OnePlus 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Which flagship will win?

OnePlus 12 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
(Image credit: Future)

Even as the year is winding down, there still could be a major shakeup in determining the best phones of 2023. While the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has long held the top spot for most of the year until it was topped by the iPhone 15 Pro Max, the newcomer in the OnePlus 12 could very well make for a year end surprise.

We’ve spent a great deal of intimate time using Samsung’s flagship, which we still herald as the best camera phone around because of its versatile quadruple camera system — complete with a 10x zoom camera, 8K video capture, and the best camera interface with its manual controls. It’s a tall order to beat because it’s a powerhouse in almost every category.

On the flip side, the OnePlus 12’s just released status gives it an advantage because in some aspects it’s rocking newer hardware. The company’s past flagships were good, but never great enough to earn the top spot. That could change this time. 

In this OnePlus 12 vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra face-off, we’ll look at what we know about the OnePlus right now and see how it compares against what we’ve found using the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra green in hand with other colors in background: Black, Cream and Lavender

(Image credit: Future)

Somehow, OnePlus managed to sneak in just one last device release before the year’s over. But while the OnePlus 12 is technically official, it’s only available in China at the moment. Luckily we won't have to wait long because the OnePlus Smooth Beyond Belief Launch Event is officially scheduled for January 23, 2024. The company also intends to use the event to introduce the OnePlus 12R, which is speculated as being the "entry level flagship" that's presumably going to fall in between the flagship OnePlus 12 and its Nord series phones.

As for pricing? We only know its pricing in China, 4299 yuan, which calculates to about $601. We don’t think it would be lower for the global version, but we certainly suspect it’s still going to be a lot cheaper than most flagships.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has been available since February 2023 with the starting price of $1,199. There’s no denying its expensive cost, but sales since its release have discounted it down to just about free if you look around really hard at the best phone deals happening right now. Three storage options are available (256GB, 512GB, and 1TB), along with seven colors to choose from.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Specifications

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Launch dateOnePlus 12Galaxy S23 Ultra
Display6.82-inch 2K OLED6.8-inch QHD AMOLED
Refresh rate120Hz adaptive1 - 120Hz adaptive
Rear cameras50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 64MP 3x telephoto200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 10MP 10x telephoto
Front camera32MP selfie12MP selfie
ChipsetSnapdragon 8 Gen 3Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
Storage256GB/512GB/1TB256GB, 512GB, 1TB
Battery5,400 mAh5,000 mAh
Charging100W wired, 50W wireless45W wired, 10W wireless
ColorsGreen, white, blackPhantom Black, Cotton Flower, Botanic Green and Mystic Lilac
Water/dust resistanceIP65IP68

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Design

OnePlus 12 renders

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Photos of the OnePlus 12 make it look amazing. Between the two, there’s a strong stylish look with the OnePlus 12’s design thanks in part to its patterned glass back — which will be available in black, white, or green. The way its metal trim bezel wraps around the sides of the phone and surrounds the camera on the back makes it look slick, while its rounded edges would seem to make it feel a bit more comfortable to hold. And depending on your fashion sense, the circular hump of the camera could be seen as a distracting or attractive quality.

By comparison, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s design looks tame. You could argue that the design’s a bit subdued, but at least it still feels well built with its aluminum frame and glass surfaces. It feels very dense at 8.2 ounces, making it rather unwieldy to use properly with one hand. Despite this, the design’s held up nicely and it barely shows much wear and tear since our first time using it back in February.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Display

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra display showing Mandalorian season 3 trailer

(Image credit: Future)

Being the newer phone, this is a good chance for the OnePlus 12 to prove its might over Samsung’s flagship. That’s because it’s packing a 6.82-inch 2K OLED display, which the company claims could reach up to 1,600 nits.

If that claim turns out to be true in our benchmark testing, then it would easily eclipse the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s peak brightness of 1,225 nits. We found it visible under direct light, but we really love how its AMOLED panel delivers wide viewing angles and colors that pop. We’ve seen how its 120Hz adaptive display refresh rate makes videos run smoother, so we’re hoping the experience is no different for the OnePlus 12.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Cameras

OnePlus 12 renders

(Image credit: OnePlus)

If you read through our OnePlus 11 review, you’ll find out that despite its formidable triple cameras, it failed to match the low light results of some of its contemporaries. We’re crossing our fingers that’s going to change with the OnePlus 12, especially considering how we saw improvements with the OnePlus Open.

