I got a OnePlus 9 Pro in November and updated it from Android 11 (the version it shipped with) to 12 in early February. Despite all the hype, there was no significant visual change. Ars Technica’s review of the 10 Pro might be relevant here:

The "about" screen says that the phone is running Android 12, but the UI looks like a combination of Android 11 and Oppo's OS. Android 12 released with a beautiful color-changing UI that coordinates the OS and many apps with your wallpaper colors. Nearly all of that has been paved over by OnePlus. It looks like the company just dumped an Android 11 UI on top of the Android 12 codebase, and many features like the wallpaper color picker are just gone. Apps don't change color with your wallpaper on the OnePlus 10 Pro; they are always blue.

I lost several customizations, such as the wallpaper and the lock screen background, which I haven’t bothered to replace yet out of frustration. More importantly, I’ve run into myriad functional issues:

This discussion of background services from the Ars review linked earlier sheds some light on all the issues with notifications:

The worst part of OnePlus' software is something that will take you a while to notice: the unreliability of its notifications. OnePlus shuts down background apps far more aggressively than stock Android does, so no matter what settings you toggle, you won't reliably be notified of emails, messages, and other critical notifications. You won't see timely notifications when the phone is sitting on a desk for a while, but when you pick up the phone and wake the screen, all your missed notifications will start rolling in. Or at least that was my anecdotal experience.

We don't have to rely on anecdotes, though. The go-to service for testing Android background functionality is the "Don't kill my app" service, whose website gives OnePlus phones the worst rating possible—"five thumbs down."

The service also provides a benchmarking app. OnePlus—a company that loves benchmarks—did horribly on this one, only allowing 49 percent of background tasks during an hour-long test. After perusing the settings and checking "allow background activity" and "allow auto-launch" and disabling "battery optimization," the OnePlus 10 Pro scored... 50 percent. The checkboxes appear to do nothing.

You're supposed to allow 100 percent, and that's what a Pixel will score. That 50 percent means it's a tossup if your important notification or background task will run at the times they are supposed to under Android's normal power saving modes. Notifications are the primary function of a smartphone anymore, and a OnePlus phone is a device that is unable to reliably fulfill its primary purpose.

I’ve been a loyal OnePlus user since 2017. I loved their phones and the value they offered. Over time, though, the prices have gone up to match other flagships and the value has decreased. A phone without properly functioning notifications is worthless. Between this and the evident disappointment that is the 10, I can’t see myself buying a OnePlus product again, absent a drastic and fundamental course correction on their part.

My original intention when I got this one was to purchase the mid-range OnePlus Nord, because I didn’t want another flagship anyway. It was reading about exploding batteries that scared me off, and I believed there were no viable alternatives to the 9 Pro. Happily, I was wrong. I’ve read reviews of several phones which are almost right, and I’m sure by the time I need to look again I’ll be able to find one I can live with. Nothing’s perfect, and this phone does have its strengths, but I don’t need the showiness of a flagship. As long as calls, messages, and notifications work,[1] anything I buy will be an unambiguous upgrade.

I wish the Fairphone were available in India. It would be nice to buy a phone that wasn’t designed to be replaced after a year.

  1. The battery matters too. The good battery life and quick charging OnePlus offers is a very important feature for me.