OnePlus 12 Review: I Can't Find Anything Wrong With This Impressive Phone

The “flagship killer” is back in a big way.

Originally Published: 
The back of the OnePlus 12 in Flowy Emerald.
Photograph by Raymond Wong
Gear Reviews

OnePlus became a household name with a very simple formula: selling phones with flagship specs that are comparable to Samsung’s best offerings, but for hundreds of dollars less.

That worked in the early days, but as OnePlus expanded globally beyond smartphones to other tech such as tablets, wearables, smart TVs, and even mechanical keyboards, it’s clear the company has neglected the formula that made it successful in the first place.

Enter the OnePlus 12. The flagship Android smartphone is a return to the company’s original mission to make “flagship killers” and doubles down on improvements to core phone features like performance, display, battery life, and cameras. The OnePlus 12 also adds the wireless charging that its predecessor didn’t have and throws in new quality-of-life features that aren’t found on Samsung or Apple phones, like the ability to still tap and swipe on the screen even when it’s wet.

All of that for $799.99 is a steal. The fact that OnePlus is taking an additional $100 off the retail price when you trade in any phone in any condition only makes it seem like there has to be a catch, but there isn’t. $700-$800 for a “pro” or “ultra” class phone instead of $1,000+ is unheard of, but somehow OnePlus has done the seemingly impossible.

One Solid Design

The OnePlus 12 is a big phone with a 6.82-inch display, and compared to the OnePlus 11, it’s definitely chunkier, but OnePlus has done a pretty good job balancing out the weight. The round camera bump is substantially larger than on the OnePlus 11, which makes the phone a little top-heavy, but nowhere near as much as on the OnePlus Open, which always feels like it’s going to fall out of my hand.

I’ve been using the Flowy Emerald version for a few weeks and prefer the marbled green pattern and satin glass finish over the more plain-looking Silky Black model. The design is more elegant than the glossy OnePlus 11 which easily attracts fingerprints. OnePlus’ signature “alert slider” switch is present, but it’s on the left side of the phone, and the volume rocker has moved to the right, just above the power button. I’d have preferred the alert slider stay on the left and the volume buttons on the right, as they’re a little hard to reach on the OnePlus 12, but it’s a small nitpick. If you have larger hands, it may not be an issue at all.

I love this Flowy Emerald colorway.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

OnePlus has bumped up the durability from an IP64 rating on the OnePlus 11 to IP65 on the OnePlus 12. The “5” means the phone is protected against low-pressure water jets, whereas the IP64 rating on the previous phone meant it could only withstand light water sprays. It’s an improvement this time around, but it's also strange that OnePlus doesn’t just go with the industry standard IP68 rating, which it has included in past phones like the OnePlus 9 and 10 Pro.

I’ll get to the display in a second, but I want to shout out three things that might fly under the radar. The first is the in-display fingerprint reader — it’s one of the best I’ve ever used in a phone. It’s fast to recognize my fingers, and out of the hundreds of times I’ve used it to unlock the OnePlus 12, it’s failed only a handful of times. The second feature is the IR blaster at the top. Around 10 years ago, IR blasters were a common feature on Android phones (iPhones have never had them), and then they quietly disappeared. So I was pleasantly surprised to see it on the OnePlus 12. Not everyone will appreciate it, but I enjoyed using it to control the LG TV and A/V receiver in my living room. The third feature that deserves praise is the haptics — they feel even more satisfying than on previous OnePlus and Samsung phones, with more range when it comes to light and hard vibrations.

The OnePlus 12 has an IR remote for controlling TVs and other IR-equipped electronics.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Okay, screen time! Despite the trend towards completely flat screens, OnePlus is sticking with curved sides. The upside to a display that tapers off into the aluminum mid-frame is that it makes the device feel narrower in the hand; the downside is that the screen might be unresponsive if even your palm is making contact with it, and, obviously, anything at the edges appears slightly warped. There’s palm rejection in place, but it doesn’t always work.

Curved edges aside, the 120Hz AMOLED display on the OnePlus 12 is one of the best. I’ll be honest, I couldn’t test the advertised 4,500 nits of peak brightness, which sounds borderline overkill compared to the peak brightness on other phones (Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra hits 2,600 nits and the iPhone 15 Pro Max can reach 2,000 nits), but even so, the screen looks fantastic outdoors. Viewing angles are great, and I have no complaints about color reproduction. The resolution is set to 1080p out of the box, but I recommend turning it to QHD+ (3,168 x 1,440) and getting the extra pixel real estate. I mean it when I say I could look at the screen all day long, especially outdoors and when viewing HDR photos and videos.

The OnePlus 12 has a terrific display with excellent visibility outdoors.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

And, as I mentioned earlier, the Aqua Touch feature is really nice to have. I always have my phone on my sink while I’m brushing my teeth, and being able to tap and touch it with my wet fingers is just one small convenience that I wish other phones had. It’s really the small things!

Top Performance

If there’s any one feature that OnePlus’ flagship phones are best known for, it’s performance — fast and responsive raw power that can handle anything you throw at them. That’s still the case on the OnePlus 12.

The phone uses Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip and pairs it with the following configurations: 12GB of RAM + 256GB of storage or 16GB of RAM + 512GB of storage. For non-techies, just know that it’s a lot of memory and a lot of storage, which means the software experience feels instant. Qualcomm claims the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip provides around 30 percent faster CPU and 25 percent faster GPU performance compared to the last generation Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip.

