. Instead, it sits a few millimeters deep under the glass — further protected by an unspecified version of Gorilla Glass. The OnePlus logo in black is incised into the white and not simply printed, which is confirmed by the artifacts surrounding it under direct light.

OnePlus 12 in Emerald Green Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Unlike the Emerald Green OnePlus 12, which is topped by a layer of glass with a satin finish, the white OnePlus 12 uses a highly glossy duvet. This makes the back panel highly reflective, adding significant perceivable depth.

Looking closely at the back, I noticed a superfine weave pattern that’s only visible under light and at certain angles. It’s not easily apparent, but once I noticed it, I spent the next few minutes examining all the different angles it is visible at — and even revisited it several times.

OnePlus knowns plain white is boring

To spot the texture under the Glacial White OnePlus 12’s Gorilla Glass back, click to magnify this image. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Another thing that I instantly noticed about the back panel was that it wasn’t composed of a solid white color. While I am unsure if that is because of the base plate or the glass that tops it, the back piece adapts dominant colors from the surroundings to appear in different shades of white or gray. For instance, it appears more creamy white under bright daylight, but assumes a cooler gray color indoors. Under a warmer white source or mood lighting, the back has an amber tint to it.

Unless there is an intense light source, the OnePlus 12’s back diffuses the light slightly. This pattern of diffusion also differs from that of the OnePlus 12R, which uses a similarly glossy and reflective glass back, but with a texture that resembles metallic paint. Speaking of which, there is another part of the phone where OnePlus has generously sprinkled glitter: the camera module.

Unlike the comparatively simplistic finish on the back panel, the circular camera module uses a shimmery surface with tiny twinkling particles. Similar to the OnePlus Open — and the OnePlus 12’s other color variants — the Glacial White uses a vacuum-sealed camera bay, with three smaller rings surrounding the three cameras and a fourth one for the flash and the laser autofocus. This design choice, as OnePlus has previously said, is inspired by premium analog watches.

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Based on the light that falls on the camera module, it forms flares pivoted along the center of the circle. The flares easily catch the attention, especially when the phone is held out to take a photo or video. Besides these fragments of reflected light, markings denoting the aperture sizes and focal length of each of the cameras — as well as the “H” logo for Hasselblad — are joyfully highlighted.

Like the other color options, the metal frame extends to wrap around the camera bump. This section is made of aluminum and has a chrome finish, contrasting against the white of the rest of the phone. Owing to its chrome finish, the surface is highly reflective, but also very prone to smudges and fingerprints, which are otherwise less visible on the white back panel.

As gorgeous as Elvis

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The smartphone industry is constantly changing — and under attack from non-phone gadgets attempting (yet miserably failing) to replace phones. There’s no sure way to guarantee whether white phones will continue to be in a controlled limbo or come back in vogue like they were a decade ago.

This doesn’t deny that colorful and flashy phones have a clear advantage in sales. They more easily grab your attention, especially in a store with dozens of equally confusing options. So, it’s unlikely to expect brands would stop making such phones. However, subtler color options, such as white, will definitely feel more palatable than corny gradient finishes.

The OnePlus 12 with all its capabilities and charm reminds me of Elvis and his dandy white jumpsuits. It is also a reminder that the timelessness of white will prevail against the odds and for all product categories, not just phones.

However, if you wish to buy the Glacial White OnePlus 12, you might have to rely solely on luck since it’s not coming to the U.S. just yet. While it has been limited to China so far, OnePlus is now expanding availability to India, but has not commented on global availability. The pricing is identical to the other color variants but the Glacial White OnePlus 12 will only be available in a single 12GB + 256GB variant. However, OnePlus has claimed this is a limited-edition model, which further limits your chances of securing a unit. But if you manage to grab one, know that you’re in for something special.

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