I’ve been reviewing OnePlus smartphones for years, and generally, there’s always something wrong with them. Keeping them from being a nearly perfect phone. Usually, it has to do with the camera, and after a few updates, it would be way better and almost a totally different phone. But that changed last year with the OnePlus 11 and especially the OnePlus Open. I was utterly blown away by the OnePlus Open, in fact it’s the only foldable that I still use to this day.
So, heading into the OnePlus 12 briefing and review, I wondered how or if OnePlus could keep up that momentum. And I’m here to tell you that the OnePlus 12 is an early contender for smartphone of the year, even after using (briefly) the successor to last year’s smartphone of the year – Galaxy S24 Ultra. Let’s talk about it.
OnePlus 12 Review: Hardware and Build Quality
The hardware on the OnePlus 12 has not changed a whole lot compared to the OnePlus 11. It looks pretty similar and even has the same camera module. However, it does feel a bit thicker, which I don’t actually mind. I’d mind it even less if it were not a curved display phone. But more on that later on. OnePlus has kept the power and volume rocker on the left side, with the Alert Slider on the right. It’s still one of my favorite features on any phone. It just makes it so easy to put my phone on silent or vibrate.
The top and bottom of the OnePlus 12 are flat, while the sides are curved. This is done so that it makes it easier to hold. On the bottom, you’ll find a speaker grille, a USB-C port, and a SIM tray. Thank goodness OnePlus is not following the fruit company and going eSIM only – even though I am using an eSIM on this phone. On the top, you’ll find the microphone hole as well as the IR blaster. Boy, isn’t that a blast from the past? A few years ago, really almost a decade ago, IR blasters were the next big thing. Being added to every phone imaginable to control your TVs and other things. Today, most phones have done away with them, but not OnePlus. It does make for a cool party trick. I’m currently writing this review in an airport. I used the IR blaster to turn off one of the flight monitors and then back on.
OnePlus 12 has a stunning front, which is basically all-screen. It’s a curved 6.82-inch display that looks amazing. There is a hole punch camera on the front, and that’s really about it.
It does feel really great to hold in the hand, although a bit slippery. I really wish OnePlus sent over a case with their reviewers kit, like they have done in the past because I’ve almost dropped this phone many times. So, if you do buy one, make sure to get a case as well. OnePlus will have plenty available.
There is a fairly sizeable camera bump on the back of the OnePlus 12, but honestly, after carrying the OnePlus Open for many months, it’s really not that bad. And the trade-off here is that some pretty amazing pictures are coming out of this camera system. So it’s a fair trade-off, I’d say.
It’s solid hardware and either a design you love or hate. There’s really no in-between.
OnePlus 12 Review: Display
OnePlus is no stranger to great displays. And with the Open last year, they really seemed to have started the trend of incredibly bright displays. The OnePlus Open was able to go up to 2800 nits of peak brightness. Then the Google Pixel 8 series followed along at 2000 and 2,400 nits, respectively. Now, OnePlus is telling everyone to hold their beer; the new OnePlus 12 can go all the way up to 4,500 nits of peak brightness. That’s just bonkers. But it is also very useful.
I recently traveled to San Jose for Samsung’s Unpacked event and took the OnePlus 12 with me for the ride. The weather wasn’t perfect, a bit cloudy for part of the trip, but even in bright environments, the OnePlus 12 was very easy to see. And the kicker? It was not even at full brightness. Some will say that this much brightness is overkill. And it might be. But I’d definitely rather have it and not need it then need it and not have it.
While it might not go to a true 4500 nits of peak brightness, and even then, it’s only a portion of the screen, what I really appreciated is that it is easy to see outdoors, especially when it’s very bright. Just as another example here, there are a few inches of snow on the ground, and the skies are clear with the sun shining, making it super bright. Because the sun is reflecting off of the white snow, so it’s brighter than usual. And I could still see the OnePlus 12 outdoors without any issues. That is rather impressive and not something that most phones can achieve.
Additionally, the OnePlus 12 is brighter, clearly brighter than the new Galaxy S24 Ultra. Of course, it should be since the OnePlus 12 does have a much higher peak brightness. But you can see in the picture below that it is brighter, with basically the same home screen.
Like most of OnePlus’ other smartphones, this is also an LTPO display, so it can dynamically change the refresh rate from 10Hz to 120Hz. This helps to conserve battery, especially in apps where you really don’t need a 120Hz refresh rate since it is not always needed.
