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HomeTechnologyThe OnePlus 12R is the $500 Flagship Killer we've been waiting for

The OnePlus 12R is the $500 Flagship Killer we’ve been waiting for

The OnePlus 12 series is one of the first new smartphones of the year, presenting much-appreciated competition to companies like 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 brings its R series of affordable flagships to North America and Europe. That’s a big deal because the US market is famous for being uncompetitive and boring, but the OnePlus 12R has the potential to change that. It does so many things right that it has raised our expectations about what to demand from budget phones.

Back to its roots

A big change from recent years.

OnePlus was founded to compete with traditional smartphone manufacturers while undercutting their prices. The Oppo subsidiary managed that for the most part, but its asking price went from around $300 to almost $1,000 over time. This led the company to introduce new product lines, such as the R series and Nord series, in an attempt to address other demographic groups. However, most of these relatively cheaper OnePlus phones never made it to North America, leaving the continent in the hands of the Google Pixel A and Samsung Galaxy A series. (A is the new Lite, it seems.) This summer, we expect to see the Google Pixel 8a and Nothing Phone 2a launch for around $500, which will definitely make things exciting.

But for now, the OnePlus 12R might be the most complete offering at this price. This is a big deal as it raises the bar for budget phones in the US and hopefully forces incumbents to up their game. Either way, the customer wins. Many Asian and European markets have long had budget smartphones from many smartphone manufacturers. 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 too many examples in the past where the inferior model is weakened or has glaring omissions in a way that makes the superior product seem more complete. But OnePlus 12 and 12R do enough justice to their respective asking prices.

The right commitments

Don’t expect high-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. (Not at all left behind!) And for just $100 more, you can upgrade to the higher-spec variant with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage, making the combination even more powerful.

As for the display, it has a 6.78-inch “ProXDR” AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate (LPTO 4.0 technology) and a whopping 4,500 nits of peak brightness. Flagship quality, once again. OnePlus was one of the first OEMs to offer fast phone charging, back in 2016 with the OnePlus 3, which was capable of 20W Dash charging. Almost every year since, OnePlus has taken the crown of 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 half an hour. Thirty minutes is still pretty quick, so we’re glad OnePlus opted for a larger battery.

Some other premium features include IP65 protection against water and dust ingress, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support, Wi-Fi 7, Dolby Atmos stereo speakers, Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and more. These features are often omitted on phones that cost twice as much, which is why we’re so impressed with what OnePlus has been able to achieve 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-angle lens with a 112-degree field of view, and a 2MP macro shooter. Photography tends to be OnePlus’ Achilles heel, so if it’s the most important aspect to you, you should consider getting a Pixel. (Features average hardware but best-in-class photography.)

The OnePlus 12R next to the OnePlus 11

But if it’s an overall premium experience without having to pay a premium price, as it stands today, the OnePlus 12R is among your best bets. Pre-orders for the phone are now open on Amazon, Best Buy, and the company’s website, and deliveries will begin on February 13 in the US and Canada. You’ll also receive a $30 coupon that you can use with the OnePlus Buds 3.

What we appreciate most about the OnePlus 12 series is how neither phone steps into the other’s territory. If you’re willing to pay $300 more for the OnePlus 12, you’ll get a faster processor, much better cameras, a more premium design, wireless charging, and a few more upgrades. Therefore, it is worth the extra money. Needless to say, we are fans of this approach, where customers can decide without worrying too much about commitments. The OnePlus 12R is all the phone you need for $500.

That said, the lack of carrier partnerships in North America will surely hurt OnePlus. These contracts are how other phone companies make up for all the 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. Not that the company has done that in the past, but it has been five years since the collaboration with T-Mobile ended. If OnePlus is serious about North America, it needs carriers.

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