OnePlus 12 — 7 reasons to buy and 4 reasons to skip

OnePlus 12 reasons to buy and skip
(Image credit: Future)

You can be forgiven if you feel like the OnePlus 12 has been available for months already. While the phone made its debut in China last year, it wa only this past week that OnePlus held a global launch event for its latest flagship. Even with all that hoopla, the OnePlus 12 doesn't go on sale until February 6.

As drawn out as the OnePlus 12 launch may feel like, it's still worth being excited over this new device, which could be a potential alternative to Samsung's newly announced Galaxy S24. With both the OnePlus 12 and Galaxy S24 sharing the same staring price — at $799, the phones cost as much as Apple's iPhone 15 — people searching for a new phone may find themselves wondering if the OnePlus 12 deserves to be in the same conversation as those other devices.

If you find yourself in that boat, we're here to help. We've already published our OnePlus 12 review and can tell you how that phone compares to what's already available on the smartphone market. More importantly, we can address the reasons why you might want to buy the OnePlus 12 — and why you might want to wait for something else to come along.

Reasons to buy the OnePlus 12

Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 performance

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

As one of the top Android flagships, the OnePlus 12 has access to the best silicon available. In this case, that's the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, and the new OnePlus phone certainly makes the most of the performance and power management improvements to Qualcomm's system on chip.

The OnePlus 12's results in the Geekbench test for general performance didn't match what we saw in our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra tests — likely a result of Samsung using a specially optimized version of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for its phone — but it post comparable numbers on the 3DMark Wild Life Unlimited test for graphics performance. More significantly, the OnePlus 12's 117.2 frames per second result bested what the iPhone 15 Pro (94.3 fps) is capable of.

The OnePlus 12 enjoys one other edge over the Galaxy S24 when it comes to the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset — you know you're getting Qualcomm silicon in OnePlus' device no matter where your are in the world. Outside of North America, if you buy the standard Galaxy S24, you're getting a phone powered by the Exynos 2400 system-on-chip.

An improved telephoto lens

Photo quality is no longer the thing you mutter about under your breath, as it used to be with OnePlus flagships from a few years ago. The OnePlus 12 marks the fourth time that the phone maker has teamed up with lens specialist Hasselblad, and the effort has produced better cameras with each subsequent version of the OnePlus flagship. As of the OnePlus 12, you can now expect photos that stand up well against those produced by the best camera phones.

That's especially true of zoom shots, which benefit from hardware improvements to the OnePlus 12's telephoto camera. While the OnePlus 11 featured a 32 megapixel telephoto lens capable of a 2x zoom, OnePlus has upgraded things on its new phone to include a 64MP sensor that now supports a 3x zoom. Even better, the OnePlus 12 lets you enlarge images with a 6x in-sensor zoom without any downgrade to the pictures details.

Consider the above OnePlus 12 vs. OnePlus 11 image comparison shot with the phones' respective zoom lens. The color looks more balanced in the OnePlus 12 shot, and the wooden textures are better defined.

Wireless charging is back, baby

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

We're still in the process of testing battery life on the OnePlus 12, but considering the phone's hefty 5,400 mAh and the improved power management features of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset, we're imagining that the OnePlus 11's impressive result of 13 hours and 10 minutes on our battery test is likely to be challenged by this new phone.

Still, it's the OnePlus 12's charging capabilities that complete the power management picture for this phone. The OnePlus 12 supports fast-charging, as you'd expect from any OnePlus device — U.S. owners can expect 80W wired charging speeds from the phone. But wireless charging marks its return to the OnePlus flagship after that feature went AWOL from the OnePlus 11. Once again, the battery and charging setup is without compromise on OnePlus' flagship device.

Lots of RAM, lots of storage

While OnePlus pitches itself as a maker of flagship alternatives, it takes great pains to make sure its devices go above and beyond rivals in other areas of the spec sheet. Some companies ship flagship phones with a mere 8GB of RAM — the base model of the OnePlus 12 comes with 12GB, and for an extra $100, you can up that amount to 16GB while also doubling storage.

Speaking of storage, the OnePlus 12 joins the Galaxy S24 Plus, Galaxy S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max in offering 256GB of capacity in its base model. The difference? Those other phones cost at least $200 more than the OnePlus 12 does, with the S24 Ultra starting at a $500 premium to OnePlus' phone. Flagship killer, indeed.

A very bright display

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

We're still running tests on the OnePlus 12 to quantify just how bright and colorful its 6.82-inch OLED panel actually is. And while we'd be shocked if our light meter reading hits the promised 4,500 nits of peak brightness when we max out the brightness slider on the display, we can confirm that the screen is very bright indeed.

Take it directly from my colleague John Velasco who's reviewing the OnePlus 12 and writes that "the ProXDR [display] on the OnePlus 12 dishes up strong brightness in direct sunlight" — so much so that John had not trouble seeing the screen even in bright sunlight. Throw in a fast refreshing display — the OnePlus 12 can ramp up to 120Hz when need be — and it sounds like this phone is an ideal device for mobile gaming.

