I’ve used every single OnePlus device since the original OnePlus One (first released in 2014), and in all my years of reviewing OnePlus phones, they have consistently managed to fall short of true premium flagship greatness due to one reason or the other.
That’s not to say one didn’t like the phones (I really did!) and the phones didn’t sell well (they did, exceedingly well). It’s just that every recommendation for the annual OnePlus flagship was caveated with “it’s amazing…for the price”, almost in a way cushioning the blow that spending this much less on top-tier hardware had to come with some gotcha or compromise of sort.
For many years, the series was let down by camera performance or lack of proper water/dust protection certification or even the exclusion of wireless charging. One was conditioned to automatically complete the “It’s great, but…” sentence when it came to OnePlus.
With all the subtle tweaks across the board to improve upon the hugely popular OnePlus 11, will the OnePlus 12 ( ₹64,999 onwards) finally be the no-compromise smartphone we’ve all been rooting for?
Launched in two spec combinations — a base variant with 12GB of memory and 256GB of fast UFS 4.0 storage for ₹64,999 and another that ups the specs (16GB/512GB) for ₹69,999 — you’d notice prices have crept up north. But you’re getting more memory and double the storage in each variant, so when one accounts for that, there isn’t a big leap in the asking price.
Over the years, OnePlus has been continuously refining its design aesthetic, and while the design may look largely like the OnePlus 11 (with the circular camera module that spills over to the side and blends into the aluminum frame), there are subtle improvements all around.
The OnePlus 12 is slightly taller, wider, thicker and heavier than the OnePlus 11, but the narrow dimensions and perfect weight distribution still make it easier to grasp in one hand over the Samsung S24 Ultra or the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The Flowy Emerald in particular looks amazing and has this satiny texture that leans more towards marble/stone, despite it being protected by Gorilla Glass 5. The glass panel does well to resist fingerprints while blending in perfectly with the camera module, and the inspiration from luxury watches is evident in the steel rings around the individual camera lens and around the entire module. OnePlus has kept the chrome classy, not blingy.
Elsewhere, the Alert Slider is still present, just moved to the left edge, and there’s a new infrared blaster on the top edge to control home appliances. What’s worth noting is that wireless charging makes a return after its exclusion last year, and the OnePlus 12 charges wirelessly at a ridiculously fast 50W which, I needn’t remind you, is faster than the wired charging rates on the Samsung, Google Pixel or the iPhone.
What you don’t get is IP68 dust and water protection, with OnePlus opting for IP65 rating instead – while this means it is completely impervious to dust storms and visits to the beach, it isn’t quite as amenable to being dunked in water as other flagships. OnePlus talked up testing the OnePlus 12 against low-pressure water jets, which should be good for most exercise and rain scenarios, just not for submersion. Should you get the OnePlus 12 (or your fingers) wet, the new Aqua Touch feature ensures touch response isn’t affected by bumping up the screen touch sensitivity. In my use, it held up well, and I was able to unlock and operate the phone where other flagships kept skipping touch inputs on the wet part of the screen. An understated yet practical feature more phones should have.
Around the front, the OnePlus 12 gets a slightly larger 6.82-inch 2K-resolution AMOLED panel with LTPO technology that dynamically varies the refresh rate from 1Hz to 120 Hz based on the content that’s being played on the screen. There’s support for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision content, but the fact that the screen pushes an unheard of 4500 nits when viewing HDR content is pretty fantastic.
Realistically, you’re going to notice the 1600 nits brightness in high brightness mode a lot more, particularly when you’re outdoors and realize you don’t need to squint or shade the display to see what’s happening on the screen. Screen haptics are excellent, and the stereo speakers make this a formidable gaming and media device. OnePlus has steered clear of the recent trend to move towards boxy shapes and flat panel displays, retaining its signature curved edge on the display and the Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protective glass, which helps with the premium hand-feel.
As it is to be expected from a OnePlus flagship device, the OnePlus 12 ticks all the boxes when it comes to hardware – there’s the latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 that powers the iQOO 12 as well, up to 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage, both of which run on the faster UFS 4.0 and LPDDR5X speeds. The USB-C port now uses the faster USB 3.2 Gen 1 transfer rates, which is a welcome move since past OnePlus devices had inexplicably stuck with the glacially slow USB 2.0 standard.
OnePlus has a new Dual Cryo-velocity Cooling System, which is a fancy way to describe their large 9140 square millimeter cooling structure, which helps the phone remain cool even while playing highly demanding games. Running OxygenOS 14 based on Android 14 is fluid and it truly lives up to its ‘fast and smooth’ philosophy, and four years of Android upgrades should bear out well.
I noticed lower scores in some benchmark tests, likely on account of throttling under sustained performance, but this did not play out during gaming on Call of Duty Mobile and Diablo – nothing about using this device is sluggish or held back, which is what most buyers will care about.
One thing they will care about is battery life. With the larger 5,400mAh battery and the cooling system and software optimizations, the phone lasted two days of moderate use with all the highest settings turned on. No longer do you need to charge this phone overnight – whenever it dips to below 20%, a quick charge of around 20-25 minutes with the 100W charger will top the OnePlus 12 up. Of course, there’s 50W wireless charging, which takes a little over an hour for a full charge with a compatible wireless charger.
OnePlus has made good strides on its camera performance in the past year – first on the OnePlus 11 and then on the OnePlus Open - as the results of its Hasselblad partnership are finally bearing fruit.
In the OnePlus 12, we get new camera hardware – a 50MP f/1.6 Sony LYT-808 (also seen on the Open) primary shooter with a 1/1.4-inch sensor and OIS, and a 64MP periscope style telephoto camera with 3X optical zoom. There’s also a 48MP ultrawide and a 32MP selfie shooter to round out the setup.
The primary sensor does a terrific job on the OnePlus 12, taking images replete with detail, dynamic range and accurate colors, without the oversaturation that plagued OnePlus devices of the past. Low-light scenarios are ably handled as well, with good highlight control and good details levels without aggressive noise control making a mess of the image. The ultrawide camera also holds up well, especially in high contrast scenes, occasionally faltering in low light.
The new telephoto lens does well at 3x optical and 6x in-sensor zoom levels as well, even up to 10x zoom levels. While the zoom prowess of the S24 Ultra still gives it the edge, it’s not that far a lead. Great bokeh on the telephoto as well, for portrait shots. Overall, considerable gains all round, and the camera is no longer the “but…” in the OnePlus discussion.
Except, in a year where AI-assisted photos and video editing is being seen on more and more phones, particularly the ones that OnePlus is going up against, the OnePlus 12 misses the opportunity to get on board the AI train. That’s not a serious ding against OnePlus, as some of these features will mature and trickle down from Google, but in a year when the din around AI is only going to get louder, it’s equal parts puzzling and refreshing to see the brand focus on the basics and make them better.
At its price point, the OnePlus 12 goes up against the base model Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24+, scoring on a better display, better specs, better battery and better cameras – and quite honestly, competes more with the S24 Ultra on most counts than it does with the 24/24+. That itself is a big win for OnePlus. Unless you’re really serious about trying out the arguably cool Galaxy AI features, you’d do well with the OnePlus 12.
It’s more competitive than ever before, and the bumped-up zoom and reintroduction of wireless charging makes the overall package hard to fault and even harder to resist.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, tweets @2shar.