OnePlus 12

OnePlus 12 Smartphone Review: It’s Tempting to Convert

I’ll start this review by admitting that I’m not a primary Android phone user. My everyday smartphone is an iPhone, but I review Android devices regularly to familiarize myself with the rival OS. Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel are typically top of mind when you think of Android devices, but there’s another rising star in the space: OnePlus. The company offers premium phones at a comparable price, which is striking a chord with consumers. The phones are favourably reviewed, and that includes the latest flagship, the OnePlus 12. So, I took it for a spin.

What is the OnePlus 12?

OnePlus 12

The OnePlus 12 is the Chinese brand’s new flagship device. It comes equipped with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor and proprietary Trinity Engine, up to 16GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 512GB of UFS 4.0 ROM. Bottom line: you expect this to be a powerhouse of a phone.

Ideal for mobile gamers, it has features like a Dual Cryo-velocity VC cooling system with a 3D capillary dissipation structure and a dual VC design covering 9,140 mm², which improves the flow of coolant to significantly reduce overheating. If you tend to enjoy marathon mobile gaming sessions at home, on your break, or perhaps while commuting, you can rest assured this phone will keep up with you. This also means even pro-level video editing is possible, right from the phone. Also for gamers is HyperRendering, 120Hz frame rate (appreciated for video streaming as well), and HDR colour calibration.

OnePlus 12 wet

While the phone doesn’t have the same water-resistant rating as other devices, there’s a neat Aqua Touch surface that ensures you can still operate it with wet fingers or water droplets. iPhone users know that if some drops of rain hit your iPhone screen, even if they won’t damage the phone, it causes touch sensitivity not to work until you wipe them away. So, this is one feature in particular that I was excited to try out.

The phone also has a powerful battery designed to complement the intense tasks you can perform with it: the 5,400 mAh battery can quick charge in 30 minutes with support for 80W SUPERVOOC Endurance Edition charging and wireless charging via 50W AIRVOOC. That’s even faster than most wired chargers. OnePlus doesn’t state the actual battery life, but tests have shown it to last around 14 hours with active use. But with how quickly it can recharge, this is the real stand-out feature.

Along with stable wireless signal performance thanks to the omnidirectional antenna design with 16 antennas, the 2K 120Hz ProXDR 6.8-inch display is powered by BOE’s new blue diamond pixel layout, which enables the OnePlus 12 to reach a peak brightness of 4,500 nits. ProXDR also further ensures that lossless images with high dynamic range and a rich colour spectrum can be enjoyed in full detail.

OnePlus 12

Fitted with LTPO technology, the display can automatically refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz based on preferences and specific usage scenarios while keeping power consumption comparatively low. Dolby Vision is also supported.

When paired with the OnePlus Buds 3 or other OnePlus earbuds with spatial audio and in-app customization support, the OnePlus 12 delivers simultaneous playback of different audio content in multiple directions to create a flagship 3D Spatial Audio experience. Equipped with dual stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos, dedicated spatial audio can even be enjoyed without earbuds.

OnePlus 12 cameras

For photography, one of the most important aspects of smartphones nowadays, the OnePlus 12 has a professional-grade camera system developed in collaboration with Hasselblad. This includes Sony’s 50MP LYT-808 main camera with a large ƒ/1.6 aperture and 1/1.4-inch sensor size. You’ll get better photos in low light environments along with red glare and artifact reduction. With a wide zoom range, 64MP camera with optical image stabilization, and a 114° field-of-view in 48MP resolution, the expectation is that this phone will yield fantastic photos and videos. There’s even an upgraded Portrait Mode with bokeh and flare effects on Hasselblad’s classic lenses from 1x to 3x to impart a natural depth of field and create seamless transitions between subject and background.

Available in Flowy Emerald or Silky Black, the OnePlus 12 is $1,070 outright; if you buy it from OnePlus and trade in any phone, in any condition, you can get a $100 discount. OnePlus guarantees four major Android OS updates and five years of security updates.

OnePlus 12 Review

OnePlus 12

I was immediately impressed after unboxing the OnePlus 12. The phone is much longer than I expected, a departure from the usual. The curved screen, however, is stunning and the bright and bold colours showcase the impressive peak brightness. The camera design on the back along with the overall finish of the device, which adds texture so it isn’t slippery, is sleek and elegant. But note that the camera set-up means the phone doesn’t sit entirely flat when you place it down, which can be annoying if you want to manipulate the screen when it’s on a table or other flat surface.

OnePlus 12

It was simple to set up, connecting to Wi-Fi in my home and porting all my content over from another Android device so I could instantly access all my apps, Google accounts, and more. When the screen goes to sleep, if you set up the fingerprint reader, you’ll see a faded scanner in the bottom half for easy unlocking. It’s a small but appreciated touch.

OnePlus 12 fingerprint reader

The phone is easy to use, a familiar experience for Android users. I love the design of apps on the home screen with the alphabet running down the side for quick and easy access. For those who have pages and pages of apps, it’s a useful feature.

OnePlus 12

Navigating through app pages, menu items, apps, and more is quick and responsive. I wanted to try out some of the core features, which meant streaming video and music, gaming, and of course, snapping photos.

