OnePlus 12 vs iPhone 15 Pro Max: will this ever be settled? – Ultra-Sim


Just at the very end of 2023, we were greeted by one last high-profile smartphone reveal — the OnePlus 12 launched in China in December and is going global today!
And it looks like OnePlus is set to impress, with heavy emphasis on camera performance. Will it be able to steal away some attention from Apple’s titanium beast — the iPhone 15 Pro Max?
Both phones are improving on already existing formulas, upgrading the cameras but keeping the design and overall feel as before. The OnePlus 12 rocks the powerful new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor — and it’s up against the 3 nm powerhouse that’s Apple’s A17 Pro.
OnePlus 12 vs iPhone 15 Pro Max:

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Block, meet razor

The OnePlus 12 looks very similar to the OnePlus 11 — a soft rectangle with nicely rounded corners, a display that curves towards the edges and a back panel that mirrors that movement. The metal frame is thus on the thin side. We wouldn’t call the OnePlus 12 hard to grip — it does fit nicely in the hand and feels thin and balanced. Though, some will definitely prefer a girthier frame to hold on to — like the flat sides of an iPhone.

The 3-way mute switch that OnePlus is known for in Android land is back. This one toggles between ring, vibrate, and silent, adding an extra step over Apple’s ring and vibrate options. Its movements are tight, it’s clicky, and it’s easy to get addicted to fidgeting with it.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is, as we know, that stark-looking rectangle with a titanium build. Flat front, flat back and — for the most part — a flat frame, though we did get a slight bevel to it so it doesn’t feel as sharp as before.

Also, the iPhone 15 Pro series did away with the simple hardware mute switch on the side and now has an Action button — fully customizable to launch apps, Shortcuts, or the camera. Or, you know, it can still mute the phone. Missed opportunity here — the Action Button can only do the one thing you set it to do, so don’t go daydreaming about setting a Camera shortcut on long-press and mute on double click.

Apple still relies on Face ID for biometric locking, whereas the OnePlus 12 will use an under-screen fingerprint scanner. Both options are quite advanced and quick nowadays — the OnePlus 12 is quick to unlock with a simple tap on the scan area. Though, it’s still picky when your finger is wet / too dry / smudgy.

The OnePlus 12 is up in two color options — the flagship finish you will be seeing in all promo materials is the new Flowy Green, which looks almost like a liquid frozen in time. Then, there’s the Silky Black, with the back glass having a disctinct grippy texture applied to it. The iPhone 15 Pro Max colors, we already know them, are Black, Blue, White, and Natural Titanium, with the latter dominating the marketing materials and seeming to be the audience fave as well.

On the bottom, we get USB C ports — now standardized across the industry. And both support USB 3 transfer speeds, welcome to 2024!

As for what’s in the box — OnePlus uses special SuperVOOC chargers to get its incredibly fast charging speeds. So, it includes the 80 W wallplug in the box, making sure you can enjoy the optimal charging! The iPhone… comes with a nice braided cable!

The OnePlus 12 has a large 6.82-inch display with sharp QHD+ resolution (3216 x 1440 pixels) and a dynamic refresh rate between 1 Hz and 120 Hz. Something that is standard on phones nowadays — if you are scrolling about, it goes up to 120 Hz for a smooth experience, if you are stuck watching a YouTube video, it’s simply 60 Hz, and the Always-On display feature only uses 1 Hz to conserve battery.

This is also very much what we see on the iPhone 15 Pro Max. Well, not the size and resolution — the iPhone is slightly smaller at 6.7 inches, with a resolution of 2796 x 1290 pixels. This means the iPhone 15 Pro Max has a PPI density of 460. The OnePlus 12 hits 517 PPI, for what it’s worth. Nothing to worry over, both of these phones are super sharp-looking, no individual pixels to be seen.

But, shockingly, the OnePlus 12 beats the iPhone 15 Pro Max (and any other smartphone in the market) with peak brightness — listed at 4,500 nits! That is insane, as the iPhone 15 Pro Max is listed at 2,000 nits and we already consider that to be very, very bright. But let’s not forget that “peak brightness” means a tiny area of the screen for a limited period of time. That’s for HDR video. For casual, everyday use, we measure average picture level (APL), which gives us a better idea of how bright the display gets when reading emails or taking photos.Both of these phones measure around 1,100 nits, which is excellent, and are perfectly usable under the bright sunlight.

