Published On: Thu, Feb 1st, 2024

OnePlus 12 review: Simply great


The OnePlus 12 in green

The OnePlus 12 is a high-end but refreshingly simple phone that nails every basic (Image: OnePlus)

The OnePlus 12 barely puts a foot wrong with top specs, great battery life, fast charging, a solid camera, and standout design

What we love

  • Slim premium design
  • Strong main camera
  • Very good performance
  • Incredible fast charging
  • Five years of software support

What we don’t

  • Telephoto camera isn’t great
  • Not fully waterproof

The OnePlus 12 is a very good Android phone for hundreds less than the best Samsung has to offer. It has an unusual eye-catching design, top performance, great battery life and incredibly fast charging, plus cameras that go toe-to-toe with the best phone cameras on the market.

Though OnePlus no longer sells its premium phones for truly bargain basement prices, the £849 OnePlus 12 has most of the power and features you’ll find on the £1,249 Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, except for that phone’s stylus and AI features.

Where Google and Samsung have gone all in on artificial intelligence in their latest smartphones, the OnePlus 12 has precisely zero AI features – but that makes it a refreshingly simple phone that does the basics incredibly well while noticeably improving the design and performance of previous OnePlus devices. There’s very little wrong with the OnePlus and it’s one of the best phones you can buy.

OnePlus 12 review

OnePlus made a name for itself by releasing Android phones with top specs for hundreds less than the competition. The OnePlus 12 isn’t a total steal at £849, but it does come in at £400 less than the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which shows you just how expensive phones have got in 2024.

If you want a more pocketable premium phone than Samsung’s latest then the OnePlus 12 is a superb choice. It offers excellent performance for even the most demanding of Android phone users with the latest chipset, incredibly good screen, top build quality, and the best cameras yet on a OnePlus phone.

If you want AI features you’ll need to look elsewhere – but let’s be honest, who actually wants AI on their phone at this stage? We certainly didn’t miss it while using the OnePlus 12, instead enjoying a phone that looks great and has incredible fast charging. It’s a breath of fresh air, a pleasingly simple but high-end option.

Design

  • Camera-inspired circular design
  • Lovely marbled green version
  • Only IP65 rated

We tested the OnePlus 12 in a matt glass-backed green version, which has a marbled effect. It’s pretty unique, and we like the look, though there’s a plain black version if you’d prefer to fly under the radar. On either version it’s hard to miss the giant circular camera module on the back though, which holds four camera lenses and a flash. The whole thing curves into the aluminium side rails, topping off a very premium build. It even has a slight sparkle to the camera section, which looks classier in person than that sounds.

You get a three-position switch on the left called an alert slider, which lets you flick between ring, vibrate, and silent – it’s very handy and a genuine reason to pick this phone over others. OnePlus is the only phone on the market with such a switch except the iPhone.

The OnePlus 12 in black

The OnePlus 12 in black (Image: OnePlus)

It’s also just very comfortable to hold thanks to slight curves on the rear glass and the display. Recently, many phone makers have opted for flat sides and flat screens, but the OnePlus 12 is unashamedly curvy, and feels good to hold because of it. It also makes the phone feel thinner and narrower than it actually is, a neat trick.

Also adding to the premium feel are the excellent haptics and vibrations. They pip and buzz very nicely when typing rather loudly ping or rattle the phone like you find on cheaper devices.

… the OnePlus 12 is unashamedly curvy, and feels good to hold because of it

It’s worth noting this phone also has an IR blaster on the top – an infra-red remote that lets you control things such as stereos and TVs after a quick set up with the IR app. It works well, and will help you turn up the volume if you misplace your actual remote. We don’t necessarily condone doing this when you can’t hear the football in the pub, but it’ll probably work.

A downside is the phone is only IP65 rated, which means it’s fine for dust resistance but isn’t safe from being fully submerged in water. OnePlus has no excuse not to make its near-£1,000 phone IP68 rated to give you peace of mind at this price.

