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I tried Android 14 on my OnePlus 11 — and I’m not impressed

Android 14 themed icons in OxygenOS with Android 14 on OnePlus 11.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Android 14 is in the final stages of development, and its first stable version is set to release later this month. As a result, Android phone brands are starting to unleash previews of their upcoming software upgrades based on the Android 14 beta, allowing select users to try out forthcoming features before other people. After Samsung opened up One UI 6 beta for a limited number of devices earlier this month, OnePlus is giving us a peek at its upcoming OxygenOS 14 beta based on Android 14.

OnePlus’ custom Android skin, OxygenOS, received a major overhaul last year after merging the codebase with the ColorOS interface offered by its parent company, Oppo. Our worst fears came true when OxygenOS 13, based on Android 13, was released last year. It received a radical design overhaul that most OnePlus purists deemed a downgrade that made it nearly indistinguishable from Oppo’s ColorOS.

While design changes persist with the Android 14 update, OnePlus adds some more features while attempting to make the experience more cohesive. But how does it all come together?

What’s new in OxygenOS 14

Aquamorphic design OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11 and OnePlus Nord.
OxygenOS 14 on the OnePlus 11 (left) versus OxygenOS 13 on the OnePlus Nord 3. Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Interface tweaks

After a significant redesign last year, OxygenOS 14 polishes the interface it borrows from Oppo.

A key element of OxygenOS 13’s makeover last year was a new design philosophy concurrently adopted by OnePlus and Oppo. As part of the redesign, Oppo introduced new skeuomorphic design elements inspired by the patterns and waves in different states and occurrences of water. This design philosophy is titled “Aquamorphic” (aqua+morphic) and allows Oppo and OnePlus devices to spread visual elements throughout the screen to create a simplified interface that prevents the excessive flow of information from overwhelming users.

OxygenOS 14 builds upon the previous Aquamorphic design elements by making them more pleasing to look at. OnePlus says the second generation of the Aquamorphic design brings “natural, gentle, and clearer color” elements to make them soothing to the eyes.

While neither OnePlus nor Oppo go into details about these changes, some noticeable glimpses within the interface match the description. The first noticeable change is the background behind the Quick Settings panel, which now has a satiny finish. The background is also translucent and adapts to the home screen’s wallpaper, letting its colors peek through.

Aquamorphic design OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The second variation can be seen in notification banners, which appear smooth and translucent like the Quick Settings panel. So far, these are the only two places where the new implementation is visible — all menus or pop-up windows are still opaque as they were in OxygenOS 13.

There’s no guarantee that OnePlus will upgrade more elements with the design philosophy, but that’s impossible to say with certainty, considering this is only the first beta version. There might be a few more beta updates before OnePlus releases the final version of OxygenOS 14, presumably when it launches anticipated phones such as the OnePlus 12 or the OnePlus Open foldable phone.

While the list of visual changes is limited, OnePlus also adds new Aquamorphic-themed ringtones. Like OnePlus’s intent with the soothing visuals, most of these new ringtones are serene melodies and harmonics that feel peppy but not high-strung.

Environment-conscious Always-On Display (AOD)

Carbon footprint Always-on Display (AOD) in OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

OnePlus has also added new always-on display graphics that remind you to be more conscious about commuting. It says that walking 10,000 steps a day instead of choosing a mechanical form of transport that runs on fossil fuels helps offset 1.74 kilograms of carbon emission, thereby reducing your contribution to environmental degradation.

There are three different styles of animated eccentric graphics as part of the new series. The biosphere in each illustration appears greener and healthier as you reach 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of your daily step count.

In theory, it is a great reminder not only to check your reliance on nonrenewable resources, but also to ensure you meet a specific step count every day. However, it feels flawed and insufficient in practice because it only sources your step count from the OnePlus Health app. This means you must either track steps using the OnePlus 11’s pedometer function or use a fitness accessory from OnePlus (or Oppo).

This can be a bit frustrating if you use a smartwatch or fitness tracker that is not made by OnePlus, especially since Google’s Health Connect service allows you to synchronize fitness data across a diversity of apps.

Specific access to media files and folders

OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11 and OnePlus Nord.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Next is a crucial feature that prevents apps from misusing access to your files. If you do not want an app to access the entire storage on your OnePlus smartphone, this new feature allows you to grant access to specific files or folders selectively.

While setting up new apps — or accessing media from the app for the first time — you’re requested to permit it to access storage. The usual options allow you to either allow complete access to the storage or deny it. With OnePlus adding a third option, you might feel more in control of your files.

Google has been tightening its grip on how apps access any Android device’s internal storage for years. Android 10 introduced “Scoped Storage,” wherein apps can only access a particular folder or part of the internal storage while having limited or no access to others. To be permitted to get broader access, developers must specify their apps’ use cases and justify why they need access to the entire storage instead of just a few selected folders.

Google deems apps like WhatsApp or Facebook fit to gain access to the entire storage, even when you may not want them to. Here, the new implementation by OnePlus proves helpful and allows these apps only to access specific files or folders.

This implementation, notably, remains imperfect since some apps can bypass this dialogue and exploit Android’s app permissions to gain access to the entire storage, especially if these are from lesser-known developers. However, if you want to save your private files from tech giants like Meta, this extra (semipermeable) layer should add some sense of privacy.