Performance and Software

Snap, the magic dragon
The OnePlus 12 has the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 — still built on a 4 nm process, but nonetheless a heavy hitter. It doesn’t blow past the Apple A17 Pro, but it hits close enough and has the potential to carry on under heavy loads for longer. OnePlus did talk up the cooling solution it used in the OnePlus 12, but we found that the 3DMark Wildlife Extreme stress test gets it to throttle by cycle 3 (out of 20).

The A17 Pro is a very powerful processor, built on a 3 nm process, but it didn’t have a smooth landing. It was plagued with overheating and throttling issues, which Apple had to address with iOS updates. After that, we find that it’s pretty quick to lower its clock speeds when we put it under heavy loads. So, the A17 Pro has bragging rights for a single loop of a stress test, but quickly goes into efficient mode when loop 2 starts up.

The OnePlus 12 will come with 12 GB and16 GB of RAM, in storage tiers of 256 GB, 512 GB. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB, all with 8 GB of RAM. 

As for software, it’s very obvious we are talking about very different beasts here — Android 14 vs iOS 17. Both systems are quite mature by now, snappy, feature-rich, and supported by most apps. There are some specific niche cases, like video editors or audio apps that don’t translate 1:1, and of course, there’s iMessage, which is a whole can of worms. OnePlus has committed to 4 years of OS updates, not that far off the 5 years of support that iPhones get.


OnePlus nabs Sony’s new sensors
The OnePlus 12 will be coming with the same Hasselblad branding on its lenses as before, but also a new sensor inside — the 50 MP Sony LYT-808, which employs a new dual-layer tech to collect more light. We saw that setup on the OnePlus Open and we quite liked it then.

The other two cameras on the OnePlus are a bit “safer” — an ultra-wide and a 3x telephoto, nothing crazy. Though, OnePlus claims the zoom camera does 6x lossles, in-sensor zoom (by cropping into the high-res 64 MP sensor).

The iPhone 15 Pro Max had an evolution of its own. It has the 48 MP camera from last year’s iPhone 14 Pro Max, but also a new tetraprism lens for the zoom camera, providing a 5x magnification jump. This means that, at 2x and 3x, which the iPhone 15 Pro Max still offers as natural steps in the Camera app, it’s all digital (ahem, lossless crop-in). But the zoom beyond 5x… is slightly improved?

No matter how you slice it, every sample taken with the iPhone here has slightly better dynamics and better detail preservation. The OnePlus 12 flirts with the idea of burning out the highlights, and it doesn’t manage to pull a lot of details from the shadows (check out how dark the bull looks in sample one). We often complain about oversharpening, but with the OnePlus 12, the edges of small details look a bit too soft. It also didn’t handle the skintone of Peter very well, giving him a weird pale look. Forgive the Sleeping Beauty shot, it was cold outside and we may have been in a hurry!

Main Camera – Low-light

When the sun goes down, the OnePlus 12 catches up! Or is it the iPhone 15 Pro Max that falls behind? The iPhone just went too hard with the HDR, brightening up that night sky, which can also result in sume unpleasant artifacting — the tree branches in sample 3 just look unnaturally jagged, with a feint HDR aura around them. The night cityscape of sample 4 just looks more… realistic with the OnePlus 12 — it’s dark and contrasty, as one might expect. The subject in sample 2 looks a bit pale on the OnePlus 12 shot, again, but it’s fair to say that — in this lighting — chasing skintone is a dream.

Zoom Quality

The OnePlus 12 is actually killing it with the zoom detail. Sure, it may look a bit hazy or soft-ish, but it’s not far from realistic. And the iPhone 15 Pro Max 10x shot looks a bit too processed, no? At 5x, where the iPhone 15 Pro Max uses its native 5x lens, they actually stack up against one another quite close. Again, there’s something to be said about the slightly washed-out dynamics of the OnePlus 12, but for detail — it’s holding on quite well! And even lower — at 3x and 2x — the OnePlus gives us the sharper image!

But let’s do one more test. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a 5x tetraprism lens, and OnePlus says that the 12 can do 6x “lossless” zoom. So, let’s compare those two “lossless” zoom steps from each phone:

The iPhone’s 5x lens wins here. We get better detail in the beard and hair, better HDR overall, and a more realistic face. The OnePlus 12 shot is not terrible, but does look a bit more washed out in comparison, and looks a bit darker (even though the iPhone burnt out the sun spot in the back, the overall image looks more balanced).

Both of these kind of fall apart for night shots. The iPhone held it together a bit better here, but not by much. The OnePlus 12 6x shot doesn’t look so lossless when it doesn’t have much light to work with, though.

