OnePlus 12 review: the coolest phone you can buy, if you dare

The coolest phone leaves AI to the poseurs

OnePlus 12 in Flowy Emerald from the back
(Image: © Philip Berne / Future)

TechRadar Verdict

If you’re considering the OnePlus 12, you should buy it, because OnePlus knows its audience well, and this phone was made for your needs. It’s the coolest-looking phone in a long time, maybe ever, while others are boring metal slabs. You’ll get better battery life, faster charging, and a brighter screen, all on a phone that costs hundreds less than the competition’s Ultra and Pro models. OnePlus makes some sacrifices, but they might not matter to you, and its winning design plus no-nonsense software makes it the coolest smartphone you can buy at any price.

Pros

  • +

    Very cool look and design, especially in emerald green

  • +

    Amazing battery life and stellar performance

  • +

    Unique cameras take terrific portraits and selfies

Cons

  • -

    Only splash-resistant, can’t take a dunk underwater

  • -

    Not as many years of updates as Samsung, Google, or Apple

  • -

    No new AI features or titanium frame to brag on

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OnePlus 12: Two-minute review

The OnePlus 12 is cool, there is no doubt about it. It looks gorgeous, and OnePlus has somehow managed to set itself apart from the slew of slabs that clutter store shelves with one of the sweetest color options I’ve ever seen on a phone, along with a design that is uncompromising and polished. 

Just like the coolest people, the OnePlus 12 is fun and flashy and hides its weaknesses where you can’t see them. It’s the best player in a scoring position, but it can’t play every role on the field. 

The OnePlus 12 tries to play the smartphone game as the so-called ‘flagship killer,’ which is a phone that costs much less than the best Samsung Galaxy or best Apple iPhone, but still gives you the best features of those more popular handsets. 

In many respects, it’s victorious, especially when you compare the OnePlus 12 to competitor phones that actually cost the same. If the OnePlus 12 is almost good enough to take on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, it’s more than enough to challenge the Galaxy S24, which is a bit more expensive. If the Pixel 8 Pro has a tough new competitor, the Pixel 8, at the same price, is no competition at all for the OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 showing TechRadar.com on web browser

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

The OnePlus 12 has amazing performance, good enough to go toe-to-toe with the latest iPhone 15 Pro in games and some productivity tasks. It has cameras that produce excellent images; in some cases these photos are more compelling than the Galaxy S24 Ultra and our other best camera phones. 

In other words, if you go for the OnePlus 12 instead of that other phone you were considering, you won’t feel like you’re missing out. You get top-level performance, amazing photography, and battery life that lasts for days. You also get some cool features you can’t find elsewhere, like super-fast charging, and even an IR blaster that can change the channel on your TV. 

For the price, the OnePlus 12 is a stellar phone that exceeds expectations. If that makes you a little suspicious, you’re right to raise an eyebrow. What’s missing are some of the same aspects OnePlus has omitted before, but now these features may be more important than ever. 

For one thing, the OnePlus 12 isn’t as durable as the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra or the iPhone 15 Pro, not even close. Between the iPhone 15 Pro’s titanium frame and the new Gorilla Armor glass on the Galaxy Ultra, OnePlus won’t stand up to abuse like its rivals.

OnePlus 12 up close showing camera lenses and color

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

What’s worse, OnePlus has once again skipped IP68 certification, which would ensure its phones could be submerged underwater. OnePlus says you can use the phone in the rain, and it even built the screen to account for water droplets. It just didn’t go as far as making the phone truly water resistant, which is a shame considering every iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy S phone can take a dip. It’s hard to recommend any smartphone that doesn’t have this bare minimum level of durability. 

The biggest OnePlus omission compared to its rivals won’t be felt for years, but it may be the most important in the long run. Samsung and Google have promised to support the latest Galaxy S24 and Pixel 8 families, respectively, for seven years of Android OS and security updates. OnePlus has no advertised promise, and in the past, it has delivered three years or less, which is now far behind the best Android phones. 