I’ve watched quite a few videos on this phone, and each time, I’m amazed at how good it looks. Watched quite a few YouTube videos on the OnePlus 12 while flying from San Jose back to Detroit, and the colors look incredible. It’s an OLED panel, so obviously, the blacks are nice and inky, too. Added in with the brightness, and even with the window shade open, I had no problem watching YouTube. That’s just another example of the brightness coming in handy here. Not to mention, the curved display allows for the content to “melt” over the sides. It looks incredible, but I’m still not a fan of curved displays.
Recently, we’ve seen quite a few phones ditching curved displays – Google’s Pixel 8, more recently, Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra – and I have a feeling the OnePlus 13 might not have one. Curved displays seem to be a love or hate thing with smartphones. Some love how they look, especially when watching videos. But others despise them because they are uncomfortable to hold, get scratched easily, cause accidental touches and screen protectors really don’t work with cases. This is why I don’t like curved displays, but I have to say, so far, I have not had any of these issues – well, I don’t have a case or screen protector yet, but the other issues I have not experienced.
This might be one of the best displays I’ve ever seen on a smartphone, which is saying something since I’ve reviewed almost every phone on the market today.
OnePlus 12 Review: Performance
The OnePlus 12 is my first experience with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, and I have to say, it’s quite good. I’m going to compare this to the OnePlus Open and the Galaxy S24 Ultra quite a bit, which use the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 and Gen 3, respectively. Moving around the OS on the OnePlus 12 is really fluid. Even more so than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which is impressive since its version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is overclocked a bit.
OnePlus also added in a much larger vapor chamber on the OnePlus 12, which did help it stay cool for quite some time. I played a few games on here for a bit, as well as running a ton of benchmarks, and the phone got warm – but not hot. That was, honestly, quite impressive to me. Most phones will get pretty warm, almost too warm to touch, when running Geekbench 6, 3D Mark, and PC Mark back-to-back-to-back. But not the OnePlus 12.
Let’s talk about those benchmarks. So, on the OnePlus 12 and every other phone we’ve reviewed recently, we run a handful of benchmarks. This includes Geekbench 6, which tests the raw performance of both the CPU and GPU. Then there’s the 3D Mark WildLife Extreme Stress Test. This particular test does a one-minute loop for 20 minutes. The point here is to see if the OnePlus 12 can sustain high performance and how well it can do it. Finally, we have PC Mark Work 3.0. This is a productivity test to see how well the OnePlus 12 can perform tasks like spreadsheets, emails, etc., you know, being productive on your phone.
The first test here is Geekbench 6. Single-core scores are in blue, multi-core scores are in red, and the GPU scores are in yellow. Here, we compared it to the OnePlus Open (Snapdragon 8 Gen 2), the Pixel 8 Pro (Tensor G3), and the iPhone 15 Pro Max (A17 Pro). It outperformed everything except for the iPhone 15 Pro Max, which to this day still has an incredibly wild GPU score. But it’s important to remember, especially for the GPU scores, that Geekbench 6 runs on different platforms for iPhone (Metal) versus Android (Vulkan).
This next test is the 3D Mark Wildlife Extreme Stress Test. It had some of the highest scores on phones we’ve tested, but the stability wasn’t all that high, stability was around 58.9%, generally it’s over 70% for most other phones. We’ll chop this up to the software not being final just yet and will retest this in a month or so to see if it changes.
Then we have PC Mark Work 3.0, as mentioned before, this is a productivity benchmark, meant to help determine how good this phone is able to deal with productivity tasks. Here, we compared it to the OnePlus Open and Pixel 8 Pro only since the app is not compatible with the iPhone, unfortunately. It beat both phones and beat the OnePlus Open by 23%. That’s a pretty sizeable increase year-over-year.
Finally, we have one more benchmark we run, which is a customized one that we decided to put together here at AndroidHeadlines. Since phone makers do like to “cheat” on benchmarks, this is one that they can’t really cheat at. It’s called the CapCut test. We use the popular CapCut video editing app to edit and export a one-minute video. It’s the same one-minute video with the same edits for each phone we test to keep it on a level playing field. The OnePlus 12 has set a new record in this test of under 10 seconds. Prior to that, the iPhone 15 Pro Max had a record at 13.5 seconds. This shows that the GPU on the OnePlus 12 is really impressive.
Overall, we’ve found the performance to be among the best of any phone we’ve reviewed so far. Now, that might change as more Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 phones come across our desk, but so far, it’s impressive.
OnePlus 12 Review: Battery life and Charging
These are two things that OnePlus has been known for in the last few years, especially the charging aspect. When I sat down with OnePlus in Las Vegas for a briefing on the OnePlus 12, I was told that this was a two-day phone. In my head, I thought, “Yeah, we’ve heard that before; I’ll believe it when I see it.” But it is truly a two-day phone. It takes about a day and a half to truly empty this battery, using it non-stop. So, if I were using it normally, it would definitely last two full days. That’s not something we see all that often with smartphones these days. So, it’s definitely a great thing to see here.