Portrait Mode

The OnePlus 12 is pretty good at subject separation, our only complaint is that the background bokeh doesn’t look super convincing. The iPhone 15 Pro Max pulls off that very realistic blur. Then, we have the “native” zoom levels for both phones — the iPhone 15 Pro Max can take a portrait at 5x, the OnePlus 12 — at 3x. Let’s take a look at that:

Not bad, indeed, still not very convincing from the OnePlus. The iPhone did give us a very lush, intense bokeh and perfect subject separation here.

Ultra-wide Camera

Pretty good from the OnePlus 12 — while it didn’t improve much with dynamics, the iPhone 15 Pro Max isn’t doing so well in that aspect here either. Also, the OnePlus shots look more colorful and vibrant and less oversharpened, especially around the edges where ultra-wide pictures get a ton of post-processing for distortion correction.

At night, the OnePlus 12 applies some more noise reduction. It loses some detail and can look a bit hazy when you zoom in. The iPhone 15 Pro Max, on the other hand, allows for some of the noise to remain, so you get that detail, but a tad grainy.


The OnePlus has a 32 MP selfie snapper, but we definitely ended up with softer-looking selfies than what the 12 MP front camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max gave us. Also, it seems that high dynamics may challenge it as well, as seen in the group selfie.

Video Quality

Video Thumbnail

Not a bad performance from the OnePlus 12 — we got a good image, nice warm colors, good details, especially with the zoom. The stabilization is also OK, but we can spot the occasional jitter. The iPhone’s details are still better. Especially later down the video at night time. Also note how each of these phones deals with the super-noisy environment we shot in — the iPhone is better at filtering the shuffle out and giving us a clearer, more full-bodied voice from the presenter.

Audio Quality and Haptics

The vibration feedback on OnePlus phones has been awesome for a while now. It clicks, clacks, and lets you know every time you tap on an interface element. As for audio — it’s a bit thin, a bit compressed at higher levels. But overally, good for YouTube binging.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max sounds great — it’s loud and it somehow manages to project bass frequencies from those tiny speakers, with probably some black magic involves. You can definitely enjoy music on the iPhone 15 Pro Max if you set it up while washing the dishes, for example. But we do think it sounds a bit scooped in the mids, which is not great for some genres.

As for haptics, iPhone had precise vibrations before it was cool, and they still do!

Battery Life and Charging

Is it time for the next step?

The OnePlus 12 is confidently breaking that 5,000 mAh threshold that flagship batteries have been sitting on for the past few years, now coming with a 5,400 mAh battery — an almost 10% increase. Now, we have to wait and see if those 10% will boost battery endurance or of they will be eaten up by the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor.The iPhone 15 Pro Max, as we already know, has a 4,422 mAh battery and is an endurance champ. Mostly thanks to iOS being able to conserve battery in standby really, really well, but also a modest battery drain when browsing the Web or YouTube.

As you can see from our battery test below — that OnePlus 12 battery is doing some work! With conservative, casual use, you can hit 2-day usage with this phone, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is no slouch in that area as well. 

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

Charging-wise, the OnePlus 12 comes with that SuperVOOC brick that can top it up super-fast — you can get a full charge in less than 40 minutes. In fact, 30 minutes on the wire gets you up to 89%, which should be pretty much all you need in a day.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

Specs Comparison

Now that the OnePlus 12 has been announced in China, the cat’s out of the bag! Here’s how the specs compare:


OK, so the OnePlus 12 isn’t exactly crushing the iPhone 15 Pro Max here. It’s snappy and fast, has a nice design, nice display. In terms of camera — it can’t beat the iPhone 15 Pro Max, unless we are strictly looking at those zoom shots. But you know what? For a starting price of $799.99, we’d say it does good enough. You get 256 GB of storage at that tier, same as the iPhone 15 Pro Max that retails for $400 north of the OnePlus 12.Of course, the iPhone is… well, the iPhone — seamless connection to MacBooks, AirPods, allows entry to the Apple Watch, and those Green Bubbles that everyone keeps talking about. OnePlus can’t quite hope to contend with an “ecosystem”. But, if you are platform-agnostic, there’s no reason to not at least look at the OnePlus 12. It packs a lot of value, it looks flashy and sleek, and it may just surprise you! Worth noting — OnePlus has promised 4 years of Android updates for it, so that’s not too far off from the iPhone’s 5 year update lifespan.

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