I can’t say I noticed any appreciable difference between performance on the OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 11. That’s a testament to how well OnePlus has optimized OxygenOS 14, its customized version of Android 14, for new and old chipsets, but also shows that we’ve definitely reached a point of diminishing returns when it comes to chip performance for general phone tasks and apps. I played several 3D games on the OnePlus 12 like Honkai: Star Rail, Call of Duty: Mobile, and Diablo Immortal and their performance seemed about the same compared to the OnePlus 11. It’s always challenging to test any CPU and GPU gains for games because, most of the time, they haven’t been updated and optimized to benefit from the new efficiencies. Maybe there will be visible improvements to framerate and ray tracing performance later, but right now, you shouldn’t expect any massive jumps for gaming.

You can’t see it, but the OnePlus 12 has a massive vapor cooling system to keep the device cool.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Where you will see a difference is in thermals. The OnePlus 12 has a significantly larger vapor cooling system that spreads nearly the entire footprint of the phone, and it does seem to work. Honkai: Star Rail usually turns any phone into a hand warmer, but the OnePlus 12 remained relatively cool even under load. A cooler phone may not sound sexy, but it’s another small thing that anybody can appreciate.

Battery life performance is also one of the best in a bar-style phone thanks to its massive 5,400 mAh battery. There have been times when I’ve gone two days without needing to charge up. And when I did, I was able to do so very quickly with the 80W SuperVOOC adapter that’s included in the box. The phone also has wireless charging (a feature that was missing on the OnePlus 11) that supports 50W with OnePlus’ AirVOOC wireless charging stand or 15W with a Qi pad.

Strong Cameras

The OnePlus 12 has three cameras, including a periscope telephoto with 3x optical zoom.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

In its third year working with Hasselblad to tune the cameras, it feels like OnePlus has finally delivered on the partnership. It no longer feels like just a branding deal that puts the Hasselblad logo on the camera bump.

I would say the triple-lens camera system on the rear of the OnePlus 12 is finally competitive with the other premium smartphones. There’s a 50-megapixel main lens with f/1.6 aperture (1x), a 48-megapixel ultra-wide lens with f/2.2 and 114-degree FOV (0.6x), and a 64-megapixel periscope telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom (3x) with f/2.6. In the camera app, you’ll also find 2x and 6x digital lenses; these aren’t physical cameras, but a crop in on the center of the 1x and 3x lenses, respectively. And despite the high megapixel counts, the photos are “binned” down to lower-resolution photos for better image quality. It took some peeping into the photo metadata, but here’s what you get:

  • 0.6x ultra-wide: 12 megapixels
  • 1x main: 12.6 megapixels
  • 2x telephoto (cropped in on the center of the 1x): 12.6 megapixels
  • 3x optical telephoto: 15.9 megapixels
  • 6x telephoto (cropped in on the center of the 3x): 15.9 megapixels

You can see the different lenses from 0.6x to 6x in the gallery below:

1 / 5

For the most part, the OnePlus 12 cameras take good photos. Image quality is sharp and colors are more natural-looking than I’ve seen in any OnePlus phone. I found that the cameras can sometimes skew towards a cooler white balance, making grays appear more blue, but I was generally happy with the shots I got.

1 / 6

It’s not just good image quality; the camera autofocus and shutter are fast and responsive as well. I never felt like I was waiting for shots to process, especially when taking nighttime or low-light photos. On other phones, you typically have to hold the phone steady for a few seconds for nighttime photos, but the OnePlus 12 is quick to snap. The camera can sometimes struggle to freeze a moving subject in dark or low-light situations, but in daylight, there’s less blur compared to previous OnePlus phones.

OnePlus 12

Photograph by Raymond Wong

iPhone 15 Pro

Photograph by Raymond Wong
1 / 2

As you can see in the above comparison, the OnePlus 12 does pretty well in low-light. The scene was pretty dark, with the bricks on the church all but impossible to see with the naked eye. The OnePlus 12 seems to skew more red compared to the iPhone 15 Pro camera. But you could easily use the phone’s pro camera mode (now renamed “Master” mode to nail the shot exactly how you want it).

I’m not usually a person who shoots with long focal lengths, but there’s something about the 3x telephoto that’s just really fun to use. Perhaps it’s because the details look good, but I kept finding myself launching the camera and tapping the 3x icon just to get the compressed look. Below is a gallery of some of my favorite 3x shots:

1 / 6

No AI, And That’s Perfectly Fine

I tried really hard to find major downsides to the OnePlus 12 and mostly came up short. I suppose if you believe that AI, sprinkled everywhere within the software experience, is the future for phones the way Samsung and Google do, then the OnePlus 12 is behind the times. But even as compelling and useful as certain AI features might be, we’re still in the early innings of this transformation. There’s plenty of time for OnePlus to catch up and add thoughtful AI features to future OnePlus phones or via software updates.

As it is, the OnePlus 12 is a well-rounded phone that competes aggressively with Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro / 15 Pro Max. Feature for feature, there’s little that the OnePlus 12 can’t do as well or better.

But the best part is the price. $799 (or $699 with the generous $100 discount) is just an unbelievably great deal. It’s $200 less than an iPhone 15 Pro, $400 less than an iPhone 15 Pro Max, and $500 less than a Galaxy S24 Ultra. I’ve seen complaints from some people on social media about how OnePlus is only supporting four years of software updates compared to Google and Samsung’s seven years, but I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker. Four years is the typical lifecycle for a phone, and it’s rare that anyone hangs onto a phone for seven years. By then, the phone will probably be so slow from software updates that it’s not even worth using.

With the OnePlus 12, the flagship killer is back, and this time there are no compromises. Welcome back, OnePlus.

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