OnePlus 11 long-term review
Screen curves, retail package
We'll reiterate something we said when we began the Design section for our Xiaomi 13 Pro long-term review last month. It's getting harder and harder to write these, since, at least from the front, all smartphones kind of look the same these days. Kind of. Like the Xiaomi 13 Pro, the OnePlus 11 also stands out if you look a bit closer since it has a screen with curved sides - a dying breed, if rumors are to be believed, but one that some Chinese brands still believe in.
We continue to think this makes the phone look nicer than it otherwise would, and it also makes performing the Back gesture from either side a way better experience than with a flat screen. The other thing that makes the OnePlus 11 stand out from the front is the left-aligned hole-punch for the selfie camera. This one too seems to be a species that's on its way to extinction, but for this iteration of its flagship, OnePlus clinged to it, unlike most of its competitors, which are opting for center-aligned hole punches.
Which one is better? That depends - if you care about symmetry, the center-aligned hole wins. If you care about less perceived visual disturbance when watching videos in landscape mode, then the left-aligned hole wins for sure. Otherwise, it doesn't really matter. Nor will it matter, we wager, for most people, that the bottom bezel is ever so slightly thicker than the rest. We always prefer symmetry, especially on top of the line smartphones, but we don't find this lack of it too egregious. There are definitely worse examples of this out there.
Now, going back to the screen's curves for a bit, let's address the elephant in the room. When it comes to these, a lot of people are afraid of triggering accidental touches while holding the phone. It's a valid concern in theory, but unless the device in question is an older Samsung, it's not something that's really ever been a big problem for us in real life usage. And even if it does rear its ugly head for you, there's an easy enough solution here. There's a setting for how sensitive the edges are.
On the default setting, we did find that we got a few accidental touches each week (and we were using a case), so we simply changed the slider to the slightly less sensitive position and never had any issue ever again. There's an even less 'less sensitive' setting if even this one doesn't work for you. And of course, as always, simply using a case will improve things significantly in this regard.
Speaking of cases, unfortunately, OnePlus has joined the ever expanding club of brands that don't ship one in the retail package with their high-end smartphones anymore. So you have to either buy one separately from the company itself, or go third-party. The latter option is cheaper, but OnePlus cases have generally been very good in the past, so there's that.
We can't say we understand the point of saving at most $5 with such a move at the expense of primarily angering loyal repeat customers - since they're the ones most likely to have expected to get a case in the box, based on their prior experiences. Someone switching from an iPhone or Samsung high-end device, after all, wouldn't even consider the possibility of not having to shell out some extra cash for a hard shell to put their brand new phone in. Anyway, it is what it is. At least you still get a charger, and of course, it's as fast as the phone supports.
The back, handling
The rear of the phone is, like with any modern high-end device, dominated by the huge camera island, and it's not a pretty sight in our opinion. Somehow a lot of Android device makers have seemingly stopped caring about making this part of their devices aesthetically pleasing, that is, of course, if they ever did care in the first place. OnePlus delivers a round-ish monstrosity, whereas Xiaomi with the 13 Pro went with a rectangular-ish monstrosity. Pick your poison, as they say.
It's definitely not a pretty thing to look at, but at least it's on the part of the phone you aren't likely to glance at too much. We understand what OnePlus' designers were trying to do with the metallic part of the island that 'spills' into the frame, but we think it was wholly unnecessary, it doesn't make the camera island any prettier (arguably the opposite, in fact), it looks like it's a bad copy of a Samsung design from a few years ago, and it doesn't even 'spill' directly into the frame!
We love the rest of the back, though, for what it's worth. Our black review unit has the trademark OnePlus 'sandstone' texture applied to the glass, and while it's not as textured as it was in the OnePlus One, it's surprisingly close given that it's basically etched into glass this time around.
It's a very nice-feeling effect when you hold the phone, but because you're essentially holding (very) matte glass, the slipperiness is through the roof. Or shall we say - to the floor, as that's where the phone always seems to want to end up. It has a penchant for wanting to escape your grip constantly. The fact that the frame is positively tiny, as both the front and rear slabs of glass curve into it, doesn't help with this either.
