While Nothing has been busy accelerating the launch of Phone 1 for the last half year, Xiaomi released phone after phone, covering almost every price point you can think of. The latest in the line could be the perfect competitor for the Nothing Phone 1, apart from the lack of an intriguing transparent back with light effects. The Xiaomi 12 Lite has a similar boxy design, slightly lower price point and comparable specs – basically, it makes you wonder what’s so special about the Nothing Phone 1.
Xiaomi 12 Lite vs Nothing Phone 1
The Xiaomi 12 Lite is a solid budget phone with a much more traditional look than the Phone 1. It comes in matte finishes with black, light green and light pink color options and has a boxy shape similar to the iPhone or of course the Phone 1. Its thickness At 7.2mm, it’s about a millimeter thinner than the Phone 1 and weighs about 20g less, but otherwise it’s almost identical in shape and form.
Even the specs are perfectly in sync. Both phones feature 6.5-inch OLED screens with a resolution of 2400 x 1080 and a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. The manufacturers both opted for the mid-range Snapdragon 778G processor, although nothing wrong when choosing the Plus variant went one step further, complete with wireless charging support.
However, the small difference in size of the Xiaomi 12 Lite is at the expense of a smaller battery. It only has a 4,300mAh battery compared to a 4,500mAh battery in the Phone 1. At least it makes up for that with faster charging, beating the Phone 1’s 33W charging at 67W. We also know that Xiaomi’s version of Android, MIUI, has some battery-saving technologies up its sleeve, so the difference in capacity might not even be noticeable in day-to-day use.
The software is probably the biggest differentiator here. If you prefer a clean approach to Android that doesn’t add too much bloatware or duplicate apps, the Nothing Phone 1 makes a solid case in its own right. Xiaomi’s MIUI, meanwhile, is filled with a lot more superfluous apps, but also some smarts that you won’t get on the Phone 1 or other phones that are more in line with Google’s Pixel phones. It allows you to use duplicate pairs of apps, has some handy multi-touch shortcuts, and a much more robust version of floating windows.
The Xiaomi 12 Lite has just come onto the market in Germany, but it has been available in other regions for some time. It costs from 450 euros in the version with 8+128 GB and is therefore 20 euros cheaper than the Phone 1 in the identical entry-level configuration. In the UK, the Xiaomi 12 costs £350 in a 6+128GB version, which is £50 cheaper than the 8+128GB variant of the Phone 1.
But what is the real difference between the two?
Despite the differences between the two phones, it is clear that they are mainly identical at a technical level. This underscores why Nothing has been so relentless in promoting and hyping its entry into the smartphone market for the past six months. The mid-range smartphone segment is incredibly crowded and highly competitive, with many people making their purchasing decisions based on either brands they already know or based on best value for money.
If Nothing had launched without generating enthusiasm for its product and selling itself as a lifestyle brand rather than a tech company, the Phone 1 would have quickly been lost in a stream of similarly priced and alike looking phones. To make sure that doesn’t happen, Nothing basically used their Ear 1 earbuds as a testing ground to see what works and what doesn’t in terms of marketing.
The Ear 1 proved that nowadays it’s not enough to create a compelling product – the company also had to tell a compelling story about it, strategically tease detail after detail and give the media every opportunity to cover the product before it was released at all was announced or in anyone’s hands (a game we didn’t participate in here at Android Police).
Nothing CEO Carl Pei proved much earlier that he can create something from nothing. He was the marketing brains behind OnePlus, the company that launched its unprecedented foray into the smartphone market in 2013 with its “flagship killer” strategy. It also told a compelling story around a mid-range product that positioned it as good enough or better than much more expensive products on the market – the OnePlus One.
Essentially, the Nothing Phone 1 is just a refined take on what the OnePlus One was, like a grown-up version of it. Rather than go all-in with specs and a focus on smartphone enthusiasts, Nothing takes a broader approach. The focus on the unique back and the storytelling surrounding the new product make it clear that the company sees itself on the border between technology, design and fashion.
In fact, Nothing told me that the Ear 1 routinely sold out and was widely successful with retailers normally known for selling fashion brands, and it seems Nothing has the same in mind for the Phone 1. Finally, the launch event focused mostly on talking about the design and the experience rather than cold hard specs.
Where does that leave us for the Xiaomi 12 Lite and the Nothing Phone 1?
Despite the objective spec-to-spec comparison between the 12 Lite and the Phone 1, the question remains as to which product appears more exciting on the surface. On the one hand is the Xiaomi 12 Lite, which might just be a great budget phone, but it’s just one of many other mid-range devices from Xiaomi and other manufacturers. On the other hand, the Nothing Phone 1, which was teased and promoted for months before its launch, is complete with a unique design.
While you might want to say that you couldn’t care less about brands and their marketing shenanigans, and that you’d prefer the Xiaomi phone over the Nothing product if both were available in your region, the question is which of these devices to go to we will remember in a few years. With the Nothing Phone 1 I get my money’s worth, even in the event that Nothing crashes and burns out.
Finally, we still fondly remember other quirky products from brands that have either died or drastically changed course over the years. The Nextbit Robin, the original Moto X, the first OnePlus One and even the Essential Phone come to mind. As much as Xiaomi is widely successful, many will likely hardly remember a single product from the company save perhaps for the Poco F1 – the company’s own approach to flagship slaying, complete with its own origin story as a scrappy startup.