Then there are more esoteric questions about OnePlus ownership. How will you afford this phone if you can’t pay for it monthly with your carrier contract? OnePlus has great deals and financing, but that may not be enough for some buyers. 

Where will you get it fixed when it breaks? You can call OnePlus, but with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phone, you can just walk into a store and get your phone fixed on the same day. Hopefully, that never matters, but when it happens to you, you’re going to be unhappy. 

I’m happy to root for an underdog, and there’s a lot to love in the new OnePlus 12. If you like these OnePlus priorities, I have no problem recommending this phone to you, but I can’t recommend it to everybody. For that, I’d trade performance for more durability, and maybe get the phone through testing at one US carrier, at least. But OnePlus isn’t trying to go mainstream, and that’s another thing that makes it the coolest smartphone you can buy. 

OnePlus 12 review: Price and availability

  • Costs $799.99 / £849 (around AU$1,215) but nobody will pay that much
  • OnePlus will offer $100 minimum for any trade for the life of the phone
  • Not available with any major carrier for a contract deal

The OnePlus 12 will list for $799.99 / £849 (around AU$1,215), but just like it does for the OnePlus Open (my favorite foldable tablet phone), OnePlus will offer a deal for the life of the OnePlus 12 promising at least $100 for any trade-in of any phone. You can trade a broken rotary phone, they don’t care, they just want to knock $100 or more off the price without advertising it that low. It’s weird but take the discount. 

In other words, the OnePlus 12 is effectively a $699 phone in the US, which puts it in the same price range as the Pixel 8, the Galaxy S24 (with a similar trade-in offer), and $100 less than the base model iPhone 15

Comparing the OnePlus 12 to those phones is almost laughable. The OnePlus 12 has a display that is as large as the Galaxy S24 Ultra, except the OnePlus is more sharp and can reach a brighter peak in outdoor light. It has a larger battery than the expensive iPhone 15 Pro Max, a full 35% larger than the Galaxy S24. 

OnePlus 12 from the side

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

Of course, even those cheaper phones all have IP68 water resistance certification, as well as five years (iPhone 15) or seven years (Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24) of software updates, which could make those devices more valuable in two years when you want to sell them and upgrade. 

Compared to the big, mighty flagship phones, here in the US, the OnePlus 12 is $600 less than the Galaxy S24 Ultra and $500 less than the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Even compared to the top-of-the-line, you still get a bigger, sharper, and brighter display on the OnePlus 12, as well as a larger battery than any competitor. That battery charges much faster, too. 

Is it worth saving money and buying a OnePlus 12 instead? Absolutely, if you promise to be very, very careful with your new phone. There won’t be as many cases available as there are for Galaxy and iPhone, but you might want a case anyway, so you don’t crack that silky, smooth finish. 

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OnePlus 12 prices
StorageUS priceUK priceAU price
256GB$799.99£849Unconfirmed (around AU$1,215)
512GB$899.99£899N/A
  • Value score:  5 / 5

OnePlus 12 review: Specs

OnePlus 12 from bottom showing curves and USB C port

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

The OnePlus 12 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, just like the Samsung Galaxy S24, but it isn’t overclocked like the Samsung “for Galaxy” option. In testing, including benchmark apps, the OnePlus 12 performed very well against the Galaxy phones and the latest iPhone 15 Pro models, even beating the iPhone on some tests. The results were always very close, which means the OnePlus may not be the top-performing phone you can buy, but the differences are more slight than ever before. 

Where the OnePlus wins in specs is in charging and battery size. It packs a 5,400 mAh cell, which is actually two 2,700 mAh cells, thanks to OnePlus / Oppo SuperVOOC charging. That means you can charge at an effective 80W (max in the US), or up to 50W wireless with a AirVOOC charger.

