OnePlus 9 vs. iPhone 12: Is the new flagship killer worth the money?

The OnePlus 9 is one of the most powerful smartphones you can buy right now. Decked out with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 and 8GB of RAM, it will do pretty much everything you tell it to do. It also looks great, with its crystalline 6.55-inch AMOLED display boasting a very fluid 120Hz refresh rate. However, as strong a contender as it is, it isn’t short of competition among flagships, and the iPhone 12 is probably the most popular — and best — of its would-be rivals. The latter sports a new flat-edged design, 5G support, and the brawny A14 Bionic processor, among many other features.

Much like the OnePlus 9, the iPhone 12 is a highly capable device. Which one is better though? We find out by comparing the two phones head-to-head, in which we examine their specs, performance, designs, displays, cameras, and software. This should help you decide which is the phone for you.

Specs

iPhone 12 OnePlus 9
Size 146.7 x 71.5 x 7.4 mm (5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches) 160 x 74.2 x 8.7 mm (6.29 x 2.92 x 0.34 inches)
Weight 164 grams (5.78 ounces) 192 grams (6.77 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED
Screen resolution 2532 x 1170 pixels (460 pixels per inch) 2400 x 1080 (402 pixels per inch)
Operating system iOS 14 Android 11, OxygenOS 11
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Apple Pay Google Pay
Processor Apple A14 Bionic Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 4GB 8GB, 12GB
Camera Dual lens 12-megapixel wide and 12MP ultrawide rear, 12MP TrueDepth front 48-megapixel wide, 50MP ultrawide, and 2MP depth rear, 16MP front
Video 4K at up to 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps 8K at 30 fps, 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.2
Ports Lightning connector USB C
Fingerprint sensor No, FaceID instead Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP68 No official rating
Battery 2,815mAh

Fast charging (20W charger sold separately)

Qi wireless charging

4,5000mAh

Fast charging 65W

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace  Apple App Store Google Play Store
Network support All major carriers All major carriers
Colors Black, blue, green, white, and red Winter Mist, Arctic Sky, Astral Black
Prices $799+ $729
Review score 4.5 out of 5 stars 3 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

OnePlus 9

It’s a tale of different approaches here, with Apple updating its design for the iPhone 12 and with OnePlus sticking with the 8T’s design for the OnePlus 9. What this means is that, much like last year’s 8T, the OnePlus 9 features a flat screen and a glass rear that’s curved at the edges and has a rectangular camera module. It looks pretty nice, but it’s not particularly adventurous.

To be honest, the iPhone 12’s slightly updated design isn’t massively adventurous either, although it did at least change a few things. Most notably, it adopted the flat-edged sides of recent iPad Pros, giving it a sharp angular look that looks suitably 2021. Other than that, the divisive notch has been narrowed slightly, while the bezels around the screen are slightly thinner. Whether this makes it more attractive than the OnePlus 9, however, is largely a matter of debate, and some may prefer the curvier look of the OnePlus.

Both smartphones offer very nice displays. The iPhone 12 comes with a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED screen, packing 2532 x 1170 pixels, or 460 pixels per inch. The OnePlus 9 and its 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED display gives you 2400 x 1080 pixels, making for 402 pixels per inch. In theory, this would make the iPhone 12 a little sharper, yet the OnePlus 9’s use of an AMOLED (rather OLED) compensates for things by offering deeper blacks and slightly richer colors. More importantly, it also offers a 120Hz refresh rate, which really does make things look very smooth indeed.

The OnePlus 9 slips down slightly by lacking an official IP rating, whereas the iPhone 12 carries an IP68 certification. OnePlus does say that the phone is water-resistant (to a degree), but without official certification, it’s hard to put absolute faith in its assurance. Given this oversight, which kind of cancels out the superior screen (and arguably more attractive design), we’re calling this round a tie.

Winner: Tie

Performance, battery life, and charging

iPhone 12 MagSafe accessories

The iPhone 12 is powered by the A14 Bionic chip, which is arguably the most high-powered processor in any phone out right now. Even if the phone has “only” 4G of RAM, the A14 will ensure it can handle the latest apps and games with ease, while it will also do a great job when it comes to juggling multiple apps and running apps that use machine learning.

As for the OnePlus 9, it also carries a big, beefy processor: The Qualcomm Snapdragon 888. Combined with its 8GB of RAM (or 12GB if you pay a little more), it will also run apps and games with little in the way of lag or slowdown. However, while you might think that 8GB of RAM would make it faster than the iPhone 12 and its 4GB, differences in internal architecture mean that both phones will basically be just as fast as each other.