Infrared blaster at no extra cost

OnePlus 12 IR blaster.

(Image credit: Future)

I am not about to pretend that you are going to rush out and buy a new smartphone solely because it comes with an infrared blaster, even if that's a rare add-on to come across these days. But the OnePlus 12 does come with such a feature — you can the tiny circular cutout embedded in the metal trim near the top edge of the OnePlus 12 — and when you combine it with the superior chipset, improved cameras, beefy battery, fast charging and bright display, the infrared blaster is another mark in the OnePlus 12's favor.

I'll turn things over to John Velasco again since he's so excited about this feature: "The OnePlus 12 could serve double duty as a controller for the many cable boxes in my home. If I do somehow misplace the OnePlus 12 in my home, I could always turn t Android’s Find My Device feature to give it a buzz to track it down. And the best part? I practically never have to replace batteries like I would on a conventional remote." 

Besides TVs, an IR blaster might also be put to use with various other electronic gadgets. In other words, it's a small addition that really expands the OnePlus 12's functionality.

An attractive price

This will require some explanation since, on paper, the OnePlus 12 has gotten a price hike. It costs $100 more than the OnePlus 11, meaning this year's flagship matches the Galaxy S24 and iPhone 15 starting prices. The Pixel 8 actually costs less, though Google's phone lacks the telephoto lens you'll find on the OnePlus 12.

But there's a pretty good promotion at OnePlus that can save you some money on your OnePlus 12 purchase. OnePlus is offering a $100 credit when you trade in any device in any condition, effectively lower the OnePlus 12's cost to the same amount you would have paid for a OnePlus 11 last year. Yes, no price increase at all would have been preferable, but at least there's a way to eliminate that extra $100 from consideration.

Reasons to skip the OnePlus 12

Where are the AI features?

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

In a sense the OnePlus 12 is a victim of bad timing. It arrives with a lot of great hardware improvements as detailed above, but it's hitting the market at the same time as the Galaxy S24, with Samsung emphasizing that phone's plethora of AI-powered features. At launch, the OnePlus 12 lacks anything to answer the Galaxy S24's to translate live phone calls or easily search for anything you've circled on your phone's screen, to name two of the more intriguing Galaxy AI capabilities.

The key phrase there is "at launch," as OnePlus says it's working with Google to bring more AI skills to its phone. Eventually, the OnePlus 12 will add a Magic Compose feature where generative AI can help produce personalized messages on your behalf, in the vein of the Galaxy S24's Chat Assist feature. An AI feature that creates personalized emojis of yourself is in the works, too.

Expect these software updates to come sometime during the first three months of this year. Until then, though, the OnePlus 12 is going to feel behind the Galaxy S24 when it comes to AI.

Samsung and Google offer more software support

Speaking of bad timing, the OnePlus 12 comes with four years of guaranteed software updates plus an extra year of security support. Not long ago, that would have been an outstanding amount of support from an Android phone.

Sadly for OnePlus' sake, the goalposts have moved. With the Galaxy S24 release, Samsung now offers seven years of software and security support for its devices. And that announcement matches a move Google made last fall with the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. OnePlus may have been at the forefront of support at one point, but now it's playing catch-up to others.

Limited water resistance

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.

(Image credit: Future)

OnePlus has a rocky history with water resistance, with past phones providing some protection against water if not an official IP rating — a move likely done to save costs. That really doesn't fly with flagship phones these days, so the OnePlus 12 does have an IP rating, though it's only IP65. 

That means the phone can be sprayed with water without suffering damage, but that it's not fully immersible. Phones that can withstand a dunk in water carry an IP68 rating, and that includes most of the flagships that OnePlus competes with. In this area, the OnePlus 12 comes up short.

The OnePlus 12R may be the better deal

Oneplus 12r hands-on

(Image credit: Future)

Joining the OnePlus 12 at its launch party, is the OnePlus 12R, a cheaper version of the phone with less extensive features. Instead of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, for example, the OnePlus 12R makes do with last year's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset. It also lacks a telephoto lens and wireless charging support.

If you can live without those features, though, the OnePlus 12R sounds like a real bargain. Its main 256GB model costs $599, but U.S. shoppers can find an even cheaper version with 128GB of storage for $499. 

The OnePlus 12R doesn't ship until February 13, and we've only had limited OnePlus 12R hands-on time, so we can't fully say if the trade-offs are worth the lower price. But if you find yourself straining to afford the full $799 price of the OnePlus 12, the phone maker has other options available.

OnePlus 12 outlook

Past OnePlus flagship releases have impressed with their mixture of premium features and relatively low price tags, and the OnePlus 12 continues to deliver this kind of value. If the AI features on board the latest Galaxy S24 flagships haven't turned your head, the comparable performance and improved cameras on the OnePlus 12 are worth checking out.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.