OnePlus 9 Pro reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

Software is a big part of why OnePlus' devices are considered the best Android phones. OnePlus has turned OxygenOS into one of the best software interfaces around, delivering a clean layout with plenty of customizability and timely updates.

There's a new dimension to that narrative in 2021. OnePlus is now using ColorOS as the foundation for OxygenOS in a bid to streamline resources between the two entities, and that means there are changes afoot. We got an early look at the integration with OxygenOS 11.3 on the Nord 2, but we'll have to wait until OxygenOS 12 to get a complete picture of what this merger will have to offer.

OxygenOS 12 is debuting with OnePlus 9 RT, a new variant in the OnePlus 9 numbered series that's set to make its debut in the coming months. While there's little in the way of official information around OxygenOS 12, I've managed to get my hands on an internal build and can offer some insights into the UI and new features.

OxygenOS 12 public beta will kick off soon

OnePlus Nord 2 reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

According to my sources, OnePlus aims to kick off the OxygenOS 12 closed beta by the end of August. The closed beta includes just over 200 members, and OnePlus usually recruits its "hardcore" fans to participate in the beta and give feedback on the new additions. This feedback is passed on directly to the product team and taken into consideration while making final tweaks to the interface.

Based on the feedback and the stability of the build, the closed beta usually takes two to three weeks, and the changes will be integrated into a new build that is released to the public. That means we should be able to see the OxygenOS 12 public beta roll out just before October; I'm estimating an official announcement in just over five weeks.

For context, the OxygenOS 11 public beta was available at the end of August, but that timeline has been pushed back this year because of the sheer number of issues in Android 12. Several bugs and stability issues plagued Pixels running the latest beta 4 build, so it's safe to assume that device manufacturers are taking a little longer than usual to iron out the bugs.

Here are the new features in OxygenOS 12

OnePlus Nord CE 5G reviewSource: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

OxygenOS 12 will get new features that have been ported over from ColorOS. First up is a floating windows mode that lets you resize windows anywhere on the screen, making it easier to multitask. Another exciting addition is a theme store that gives you the ability to change the look and feel of the interface.

OxygenOS mainstays like accent color customization and off-screen gestures will be intact, and the ColorOS additions should make the UI that much more customizable. The settings page is getting a category reshuffle that makes it more straightforward to find connectivity options, and some of these changes are live in OxygenOS 11.3. The switch to ColorOS means you'll need to set up a 6-digit passcode (instead of the usual 4-digit PIN) before you can configure biometric authentication.

On the subject of security, ColorOS' Private Safe mode is coming to OxygenOS, and you can hide sensitive documents and photos behind a password. As for the aesthetic itself, OxygenOS 12 will not use Google's new Material You design, instead retaining the same OxygenOS 11 design language with a few tweaks around the notification pane and shade.

While the underlying foundation has been overhauled, the OnePlus Launcher and other OnePlus features like Work-Life Balance, Zen Mode, Scout, and Shelf will be intact, so users making the switch from OxygenOS 11 should feel right at home.

OxygenOS 12 is coming to these phones

OnePlus 9 vs. ASUS ZenFone 8Source: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central

We'll need to wait until OnePlus officially confirms the devices that will get the OxygenOS 12 update, but if history is any indication, the OnePlus 7 series and above should make the switch to Android 12. OnePlus is rolling out the Android 11-based OxygenOS 11 build to the OnePlus 6 and 6T, so when it comes to OxygenOS 12, it is safe to assume that all of the 2019 devices and above will be updated.

Of course, that doesn't include the Nord N series of devices; the N10 and N100 will only get one update to Android 11, so they will miss out. Here's the tentative list of OnePlus phones that will be updated to OxygenOS 12:

  • OnePlus 7
  • OnePlus 7 Pro / 7 Pro 5G
  • OnePlus 7T
  • OnePlus 7T Pro / 7T Pro McLaren
  • OnePlus 7T
  • OnePlus 8
  • OnePlus 8 Pro
  • OnePlus 8T
  • OnePlus 9
  • OnePlus 9 Pro
  • OnePlus 9R
  • OnePlus Nord
  • OnePlus Nord CE
  • OnePlus Nord 2
  • OnePlus Nord N200

All-round value

OnePlus 9 in Winter Mist

OnePlus 9

The value flagship to beat

The OnePlus 9 combines the latest internal hardware with a vibrant 120Hz AMOLED screen, great cameras, and all-day battery with 65W fast charging. With three Android updates and a clean interface with excellent customizability, you're getting a good value.

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