That said, iPhone 12 lets the side down by having only 64GB of internal memory as standard, although you can pay $50 more for 128GB, or $150 more for 256GB. By contrast, the OnePlus 9 contains 128GB as standard, or 256GB if you’re willing to pay $100 more. Neither smartphone has bothered with a microSD card slot, so you’ll either need to be careful with your storage or to invest in a cloud service of one kind or another.

Another area in which the OnePlus 9 does well is its battery, which weighs in at 4,500mAh. This compares favorably to the iPhone 12’s 2,815mAh cell. In practice, this lets the OnePlus 9 exceed the iPhone in terms of surviving for longer without charging, although you might find the opposite is the case if you make regular use of the 9’s 120Hz refresh rate. Nonetheless, even if you are a heavy user, the OnePlus 9’s 65W Warp Charging will take you from 0% battery to 100% in about 30 minutes. Beat that Apple.

Winner: OnePlus 9

Cameras

OnePlus 9 cameras

The OnePlus 9 and iPhone 12 have similar camera setups, which in each case based around a regular wide lens and an ultrawide lens. That said, the OnePlus 9 adds a 2MP depth camera to its 48MP wide and 50MP ultrawide, while the iPhone 12 goes for a 12MP wide and 12MP ultrawide on their own.

The OnePlus 9’s superior specs might seem more impressive on screen, yet our review found that its camera is occasionally disappointing. Photos sometimes lack the level of detail and dynamism seen with other phones, while the camera can also be inconsistent in certain environments. This is unfortunate, since even with its seemingly modest specs, the iPhone 12 offers the kind of camera that you can pretty much point at things and capture great snaps in most conditions.

This is largely the product of Apple’s superior camera software and machine learning capabilities, although our review of the OnePlus 9 noted that a software update offered a subtle improvement in its overall quality. As such, we can hope that future updates will bring similar incremental improvements.

Winner: iPhone 12

Software and updates

iPhone 12
Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 9 ships with Android 11 and has OnePlus’ own OxygenOS 11 running on top, offering a more seamless and streamlined experience than you’d get with stock Android. Unsurprisingly, the iPhone 12 runs iOS 14, which provided the Apple smartphone ecosystem with its biggest software upgrade in years. However, while it certainly offers greater levels of customization than before, the question of which OS is best all depends on personal taste and habits.

On the other hand, there’s no question that you’ll get more — and speedier — updates with the iPhone 12. Apple is very good at rolling at upgrades and at supporting its phones for years, while we can expect a slight lag between Google rolling out new Android versions and OnePlus delivering them to its users.

Winner: iPhone 12

Special features

The iPhone 12 is famously the first Apple smartphone to offer 5G support as standard, although it’s worth remembering that faster mmWave 5G band will be available only on models sold in the United States. The OnePlus 9 is also compatible with 5G, yet for now, details on the level of 5G support it will have in the U.S. are somewhat sketchy. So far, OnePlus has said 5G will be available at launch only through T-Mobile, with AT&T and Verizon models compatible only with LTE. As such, if you have some kind of insurmountable T-Mobile phobia, the OnePlus 9 is effectively a 4G phone (at least at the moment).

When it comes to other special features, the iPhone 12 introduces MagSafe charging (and accessories), meaning you can now attach wireless chargers and various other paraphernalia simply by bringing it close to the back of your phone. It’s not a massive addition, but it does improve convenience and safety. As with previous iPhones, the iPhone 12 also ships with the TrueDepth camera, which lets you use Face ID to unlock your iPhone, pay for items, and also use Animojis and Memojis.

With the OnePlus 9, there isn’t anything else major to report on. That said, OxygenOS 11 does bring several new features, such as App Locker (letting you lock certain apps) and Parallel Apps (letting you download the same app twice onto the phone). Still, these are fairly slight additions, so we’re giving this round to the iPhone 12.

Winner: iPhone 12

Price and availability

The OnePlus 9 launches on March 26 and starts from $729, with the 256GB version (with 12GB of RAM) costing you $829. It will be supported by all major carriers and sold by most major retailers.

The iPhone 12 starts from $799 for the 64GB version, while the 128GB and 256GB versions will cost you $849 and $949, respectively. It’s also available from every major carrier and the vast majority of major retail outlets.

Overall winner: iPhone 12

iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 wins this head-to-head, largely by virtue of its superior camera, better updates, and wider 5G support. It’s also just as fast as the very powerful OnePlus 9, arguably just as attractive, and also has a very vibrant display. However, if the camera isn’t the big thing for you, or if you’re a big Android fan, you’ll still be satisfied with the OnePlus 9, even if there are better Android phones available right now.

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