Review | Nothing Phone 1 review: iPhone lookalike is a good mid-range smartphone for a decent price, but not as great as the hype had us believe
- Stereo speakers and an in-display fingerprint scanner complement a great camera and battery life to make Nothing’s Phone 1 a good-value mid-range Android
- The flashing lights on this iPhone lookalike are gimmicky, and with a typical Android screen and subpar second camera, it doesn’t quite live up to the hype
The much hyped first smartphone from Nothing, a UK-based start-up founded by Carl Pei – who co-founded the Chinese phone maker OnePlus – is here.
Pei has been teasingly hinting at the phone’s existence for months, and suggested the device would zig where everyone else zags.
The final result, sadly, isn’t as ambitious as expected.
Design and hardware
But the Phone 1 is much lighter, at 195g (6.9oz) to the iPhone 13 Pro Max’s 240g, and the transparent back design reveals a flashy back plate with four light strips, which the company calls a “glyph interface”.
The strips are no mere decoration. Nothing has designed several practical uses for the lights, including assigning specific light patterns to specific contacts so you know who’s calling or messaging just from the light pattern; as well as serving as lighting for photos that is less harsh than a traditional smartphone flashlight.
The other side of the phone is rather standard Android: a 6.5-inch (165mm) 120Hz OLED panel that reaches a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits. These are excellent display specs for a phone that starts at HK$3,699 (US$470).
The phone’s build quality is good, and Nothing includes some fancy touches that other brands usually reserve for pricier handsets, such as stereo speakers, IP53 water resistance, and an in-display fingerprint scanner.
Software and features
The Nothing Phone 1 runs a very minimal Android skin – named Nothing OS – over Android 12. Other than some fonts using Nothing’s dot-based typography and a section to customise the light strips, the phone feels like a stock version of Android, which Android enthusiasts will like.
It’s also worth noting that the phone is also free of bloatware (third-party apps that come pre-installed on many phones).
Performance and battery life
The two rear camera lenses have 50-megapixel sensors covering the wide and ultra-wide focal range.
The main (wide) camera is capable of producing sharp, noise-free images, and is surprisingly good considering the phone’s price. Nothing’s software image processing is very polished for a new company launching its first smartphone – a clear sign of Pei’s previous smartphone experience.
The ultra-wide lens, however, produces only mediocre photos because of the small image sensor size. No software can overcome such average hardware.
As for battery life, the Nothing Phone 1 performs well. Battery life is solid, with the 4,500 mAh battery able to power the phone for 11 to 12 hours on a single charge. Also, the screen looks great, and the apps launch in a timely manner.
While the phone’s flashing light strips are enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing, they seem a little pointless, especially if, like me, you rarely receive phone calls. They feel more of a gimmick than a meaningful addition.
With the teasing build-up over months and cryptic messages that implied the phone would be radically different from its competitors, the Nothing Phone 1 is ultimately just a very good mid-range Android phone with some flashing lights. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way.