Nothing Phone (1) review: Does Nothing’s first smartphone live up to its hype? 

If you know exactly what kind of smartphone you’re looking for, and Nothing Phone (1) ticks off most of the boxes, then you won’t be disappointed
Nothing Phone (1)
Nothing Phone (1)

Nothing is a relatively new brand. When Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, announced he was starting a new brand, the whole of the tech industry sat up and took notice. In 2021, the brand launched its first product, the Nothing Ear (1) with much fanfare.

That product lived up to its hype and then some. In April of 2014, OnePlus launched its first smartphone, and instantly became the king of the “flagship killer” category. It’s almost like OnePlus came to define the category. 

Many years later, can the Nothing Phone (1) do the unthinkable and could Carl Pei repeat his feat?

I’ve been using the Nothing Phone (1) for a couple of weeks, and I must say, that it is a far more polished product now than it was at launch thanks to a couple of timely software updates.

I’m not going to do a deep dive into the product, as many reviews are already out there, but tell you about a few key things you need to keep in mind if you’re one of those looking to purchase this product. 

A unique design 

The Nothing Phone (1) has the most unusual/distinctive design of any smartphone over the past few months, if not years. The Phone 1 has a transparent back align with many LED lights. The Glyph lighting, where the LED lights are embedded, was a much hyped feature. It’s fun, cute, and can wow people at first glance, but it isn’t very useful at the moment. 

One can use the glyph lights for knowing who is calling or how much the battery has charged, but beyond that, there isn’t much one can do. A lot of people I’ve talked to have switched back to the minimalistic always-on-display instead for getting their notifications, battery percentage and more. The display, is brilliant, I must say. It’s a 6.55-inch OLED (2400x1080 resolution) with a 120Hz refresh rate and a peak brightness of 1,200 nits. It’s plenty bright for the outdoors and fast and intuitive for doomscrolling on social media. The colours are vivid and pop out when watching any high-definition content. 

The Nothing Phone 1 is eye-catching, and you will no doubt get stopped on the streets or in the metro about it. I’ve been asked way too many times about what smartphone I’m using and where one can buy it. 

Are specs everything? 

The answer is a simple no. Nothing decided to go with the mid-range Snapdragon 778G (unlike some of the competition offering the Snapdragon 870). It may be an older chipset and can’t handle some of the demanding games, but it does offer fast performance and a lag-free experience. Couple that with Nothing’s clean OS and you get a really good device to use as a daily driver.

A day’s worth of battery life along with support for wireless charging 

One thing I found with the Phone 1 was that it would easily last (unless I was gaming for hours on end) for over a day. This isn’t a phone you’d buy for gaming purposes in the first place. The Phone 1 comes with a 4,500mAh battery and can be charged at up to 33W. In my books, this is good enough for a phone like this. Nothing having to charge the phone overnight is a major boon. Get up in the morning, plug the phone in, and by the time you’re ready to leave, the phone will be topped up. I’ve routinely gotten over 6 hours of screen-on-time and never had battery anxiety with the Phone 1. 

As an added bonus, the Phone 1 supports wireless charging. 

The camera: Above average 

I’ve spoken to quite a few buyers of the Phone 1 and they’ve said that for daylight photos, the smartphone produces photos that are above average for this segment. Even the night mode photos are a realistic representation of the scene and not artificially brightened beyond what is normal. 

Thanks to a few timely updates, the camera has vastly improved since the phone was first launched. Still, it isn’t perfect. When you try to zoom in to a photo, a lot of the details are lost.  

The camera has finally gotten the watermark feature among others, which is nice to see. 

Day-to-day usage 

The Nothing Phone (1) felt fast and fluid during my multiple weeks of testing. With a near stock Android experience, and a fluid 120Hz display, I didn’t really find anything to fault. The smartphone is comfortable to use (albeit hard to use one-handed) even though it feels big in the hand. The stereo speakers get loud, albeit a little bit distorted. They are perfectly serviceable. 

Has the Nothing Phone (1) lived up to the hype? 

That’s a double-edged sword right there. The Nothing Ear (1) definitely smashed it out of the park. The Nothing Phone (1) is fun, unusual, and innovative, yes. On the other hand, the glyph interface, which makes the smartphone stand out, gets boring a little too quickly. Maybe some new NothingOS features could be launched to spice up the smartphone.  

If you know exactly what kind of smartphone you’re looking for, and Nothing Phone (1) ticks off most of the boxes, then you won’t be disappointed. 

If you need a gaming phone look elsewhere. If you’re going to be shooting dozens of photos a day, then look at wha the competition has to offer. If you’re looking for a feature-rich smartphone that won’t break the bank and has that ‘wow’ element to it, then the Nothing Phone (1) is the smartphone for you. The Nothing Phone (1) has a innovative design, minimal software, and an above-average performance. 

The Phone (1) may have not been the home run Nothing was looking for, but it certainly has left a solid impression. Here’s hoping the chinks in armour can be fixed by the time the Phone 2 (or whatever they’ll be calling it) comes out in 2023. 

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