As I mentioned on Twitter last week, I took this with me to San Jose for Galaxy Unpacked. That means a couple of very heavy travel days to travel across the country. Typically, phones would have their battery destroyed by the end of the day. But not the OnePlus 12. I had about five hours of screen time, with around 57% battery left. Yes, fifty-seven percent. That’s pretty much the same as if I were at home using it on WiFi all day. Of course, putting it in airplane mode for a number of hours and using WiFi on the plane definitely helped, but remember, brightness was also up pretty high here.
Because of this, the OnePlus 12 has likely earned a spot in my bag for Mobile World Congress next month. Not only for the battery life but also for the charging and performance, as well as the camera. We’ll talk about some of these a bit later. But let’s move on to the scientific tests for battery life.
As we’ve been doing for the last few months with new phones, we run a YouTube video at full brightness and in full screen on the phone from 100% to 1%. It’s a 24-hour video, and no phone has lasted longer than the video so far, but this makes it easy to see how long it lasted. The OnePlus 12 lasted the third longest out of the phones we’ve tested. It lasted just over 19 hours. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max lasted about 21.5 hours, the top of the list right now is the iQOO 12, which lasted 21:52. These are all spectacular numbers. Especially since the OnePlus 12 was at full brightness at that time.
Another anecdote from this test is that despite being at full brightness for 19 hours, the OnePlus 12 did not overheat. It did get warm, but not uncomfortably hot. That was honestly very surprising to me, considering how bright this display can get and the fact that other phones have gotten quite hot in this test.
Charging the OnePlus 12 is magical
Here in the US, we don’t get a lot of very fast-charging smartphones. Samsung tops out at 45W (really, it’s 25W), Google and Apple don’t really go past 30W, but OnePlus continues to bring 80W charging to the US on its phones. So when I get to use a OnePlus phone, it really does become a treat.
While OnePlus does include a 100W charger in the box, it’ll only do 80W in the US due to our electrical grid; it can only do 80W on that charger. So if I plug it into my USB-C charger that I travel with, I’ll only get 60W. Which is still faster than most other smartphones that arrive in the US, so it’s really hard to complain about that. It is how I charged the OnePlus 12 most of the time, however.
But for our benchmarking, I did use the included OnePlus 100W SuperVOOC charger. It was able to recharge the 5400mAh capacity battery in 32 minutes and 13 seconds.
Now, OnePlus says you can fully charge in 30 minutes, but keep in mind that it is in a lab in perfect condition, not in a home where other things are drawing power and such. So this is still very close to OnePlus’ claim, and honestly, a full charge in just over 30 minutes is still very respectable. Considering every other non-OnePlus device we’ve tested that is available in the US has charging times of well over an hour.
OnePlus 12 Review: Software
With the OnePlus 12, the company has Android 14 and OxygenOS 14 on board. This is actually my first time using OxygenOS 14 since my OnePlus Open still hasn’t gotten the update. Honestly, there are a few changes compared to OxygenOS 13, but not that many. That’s pretty common with Android phones these days; we’re not seeing a lot of major changes with new updates, but instead, a handful of new features that you may or may not use.
Since OnePlus ditched Cyanogen OS many years ago and decided to create OxygenOS, I haven’t really been a huge fan of the operating system. I’ve always preferred a more stock Android approach, and really like the Pixel Experience that Google has built. But I have to say, after using the OnePlus Open and now the 12 extensively, I really am starting to like OxygenOS. It’s really starting to grow on me.
Here are a few things that I really like about OxygenOS compared to Pixel Experience; one of those is the Settings icon in the top corner of the Quick Settings. Google wants you to pull down the Quick Settings completely to get to the Settings – and then it’s at the bottom of the screen. Again, this is a small thing, but very useful for someone like me who is constantly checking battery life and other settings inside the Settings app.
I also really like the Quick Settings here. Google gives you huge toggles for everything, while OnePlus does this for WiFi and Bluetooth only. This is great because you can see what WiFi network you’re connected to, as well as whatever Bluetooth devices you have connected. Everything else is a smaller toggle, like mobile data, flashlight, location, airplane mode, etc, with a brightness toggle at the bottom. These are just so much easier to use compared to what Google offers on the Pixel. And I really like it.
The last big thing that I like about OxygenOS is arguably the only thing reviewers care about, and that’s the battery life screen. It’s not perfect, but it is one of the best options out right now. Now, when you go into the battery section in Settings, it tells you how long it’s been since the phone was unplugged, as well as whether your screen is on time, with a 24-hour graph above. Below that, there are a few apps that are using the most battery. It’s just so easy to follow, and I love it.
