The fight to be crowned the best Android phone on the market is always fiercely competitive. Each year, a wealth of brands bring their best technology to market, with a view to tempt you away from your hard earned cash.
Even this early into the new year, we're already seeing evidence of that. The Samsung Galaxy S24 range was launched last week, marking the first major release in the segment. Now, we have the OnePlus 12, and this looks set to be taking the fight straight to the Korean brand.
But does it have what it takes to be crowned the Android king? Let's dive in and take a closer look.
OnePlus 12 review: Price and Release Date
The OnePlus 12 was officially released on the 23rd of January 2024. The handset is available with 256GB or 512GB of storage as standard. The smaller version will cost £849 / $799, while the top spec model costs £999 / $899.
OnePlus 12 review: Features and What's New
This is an anniversary year for OnePlus, so we were expecting some big things. On the face of it, they've really delivered, too.
Inside, you'll find the same Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset as many of the other top picks for this year. However, the brand have also given that a boost with something called the Trinity Engine. That is a multi-faceted approach which looks to get the most horsepower out of the hardware on offer.
The camera is also given a makeover. Here, a 50MP main sensor is paired with a 64MP telephoto and a 48MP ultra-wide. The camera is also given a lick of Hasselblad magic once more, though we'll dive into more details on that later.
Inside, you'll find a 5,400mAh battery. That's a really decent size, and should be more than enough for all day use. If you pair it with the 100W SUPERVOOC (wired) and 50W AIRVOOC (wireless) charging, it should be one of the most capable units on the market.
One more headline feature to speak of here is the display. On the face of it, you might think it's nothing too impressive – a 2k AMOLED panel with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. But dig deeper and you'll find a whopping 4,500 nits of peak brightness. That's second sun levels of light, and should make colours vivid and bright.
OnePlus 12 review: Design
If you're familiar with devices like the OnePlus 11, this probably isn't going to be anything too alarming. The overall aesthetic remains fairly consistent, albeit with slightly more curvature on the edges.
The camera bump on the back is really good looking, too. With a design based on a luxury watch, the large circular notch is really classy.
What's most enjoyable here, though, is the Flowy Emerald finish. Inspired by the Dart River in the Southern Alps, this finish is absolutely sublime, and really does make an impact when you see it. Photos don't do it justice.
Fair warning though – the sleek design has a drawback. This is quite possibly the most slippery phone I've ever laid my hands on. I've never been quite so cautious using a device, fearing that every time I whip it from my pocket it launches like a tech-filled discus and takes out half of the local seagull population. You'll want a good case.
OnePlus 12 review: Performance
Let's move on to how it handles. That's a complex topic with this device, as there is a whole heap to unpack.
Let me start with what I can't tell you – longevity. The Trinity Engine design should ensure this handset remains usable for a long time after purchase, thanks to a range of performance and efficiency enhancements. Now obviously, in the handful of weeks I've had with this handset, I haven't been able to test that out.
What I can tell you is that on a day-to-day basis, this thing is monstrously powerful. Simple tasks like browsing the web are almost insignificant here, while gaming is a breeze. This isn't a gaming phone, but it certainly felt like one when I was using it.
Then there's the battery life. After a full day of scrolling through social media, browsing the web and even a little gaming, I still had around 35% left at the end of the day. That's really great longevity, and makes it more than capable of use without fear of a dead battery.
It's worth noting that I arrived at that figure having tested things like the brightness quite intensively, too. I probably had a brighter screen than a normal user would, which may have impacted the battery a little more than normal.
OnePlus 12 review: Camera
When we talk about any OnePlus handset these days, we have to pay special mind to the camera. The brand have been working in conjunction with Hasselblad for a long time, which lends a real air of professionalism to images shot on their handsets.
Here, a strong triple camera setup ensures the full range of shots can be captured. Of particular focus is the telephoto lens. That offers 3x optical zoom, with up to 6x offered in-sensor. Beyond that, the camera can zoom up to 120x with digital zoom. That's absolutely ridiculous, frankly.
You'll find a gallery of images above, which should give you an idea of what's on offer. There are a few main things I've found, though, which I'll highlight here.
Firstly, the camera is strong, overall. When you get it right, with this camera, you get it really right. Results are strong and defined with a really true colour profile. With that being said, there's a little bit of a lack of vibrancy here, which seems to desaturate really bright colours.
One thing that does irk me is the distinct difference between sensors. It's not just the slight perspective change – that's wholly unavoidable – but there are also differences in colour palette of each sensor. It just makes the camera feel a little disjointed at times.
What I will say, though, is that this camera is fantastically fun to use. There's a recreation of the Hasselblad X-Pan, which is really fun to use. Is it a necessity? No. But that's not the point here. It's fun and will appeal to camera fans.
OnePlus 12 review: Verdict
As it really is for every generation of the OnePlus range, the big question is this – can it beat the best Samsung phone of the moment? For right now, that's the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, and it's a tough ask.
If you're on a tighter budget, the OnePlus is a no brainer. It's about 1/3 of the price, and offers a really substantial amount of tech for the price. Overall, it probably comes down to which model you prefer of the two – the sleek, unassuming powerhouse of the OnePlus, or the tried and true behemoth Samsung.
One thing is for certain – if you want a new Android phone, you could do a lot worse than the OnePlus 12.
OnePlus 12 review: Alternatives
The main competitor to the OnePlus 12 is the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. That's a monster handset, and should be more than enough phone for most people.
If the OnePlus is still a little too pricey, I'd recommend taking a look at the Nothing Phone (2). That's another very fashionable handset, with great specs for an even more unbelievable price.