Display

  • Curved edges
  • Bright and very readable
  • In-screen fingerprint sensor

The OnePlus 12 has a truly excellent curved 6.82-inch OLED screen that can get very bright and is easy to read even in direct sunlight – not something you can say of many phones. OnePlus even claims the screen can get up to a huge 4,500 nits of brightness. The display has a dynamic refresh rate of up to 120Hz, which means things look smooth when scrolling text or gaming, but can ramp right down to just 1Hz to save battery when that high performance isn’t needed.

We found the screen nicely responsive when texting and, importantly for some, gaming – it’s lightning fast during games such as Call of Duty, and the display can even upscale any game to the smoothest 120Hz possible. It didn’t work for every game in our testing, but this is certainly a very capable gaming phone.

The OnePlus 12's display

The OnePlus 12’s display is bright and vibrant (Image: OnePlus)

The use of Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 also means this is a decently scratch and drop resistant display, but of course if you don’t use a case then you’re always at risk of smashing your phone screen. The OnePlus 12 has a plastic screen protector applied out of the box but it feels a bit cheap and isn’t as protective as a glass one.

The screen has curved edges at both sides, which is common for Android phones in recent years but is different to the flat edges of the iPhone 15 and Samsung Galaxy S24 series. We don’t really have a preference, but the OnePlus 12 feels nicely slim and thin despite its size because of its curves, so it’s a win in our eyes. The in-screen fingerprint sensor is also very speedy and works well.

Cameras

  • Very good main lens
  • 3x telephoto isn’t as good
  • Ultra-wide and selfie cameras are solid

The cameras on the OnePlus 12 look identical on paper to those on the OnePlus Open foldable we reviewed recently – and that is a very good thing because they were excellent on that phone. Shooting a number of scenes in sunlight and at night, the OnePlus 12 takes mostly colour accurate, sharp images with good high dynamic range that shows a lot of detail.

Occasionally in lower light we found skin tones and other colours were a bit washed out, but for the most part the main camera will be more than enough for most people. OnePlus’s clever ProXDR tech boosts the look of images but only on the display itself, so your snaps might not look quite as vibrant when you send them to others or post them on social media.

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

The 3x telephoto camera can capture a lot of detail as it’s 64MP, but it isn’t as consistent as the main sensor and colours can be a little over-saturated. It’s better for portrait shots to create a fake blur effect as opposed to zooming in on landscapes or other scenes, and any cropped zoom beyond 3x isn’t as good as what you’ll find on phones with better zoom lenses.

… the OnePlus 12 takes mostly colour accurate, sharp images with good high dynamic range that shows a lot of detail

The ultra-wide is serviceable, but it’s never the best lens on any phone, to be honest. The OnePlus 12 is all about how good the main camera is, and that’s fine. We still trust the Galaxy S24 Ultra or Google Pixel 8 Pro in most cases, but overall the OnePlus 12 is up there with those phones for its main camera quality.

OnePlus also includes a Hasselblad-inspired ‘X-Pan’ mode that shoots wide landscape shots in either 17mm or 25mm. We clicked them into monochrome mode and got some great, sharp shots with a vintage and unique feel to them that you can only get from this phone. It’s better than we expected, and not gimmicky.

OnePlus 12 camera sample

OnePlus 12 camera sample (Image: EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS)

Performance and battery life

  • Incredibly fast
  • Latest Snapdragon processor
  • All-day battery with fast charging

The OnePlus 12 runs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, which is incredibly powerful in all scenarios. It means you can play high-end mobile games such as Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact with absolutely no issues, and the phone only gets a tad warm.

All other tasks are a doddle thanks to the 16GB RAM in our review sample that also had a generous 512GB storage. The entry level model we didn’t test has 12GB and 256GB respectively, which should still be enough power and space for your needs over a few years.

Someone playing a game on the OnePlus 12

Gaming performance on the OnePlus 12 is near flawless (Image: OnePlus)

All other tasks are a doddle thanks to the 16GB RAM in our review sample that also had a generous 512GB storage. The entry level model we didn’t test has 12GB and 256GB respectively, which should still be enough power and space for your needs over a few years.

