The OnePlus 9 Pro is a highly polished, well-rounded flagship that is in contention for the best Android phone of the year so far. But OnePlus is aiming higher than that — it wants to be seen as the best phone, period. To do that, it’ll have to take on more than just Samsung, but Apple as well. So in this piece, we’re going to compare the OnePlus 9 Pro against the iPhone 12 Pro.
OnePlus 9 Pro & Apple iPhone 12 Pro: Specifications
|Specification||OnePlus 9 Pro||Apple iPhone 12 Pro|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 888||Apple A14 Bionic|
|RAM & Storage|
|Battery & Charging|
|Security||In-display fingerprint scanner||Face ID face scanner|
|Front Camera||16MP, f/2.4, FF, EIS||12MP, f/2.2|
|Port||USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C||Lightning port|
|Software||OxygenOS 11 (Android 11)||iOS 14.5|
The iPhone 12 Pro design should be familiar to most readers by now: it looks similar to iPhones of the last three years, except the chassis (sides, top, and bottom) have been made flat for a boxier look. The front of the iPhone 12 has been upgraded to the so-called “Ceramic Shield,” which Apple claims is more shatter-resistant. Overall it’s a very typical Apple design.
The OnePlus 9 Pro, meanwhile, is a typical Android flagship design: curved front and back glass, hole-punch cutout instead of the iPhone’s notch. The silver color I tested looks great, but unlike the iPhone’s matte glass, the OnePlus 9 Pro attracts fingerprints. At 8.7mm thick and 163.2mm tall, the OnePlus 9 Pro is noticeably taller and thicker than the iPhone 12 Pro’s 7.4mm and 146.7mm. Still, the OnePlus 9 Pro isn’t as uncompromisingly large as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
When it comes to displays, it’d be hard to argue in Apple’s favor. The OnePlus 9 Pro uses a gorgeous LTPO OLED panel that refreshes up to 120Hz and is only interrupted by a small hole punch. The iPhone 12 Pro, as everyone knows by now, has a 60Hz OLED screen with a relatively chunky notch.
In pre-Covid times, one can argue the notch is worth it because Face ID worked really well. But in these mask-wearing times, Face ID gets in the way much more than it helps.
When it comes to processor, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s Snapdragon 888 is no slouch, but I think the iPhone 12 Pro’s A14 Bionic is just a tad bit more capable. This is most noticeable when editing and exporting 4K videos, as I regularly see much faster export times on an iPhone 12 Pro than any Snapdragon 888 device. I concede editing and exporting 4K videos on a phone is a very niche usage case, and it’s not a 100% accurate direct comparison because I use different software (LumaFusion for iOS; PowerDirector for Android), but it’s a good real-world example of how the A14 Bionic is superior, which benchmark numbers back up.
Technically speaking, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s main camera system has one more camera than the iPhone 12 Pro’s, but in real-world use cases, both phones effectively have the same triple-lens setup covering the wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto focal lengths. The OnePlus 9 Pro’s fourth lens, a 2MP monochrome sensor, is so pointless it might as well not be there.
When it comes to the three lenses that matter, each phone trade blows. In general, I prefer the iPhone 12 Pro’s main (wide) camera, as it produces more natural skin tones and offers better stabilization and exposure adjustment in video shooting. But the OnePlus 9 Pro’s whopping 50MP ultra-wide camera produces noticeably sharper photos than the iPhone 12 Pro’s 12MP ultra-wide. Both ultra-wide struggle in low light, but the OnePlus 9 Pro’s shooter fares better. When it comes to zoom, I’d have to hand the win to OnePlus too, as the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 3.3x optical zoom is further than the iPhone 12 Pro’s 2x optical, and the OnePlus 9 Pro can max out at 30x digital to the iPhone 12 Pro’s 10x.
The iPhone 12 Pro currently runs iOS 14.5 while the OnePlus 9 Pro runs on OxygenOS 188.8.131.52, over Android 11. There’s no use dwelling too much on iOS vs Android, but personally, I prefer the latter, especially OnePlus’ take, which is full of extra customization options that Google itself doesn’t offer.
One thing both software have in common: they’re not too one-hand friendly. This is to be expected with iPhones, as its draconian UI (you can’t place apps lower on the screen by themselves; you can’t activate the Control Center without reaching for the very top right corner of the screen) has never been one hand-friendly. But for OxygenOS, I’m disappointed, as it is one of the very last Android skins left to not offer a one-hand mode (which shrinks the screen temporarily to a more manageable size). It does have some UX elements brought down to the middle of the display in recent updates, but that’s a half-solution.
However, as the iPhone 12 Pro is a smaller device, it is easier to use with one hand than the OnePlus 9 Pro.
The OnePlus 9 Pro has a much larger battery at 4,500 mAh than the iPhone 12 Pro’s reportedly 2,815m mAh, but since the former phone has a WQHD+ screen that refreshes up to 120Hz while the latter has a pedestrian 60Hz 1080p panel, so in daily usage, I find the iPhone 12 Pro to last longer. I’m a very heavy user, so for me, the OnePlus 9 Pro can only go about 10 to 11 hours during an active weekend day out (in which I am outside for 13-14 hours and using phone constantly for photos, videos, navigation, social media, and music streaming). The iPhone 12 Pro can usually go the full 14 hours, but just barely.
But the OnePlus 9 Pro can be topped up far easier than the iPhone 12 Pro. It uses USB-C instead of Lightning and it charges much faster with or without cables (65W wired; 50W wireless).
Both the iPhone 12 Pro and OnePlus 9 Pro are highly polished, excellent handsets that can check almost every box. In a vacuum, it’s almost too close to call — though I’m partial to the OnePlus 9 Pro because I prefer the superior screen and more customization options.
However, those who care about getting timely software updates, or have a large eco-system of accessories will likely want to go for the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, as the AirPods, AirTags, and Apple Watch are all excellent accessories that work very well with the iPhone.
The OnePlus 9 Pro starts at $969 for the 8GB RAM, 128GB storage model, while the iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999, also for the 128GB storage. While the $30 price difference is negligible, readers may also want to keep in mind that the OnePlus 9 Pro includes a charging brick and protective case, while those are separate purchases for the iPhone 12 Pro.