Speaking about the battery, OnePlus also has a few settings for Battery Health, like showing you the Maximum Capacity, as well as the ability to stop charging at 80%. This is a feature we saw get added to the iPhone 15 last year, and it’s great to see Android OEMs are quickly adding this as a setting now.
Finally, let’s talk about how fluid the software has been on this new hardware. OxygenOS has always been rather lightweight, and I have to say, it just flies on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. As mentioned before, this is the 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage model, so there’s plenty of power in this phone. I’ve never experienced a slowdown on the OnePlus 12 running OxygenOS 14, and I really don’t expect to.
OnePlus is promising four years of OS upgrades and five years of security updates. So, it is not quite the seven years that Samsung and Google are promising these days, but hopefully, that will change with Open 2 or OnePlus 13.
OnePlus 12 Review: Camera
I’ve been raving about the camera on the OnePlus Open pretty much since I was able to talk about it last October. Why? Because it has some of the best hardware and produces some of the best pictures out there. It is also a stark contrast to OnePlus devices from a few years ago where the camera was not great at launch, and after a few updates, it was a much better camera. It’s great that OnePlus has figured things out before launch, especially since the first impression is everything.
With the OnePlus 12, we’re looking at a camera setup similar to the Open. This includes a 50-megapixel main sensor, a 64-megapixel periscope telephoto sensor, and a 48-megapixel ultrawide sensor. And OnePlus has kept the option for automatically shooting at 1.5x or 35mm. That’s the best focal length, in my opinion, because you get a really nice depth of field, providing a creamy bokeh effect. Which you can see in a few pictures below.
I took the OnePlus 12 with me to San Jose for Unpacked and got some pretty sweet pictures on the way there, including a few from the plane. Shooting at 6x zoom and flying at over 500 miles per hour, you can still get some really crisp images, as you can see down below. These absolutely look amazing, and I’m still shocked I was able to take them.
The ultimate test for me with a smartphone camera is taking a photo of my dog. I have a rescue from Aruba, and her DNA test shows that she is an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Rat Terrier, and a Belgian Malinois mix. I tell you all this to say that she’s black and brown with some white fur and doesn’t sit still (that’s the Belgian Malinois part). So for a camera to be able to take a photo of her and be sharp is pretty rare. But it’s starting to be a bit less rare these days. Here are a few pictures I took of her while reviewing the OnePlus 12. It did struggle a little bit in portrait mode, but it still did better than a lot of other phones, so definitely impressed on that front.
OnePlus has really started to take the camera super seriously on its last few phones, and of course, the Hasselblad partnership has definitely helped. That partnership is due to expire pretty soon, and I really hope OnePlus is able to renew because the Open and 12 have become some of my favorite cameras in smartphones, and I really can’t wait to see what they do in future phones.
Now let’s talk about our testing for the camera. What we have started doing very recently is taking a rubiks cube and putting it into a photography tent. Turning the light all the way up, and taking a photo. This gives us the same lighting for each phone, as well as a subject that is very colorful. Allowing us to test out the color reproduction on each phone. In the example below, we have the Galaxy S24 Ultra, iPhone 15 Pro and the OnePlus 12 on display.
Now if you look at the comparison above, the Galaxy S24 Ultra definitely looks like it’s the brighter and better picture, but actually it’s the OnePlus 12. The OnePlus 12 actually looks more like real life compared to the other two. Samsung is artificially brightening the picture in post-production using AI. I’ve seen that happen in a lot of photos with that camera, actually. Then the iPhone 15 Pro is actually a bit on the warm side here. While OnePlus 12 does look more true to life, which is what you want in a picture here. This Rubiks cube is more of a metallic finish Rubiks cube, so it does look darker than a regular Rubiks cube.
Should you buy the OnePlus 12?
So now, the big question is, should you buy the OnePlus 12? I would say definitely. And this is a bit weird for me because this time around, there’s no “you should only buy it if…” to this sentence. If you need a new phone, the OnePlus 12 is the way to go. And here’s why: pricing on the 12 starts at $799, or you can jump up to 512GB of storage for just $899. That’s cheaper than just about every other comparable phone on the market today. OnePlus also nailed just about everything this year, from the camera to performance, to battery life, to the display, and everything in between. The only complaint I have is that it is a curved display; I’d much rather have a flat display on the OnePlus 12.
You should buy the OnePlus 12 if:
- You want a spectacular camera setup.
- You want the best battery life on a smartphone in 2024.
- You want incredibly fast charging.
- You want a bright display that you can use outdoors without a problem.
You should not buy the OnePlus 12 if:
- You don’t need a new phone.