Who among us didn’t pick up a new pandemic hobby only to lose interest a couple of years later? Only OnePlus didn’t pick up furniture upcycling — instead, it’s spent the last few years trying to reinvent itself as a flagship phone maker rather than a flagship killer.
That didn’t really work, so the company is coming back around to a familiar formula: a phone with a big screen, a top-tier chipset, and a price low enough to undercut most of the flagship competition.
It’s largely a success. The OnePlus 11 5G is a fast, smooth performer, with a $699 price that’s in line with its feature set. The company has also fixed some of the shortcomings of previous devices. The phone will work on the 5G networks of all three major US carriers at launch — something that OnePlus had difficulty securing in the past — and the company is pledging four Android OS updates and five years of security updates. That’s on par with Samsung’s policy for flagship phones, which is one of the strongest among Android OEMs.
But the OnePlus 11 isn’t an all-out triumph. There’s no wireless charging, which most other phones at this price include. Instead, it has the company’s signature fast wired charging, offered at a blistering 80W in the US. The camera system is somewhat improved, too, but still falls a bit short of the competition. Its IP64 rating is better than nothing but doesn’t provide the robust IP68 water resistance of other devices in this class.
This is a better phone for OnePlus — but I’m not quite sure it’s the best phone for anyone.
OnePlus’ recent high-end phones have offered good screens, and the 11 is no exception. It’s a big 6.7-inch LTPO OLED with a variable refresh rate from 1 to 120Hz and 1440p resolution (that top resolution isn’t enabled by default — it’s an optional setting). It’s sharp as heck. It looks smooth, feels responsive, and gets bright enough to use in abundant daylight. No complaints here.
The display uses the third generation of OnePlus’ LTPO technology, which reduces the refresh rate to 1Hz when the always-on display is in use. That’s the same tech that made Apple’s 14 Pro always-on display possible. This is designed to help boost the 5,000mAh battery’s efficiency, and it certainly isn’t hurting. I had no problem getting through a day of moderate use with a lot of photo-taking, some video conferencing, and plenty of time on social media.
OnePlus has included fast wired charging — fast charging is kind of OnePlus’ thing — to the tune of 80W in the US and 100W for international versions. You need to use the supplied charging brick and cable to get those speeds, so you can’t sub in your MacBook Pro charger to get those top speeds, and you can’t use this brick to charge your MacBook. But with the right equipment, charging speeds are impressive: the OnePlus 10T charges a little faster, at 125W, but 80W is enough to take the battery from zero to 100 percent in under 30 minutes.
Wired charging is fast, but it’s also your only option. Unlike most other phones at this price, the OnePlus 11 doesn’t include wireless charging. Fast charging certainly comes in handy, but wireless charging is a convenience feature with broader appeal. I’m not sure I’d want another charging brick in my life, especially not one that uses a proprietary charge protocol and can’t sub in for my laptop charger — I’d rather have a device that can share a Qi charging pad with other gadgets in my life, even if that means sacrificing speed. And if you’ve already made a habit of overnight charging, then fast charging is quite a bit less exciting.
It doesn’t provide all the conveniences of a flagship phone, but the OnePlus 11 certainly handles like one. It includes a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and 8GB of RAM as standard; the $799 version offers 16GB of RAM. That’s about as much raw power as any modern Android phone offers and for much less than the other guys: the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra uses a similar chipset and includes 8GB of RAM in its $1,199 base configuration. You get twice the storage — 256GB compared to 128GB — but that’s a pretty big gap in price for similar hardware.
80W is enough to take the battery from zero to 100 percent in under 30 minutes
It’s good on paper, and it’s also good in use. The OnePlus 11 is confident with even heavy tasks; it runs the graphics-heavy Genshin Impact as smoothly as any $1,000 phone I’ve tested. Apps don’t close aggressively in the background, and when they’re put to sleep, they reload quickly. My review unit has 16GB of RAM (this configuration costs $799), but given what I’ve seen so far, I’d expect the 8GB version to punch well above its price in terms of performance.
There’s another feature that continues to delight me on OnePlus phones: the super-quick fingerprint scanner. It’s consistently a beat quicker to activate and accept my fingerprint than the one on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, tested side by side. When you unlock your phone a hundred times a day, that extra beat adds up.
OnePlus product manager Jonathan Yeung tells me that the phone is designed for someone who wants to stand out from the crowd. “It won’t look like devices that his or her friends are holding.” Mission accomplished, I’d say. More than one person told me they thought the prominent circular camera bump looked like an eyeball, and I don’t think that’s a compliment. It’s kind of giving Metal Mario. I wouldn’t say it looks cheap; it’s just not a look I prefer.
The three-stage alert slider is back after a no-show in the OnePlus 10T, and I wish every phone had one. I can click it to turn on media volume to watch a video and then flip it back to mute all sounds just as easily. Ah, the joy of physical controls.
OnePlus is also releasing a new pair of earbuds alongside the phone: the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. I tested a pair (in a lovely matching green) as I used the OnePlus 11 over the past few weeks and have no complaints about them. The noise cancellation was effective enough to drown out plane noise so I could listen to a podcast. The case is a little too slippery to try to open one-handed (there’s one complaint, I guess) but otherwise, they’re a nice companion to the OnePlus 11.
In recent years, OnePlus has struggled to secure 5G certification from all three major US wireless carriers. To be clear, its phones have worked on all carriers, but sometimes only on 4G. 5G was a given on T-Mobile since it sold prior OnePlus phones directly, but the other two have been hit or miss — the 10 Pro eventually gained 5G certification on its final carrier, AT&T, five months after launch.