OnePlus Nord 4 has a feature that no other OnePlus phone has

OnePlus Nord 4 has a feature that no other OnePlus phone has

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Phone companies are in a constant battle for the spotlight, and exceptional designs continue to play a central role in that quest. OnePlus, which has previously played with unconventional yet captivating concepts, is now reviving the use of metal in phone design. The OnePlus Nord 4 is set to launch on July 16, and the company is already teasing its next release.

We’ve already given you a preview of the upcoming OnePlus Nord 4 with a metal back, but we’re saving our final review for next week’s announcement. But ahead of the launch, I spoke with OnePlus President and COO Kinder Liu about the exciting aspects of the new design and the company’s commitment to what it claims is the “best fluidity” ever in its devices.

First, let’s talk about this design

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Our conversation began with the design, which evoked a heavy dose of nostalgia. Metal-bodied phones dominated the second half of the 2010s, but eventually were phased out in favor of glass or plastic finishes, leaving enthusiasts like me largely unsatisfied.

I asked what led to the choice of material. Liu told me that he was inspired by the four main qualities that go with metal: “durability, beauty, permanence, and strength.” Understandably, metal phones are less likely to succumb to hard drops and are less likely to break. The beauty of a refined metal surface may be subjective, and rightfully so, in the eye of the beholder, but it’s arguably more resistant to the effects of time, such as micro-scratches that form on glass phones after constant use.

Metal also improves performance, with the outer casing acting as an effective surface to dissipate heat generated during tasks like gaming. While this means your phone will likely feel warmer while you’re using it, it will cool down quicker than most glass-backed phones. By preventing heat from getting trapped inside the casing, it will also prevent internal components from becoming damaged over long periods of use.

So what caused metal phones to fall and glass to become the preferred material for premium phones? I asked Liu, and he told me, “Metal phones were very popular before 5G networks. But as 5G became more popular, smartphones needed more antennas.” The OnePlus 3T had just four antennas, while the OnePlus 12 has over 13.

OnePlus 3T with a metal unibody rear body. Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

More antennas would lead to difficulties in fitting more antennas into the body. Meanwhile, metal bodies would interfere with the combined signals from these antennas, and so companies began to opt for glass or plastic, while metal use was limited to the side rails.

This got me curious about what’s changed now, and how OnePlus managed to achieve a metal build without affecting 5G signals. Liu told me about the revamped antennas, which are 50% smaller than before. More importantly, OnePlus has redesigned the motherboard and strategically placed these antennas so the Nord 4’s body doesn’t block cellular signal. There are also plastic inserts in places like the bottom of the phone’s back to boost signal strength.

Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

As well as ensuring signal strength, OnePlus has also created a metal design with microscopic protrusions that look like bumps but result in a flat surface. This is something that glass suffers from a lot on top-end phones, despite the strongest Gorilla Glass – or similarly strong – protective layers.

OnePlus breaks new record in software updates

Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

But the OnePlus Nord 4 is more than just a design change for durability. Software also plays a major role. In fact, it comes with the promise of “the longest software support package ever” from OnePlus.

Liu confirmed that the OnePlus Nord 4 will receive four years of Android updates, starting with Android 14 and going all the way up to Android 18 (or equivalent). Additionally, OnePlus will provide an additional two years of software support for major feature updates, including security patches. This brings the total support to six years, which is longer than any OnePlus phone in the past. This is a step up from the OnePlus Nord 3, which was promised three years of Android updates and an additional year of security updates.

This is also compatible with other mid-range devices, such as: The Samsung Galaxy A55, which also promises five years of total software support, including four Android updates. The only mid-range Android phone that surpasses it is the Google Pixel 8a, for which Google has allocated a seven-year update window.

Extensive testing to support strong claims

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I specifically asked if other OnePlus phones, like the previously released flagships, were the same. The OnePlus 12 would receive the same treatment. Unfortunately, I did not receive a concrete answer.

Instead, our conversation turned to Liu reiterating that a phone isn’t just about making bold promises about the number of years it will get updates. I was told that a phone “should stay fast and smooth for a long time, and the battery should be there for the long haul.”

To make sure it went as planned, OnePlus hired German testing agency TÜV SÜD to run a 72-month battery life test, which the company claims was successful. The test simulates extensive and arduous testing by copying and quickly deleting tens of gigabits worth of files to stress storage, installing and deleting hundreds of apps, and launching and closing various apps — all while measuring boot times.

The test confirms that the OnePlus Nord 4 will be as smooth as the first day after 72 months (six years) of use. The battery was also repeatedly charged and discharged to ensure its longevity. OnePlus found that the battery remained in peak health despite 1,600 charge cycles.

These assurances should instill a sense of peace in buyers. Towards the end of our conversation, Liu said that a phone without these assurances is “like a solid house without solid foundations.” “It looks good on the surface, but you don’t actually want to live with it.”