So with this in mind, handling can be tricky if you 'go naked', and the fact that the handset is a little bit top heavy doesn't help things either. We recommend getting a case, even if it shouldn't be an extra expense, but these are the times we live in, when penny pinching is very popular among phone brands.
In terms of size and weight, the OnePlus 11 is as easy to handle as any other mainstream Android device, which is to say, very comfortable for those with medium to large hands, and probably not at all comfortable for those with smaller hands. Build quality is exactly as expected, which is to say perfect.
Alert slider, buttons
The OnePlus 11 has the brand's trademark, easy to recognize Alert Slider. This is a three-stage switch that allows you to pick between three modes: Ring, Vibrate, and Silent. They're pretty much self-explanatory just from their names, aren't they?
It's a very underrated bit, this one, and we're still wondering why more of OnePlus' competitors haven't been 'inspired' to add something like this on their own devices. It's one of those very little things that's nevertheless useful to you multiple times each day - and that adds up over time like you won't believe.
Most other smartphone makers seem to have decided on having all of the buttons on the right side - power and volume ones too. OnePlus (and parent company Oppo) goes its own way with the power button on the right and the volume rocker on the left. We appreciate the fact that their bottoms seem to align horizontally, but we do need to caution you about the fact that there's a not zero chance for this setup to lead to some unwanted screenshots being taken.
When you press the power button, depending on how you hold the phone, you might also end up accidentally pressing the lower part of the volume rocker (since their bottoms are aligned, as we already mentioned), and this results in a screenshot. This is obviously not the most troublesome thing to have happen, but the few times it has occurred in our use, we always found it jarring momentarily, so we thought we'd let you know.
The OnePlus 11's stereo speakers are among the best we've ever heard fitted to a slab-style flagship device. They're not quite at the level of the best, but very close, and we can only say this having tested a lot. These will feel amazing in day to day use for most people, and that's good enough in our book.
We really have no complaints here - there isn't one specific reason for them not being classified as the best, and only very close. It's just that they could have a tiny bit more bass and a tiny bit more volume and a tiny bit more clarity. And we know they could, since we've heard ever so slightly better ones. You, on the other hand, will probably not care about such minutiae and simply enjoy them for what they are: very, very good integrated speakers.
Of course when it comes to volume you need to remember how small these are since they're fitted inside a phone - for now, phone speakers can't compete on sound quality and volume with any Bluetooth speaker worth its salt.
The OnePlus 11's vibration motor is worthy of this phone's price point, there's no doubt about that. It feels premium, it has crisp, 3D-like vibrations, and quite a few customizations on offer. This one is on par with the best out there currently, for sure, and you're not likely to be disappointed by it in day-to-day use.
What is rather disappointing as a whole is that more Android device makers don't take more advantage of these otherwise exquisite vibration motors by packing more gentle vibration 'nudges' into interactions with their UIs. Xiaomi did that a lot in past versions of MIUI, and there still are traces of that everywhere across the latest version, but even it's starting to back off of this and we don't know why. The vibration motor isn't a very cheap part of your smartphone, so why should it sit unused for most of the time?
You can adjust vibration intensity for calls and notifications separately with sliders, but the star of the show is the O-Haptics submenu, where you can turn haptics on or off, adjust intensity on yet another slider, and even have your pick from "Crisp" and "Gentle" vibration styles. We went with the former, which is also the default, but if that feels too crisp, too '3D' for your liking, then you can always select its alternative.
- 27 Nov 2023
I am using a OnePlus 7T Pro right now and I am looking for my next phone. It is a shame that Auto Brightness still does not work as fast as on other phones and I don't like the fact that Night Mode cannot be turned off. I found myself using the ...
- 09 Nov 2023
The OP11 is what made me pay attention to OnePlus again. I'm seriously considering the OP12 because of it. I expect the price to increase, but I hope the value remains the same.
- 09 Oct 2023
First OP for me and took a very long time to decide what to upgrade to, from a crappy entry level phone. OP11 had the best price/quality ratio. The Camera aspect was a huge deal for me and I am not disappointed. I did not want to go S23 Ultra becau...