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OnePlus 11 review: Sleek, shiny, and not especially innovative

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As an iOS lifer, I’m occasionally jealous of how many genuinely good phones Android enthusiasts get to choose from each year. The same holds true for the OnePlus 11.

The latest flagship smartphone out of the Chinese tech giant is an exercise in minor iteration. There aren’t many eye-popping new software features to play with or a radical redesign that will make you rethink smartphones generally. Instead, it brings perhaps the coolest-looking camera in the biz, excellent performance thanks to a brand new chipset, and an all-around premium feel for a somewhat less-than-premium price.

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The OnePlus 11 is a generally good smartphone that you don’t need to break the bank to get, as it starts at just $700. It won’t change the world, but it doesn’t need to.

The fanciest camera bump around

OnePlus 11 camera bump

Look at that!
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

Just like last year’s OnePlus 10 Pro, the OnePlus 11 is a big phone with a big battery and impressive-looking specs on paper. It’s also available in black or green. Here’s how the most important specs shake out:

  • 6.7-inch display with 120Hz variable refresh rate and 3216×1440 resolution

  • 8 or 16GB RAM

  • 128 or 256GB storage

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset

  • 5,000mAh battery

  • 50MP main camera lens with a 48MP ultrawide lens and a 32MP portrait lens

  • 16MP selfie camera

Right off the bat, the phone’s physical traits are both scintillating and frustrating. OnePlus 11 is a really cool-looking phone, one that would certainly catch the eye of someone sitting across from you on public transit. Its distinctive circular camera bump (complete with the logo for Swedish camera brand Hasselblad) just looks sophisticated compared to other smartphones. It’s handsome, not just utilitarian.

Unfortunately, the phone’s backside doesn’t just offer a swanky looking camera. OnePlus’s back glass is simply too slippery, whether the phone is in the hand or laying on a flat surface. I have a tendency to lay my phone flat on a pillow next to me while I sleep sometimes, and that’s a bad idea with the OnePlus 11 because it’ll inevitably slip off and wind up lost in your bed somewhere. 

OnePlus 11 power button

The power button is still on the wrong side, if you ask me.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

That’s just one minor example, but in general, I didn’t find the OnePlus 11 as comfortable to hold as I would like. It’s a little too big for long-term one-handed use, and OnePlus didn’t fix the problem I had last year where the volume rocker and power button are on opposite sides of the phone. That’s OK with something small like an iPhone SE, but here, it just means having to pull up another hand to adjust volume.

Other odds and ends include an in-display fingerprint sensor that never wavered for me, and a similarly effective face unlocking mechanism. Aside from the relatively minor problems addressed above, the OnePlus 11 is an impressive device on the surface. It stays fairly impressive when you dig deeper, too.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Fast, 2 Furious

One of the big selling points for the OnePlus 11 is the inclusion of the state-of-the-art Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip powering the phone. It’s somewhat of a rarity in phones right now (Samsung’s slightly more expensive Galaxy S23 also has it), so any opportunity to see how it works should be cherished. 

The verdict? It’s fine! OnePlus claims the new chip provides speed boosts of 25 and 35 percent to to the GPU and CPU, respectively, but the proof is more in how the phone feels to use as an everyday device. When I tested it using my usual diet of copious amounts of social media, Spotify and YouTube streaming, and general messing around online, I didn’t detect any performance hiccups that were worth noting. 

It’s a smooth, speedy experience, helped by the 120Hz display. I do feel that there are diminishing returns with each new generation of chips, as I didn’t have any performance problems with last year’s phone, either. That said, it is cool to be able to have a bunch of apps open at once (on the 16GB RAM model) without feeling any pressure to close them.

OnePlus 11 top of the phone with screen turned on

This is a pretty spectacular display with performance to back it up.
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

OnePlus 11 runs on OxygenOS 13, a slightly altered version of Android 13. That means it comes pre-loaded with a folder full of OnePlus bloatware, like a proprietary Notes app. That stuff is easy enough to ignore, but some of the other unique software features are worth looking at, for better and worse. 

