The OnePlus 11 Smartphone: OnePlus’ Best-Executed Device Yet

By Anshel Sag, Patrick Moorhead - November 15, 2023
OnePlus 11 SmartphoneANSHEL SAG

I want to start by saying that no phone is perfect. Every phone has some drawbacks and as a result, you'll rarely find a reviewer who says that a phone is perfect or the end-all-be-all of phones. That's also why the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra got so many 'best' awards, even though it wasn't necessarily the best. Most phones have compromises, and those compromises generally exist as a function of cost, design, or technological limitations. For the last few weeks, I've been lucky to play with the OnePlus 11 smartphone. In this post, I want to give you some of my thoughts on both the device and the company.

Over the last few years, Oppo’s involvement as the parent company to Oppo has become more apparent, even though the ownership hasn’t really changed that much. The OnePlus brand in my opinion tried to bite off more than it could chew as a smaller brand and didn’t take advantage of all the technologies that the Oppo group has at its disposal. Now that said, there have always been similarities between OnePlus phones and Oppo phones, so this really shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to people. After all, Oppo is the brand who brought us rapid charging and with the OnePlus 11 that brings us 80W fast charging in the US and 100W in the rest of the world that uses 220V.

OnePlus 11 design and specs

The OnePlus 11 borrows some design language from previous models in the OnePlus line, namely the OnePlus 7T and 10 Pro, which in turn took some design cues from Samsung's S22 series. The new phone does look differentiated compared to many other phone designs that have adopted largely similar designs. The OnePlus 11 comes in two colors, a textured titan black color and a smooth eternal green color, both of which look premium. OnePlus also continues to include a physical notification slider on the phone, a staple of the OnePlus brand. The OnePlus 11 is also the first phone to launch with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon Spaces Ready program, meaning that any Snapdragon Spaces-capable headset will be compatible with the OnePlus 11.

As far as specs go, the OnePlus 11 comes in 8GB and 16GB ram configurations paired with 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage and 256GB of UFS 4.0 storage, respectively. All versions ship with a dual-cell 5000 mAh battery with 80-watt wired charging and Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC, which features the latest X70 5G modem, FastConnect 7800 Wi-Fi and Adreno 740 GPU. The OnePlus 11 is also the first phone that OnePlus has delivered with compatibility at launch for all three major US wireless carriers. However, it won't be available in-store at all carriers. In the past, I have tried to activate OnePlus devices on carriers like Verizon that claimed compatibility but couldn't simply activate it via BYOD methods; in one case, I had to go into a store. where they needed to activate my line on an iPhone before I could use my OnePlus 10 Pro.

The OnePlus 11 runs Android 13.0 in the form of OxygenOS 13.0—the OnePlus version of the Android operating system. For photography, the phone has a triple-camera configuration; the primary camera is a 50-megapixel Sony IMX890, while the other two are a 48-megapixel Sony IMX581 and a 2x optical zoom 32-megapixel Sony IMX709. These sensors sit behind f/1.8, f/2.2 and f/2.0 aperture lenses, respectively. The front-facing selfie camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with fixed focus and an f/2.45 aperture; it can capture 1080P video at 30 fps. Speaking of video, the main camera array can be used at full speed for 8K at 24 fps or 4K at 60 fps, or for slow motion for 1080P at 240 fps or 720p at 480 fps.

On paper, this phone looks reasonable and competitive with what's already on the market, especially at the $699 price point. However, the lack of wireless charging will be a deal breaker for many people. I believe it was a mistake to exclude it, especially considering the low cost of adding wireless charging nowadays. Unfortunately, I think this may have been a case of OnePlus listening to its fanbase a little too much and asking them to choose between rapid charging or wireless charging.

I would also have liked to see a better zoom than 2x on the OnePlus 11, although at $699 I can forgive that, because it would probably have added considerable cost. I know that OnePlus has said that the 11 is the only device it is offering in this launch cycle as it simplifies its lineup. However, I still believe it would be great to have an additional SKU with wireless charging and higher optical zoom (preferably 5x or greater).

Setup and first impressions

Setting up the OnePlus 11 was simple and easy, although OnePlus does ask you to sign up for their Red Cable Club to earn rewards and join their user community. Otherwise, the experience is a straightforward Android setup. One of the things I like to do when I get a new device is test its 5G and Wi-Fi speeds around my house; this showed that the OnePlus 11 is keeping up with my S22 Ultra's 5G performance, but for some reason struggles with Wi-Fi 6 download speeds compared to my Galaxy Z Fold4 with Qualcomm's last-gen FastConnect 6900 (still an impeccable Wi-Fi chipset). The FastConnect 7800 in the OnePlus 11 is supposed to be the next generation of Qualcomm's top-of-the-line Wi-Fi chipsets; eventually it will have Wi-Fi 7 capability, although it currently goes only as high as Wi-Fi 6. Even so, I was disappointed to see the OnePlus 11's Wi-Fi performance on my 1 Gigabit fiber connection barely hitting 300 Mbps, whereas the Galaxy Z Fold4 was regularly reaching 600 Mbps and above.

Wi-Fi performance aside, the OnePlus 11 is incredibly responsive and snappy, which is what we have come to expect from OnePlus. When I checked it on the GeekBench 5 benchmarking platform, the performance numbers aligned with what I've seen from competitors’ phones using the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform. According to the 3Dmark Wild Life Extreme benchmark I ran, the OnePlus 11 outperforms the iPhone 14 Pro Max by a score of 3597 to 3352, which is also far ahead of the S22 Ultra's meager score of 2115. In short, the OnePlus 11 is a speed demon as far as the benchmarks are concerned, which I think is what everyone expects from a OnePlus device. I also ran some preliminary GeekBench 6 benchmarks, but they have proven too inconsistent to include here.

