The OnePlus 12 series is one of the first new smartphones of the year, bringing some much-appreciated competition to the likes of Samsung and Google. In our review, the OnePlus 12 received an excellent 9 out of 10, but it’s the OnePlus 12R that deserves more attention.
2024 is the first time OnePlus has brought its R series of affordable flagships to North America and Europe. That is a big deal because the American market is infamous for being uncompetitive and boring, but the OnePlus 12R has the potential to change that. It gets so many things right that it has raised our expectations of what to demand from budget phones.
Back to its roots
A big change from the last few years
OnePlus was founded to compete with legacy smartphone makers while undercutting their prices. The Oppo subsidiary accomplished that for the most part, but its selling price went from around $300 to almost $1000 over time. This led the company to introduce new product lines, such as the R series and the Nord series, in an attempt to address other demographics. However, most of these relatively cheaper OnePlus phones never made their way to North America, leaving the continent in the hands of the Google Pixel A series and Samsung Galaxy A series. (A is the new Lite it seems.) This summer, we expect to see the Google Pixel 8a and the Nothing Phone 2a launch at around the $500 mark, which will definitely make things exciting.
But for now, it’s the OnePlus 12R that might be the most complete offering at this price point. This is a big deal as it raises the budget phone standard in the US and hopefully compels the incumbents to up their game. Either way, the customer wins. Many Asian and European markets have long had great budget smartphones from many smartphone makers. This heterogeneity is what spurs competition, and North America is finally getting a taste of it.
More importantly, for us, the OnePlus 12 phones are a great example of how two devices in a series can be worth their price. We’ve seen far too many examples in the past where the lower model is nerfed or has glaring omissions in a way that makes the higher product seem more complete. But the OnePlus 12 and 12R do enough justice to their respective asking prices.
Just the right compromises
Don't expect top-end specs
For a starting price of $500, the OnePlus 12R is powered by last year’s flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset with 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage. (No slouch at all!) And just for $100 more, you can bump up to the higher-specced variant with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage, making the mix even more powerful.
As for the screen, it has a 6.78-inch “ProXDR” AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate (LPTO 4.0 technology) and a whopping 4500 nits of peak brightness. Flagship-grade, once again. OnePlus was one of the first OEMs to offer fast phone charging, all the way back in 2016 with the OnePlus 3, which was capable of 20W Dash Charge. In almost every successive year, OnePlus has taken the crown for the fastest-charging device, with the OnePlus 10T reaching an incredible 150W.
With the OnePlus 12R, the company has taken a small step, but in the right direction: it supports 80W fast charging, capable of taking the giant 5,500mAh battery from empty to full in just about half an hour. Thirty minutes is still plenty quick, so we’re glad OnePlus opted for a bigger battery instead.
Some other premium features include IP65 water and dust ingress protection, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support, Wi-Fi 7, stereo Dolby Atmos speakers, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and more. These features are often omitted on phones twice the price, which is why we’re so impressed with what OnePlus has been able to pull off with the 12R.
Perhaps the only place where the OnePlus 12R falls behind the competition is in photography. The triple camera array consists of a 50MP f/1.8 primary sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide lens with a 112-degree field-of-view, and a 2MP macro shooter. Photography has usually been OnePlus’ Achilles heel, so if it is the most important aspect for you, you should consider getting a Pixel. (It boasts average hardware but best-in-class photos.)
But if an overall premium experience without swallowing a premium price, as it stands today, the OnePlus 12R is among your top bets. Pre-orders for the phone are now open on Amazon, Best Buy, and the company’s website, with deliveries starting February 13 in the US and Canada. You’ll also get a $30 coupon that can be used against the OnePlus Buds 3.
What we appreciate the most about the OnePlus 12 series is how neither phone steps into the other's territory. If you are willing to pay $300 more for the OnePlus 12, you'll get a faster processor, way better cameras, a more premium design, wireless charging, and a few more upgrades. So, it's well worth the additional money. Needless to say, we're fans of this approach, where customers can decide without worrying too much about the compromises. The OnePlus 12R is all the phone you need for $500.
Having said that, the lack of carrier partnerships in North America will surely hurt OnePlus. These contracts are how other phone companies make up for all price differences by sweetening the deal with other add-ons. Now that OnePlus has its products figured out, we hope it works on telecom partnerships next. It's not like the company has done that in the past, but it's been five years since the T-Mobile collaboration ended. If OnePlus is serious about North America, it needs carriers.