Android 12 Ruined My Phone
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:
Alarms and countdown timers would be triggered and the sound would play but there would be no controls on the lockscreen. I’d have to unlock my phone and dismiss the alarm from the banner notification. In fairness, this is apparently a common problem on Android:
- Can't Dismiss Alarm from Lock Screen (Samsung Community)
- Clock alarm no longer showing on lockscreen (OnePlus forums)
- Alarm not showing up on lock screen when ringing (Reddit)
I fixed this one by combining the advice from all of these and more, namely:
- Turn off ‘Optimised night charging’ and ‘Sleep standby optimisation’ (Settings → Battery → Advanced settings).
- Clear the cache for the Clock app (Settings → App management → Clock → Storage usage → Clear cache).
- Recreate all the alarms.
I’ve already mentioned the two advanced battery settings, but I want—nay, need—to emphasize that they genuinely hinder the normal functioning of the phone and notifications. Naturally, both settings are enabled by default.
Gmail notifications would stop working at an arbitrary point after restarting the phone, until the next time I picked it up. This is mitigated to some extent by deleting both the app’s cache (as for the Clock app above) and the app’s data (on the same screen). There are still occasions when the notifications only arrive en masse upon picking up the phone, but for the most part it’s better than before. This also happened with other notifications; Gmail was simply the most obvious.
WhatsApp calls can’t be answered without unlocking the phone. This is happening less frequently now, for no reason I’m aware of, but it still happens: the sound plays yet no notification is visible and I can’t answer directly, much like the problem with the Clock.
Before, tapping once on the screen while it was off showed what on other phones would be the always-on display: the date and time, battery percent, and icons for apps with notifications. Picking the phone up (i.e. moving it) would do the same. In contrast, after upgrading, tapping once or picking it up only occasionally shows the screen. Tapping twice now might show this information or might fully wake the phone—a most agreeable experience when checking the time in the middle of the night.
When the (not) always-on display does show, it never displays WhatsApp notifications. I only know there are any if I see them come in, and the fact that the notification sound doesn’t play half the time doesn’t help any. Notification icons appear and disappear willy nilly in the status bar while unlocking the phone. I never know whether I’m seeing the full set of icons until it’s unlocked.
I rely heavily on my phone’s calendar (via the indispensable Business Calendar 2). On Android 12, the (not) always-on display can show you the details of upcoming events along with the time remaining when they’re near. I don’t want to present this information to anyone who picks my phone up, so I naturally set my lock screen notification settings to ‘Display title only’ (evidently the replacement for ‘Hide sensitive content’)… which has no effect. Android goes right on showing the details. There doesn’t seem to be any way to turn off that notification either.
When I take a photo in the Camera app and click on the thumbnail, I get an error message:
“Photos” has been disabled. Enable it to view photos.
The relevant app is completely disabled in the App management screen, with no option to enable it. Since I never touched this setting, I have no idea what the cause is. There are some related but not identical complaints on the OnePlus forums:
Speaking of Camera, the ‘Expert’ mode, which I believe replaces ‘Advanced’, no longer remembers that I selected the DNG format. This is a problem. I won’t remember to change the format every single time I open the app.
After a day or so of being on, the phone stops allowing me to unlock it with my fingerprint. The fingerprint icon disappears and I have to enter my password each time until I restart it.
My lock screen gestures no longer work, whether because they’ve been removed or because something changed about how they’re recognized. I’d only just started using them before the upgrade and found them quite useful. Again, I can’t be bothered to reconfigure them.
Notification icons taking on the primary colours of the apps they come from isn’t a bad idea in theory, but leads to low-contrast, barely-discernible icons in practice.
In the Clock app, the toggle to enable or disable alarms seems to have shrunk. I used to be able to press it without effort. Now I have to precisely align my finger and tap the exact spot, otherwise it opens the details view.
I don’t like the new radial UI for selecting a time, with all 24 hours laid out in sequence, but I suppose it might just take getting used to. The old version, with one set of twelve hours on the inside and another set just slightly outside, was certainly difficult to use.
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, 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.
- The battery matters too. The good battery life and quick charging OnePlus offers is a very important feature for me.↩