OnePlus 11 camera performanceANSHEL SAG

Camera performance has always been an Achilles’ heel for the OnePlus brand, but I can firmly say that OnePlus nailed it this time. I don’t know how much of that came from engineering assistance provided by Oppo, but in the end it’s not important how it was achieved but that it was achieved. I can say that I am noticing many of the AI-assisted software from Oppo on OnePlus (not really new). The main camera is incredibly lifelike, sharp and responsive. Portrait mode feels natural, like it was shot from a wide aperture SLR, and the aperture can be easily adjusted according to the user's preferences. It really seems like this time the Hasselblad tuning has finally made its way into the phone in a meaningful way.

The zoom on the camera is also half-decent thanks to the high-resolution primary sensor and 2x optical sensor; however, it really doesn't come close to its 10x optical counterparts like the S23 and S22 Ultra. Low-light photos also look great and might even be slightly overexposed at times, but the phone's camera generally captures incredible light and produces very sharp images. Overall, I was pretty impressed with the camera; it surpassed my expectations and delivered an experience competitive with the iPhone and S23/23+, albeit not quite at the Ultra tier. 10-Bit color is an option as well as HEIF but won’t be compatible with lots of software and apps.

The video experience on the OnePlus 11 is simple and feels like it was heavily borrowed from Oppo. The photo experience feels more unique to OnePlus. It records up to 8K 24, although I still recommend people stick to 4K60 and if you want maximum stabilization, you will still get kicked down to 1080P. Once again, Oppo’s AI highlight feature enables improved low-light video performance, but it isn’t quite the same as the experience on the Find X5 Pro with the Marisilicon-X chip.

OnePlus Buds Pro 2ANSHEL SAG

OnePlus Buds Pro 2 came to me with the OnePlus 11 (they’re sold separately for $179) and are designed to work seamlessly with the phone, enabling high-quality wireless audio developed in partnership with Dynaudio and Google. The OnePlus 11 is the first non-Google Pixel smartphone with Google's Spatial Audio capability and has Google Fast Pair, which works great on virtually any Android device. I think the earbuds are a perfect size—comparable to Apple’s AirPods Pro 2—and the case actually fits in the same pockets in my jackets and shorts designed to hold AirPods.

The earbuds' overall sound quality is excellent. I was very impressed with the sound quality when LHDC (Low Latency High-Definition Audio Codec) was enabled, although I think the signal stability could be better as I did experience some drop-offs here and there. The low-end sound is especially impressive—something that’s traditionally hard to accomplish in such a small form factor. I tested the earbuds with multiple devices (S22 Ultra and OnePlus 11) and switching between them was easy and seamless. I found the noise canceling adequate, although I wouldn't say it is necessarily as good as the AirPods Pro 2. I also didn't notice any meaningful difference between high-resolution and Atmos music when listening to Amazon Music, which supports both.

I am impressed with these earbuds overall, even though the noise cancellation isn't the best it did handle planes and city streets fairly well, because they passed my workout tests and didn't fall out of my ears once I got sweaty—something that happens often with the AirPods Pro 2. I do wish OnePlus didn't hide the Buds Pro 2 menu behind so many settings options, and that the buds were easier to manage from the pull-down drawer on the phone's main menu screen. There might have also been a missed opportunity to deploy Snapdragon Sound, considering that the phone already supports it, which could've delivered lossless audio quality.

Wrapping up

I genuinely believe that the OnePlus 11 is one of the best phones that OnePlus has brought to market in a very long time and delivers a great value. I see many indications that OnePlus has focused on certain things that it finds necessary to its fans and borrows from the Oppo group to maximize the experience. This is most apparent when recording video or enabling the AI enhancement for low-light, which has the same UI as Oppo phones. That said, I don't think the OnePlus series focuses on video as heavily as Oppo does, and like Oppo did with the Find X5 Pro, which is still my favorite phone for recording video. That said, the OnePlus 11 still records great-looking video at up to 8K resolution, but I have to be honest that 4K60 is the ideal today for quality.

OnePlus has priced this phone accordingly with what it can deliver at $699 and it should be a strong competitor in that price segment. That said, I believe the lack of wireless charging will be an instant no-go for some users, especially those as invested in wireless charging as me. Yes, the phone features 80-watt charging, which is almost double what Samsung offers—embarrassingly for Samsung. But wired charging is slowly being phased out across the industry, and I think it was a significant mistake not to include wireless charging for this phone. Additionally, the phone's digital zoom is merely acceptable. Sure, higher optical zoom would likely drive up the cost of the device, but better zoom is also extremely valuable functionality. Personally, I use the 3x zoom on my S22 Ultra all the time, and the 10x zoom quite often as well.

Having said all that, if the lack of wireless charging isn't a deal breaker for you, this is a fantastic phone at a very competitive price, especially if you pre-order it now to get an extra $100 off. I would probably use that price reduction to upgrade to the higher-capacity 16GB ram and faster and larger storage at 256GB.

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Anshel Sag is Moor Insights & Strategy’s in-house millennial with over 15 years of experience in the IT industry. Anshel has had extensive experience working with consumers and enterprises while interfacing with both B2B and B2C relationships, gaining empathy and understanding of what users really want. Some of his earliest experience goes back as far as his childhood when he started PC gaming at the ripe of old age of 5 while building his first PC at 11 and learning his first programming languages at 13.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.