Exclusive: OnePlus 12 software updates — OnePlus' president explains why you get 5 years, not 7

OnePlus 12 held in the hand.
(Image credit: Future)

Though we've now reviewed both the OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 12R (and found them to be really quite good), we still had some questions that our time with the phones themselves couldn't answer. Like why OnePlus doesn't seem interested in offering the same length of software support as some of its biggest rivals, and also how its latest devices were faring as they get closer to going on sale.

Fortunately, in an exclusive interview with Tom's Guide, Kinder Liu, OnePlus' COO and president, was able to shed some light on the OnePlus 12 series, including why you get four to five years of updates, rather than seven.

Liu noted that he's been "thrilled with how our users and the media have responded to the OnePlus 12 series," boasting that OnePlus 12 preorders are 200% higher than what the OnePlus 11 racked up a year ago, and that four times as many people have signed up for OnePlus 12R availability notifications than for the OnePlus 11R.

That four-fold increase for the OnePlus 12R is likely due in no small part to it being sold globally, rather than only in India as previous OnePlus R models have. But the leap in pre-orders for the more familiar OnePlus 12 suggests something has captured the public's attention — perhaps its super-bright display, fast charging or impressive battery life, which are all things we praised in our OnePlus 12 review.

OnePlus 12 IR blaster.

(Image credit: Future)

Or maybe it's all down to the IR blaster — an uncommon feature that we were happy to see appear on the OnePlus 12 thanks to its utility in controlling various household items like TVs and heaters. "The IR blaster is a great example of our focus on what our users tell us," Liu said. "Our users in India love having an IR blaster on their phone so we're pleased to bring it to a wider audience too."

Of Android updates and old sandwiches

Our conversation with Liu quickly moved on to a common talking point in smartphones — software updates. With the OnePlus 12, the phone maker is sticking to four years of Android updates with an additional year of security patches; the OnewPlus 12R, which costs less scales things back to three years of Android updates and four years of security support.

It's more generous that what some Android phone makers offer, particularly when it comes to lower-cost devices like the 12R. But at the same time, Samsung and Google have both extended software support recently, with both promising up to seven years of software backing for new flagships include the Galaxy S24 series and Pixel 8 phones.

Still, this doesn't appear to be something OnePlus seems to want to match, even in the future. "Simply offering longer software update policies completely misses the point," Liu said. "It's not just software update policies that are important to the user, it's the fluency of your phone's user experience too." In other words, extended software support isn't of much value if your phone's hardware can't keep up.

Liu turns to a good metaphor to explain this further. "Imagine your phone is a sandwich," he said. "Some manufacturers are now saying that the filling in their sandwich — their phone's software — will still be good to eat in seven years' time. But what they're not telling you is that the bread in the sandwich — the user experience — might be moldy after four years. Suddenly a seven-year software update policy doesn't matter, because the rest of your experience with the phone is terrible."

OnePlus 12R review

(Image credit: Future)

Liu also pointed to the company's testing with TÜV SUD, which stress tests its phones, including the OnePlus 12 and 12R, in a variety of ways to quickly simulate years of use. It's based on these results that OnePlus says it can guarantee its signature "fast and smooth" performance after four years of use. 

That includes the phone's battery health, something else Liu says is important to consider when looking at software update policies. "When our competitors say their software policy will last seven years, remember that their phone's battery may not," he added.

Liu also cited findings published by Counterpoint Research that claimed Android users tend to upgrade their smartphone within four years of buying it. OnePlus' current offering lines up perfectly with this reported behavior, whereas Samsung and Google seem to be offering another three years of Android updates unnecessarily, at least for the majority of their customers. However, perhaps we'll see this trend change as users learn they can expect longer software support from their Android devices.

The OnePlus 12 is available for pre-orders until February 6, when it goes on open sale. The OnePlus 12R will remain available for pre-ordering until its slightly later February 13 launch date.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.

  • Mobiguy
    admin said:
    With the OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 12R about to go on sale, OnePlus president and COO Kinder Liu explains to Tom's Guide how the phones's pre-orders are faring, as well as why OnePlus stands by its Android update plans.

    Exclusive: OnePlus 12 software updates — OnePlus' president explains why you get 5 years, not 7 : Read more
    Wow, what a left-handed excuse from an officer of the company! I would almost believe this if it was any company other than OnePlus, which focuses on implementing the fastest hardware and protocols available when they release a phone. I still use my OP3t - a seven year old phone - almost daily as a WiFi tablet around the house. The original battery is still at 75% health and gets me through a day and a half of semi-heavy, wifi-only use. The phone is running the Lineage 18 flavor of Android 11, up to date on security patches and a new build available every month. Scrolling is still smooth and the screen performance is great for older graphics-heavy games like Temple Run. I doubt I could run Genshin Impact, but that's why I have a OnePlus 12 now.

    I've used a number of other phones, like the Nexus 5, that have slowed down with later software updates and became more or less unusable after four to five years, but both my 3t and OnePlus 7 Pro are totally usable at seven and five years old. Given that the pace of evolution in smartphones has slowed since the late teens, I would think the 12 series is more likely to deliver solid performance seven years after release.

    As a seven-year user of their products, I'm embarrassed for OnePlus for hiding behind this lame excuse. They should be advertising longevity as proof of the quality of their design.
    Look, I get one one plus is a decent phone, but I'm surprised after all the issues with TikTok and other stuff, no one brings up data privacy, etc with a phone made by a CHINESE COMPANY. 🤦‍♂️