OnePlus is looking to once again redefine what an Android flagship should provide without breaking the bank. The OnePlus 12 is the means to achieve that goal. In numerous ways, this device is a significant upgrade from its predecessor. The most prominent enhancement is the periscope zoom technology, which rectifies a long-standing drawback of OnePlus phones and elevates it to the category of high-end phones that exceed $1,000 in cost.
Another significant aspect of this phone is the striking design. OnePlus recently impressed us with a gorgeous marble-inspired phone and followed it up with a vibrant red leather aesthetic. The striking green color of the OnePlus 12 appears to have drawn its appeal from jade. However, the company claims that the design combination is even more exotic.
“We draw inspiration from the natural textures found in the braided channels of New Zealand’s Dart River,” informs OnePlus President Kinder Liu to Digital Trends. The company is undoubtedly on a run of successful design experiments. Naturally, I inquired about what’s next after experimenting with sandstone, cold metal, rich leather, and metamorphic rocks.
Rock, paper, and fiber. What’s next?
“We are actively experimenting with various materials such as fabric patterns, paper, and stone textures,” Liu tells me. When exactly is that going to happen? We don’t know, but having seen products like those from Kvadrat, I am mighty excited to see some fresh ideas like paper and fabric patterns that will help create a standout smartphone design.
But experimenting with different kinds of designs is just the start, and more ideas end up on the chopping block than we can count. That’s because each new material for the real shell brings its own set of challenges from an engineering perspective.
For example, a metal shell is great to touch, helps with heat dissipation, and assists with underlying antenna chores. However, it also necessitates a sacrifice of wireless charging. The design of glass and metal sandwich, which is trendy these days, comes with its own set of obstacles in successful implementation.
I vividly remember the brouhaha when the OnePlus Open, one of the thinnest foldable phones and one that barely misses a beat, had to forego wireless charging support. With the OnePlus 12, the company is not taking any chances, it seems. The OnePlus executive says it’s just another day for them. But the choice is more intricate than it seems on the surface.
“The decision to include wireless charging is not solely based on the material differences in the back cover. It also involves a careful balance between the weight and thickness of the device,” says Liu. The process of making a phone is a long-drawn-out one. And when you are trying something as unconventional as a marble texture, testing and validation intensify even further.
Think, test, burn, and repeat
“Our typical development cycle spans 18 months, during which we validate new concepts and ideas. However, this cycle can be extended when it involves testing new materials and solutions,” Liu explains. So, did the company achieve what it set out for? On the OnePlus 12, it seems the company had to make ambitious changes to be able to produce that impressive green rear shell.
As mentioned earlier, attaining an efficient heat dissipation output is no small feat. Just ask users of Exynos-powered Samsung and Google Pixel phones. Fortunately, OnePlus didn’t veer from its design goals and made substantial changes internally to achieve the kind of optimal thermal profile one would expect from a performance-first phone.
“[The] OnePlus 12 is equipped with our largest vapor chamber in history,” Liu explains, adding that the company took inspiration from aircraft engineering to design the thermal apparatus inside the OnePlus phone. The company then paired it with “system-level arithmetic scheduling and chip microarchitecture disassembly” to achieve the best interplay between battery efficiency, processor frequency, and application performance.
So, what’s the ultimate play when the team sets its sights on a fresh design? “We aim to innovate in terms of texture, feel, and material functionality, including attributes like stain resistance and heat dissipation,” Liu tells me. But those endeavors don’t always end up with a success story. Some wild ideas end up locked in the realm of concepts and tech showcases.
He cited the example of the active liquid cooling technology that the company showcased for the OnePlus 11 Concept phone. Owing to “various limitations,” it was a massive challenge to push the tech at large-scale production. Ultimately, we never saw the idea make it to a commercially available phone, but the lessons percolated to mainstream phones such as the OnePlus 12 in different ways.
What’s the future for OnePlus?
At this point, I was curious to know whether OnePlus will ever revert to the older times and revive the idea of a metal shell design. That future remains uncertain, Liu remarked. “We remain committed to innovation, adapting to the changing needs and preferences of our users,” he adds. That’s an ambiguous answer, but I think it’s safe to assume OnePlus won’t ship any designs that negatively impact performance or practicality.”
Next, I broached the question of continuing the legacy of a familiar design. Apple has stayed loyal to the same fundamental looks that it began with the iPhone 11 series. Samsung is following in the same footsteps with its Samsung Galaxy S24 line. Similarly, the OnePlus 12 isn’t straying too far from its predecessor’s looks.
Is that a cost-saving measure, or is there any meaningful reason