Smart Suggestions

Smart Suggetions in OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11 and OnePlus Nord.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Another feature I spotted in OxygenOS 14, although not mentioned by OnePlus, is called “Smart Suggestions.” The unclear naming can deceive you into believing it offers suggested actions similar to Siri or Google’s At A Glance widget, but that’s not true.

According to OnePlus’ description, Smart Suggestions lets you glance at your cab’s arrival status or food delivery directly from the always-on display, the lock screen, or the status bar. While this goes one step ahead of the Live Activities feature in iOS, it currently only shows the status on the lock screen. It’s difficult to say if OnePlus will get this feature to work or if it plans to test it further to refine it.

Smart Suggestions on OxygenOS have limited support for services. Currently, it only supports Grab, Zomato, and Swiggy for ride-hailing and food delivery, and these apps are limited to parts of Southeast Asia. If OnePlus finalizes this feature, it must add support for more popular apps such as Uber and Uber Eats.

Things that haven’t been fixed

Someone using the OnePlus 11. The display is on and showing the home screen.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Sketchy scrolling experience

Besides new features that OnePlus has added to OxygenOS 14, a few issues have either cropped up or carried over from the previous software version.

One of the nastiest issues that also previously plagued the OnePlus 11 and other OnePlus devices running on previous versions of OxygenOS is the jittery scrolling experience on certain apps. Despite the smooth display with a 120Hz variable refresh rate, apps — especially YouTube, Instagram, and even the official Weather app — experience choppiness.

The OnePlus 11 and OnePlus 10 Pro's screens.
OnePlus 11 (left) and OnePlus 10 Pro Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

While appearing to be mere frame drops (when the display’s refresh rate and content’s frame rate are out of sync), this is caused because the refresh rate goes down to 60Hz on these apps. The issue can be traced back to at least the OnePlus 8T and has yet to be resolved by OnePlus, despite countless rants and coverage from other creators.

A plausible reason why OnePlus has continued to overlook the issue is that it doesn’t treat this as an issue in the first place. Its decision to lock apps like YouTube and Instagram at 60Hz could be backed by the need to conserve battery since continuously running at 120Hz drains it faster. However, if you are willing to sacrifice the little decrease in battery for smoother scrolling, you can force the display to run at 120Hz all the time.

Android 14 breaks Health Connect

OxygenOS with Android 14 beta on OnePlus 11.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Last year, Google announced a service called Health Connect, which acts as a bridge between different fitness apps. By forcing developers to use standardized fitness data, Health Connect lets you synchronize data across apps to ensure that all fitness stats are not scattered across different platforms. For instance, if you use a Galaxy Watch as your fitness tracker, you can use Health Connect to retrieve data from a Peloton bike and view it on a third app, say Google Fit.

So far, Health Connect has been in beta. But with Android 14, Google is upgrading it to be a core Android service and requires other apps to update to work with it. As a result, the Android 14 update has broken the Health Connect functionality with certain apps, including Samsung Health.

While this is a Samsung and Android 14 problem rather than a OnePlus issue, it is essential to remember if you actively use multiple fitness apps.

What’s missing and can be expected

Android 14 Emoji kitchen wallpaper on Pixel 6a.
Emoji Kitchen wallpaper from Android 14 Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Besides what the OxygenOS 14 update makes and breaks, we can expect a few more features to arrive later. Alongside OxygenOS 14, Oppo has also released ColorOS 14 beta in China, giving us a glimpse of features that could come to OnePlus phones outside the mainland.

Here is a list of features making their way to Oppo’s ColorOS:

  • A new quick settings menu that resembles iOS more than ever
  • Lock screen customizations
  • New charging animations
  • Emoji wallpapers similar to stock Android 14
  • Support for Android’s wallpaper-based dynamic theming system “Material You” for more system apps
  • “Themed” or monochrome app icons that use the dominant color from Material You

Incidentally, OnePlus phones in China also run ColorOS instead of OxygenOS, which will ensure that the features are tested before they make their way to the global builds. With these additional features, OxygenOS 14 could look more enticing than its current form, which feels dull and lacking.

While I hope most of these features will come to OnePlus phones in the U.S. and other regions outside of China, it’s difficult to say if they will.

What I really want from OxygenOS 14

Android 14 easter egg on OnePlus 11 with OxygenOS 14 beta.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

In contrast to the Android 13-based OxygenOS 13 update, which marked a massive design leap over the previous versions, the latest OxygenOS 14 feels underwhelming. I don’t know whether that is because OnePlus is treading carefully to keep some distinctions from ColorOS and avoid wrath from hardcore fans, or because this is the first OxygenOS update since last year’s major overhaul. What I do know, however, is that OnePlus has both time and opportunity to incorporate some additional features that keep OxygenOS discernible from ColorOS before the final release.

While the chances of OxygenOS and ColorOS looking starkly different are lean, especially since OnePlus’ merger into Oppo, there is still some chance to see OnePlus-specific widgets, especially the red and black ones that haven’t been updated in a while. It would also be interesting to see new wallpapers (especially in the absence of Android 14’s emoji wallpapers).

I also hope OnePlus resolves the issues around the step count locked into OnePlus Health. And, lastly, Smart Suggestions looks like a promising feature that can enhance users’ experience — if it actually works. With these issues rectified, OxygenOS 14 can be an impactful update, even with few upfront changes to bank on. But that’s assuming OnePlus addresses all of that in time for the final update, and that’s a fairly big “if.”

Tushar Mehta
Tushar has a passion for consumer tech and likes to tinker with smartphones, laptops, wearables, smart home devices, and…
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