Battery life is excellent thanks to a very large 5,400mAh battery somehow stuffed into the phone. It easily lasts a day and will probably do two if you aren’t the heaviest user. Better still, the phone charged from dead to full in 27 minutes in our testing using the fast charger that comes in the box (unlike Apple and Samsung phones these days).

The OnePlus 12 runs the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, which is incredibly powerful

That’s thanks to the very fast 100W speeds the charger manages. It charged 42% in ten minutes, meaning you can plug this phone in right before you leave the house if you’re running low and you’ll still have enough charge for most of the day. It changes how you charge your phone and think about power management compared to other phones – all phones should use this technology.

Not only that, but the phone also supports 50W wireless charging. You’ll have to buy the optional wireless charger for £70 but those speeds wirelessly are faster than the wired 45W speeds of the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

And oh, the OnePlus 12 can make calls, too! Things sounded loud and clear, and the selfie camera is centrally placed for video calls.

Software

  • Android 14 at launch
  • Thoughtful software perks
  • Four years of Android updates

Much has been made of OnePlus and its OxygenOS software changing over time – it now is practically the same as Oppo’s ColorOS. This is no bad thing, because the software on the OnePlus 12 runs beautifully, and simply looks a little different to Samsung or Google’s versions of Android. In most cases, OxygenOS feels faster.

We enjoyed the little touches OnePlus adds in that make the software experience that much more delightful. Like Google’s Android, this is a slightly whimsical and fun version, which is in stark contrast to the very serious and business-like Samsung One UI Android skin, or Apple’s on-rails iOS for the iPhone.

OnePlus's OxygenOS software

OnePlus’s OxygenOS software (Image: OnePlus)

You can change the always-on display to display the time in writing: “It’s Nine Forty Two”. There are tons of fun wallpapers pre-installed. You can change the icon shapes and sizes without installing icon packs and colour theme them, you can change font, colour theme the system, stick widgets anywhere, turn on the flashlight with a gesture on the lock screen, double tap to lock the screen – this phone is a tinkerer’s dream, and is all the better for it.

There’s a clever Zen Space app where you can lock yourself out of distracting apps to get work done – either a ‘light’ mode that you can exit, or a hardcore Deep Zen mode that you can’t exit and blocks all apps and notifications (you can answer calls, though).

OnePlus says the OnePlus 12 will get four years of Android updates and five years of bi-mopnthly security updates, taking support to 2029. That’s pretty good, but now lags behind the seven years Google and Samsung offer. At this stage though, your phone probably won’t last seven years, even though that’s where the industry should be encouraged to head.

We enjoyed the little touches OnePlus adds in that make the software experience that much more delightful

We only mention that there are no AI features on this phone because there are suddenly so many on the Google Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24. If you want to record a meeting, the OnePlus 12 can’t then transcribe it for you or summarise it in bullet points. Nor can the OnePlus change the tone of your text messages, translate a live phone call, or use AI to move objects around a photo.

We feel these are not necessary or essential things anyone needs on a phone, and it’s possible the OnePlus 12 will gain some over time. Right now, the absence of AI isn’t a big deal.

Price and availability

The OnePlus 12 is only available direct from OnePlus in the UK. It costs £849 for the black version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, or £999 for the green version with 16GB RAM and 512GB storage.

£849 is a whole £400 cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra – that phone’s S Pen stylus, AI features, and extra camera aren’t worth that extra spend for most people.

Conversely, you might want to spend £449 on the Google Pixel 7a, and might not consider the OnePlus 12’s extra camera, better display, and faster charging worth that extra £400.

Verdict

The OnePlus 12 is a very good premium Android phone that’s worth its relatively high price. It has excellent performance in speed, camera, and software, and will get five years of software support. It’s a slim, slender phone that fits in a pocket easier than the top of the line Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max, but crams in most of the same features for less money.

Photos are mostly superb, with some quirks in saturation and inaccurate colours in some lighting that only the pickiest pixel peepers will notice.

If you’re OK with a curved display and don’t mind the eye-catching design, the OnePlus 12 is a top pick for a high-end Android phone in 2024.



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