The OnePlus Nord 4 has something no other OnePlus phone has ever had

OnePlus Nord 4 in midnight black color with a metal unibody shell kept on a white fabric beside a gunmetal OnePlus 3T.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Phone companies are in a constant tussle for the limelight, and outstanding designs remain central to that pursuit. OnePlus, which has previously toyed with unusual yet fascinating concepts, is now reviving the use of metal in phone design. The OnePlus Nord 4 is launching on July 16, and the company has already begun teasing its next release.

We already gave you a preview of the upcoming OnePlus Nord 4 with a metal back, while reserving our final review until the announcement next week. 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-ever fluency” on its devices yet.

First, let’s talk about that design

The back of the OnePlus Nord 4.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Our conversation began with the design, which sparks a heavy dose of nostalgia. Phones with metal bodies dominated the latter half of the 2010s, but were eventually phased out in favor of glass or plastic attires, leaving enthusiasts like me mightily unfulfilled.

I inquired about what led to the choice of material. Liu told me the route back to metal was inspired chiefly by four qualities it brings, namely “durability, beauty, permanence, and strength.” Understandably, metal phones don’t as easily succumb to hard drops and are harder to break. While the beauty of a refined metal surface may be subjective — and rightly lies in the eyes of the beholder — they are inarguably more resistant to the effects of time, such as micro scratches, that develop on glass phones after constant use.

Metal also improves performance, with the outer body acting as an effective surface to dissipate heat generated during tasks such as gaming. While that may mean your phone is likely to feel hotter while you use it, it will also cool down faster than most glass back phones. By preventing heat from being trapped inside the body, it will also prevent damage to the internal components over prolonged usage.

So, what led to the ousting of metal phones and the dominance of glass as the preferred material for premium phones? I asked Liu, who responded, “Metal phones were all the rage before 5G networks. But as 5G gained popularity, smartphones needed more antennas.” Compared to just four antennas on the OnePlus 3T, the OnePlus 12 has more than 13.

OnePlus 3T Midnight Black
The OnePlus 3T with a metal unibody back. Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The larger number of antennas leads to challenges with accommodating more within the body. Meanwhile, metal bodies would interfere with the combined signals from these antennas, and that is why companies began to prefer glass or plastic, while the use of metal remained limited to the side rails.

This made me curious about what changes now and how OnePlus was able to achieve a metal build without impacting 5G signals. Liu informed me of overhauled antennas that are now 50% smaller than before. More importantly, OnePlus redesigned the motherboard and placed these antennas strategically, so the Nord 4’s body does not impede cellular signal. In addition, the phone has plastic inserts in places such as the bottom of the back to reinforce signal strength.

The OnePlus Nord 4's metal case and antenna bands.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Besides ensuring signal strength, OnePlus has also created a metal design with microscopic ridges that appear like bumps, but result in a plain surface. That is something glass suffers a lot with, even on the most premium phones and despite the strongest Gorilla Glass — or similarly strong — protective layers.

A new record for OnePlus software updates

OnePlus Nord 4 held in hand against yellow and white background.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

But the OnePlus Nord 4 is about more than just a design change geared for endurance. The software plays a crucial role, too. In fact, it comes with the promise of the “longest-ever software support package” from OnePlus.

Liu confirmed the OnePlus Nord 4 gets four years of Android updates, launching with Android 14 and going up to Android 18 (or equivalent). Additionally, OnePlus will provide two more years of software support for crucial feature updates, including security patches. That 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 in line 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 midrange Android phone to top it is the Google Pixel 8a, for which Google reserves a seven-year update window.

Extensive testing to back mighty claims

OnePlus Nord 4 held in hand in front of metal fencing and trees.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

I asked if other OnePlus phones, especially previously launched flagships such as the OnePlus 12, would get the same treatment. Unfortunately, I did not get a concrete response.

Instead, our conversation pivoted to Liu iterating that it’s not just about bold promises on the number of years a phone will receive updates. I was told that the phone ought to “remain fast and smooth for a long time, and its battery [should] also [be] in it for the long haul.”

To ensure that goes as planned, OnePlus roped in German testing agency TÜV SÜD to run a 72-month fluency test, which the company claims to have aced. This test simulates extensive and laborious tests, copying dozens of gigabits worth of files and deleting them in quick succession to stress the storage, installing and deleting hundreds of apps, and launching and closing various apps — all while timing the launch.

The test certifies that the OnePlus Nord 4 will be as fluent after 72 months (six years) of usage as it is on day one. In addition, the battery has been charged and drained repeatedly to ensure longevity. OnePlus found out the battery stayed in top-notch health despite 1,600 charging cycles.

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