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For me, the OnePlus 11 is the most underrated flagship of 2023

From a great in-hand feel, to solid performance, and to finally getting the camera right, there is a lot to love on the 11.

Published onNovember 25, 2023

oneplus 11 with oneplus buds pro 2
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

This year has been filled with crazy good phones across price ranges, and it’d be easy to get lost among them all. People picking up flagships now are spoilt for choice, and it stands to reason that some of the flashiest phones will have most of your attention. So it was for me, getting wooed by the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. But there’s one flagship that didn’t have the topmost position on spec sheets yet delivered an undeniably premium flagship experience. This is the tale of the OnePlus 11, a flagship that has flown under the radar and is worthy of attention for a surprisingly great experience this year.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE

The OnePlus 11 followed a series of lackluster efforts from the company. Sure, the OnePlus 8, 9, and 10 series weren’t terrible, but they lacked the flair and appeal of the brand’s previous flagships. A general feeling of staleness had been surrounding OnePlus for a few years, causing my personal interest in its phones to dip. On paper, the OnePlus 11 was destined to be another notch in the series, but it unexpectedly changed all of that.

The OnePlus 11 undercuts flagship competitors quite well.

As we said in our review, the OnePlus 11 does not reinvent the OnePlus flagship. It builds on a familiar formula, but what OnePlus managed to do was tweak the spec sheet to get most things right and then price the phone competitively. While the OnePlus 11 couldn’t outright beat the topmost spec kings like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, it simply didn’t need to; it just had to offer a great experience at a fraction of the price. It fulfilled that goal when it launched for $699, but for $549 this sale season, the OnePlus 11 becomes a no-brainer, even when accounting for the fact that the OnePlus 12 is just around the corner.

oneplus 11 home screen in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

For me, the OnePlus 11 nailed the fundamental first impression of holding a smartphone. It feels incredible in the hand, and the experience is such a far cry from thick and boxy flagships like the Galaxy S23 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. And if you like using your phone with a case, the OnePlus 11 solves that, too. The svelte body gives you plenty of room to add a good protective case without Hulk-ing the phone out. Even with a bulky case, the OnePlus 11 remains manageable for me.

The OnePlus 11 is incredible to hold in the hand and makes a solid first impression.

I think OnePlus avoided unnecessary bulk by drawing a fine line between “flagship” and “excessively overkill flagship.” The OnePlus 11 offers top-of-the-line performance and a flagship feature set but stops short of loading it up with a hundred different features that you’re probably going to use once a year. As a result, I didn’t have to pay for extras I don’t really need, but I still get to enjoy the performance headroom that comes from a flagship purchase. Like me, most users simply don’t need all those overkill additions, and that is probably why there isn’t an Ultra flagship from OnePlus to tickle the bones of spec sheet enthusiasts. There aren’t big numbers here to throw around just for the sake of it.

What greatly helped the OnePlus 11 get a better impression than the OnePlus 9 Pro and 10 Pro before it is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC. It’s a significantly better chip than the outgoing Snapdragon 888 and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chips in performance, efficiency, and heat management. Even if you aren’t interested in chipset specifications, the net effect on the user experience is significantly positive, to the point that I feel OnePlus undersold the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in the phone’s complete package.

I feel OnePlus undersold what the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 does for the OnePlus 11's complete package.

This phone is also one of the rarer times where OnePlus got the camera right. The Hasselblad partnership — and pinching OPPO’s camera expertise — brought in some good results, and the 11 is where OnePlus’ camera performance almost peaked. I’d say the absolute peak so far is with the OnePlus Open, but that’s an editorial for another day.

oneplus 11 camera app in hand
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Yes, it is still not perfect, especially if you pull out other Pros, Maxes, and Ultras and pixel peep to find faults. But snap a picture of your kid or your dog or both together just like average users do, and you’ll end up with a smile on your face. That’s what I, and most average users, use our phone camera for, and the company has delivered it for us. There aren’t many gimmicks here, with the camera setup balancing specifications with practicality. The result is that I’m well-equipped and future-proof without really going overboard with five different sensors and a hundred different ways to take a photo.

Another aspect of the OnePlus 11 that’s delighted me is battery life and charging. During my use of the phone, it could comfortably last through the day without causing me battery anxiety. On days when I used the phone more heavily, a quick five or 10 minutes with the 100W charger would spring it back up.

oneplus 11 charger and cable
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Yes, the OnePlus 11 does not have wireless charging, and it’s downright silly of OnePlus to ignore this feature. Even though I don’t use a wireless charger in my daily routine, it’s hard to argue against the convenience of one after having used it.

I’m pinched harder by the IP64 certification, which is a solid downgrade for me, as it rains four months in a year where I live. I can see why both of these would be dealbreakers for many users, and it’s arrogant for OnePlus to pretend otherwise. Thankfully, the OnePlus 12 appears to be fixing some of these.

Speaking of the 12, the next OnePlus flagship is around the corner and will hopefully be better without going overboard. But for now, the OnePlus 11 is available at a discounted price of $549, down from its launch price of $699. If you can look past its lack of wireless charging and limited IP rating, it’s a fantastic buy. At this price, the OnePlus 11 is the closest the company has come in recent years to its original product philosophy of making flagship killers.

The OnePlus 11 is measured overkill done well, and I love it for that.

It is almost surreal to see OnePlus come of age with a mature OnePlus 11 flagship. I love it for the fact that it gets the job done and gets out of my way instead of making me obsess over numbers and specs. It’s measured overkill done well, and to me, that makes it the most underrated flagship of 2023.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FESamsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE
AA Recommended
Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE
Essential features in a 10-inch Android tablet
Available in Wi-Fi or 5G variants, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 FE is an affordable take on the powerful Tab S9 line. An Exynos chipset powers a WUXGA+ 10.9-inch display, which is backed by 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage.

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