The OnePlus 12 is armed with a 4th generation Hasselblad Camera system that consists of a 50MP main camera, 48MP ultrawide camera, and 64MP 3x telephoto camera. We’re eager to see the performance of the latter because it’s a periscope camera, and if it happen to employ the same image processing as the OnePlus Open’s telephoto camera, it could very well match and possibly surpass the long telephoto zoom camera of the Galaxy S23 Ultra.

Speaking of Samsung’s flagship phone, it’s our top pick for the best camera phones because of its excellent utility and performance. The quadruple camera system breaks down to a 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, and 10MP 10x telephoto. It’s one of the few phones on the market that can also shoot 8K videos, making it a favorite among content creators and videographers. Best of all, we’ve seen it countless times beating many other top-rated camera phones — like the Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

We haven’t had the chance to see what the OnePlus 12 can actually produce with its cameras, but it can’t afford to come up short against the Galaxy S23 Ultra in critical areas such as low light and telephoto performance.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Performance

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra playing racing game

(Image credit: Future)

There’s a very good chance that the OnePlus 12 could set new records in performance benchmarks because it’s packing Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip. With this under the hood, it’s a sure bet it’s going to outperform the Galaxy S23 Ultra  and its “last-gen” Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. In any event, we want to see for ourselves how much wider the gap could be between them.

With nearly 10 months under its belt, we still find the Galaxy S23 Ultra incredibly responsive when it comes to everyday tasks such as surfing the web, sending emails, and watching the occasional YouTube video. Over in the gaming department, we’re still astounded that it still puts up smooth frame rates with graphically intensive games.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Battery life and charging

OnePlus 12 renders

(Image credit: OnePlus)

One area where we’ve frequently found OnePlus phones to excel in is battery life — and we hope it’s no different with the OnePlus 12. Combining its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 paired with a 5,400 mAh battery could yield better battery efficiency than any Android phone in existence. Last year’s OnePlus 11 churned out a time of 13 hours and 10 minutes in Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark test, so we could potentially get a substantial improvement with the OnePlus 12. That bodes well for the upcoming flagship because the Galaxy S23 Ultra turned in a time of 13 hours and 9 minutes running the same exact test.

We’re also stoked for the recharging capabilities of the OnePlus 12 because it’s packing 100W wired charging and 50W wireless charging — which are vastly better than the 45W wired charging and 10W wireless charging speeds of the S23 Ultra.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Software

Tom's Guide Awards 2023 winner:

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We’ll need to wait for the global announcement of the OnePlus 12 to find out exactly what’s in store with the latest version of OxygenOS. Given how AI features are becoming a focal area for many phone makers, we’re hoping that it will have its own set to better future proof itself — especially when newer phones, like the forthcoming Galaxy S24 Ultra, are expected to be rich with AI-assisted features.

That’s because we’ve found the Galaxy S23 Ultra to be an absolute productivity workhorse with Samsung’s One UI interface. Add in the inclusion of the S Pen, the desktop-like experience of Samsung DeX, and its multitasking features, the Galaxy S23 Ultra has everything that the average person needs in a phone.

OnePlus 12 vs Galaxy S23 Ultra: Outlook

OnePlus 12 renders

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Making a call on the verdict is tough until we’re able to properly put the OnePlus 12 through our own testing. It shouldn’t be long before we’re able to do that, but the phone’s already proving to be a formidable rival just by specs alone. From its speedy recharging speeds, to the muscle power of its Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, it all points to the inevitable that the OnePlus 12 could be the phone to finally beat the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra as the best Android phone around.

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John Velasco
Senior Channel Editor for Phones

John’s a senior editor covering phones for Tom’s Guide. He’s no stranger in this area having covered mobile phones and gadgets since 2008 when he started his career. On top of his editor duties, he’s a seasoned videographer being in front and behind the camera producing YouTube videos. Previously, he held editor roles with PhoneArena, Android Authority, Digital Trends, and SPY. Outside of tech, he enjoys producing mini documentaries and fun social clips for small businesses, enjoying the beach life at the Jersey Shore, and recently becoming a first time homeowner.