For example, you can multi-task apps by stacking one on top of another vertically. Doing so is easy; simply open up the view of all your open apps, tap the three dots in the upper right corner of the screen, and hit the “Split screen” option. Stacking Twitter on top of Spotify is a neat trick, though I will say that it’s substantially less useful here on a traditional phone display than it would be on a bigger device, like the Galaxy Z Fold 4

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There’s also the dreaded “Shelf,” a OnePlus-exclusive drop-down menu that appears when you swipe down from around the middle of the display. This is full of widgets like a clock, the weather, and a recently played view on Spotify. I don’t find any of this particularly useful, and the fact that you can easily bring it up when you’re trying to swipe down into the notifications view is problematic. 

In fact, the OnePlus 10 had the same problem. Maybe next time around they’ll get around to fixing it.

Battery boost

USB-C charging port on OnePlus 11

The real winner here.
Credit: Kyle Cobian/Mashable

By far the most impressive aspect of the OnePlus 11 is its battery. Curiously, it’s not the battery life itself, but the recovery time from a depleted charge that won me over the most.

That’s not to say the battery life is bad, mind you. I was able to get about 24 hours out of a full charge, and that included downloading sizable updates for mobile games and plenty of music streaming with the screen at or near full brightness. You can almost certainly squeeze even more out of it with more careful usage.

But it’s the 80W wall charger that comes packaged with the phone that seals the deal. Using that charger, I was able to get from 15 percent battery to 100 percent in less than half an hour. It’s absurd how fast this thing charges. I had fun just staring at the screen and watching the percentage meter slowly (but not nearly as slowly as other phones) creep up towards 100. 

I hope someday my iPhone can charge that quickly.

Bright night shots

Going back to that fancy-schmancy Hasselblad-branded camera, it’s not just there for looks. It takes photos, too, and does it fairly well.

That trio of rear lenses produces shots with extraordinarily vivid colors. I did most of my testing in sub-optimal conditions (New York isn’t the most bright and cheery place in January and February), and photos still came out looking sharp and colorful.

Sign that reads "If you can't clean up after your dog, get a cat" on a brick wall

Message received!
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

There’s almost a hyper-real quality to some of these photos, as the environs I took them in weren’t necessarily this vivid in real life. I’m pretty into that, conceptually, as it creates good-looking social media photos. If you’re striving for hardcore reality, however, it might be a little irksome.

Herbert Von King Park ampitheatre

The ultrawide lens does its job quite well.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

Portrait mode is here and works as advertised, adding a nice depth-of-field effect to photos taken close up on a single subject.

Tree with blue painting on it

I have no idea why this tree is painted blue.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

There are also some nice options for taking photos of extremely up-close subjects, or subjects that are a little out-of-reach. Macro photography lets you get in real close on small objects, like seeds and pebbles, producing highly detailed shots. The zoom lens, on the other hand, is pretty decent, maintaining an adequate level of clarity from a moderate distance.

Macro shot of a flower with OnePlus 11

Macro photography looks pretty good here.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

Zoomed in shot of a blue plastic bag on a tree

This was taken at about 12x zoom, and still looks really sharp.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

There’s also nighttime photography, which brightens dark photos to make them more legible. The results are attractive enough, though sticklers for realism might notice that some of these shots look more like daytime than nighttime. The software processing tends to brighten the photos quite a bit, making them look almost as if they’re lit by studio lights. It’s not natural, but it doesn’t look bad, either.

Graffiti on a wall at night

This one maintains a nice nighttime atmosphere.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

Spare tire on a sidewalk

This one does not, though oncoming car headlights didn’t exactly help.
Credit: Alex Perry/Mashable

Just one of many options

When it comes time to finally choose a new Android phone in 2023, the OnePlus 11 shouldn’t get left off the list. This is a beautiful phone with a high-end chipset, a gorgeous display, and one seriously fast-charging battery. At the very least, none of your friends will have phones that look as cool as this one.

It also doesn’t hurt that you’re going to pay a maximum of $800 for it. That puts it $100 below the Pixel 7 Pro, which I would hold up as the current gold standard of Android phones. That phone has a much cleaner software package without any bloatware, comparably excellent performance, and overall better cameras that can do more. The base Pixel 7 is also excellent, and to OnePlus’s detriment, it’s only $600.

Personally, I’d go Pixel 7 if I were looking for a new Android handset. But OnePlus deserves your attention, too.

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