OnePlus could be seen as throwing shade at its pseudo rivals Samsung and Apple after the launch of its new smartphones the OnePlus 12 and OnePlus 12R. But is it all banter or should the one-time smartphone upstart concentrate on making its devices more competitive?
The OnePlus launch event called Smooth Beyond Belief took place just seven days after the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked launch of the AI-focused Samsung Galaxy S24 series but showed the very different direction the companies are heading.
OnePlus took the unconventional approach of kicking off the launch of the OnePlus 12 and 12R by pointing out the flaws of other devices, host, Ishita Grover stated: “We have seen a slew of typical complaints that have plagued our competitors."
On the screen were fourteen complaints about non-specific phones, Ishita then went on to say these comments made it clear where OnePlus would target its efforts.
While no particular brand or models were mentioned, comments including “Charges slowly with a 20 or 25W charger” could be directed at the base model Samsung Galaxy S23 which only had 25W charging. It could be aimed at the iPhone 14 Pro Max which charges at a comparatively lower 27W.
Meanwhile, it has to be said, that OnePlus phones have been going above and beyond by sporting some of the fastest charging for years with the OnePlus 12 offering 100W maximum charging.
Battery health issues were also mentioned with some degrading rapidly, which could be referring to some iPhone 14, and 14 Pro’s dropping to 90% in the first year. While OnePlus claims it has its battery health engine to maintain the longevity of its phone batteries.
There are also several comments about overheating that could be referring to the Samsung Galaxy S22 series, Galaxy Z Flip 4, or Galaxy S23 FE that all used the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, which was known for overheating in some phones. However, OnePlus’ phones have also been accused of overheating issues in the past, especially the OnePlus 9 Pro.
While talking about the advantages of the new camera system wilderness landscape photographer Joshua Cripps in the Chasing Luna video states: “I think it’s important to photograph mother nature in an authentic way without AI or Photoshop."
Given Samsung got embroiled in controversy around the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s AI-centric Astrophotography features, having a professional moon-snapper criticize AI in photography could be seen as more than a wry glance at Samsung. Deliberate or not, it shows that OnePlus is avoiding the AI-led approach that both Google and Samsung have leaned into. But it's worth noting that all the smart image processing that goes into pretty much all smartphone photography, means one could argue phone photos are hardly left unmanipulated.
However, the launch isn’t the only time OnePlus pointed out its competitor's flaws. Samsung mistakenly misidentified a photo of a woman at the Galaxy Unpacked event on X as the YouTuber/streamer @valkyrae. Upon her correction, Samsung blocked her. In response, OnePlus jabbed at Samsung in reply by commenting, "We'd never block you," highlighting the contrast in the handling of such situations.
But even this is mild when compared to OnePlus’ comments on last year’s Samsung Galaxy S23 launch. OnePlus took to X to openly give “hot takes” on that year's showcase, which included in a now-deleted tweet that stated: “In what Galaxy are you paying $1,199 for ‘Ultra’?” It also poked fun of the lack of a provided charging brick and asking: “Are we going to see anything without a blockbuster budget?”
OnePlus didn't hold back in mocking Apple's "Wonderlust" event in September 2023 either, ridiculing Apple's shift to USB-C and went a step further by creating an Apple event bingo card that included items like "drone shot of Apple Park" and "claims something is the most advanced ever." This direct and lighthearted approach showcased OnePlus's willingness to poke fun at its competitor's events.
This could all point to OnePlus trying to have its cake and eat it, wanting to be seen as the scrappy underdog that is more open to challenge and being experimental, while aiming to be taken seriously and seen as one of the top phone manufacturers and a viable flagship alternative.
The increasing competition between major phone manufacturers could make it difficult to ignore each other and I don’t think they should. Any criticism could help improve future products and give a clear indication of how it's perceived outside the fanbase.
While some may appreciate OnePlus' banter, others will not be impressed with the less professional approach. OnePlus’ identity seems to lean more on feeling like a club and part of that is pointing to others outside that community.
I prefer the playful interactions, finding them more engaging than the conventional release of spec sheets and sanitized corporate statements and marketing videos, with each having its value as long as you don’t take any of it too seriously.
But the rub here is both Apple and Samsung phones regularly top our best phones lists, with OnePlus phones not always getting a look in.
Sure in our OnePlus 12 review, we looked upon the latest flagship from OnePlus with acclaim. But go and read our Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra review and iPhone 15 Pro Max review to get an idea of what true out-and-out flagship phones can do.
And where once OnePlus was the flagship-challenging underdog, its higher-end phones aren't the bargains they used to be, especially now when the likes of the Google Pixel 8 Pro are keenly priced and come packed with smart AI tools.
Ultimately, while OnePlus can throw virtual stones, it's in a glasshouse vulnerable to hurled criticizm itself. Maybe a return to $500-ish well-equipped smartphnws could be the way for OnePlus to justify its critique of others, but for now its slings and arrows of criticizm may be a little wide of the mark.