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OnePlus 12 specs
Header Cell - Column 1
Dimensions:164.3 x 75.8 x 9.2 mm
Weight:220g
Screen:6.82-inch OLED; 1,600 nits; 4,500 nit peak brightness
Resolution: 1440 x 3168 pixels
Refresh rate: 120Hz
Chipset:Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3
RAM12GB / 16GB
Storage:256GB / 512GB
OS:Android 14; Oxygen OS 14
Rear Cameras:50MP wide; 48MP ultra wide; 64MP 3X zoom
Front Camera:32MP
Battery:5,400 mAh
Charging:80W wired; 50W wireless
Colors:Flowy Emerald, Silky Black

OnePlus 12 review: Design

OnePlus 12 from 3/4 angle in green

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Unique green color with cool stripes and satin finish
  • Even the black has a unique, sparkly look
  • Seriously, maybe the coolest smartphone design ever

At a time when Apple and Samsung seem to be trying to undo smartphone design, OnePlus boldly embraces curves, swoops, and outstanding color options with the OnePlus 12. My review unit is thankfully the Flowy Emerald color I adored at the preview I saw last year, but even the Silky Black has a unique, glittery finish that makes it sparkle unlike any other staid black option I’ve seen on the market. 

The Galaxy S24 is a slab of a phone, no matter which you choose. The Samsung Galaxy has lost all of its curves and lines. The OnePlus 12, on the other hand, is gently curved on every edge. The lines are inviting, not just unobtrusive. The camera hump flows gracefully into the edge of the phone, and the touches of color and polished glass are playful and clever. 

The OnePlus 12 retains the mute switch, and OnePlus fans would revolt if they lost it. I still find the switch more useful than I find the Action Button on my iPhone 15 Pro Max, but what I really want is a camera shutter button. Especially on a phone with true Hasselblad branding, how about it, OnePlus? Maybe for the lucky number OnePlus 13?

OnePlus 12 logo up close macro shot

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

The OnePlus 12 is a chonky beast and I’m not gonna complain about it. It’s thicker than any current iPhone 15 or Galaxy S24 phone, even the big ones, but it packs a much larger battery inside, and that pays off with longer battery life. I’ve been begging for years for phone makers to just add some thickness so the phone can last longer. OnePlus listened. Thank you! It turns out we were both right, and it’s worth the trade. 

With its larger display, the OnePlus 12 is actually less dense than the competition, so it’s lighter than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which is close in size. It still feels substantial and thick, though the curved edges make it comfortable to hold.

I still can’t forgive the lack of IP68 support, and to put this into proper context, Samsung has made water resistance a standard feature on every Galaxy S phone (but one) since the Galaxy S5, and we’re up to the Galaxy S24 this year. Shipping a phone without IP68 certification is like selling a car without a backup camera. Maybe you can drive safely without that feature but would you want to? Similarly, most people prefer the peace of mind of knowing that if you drop your phone in the toilet, you haven’t ruined your baby.

  • Design score:  4.5 / 5

OnePlus 12 review: Display

OnePlus 12 home screen in emerald green

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Incredibly bright display can reach dangerous levels
  • More sharp than the iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • Bigger than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, but curved so it looks smaller

I’m not sure what OnePlus did to reach peak brightness levels up to 4,500 nits on the OnePlus 12, but maybe it should stop? OnePlus reps told us that levels over 3,000 nits can be harmful to your eyes over a long period, and the OnePlus 12 can’t actually blast you with that much light all at once for a long period. It’s more likely to simply light up small portions of the screen that need the boost. Still, when we cross the threshold for potential eye damage, maybe we’ve gone too far. 

In practice, I couldn’t actually hurt myself with the OnePlus 12, and not for lack of trying. It’s simply been cold and cloudy since I picked up my review unit almost a month ago. Blame Connecticut’s terrible winter weather. In any case, I’ve been very impressed with the speed and responsiveness of the display, especially playing games. This screen is totally lag-free in every way. 

The OnePlus 12 display is apparently fractionally larger than the Galaxy S24 Ultra, and it is technically sharper, but the curve at the edges makes it seem a bit smaller. I prefer the look of the OnePlus 12 curves, but I can’t argue that the amazing new Gorilla Armor glass on the Ultra makes it much better at reflecting glare from my studio lights or bright sun. The OnePlus can push more brightness, but the Ultra doesn’t need to get so bright. It’s a fair trade. 