OnePlus 12 video

First, video. I watched a few videos from sources like Netflix and YouTube. Audio was pleasant though it seems slightly unbalanced when there’s backing tracks alongside the dialogue. But the sound is impressively immersive for a smartphone. In reality show Love is Blind (don’t judge my viewing choices!) when individuals are speaking to the camera, their voice comes through loud and clear, as though I was listening from a larger speaker system. The sound was notably more pronounced and clearer compared to both my iPhone and the Google Pixel 8. As for the visuals, the 4,500 nits peak brightness in this phone is no joke: images are crisp, clear, and ultra-bright, viewable in any setting.

OnePlus 12 Spotify

Second, music. I brought the phone with me for a few weekend walks and connected to a pair of wireless earbuds to listen to music. I also listened at home. There was a slight muffled sound with songs from sources like Spotify. The guitar riffs on songs like Jon Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” sounded a bit harsh, while the vocals and instruments were slightly off balance, as if they were competing with one another in a way they shouldn’t. I listened to the same track from the same source on my iPhone, and the sound was similar. Naturally, you’ll want to listen through a good pair of headphones or wireless earbuds versus the phone’s speaker itself anyway. (My review set of OnePlus Buds 3 true wireless earbuds had not yet arrived during my review time. Stay tuned for updates). But it’s something to take into consideration.

Finally, photos. I used this phone to take all types of photos throughout my review period. The images are sharp, focus on point, and detail fantastic. Here’s a comparison of the same photo taken with the OnePlus 12, the iPhone 14, and the Google Pixel 8. All are using the exact same standard photo mode (though I had ProXDR on for the OnePlus 12) and were taken at the exact same time with the same lighting.

OnePlus 12 photo vs iPhone 14 photo
The photo on the left was taken with the OnePlus 12 and the one on the right with the iPhone 14.

The photo on the left was taken with the OnePlus 12 and on the right with the iPhone 14. You can see that the iPhone automatically blurred out the background, which might be useful in some scenarios. The colors are also pronounced with more detail visible on the mandarin orange with the iPhone 14 shot. But the two apples in the back are slightly blurred. Meanwhile, you can see more detail in the wood at the front of the table in the photo taken with the OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 photo vs. Google Pixel 8 photo
The photo on the left was taken with the OnePlus 12 and the one on the right with the Google Pixel 8.

Here, the photo on the left was taken with the OnePlus 12 and on the right with the Google Pixel 8. I was surprised to see that the Google Pixel 8 produced an image with duller colours. The background is also intelligently blurred out, which again, might be preferred for such close-up photography. The Pixel 8 does a better job of keeping the two apples in focus. But you also see less detail in the wood on the table.

OnePlus 12 backyard photos

Here, I took some candid shots in my backyard to check out the zoom feature. I was able to zoom all the way from the top deck into the admittedly ready-to-be-torn-down swing set and see it in great detail.

OnePlus 12 zoom in shed

Here, I stood in the same spot and zoomed in to the backyard shed, with little loss of detail as I got closer and closer using the zoom lens.

Bottom line: despite some reviews that suggest the OnePlus 12 cameras aren’t that great, I was pleasantly surprised with the performance. With that said, I haven’t tested the cameras in every setting. I’ll add more insight and photos here once I do.

Other Features To Note

OnePlus 12 charging

Beyond that, there are so many little subtle things about the phone that I love. The notification that pops up on the black screen to nudge you that you have an e-mail or calendar item is great, along with the blue light that shines on the sides.

Battery life is fantastic: with occasional use, the phone would often last an entire a week without me having to recharge it. For those who use it 24/7, while out and about, you’ll have no problem getting through a day with it. Since it charges so quickly as well, you can be back up and running in no time.

OnePlus 12 wet outside

Regarding the Aqua Touch screen, I tested it during a cold, snowy winter day, allowing the snowflakes to drop on the screen while I continued to navigate a webpage. The phone continued to be just as responsive as if it was bone dry. Compared to my iPhone, it was a breeze to use outdoors in the snow.

One thing to note is that this phone is missing the AI features that have become central to other devices in its class, like the Samsung Galaxy S24 series phones and the Google Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. You won’t find any cool AI features with this phone. That might be OK for some, but could be a dealbreaker for others who want to be on the cutting-edge of AI technology.

Should You Buy The OnePlus 12?

OnePlus 12

I can confidently say that while I’m an iPhone user, if I were to consider switching to Android, the OnePlus 12 would be the device that I choose. (Google Pixel 8 Pro is a close second). The bright, beautiful screen is so inviting, it takes fabulous photos, and the fast processor can keep up with day-to-day tasks.

OnePlus 12

The curved edges are a sight to behold and the subtle nuances make all the difference, like the outline of the fingerprint reader when the screen is black and the light up notifications that are just enough to let you know something is going on but not too much to distract you.

The OnePlus 12 is $1,200 in Canada for the 16GB RAM version with 512GB storage. (The 12GB RAM, 256GB storage option is $1,070). But you can trade-in any phone in any condition for $150 off, and up to $900 in trade-in credit, depending on the device.