Nothing Phone (1) Rating: Fun lights, just right

It’s rare for the first generation of a consumer tech product to be near perfect, but here we are at the Nothing Phone (1). It’s the first-ever smartphone from Nothing – a new company headed by former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei – and only the company’s second release after last year’s Ear 1 wireless earbuds.

what is Not It’s rare for a first-gen product to have some sort of eye-catching feature that draws you in. Remember the Red Hydrogen One and its funky holographic display? The Essential Phone’s magnetic connector that never really mattered much (for good reason)? Or even the “Dynamic Perspective” of the Amazon Fire Phone? The Nothing Phone (1) shines for added fun: 900 LEDs under the glass on the back that light up with unique patterns when notifications come in and can act as an alternate camera flash when you’re shooting in low light.

Nothing calls it the Glyph interface. It’s silly and maybe even gimmicky. But I like looking at it. I like seeing it light up, so much so that I regularly turn the phone over when it’s on my desk to see the design. I also love the fun little noises the device makes with Nothing’s custom ringtones and notifications. beep boop! (Just warning: the alarm tones can cause you serious harm if someone is sleeping next to you.)

What sets the Nothing Phone (1) apart from other first generation smartphones is that it does every primary function beautifully. Take away the bright lights and you have a simple, affordable and effective phone, from the screen to the camera to the battery. It’s hard to find many bugs. The only problem? It is not sold in the US.

nothing is everything

Nothing phone (1)

Photo: Julian Chokkattu

The price is everything These days, the Nothing Phone (1) starts at £399, or about $472, putting it in a league with the Google Pixel 5A (plus the upcoming Pixel 6A), the Samsung Galaxy A53, and other devices from Xiaomi, Poco, and OnePlus. For the money, you mostly get high-end smartphone specs, which is the same tactic OnePlus used in the good old days.

There’s the extraordinary 6.55-inch OLED display. It’s sharp and gets bright enough to see clearly on sunny summer days. It also has an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz, making every interaction with the phone feel smooth, like a knife through soft butter. It’s a respectable size – not too big, not too small – with flat edges that make it easier to hold.

Performance is another standout feature. Powered by the mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ with 8 GB of RAM, I hardly saw any stuttering on the Nothing Phone (1). (You can also upgrade to 12GB RAM.) Games like dead cells and Alto’s Odyssey ran smoothly, and more demanding titles like Genshin Impact done well enough. The device never got critically warm.

All the other key benefits are here, including wireless charging, reverse wireless charging to top up your wireless earbuds in an emergency, NFC for contactless payments, a wonderful haptic motor for smooth vibrations, and Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the front and back. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor, which I’ve found to be fairly reliable, and the dual stereo speakers sound great.

Photo: Nothing

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