  • Display score:  5 / 5

OnePlus 12 review: Software

OnePlus 12 showing multi window with maps and TechRadar.com on the browser

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • A light hand with Android, and good organization tools
  • No junky AI features that nobody asked for
  • Oxygen OS is still Android, but not as complex as Samsung’s woeful One UI

OnePlus uses Oxygen OS from parent Oppo with Android 14, and it keeps a light touch with Android, as opposed to Samsung’s Galaxy S24, which is loaded with extra features and apps. The OnePlus 12 is still an Android phone, but it keeps some of the great home screen organization tools that Google abandoned a few years back, so it’s a bit easier to use and organize than even a so-called ‘vanilla’ Android Pixel 8. 

That doesn’t mean the OnePlus 12 doesn’t fall victim to familiar Android traps. There are multiple “Photo” apps on this phone, including the OnePlus photo gallery and Google Photos. It’s confusing, but you don’t get two web browsers or two App Stores. OnePlus has a OnePlus Store, but it only tried to sell me some new earbuds, not the phone I was already holding in my hand (hi, Samsung). 

The big problem with Oxygen OS and OnePlus developing its own system comes down the road when it’s time for an Android update. OnePlus has delivered three years of updates for its best phones, but Samsung and Google are now promising seven years of updates, while Apple has always given its iPhone models five years of new software.

OnePlus 12 settings quick panel

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

I don’t see a specific software promise on the OnePlus online store, but even three years won’t be enough anymore. I doubt OnePlus can sustain its own OS development on older models. That takes serious developer commitment that only the biggest companies like Google, Samsung, and Apple can offer. This will remain an ongoing problem for OnePlus, I believe. 

The OnePlus 12 conspicuously skips new AI features that are plaguing other Android phones. The Galaxy S24 launched with a mixed bag of AI on board, including very useful translation tools and somewhat useless writing style adaptation tools. New AI features for editing images fall in between. On the OnePlus 12, you’ll find none of these, for better and for worse. 

I suspect that Google will bring more AI to Android in general, which will include OnePlus, but it won’t port everything. Samsung got some features that were previously Pixel-exclusive, like Magic Editor in the Samsung Gallery app. The OnePlus 12 did not benefit from Google’s largesse. 

For now, it’s almost a relief that the OnePlus 12 is unburdened with AI features that nobody requested. Apple isn’t stuffing AI into the iPhone 15 yet, so it doesn’t feel like OnePlus is behind. That could change quickly, especially if Samsung makes some quick advances with AI and Bixby and gives its phones an entirely AI interface. 

  • Software score:  3 / 5

OnePlus 12 review: Cameras

OnePlus 12 cameras

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)
  • Quirky camera system takes some practice but delivers results
  • Excellent selfies and solid portraits
  • Unique color tuning works when it works

If you want a camera that creates really cool-looking photos, especially photos of people, the OnePlus 12 was made for you. If you’re looking for extreme accuracy in color and detail, look elsewhere. The partnership between OnePlus and Hasselblad continues into its fourth generation, and once again the cameras produce images that are certainly unique, though perhaps not what most people expect or desire from a smartphone camera.

OnePlus says that Hasselblad has tuned its camera processing (ie. it hasn’t helped create the lenses) to imitate classic Hasselblad portrait lenses. I’ve never shot with a Hasselblad camera, but in my shootout against the best camera phones you can buy, including the latest Galaxy S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the OnePlus held its own, and in selfie photos and portraits, the results were often better from OnePlus.

This is not a versatile camera setup. The zoom lens works great to add bokeh and dramatic blur to portraits, but this phone cannot shoot long distance like the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It also had more trouble focusing close up, which made for macros that looked blurry and some food shots that needed to be retaken. 

If you love street photography or candid snapshots, the OnePlus 12 will be totally satisfying, and it has plenty of shooting modes, Pro settings, and filter options to create great images. This isn’t the top camera on our list, but it deserves respect for a unique look that is often cooler than the laboratory-accurate photos you’ll get from the iPhone and Galaxy. 

OnePlus 12 camera app

(Image credit: Philip Berne / Future)

OnePlus 12 camera samples