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The OnePlus 11 totally changed my mind about OnePlus phones

OnePlus has looked all at sea recently, as it struggled to come to terms with huge changes that seemingly affected every part of the business — from the way it designs phones to the software it uses on them. Anyone who has followed OnePlus from the beginning will have an idea of how disruptive this likely was, as the Never Settle company always seemed to fiercely pride itself on individualism and doing something different.

The OnePlus 10T was evidence of this. A phone entirely out of place with the brand’s previous devices, poorly marketed, and — worst of all — not very good. It made me approach the OnePlus 11 with trepidation, deliberately lowering my expectations before using it. But my caution wasn’t warranted. The OnePlus 11 rights the wrongs the OnePlus 10T inflicted on us, and puts OnePlus right back to where it belongs: on our recommended list.

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Was the OnePlus 10T that bad?

The back of the OnePlus 11 and OnePlus 10T.
OnePlus 10T (left) and OnePlus 11 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 10T wasn’t a very good phone. I gave it a 6/10 score because the only positive things about it were the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor and OnePlus’s trademark fast-charging system. Except here, it’s not called WarpCharge, it’s called SuperVOOC, just like Oppo’s fast battery charging system, a move that always felt like a face-slap to curtail OnePlus’ personality (OnePlus is now a subsidiary of Oppo). The software may as well have been called ColorOS too, just like on an Oppo phone, and it also carried over all the hateful elements of Oppo’s software, just with the name OxygenOS attached.

Much as I disliked the software, and I wasn’t alone, the plastic chassis and back panel irked me more. It felt very low-rent, and the finish made it look like a plastic phone trying very hard to look like one made from glass. Which is exactly what it was.

Holding the OnePlus 10T in front of a green plant.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

OnePlus had the gall to charge $650 for the OnePlus 10T, and then put a substandard camera on the back, which made me even more cross with it. It didn’t even have an alert slider, which is like a Rolls-Royce not having the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament on the hood.

Almost everything about the OnePlus 10T went against the OnePlus brand I knew and previously loved. It felt shallow, like a cash-in. It was a phone Oppo didn’t fancy putting its own name on, one it couldn’t throw toward Realme because it already has more phones than multiple brands put together, and one that had been assembled in a hurry without any idea of who would actually want to buy it. To say I took against it is an understatement, and it hung over the OnePlus 11’s announcement like an ominous, rain-filled cloud.

The OnePlus 11 is a OnePlus phone

OnePlus 11 (in green) lying face-down on a desk.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The cheapest OnePlus 11 costs $699[/cc-placement], which is not much more than the OnePlus 10T cost at launch. Yet it’s vastly superior in absolutely every way, and it’s really the only piece of evidence you need that someone at OnePlus got it very, very wrong with the 10T. But to really hammer the point home, I’ll point out a few of the other ways, too, because they also show how the OnePlus 11 is, happily, a brilliant OnePlus phone.

OnePlus phones should be a good value. They always have been, up until very recently, but the OnePlus 11 goes beyond that, as it’s one of the best value phones you can buy at the moment. Hell, it’s just one of the best phones overall. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, making it one of the first with the chip, and the new camera has Hasselblad’s tuning behind it. What’s more, this partnership is finally beginning to come alive, with the OnePlus 11 taking characterful, uniquely styled photographs.

The OnePlus 11 is one of the best value phones you can buy at the moment.

This is important because since Oppo came in and changed many things, OnePlus’ individuality seemed to have been suppressed. By utilizing the Hasselblad partnership, the OnePlus 11 has pulled some of it back, and in a way that Oppo hasn’t quite managed to do yet through the same collaboration. This could change with the Find N2 Flip or eventual Oppo X6 Pro, though.

The phone has a quirky design too, which split opinions early on due to the unusual use of curves and angles on the camera module. Good! Make the phone look different. Make it look bizarre if you like, OnePlus. Just don’t make it look cheap, despite the fact it borders on actually being considered cheap, just in the best way possible. Finally, on the side, there’s the alert slider. Thank goodness.

It all works together perfectly

The back of the OnePlus 11.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

All these individual aspects come together to make the OnePlus 11 a phone I actually wanted to use (and not stop using), instead of one I looked at in disgust because of how it had bastardized a brand that I watched work for years try to set itself apart in the industry. Even OxygenOS 13 isn’t that bad, with crucial improvements over OxygenOS 12, although it is practically identical to ColorOS 13. I can forgive it here because the rest of the phone is really good.

There was a point in the run-up to the OnePlus 11’s launch that I wondered if the OnePlus 10 Pro would be remembered as the last truly great OnePlus phone. I’m extremely pleased to say that it won’t be, because the OnePlus 11 manages to claw back everything the OnePlus 10T took away, and bring back many of the elements that make OnePlus, well, OnePlus.

The OnePlus 10T made me take a sharp intake of breath, concerned about the future, but the OnePlus 11 made me breathe a big sigh of relief.

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