IT’S NOT often that you see a smartphone that looks truly different to the run-of-the-mill rectangular slabs we’ve all become used to.
That’s why my head turned when I saw the first phone from Nothing, a London-based startup that’s aiming to shake things up a bit.
Launching operations in 2020, the tech firm is headed up by Carl Pei, the brains behind successful Chinese phone-maker OnePlus.
Nothing released a pair of snazzy wireless earphones a year later and earlier this year launch their first mobile.
The Nothing Phone 1, as it’s catchily named, is a mid-range handset with decent specs and a design that’s certainly out-of-the-ordinary.
But is it worth a chunk of your paycheque? I tested it out for two weeks to find out.
Nothing Phone 1 design
There’s no place to start other than the Nothing phone’s design.
It’s got a transparent back, underneath which is “glyph” lighting – which basically means it’s shaped a bit like a hieroglyphic character.
The technical wizardry at play here is no gimmick, however, providing the user with useful information.
Those white LED strips that snake across the device’s back form shapes that flash when you’ve got an incoming call or text.
They’re synced to flash in unique patterns to let you know when you’ve got a notification, who’s calling, charging status and more.
The glyphs will even dance along to whatever ringtone you’ve selected.
It might not sound like much, but it certainly turns heads.
I’ve found it can prove useful if you’re the sort of person who leaves their phone face down on the table in front of them.
However, if you tend to leave your phone face up (like me) then the lights don’t ever serve much of a purpose beyond being a bit of fun.
Elsewhere when it comes to design, the Nothing Phone appears to follow in the footsteps of the iPhone 12.
That means a straight-sided metal frame with rounded corners, a flat front and back, and dual rear cameras.
It’s a design we’ve seen before, of course, but it’s sleek and in that sense doesn’t draw attention away from the glyph lighting.
Overall, I’d say the Nothing Phone’s design isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for something a bit different: This is it.
Nothing Phone display, camera and specs
While the Nothing Phone 1 has a striking design, its solid if unspectacular display and camera let it down a little.
The 6.55in OLED display does a decent job that would no doubt satisfy the average person.
It’s large, crisp and colourful, with plenty of brightness, but doesn’t come close to those offered by the top Apple and Samsung phones.
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering their respective price tags.
But if you’re watching Netflix or YouTube on the Nothing phone, you won’t be getting the very best picture.
As far as the cameras go, the gadget features two rear lenses (50MP main and 50MP ultra-wide angle) and a 16MP front camera.
Again, for most smartphone owners, they’ll do the job – good enough without doing anything groundbreaking.
I’d say, overall, the camera and screen match up with most phones in the mid-range market, such as the Samsung A-series.
Elsewhere, the Nothing Phone 1 houses a 4,500mAh battery that during my testing struggled to last a full day.
I got roughly five hours of screen-on time in a day before the gizmo needed charging again, which is underwhelming to say the least.
The phone runs a version of Google’s Android operating system powered by an older Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+.
Overall, I’d say the phone’s specs are just about good enough without ever going above-and-beyond for its price tag.
Nothing Phone release date and price
The Nothing Phone 1 went on sale in the UK and Europe on July 21, 2022.
It starts at just £399, making it less than half the price of the recently released iPhone 14.
Considering what you get for that price, it’s an absolute bargain, in my eyes.
You don’t get a camera or display that matches up to the flagship Apple or Samsung mobiles, but you get plenty of bang for your buck.
Nothing had at one point hinted that the door was open for a US release, but later poured cold water on the plans.
It confirmed to CNET in June that the smartphone was not making its way to North America.
If you’re looking for a smartphone that looks good and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, you could do a lost worse than the Nothing Phone.
Its camera and display are good enough to recommend the device, but admittedly won’t win any awards.
However, it’s the design and the price tag where the gadget really stands out.
If you can handle your mobile lighting up like a Christmas tree every time you get an email, then this is a great phone to opt for.
It’s a cracking first effort from Nothing and I’m excited to see what they come up with next.
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