Nothing Phone 1 review: an Android with funky lights on its transparent back | Smartphones

Nothing Phone 1 review: an Android with funky lights on its transparent back | Smartphones

The Phone 1 is the primary smartphone from the British expertise startup Nothing, led by the OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, who arrange on his personal with the goal of bringing back a little bit of curiosity and pleasure to the more and more samey world of shopper electronics.

However the agency’s follow-up to the funky Ear 1 earbuds is not any flashy top-spec cellphone. Priced at £399 (A$749), it seems to be to compete immediately with extra reasonably priced fashions equivalent to Samsung’s mid-range A-series and Google’s Pixel 6a. It does so whereas providing one thing distinctive: a collection of white LED strips strewn throughout a transparent glass back to create patterns of sunshine that Nothing calls “glyphs”.

The back of the Nothing Phone 1 showing the transparent design and light strips.
5 separate mild bars flash and pulse in time to sound and vibration patterns for 10 completely different ringtones and notification sounds, and present the charging standing when the cellphone is plugged in. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Totally different mild patterns present who is asking, which app is notifying you and even several types of notification from the identical app with out having to see the display screen. You possibly can set one sample for a piece e-mail or one for a private e-mail in Gmail, as an example, however, sadly, you possibly can’t differentiate between messages from completely different contacts, solely calls.

The glyphs and transparent back add a little bit of curiosity to an in any other case pretty understated design. The recycled aluminium sides and flat OLED display screen look remarkably just like an Apple cellphone, main multiple individual to ask if I used to be holding an iPhone 13. Nonetheless, the construct high quality is excellent, and the complete HD 6.55in display screen is superb for the cash: large, brilliant, crisp and super-smooth, due to a 120Hz refresh fee.

(*1*)

Specs

  • Display screen: 6.55in 120Hz FHD+ OLED (402ppi)

  • Processor: Snapdragon 778G Plus

  • RAM: 8 or 12GB

  • Storage: 128 or 256GB

  • Working system: Android 12 with Nothing OS

  • Digital camera: 50MP essential and ultrawide, 16MP selfie

  • Connectivity: 5G, eSIM, wifi 6E, NFC, Bluetooth 5.2 and GNSS

  • Water resistance: IP53 (splash-resistant)

  • Dimensions: 159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3mm

  • Weight: 193.5g

A handy guide a rough, mid-range chip

The USB-C port of the Nothing Phone 1.
The cellphone helps as much as 33W wired charging, reaching 100% in a bit over an hour, however doesn’t come with an influence adaptor. 15W wi-fi charging and 5W reverse wi-fi charging are additionally out there. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The cellphone has a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus chip, which is completely succesful in day-to-day utilization, with the interface and apps feeling fairly snappy.

Nonetheless, it falls in need of the uncooked efficiency of top-class chips, which is most noticeable when processing photos and its sluggish switching between lenses within the digital camera after taking pictures. Solely these mid-range telephones with top-spec chips equivalent to Apple’s iPhone SE or Google’s Pixel 6a will carry out markedly higher for the worth.

The battery life is sweet, lasting about 38 hours between expenses together with two hours on 5G, placing it on a par with most high units. You’ll most likely should cost it as soon as a day.

Sustainability

The Nothing Phone 1 viewed from above showing the recycled aluminium band around its sides.
The cellphone is manufactured from recycled aluminium and plastic with a premium feel and appear much less frequent for mid-range smartphones. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Nothing charges the battery for at the very least 800 full cost cycles whereas sustaining at the very least 80% of its unique capability. The Phone 1 is usually repairable within the UK and the battery is replaceable by Nothing.

The Phone 1 is manufactured from 100% recycled aluminium with greater than 50% of its plastic elements constituted of bio-based or recycled supplies. The corporate plans to publish an environmental impression report for the cellphone, which it says has a carbon footprint of 58.5Kg CO2 equal.

Nothing OS

The quick settings panel on the Nothing Phone 1.
The fast settings panel additionally has some customized options, with Nothing intending so as to add extra, equivalent to integration with Tesla’s vehicles, in an effort to unlock the doorways remotely. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Phone 1 ships with a stripped-back model of Android 12 referred to as Nothing OS. It supplies all of the options you’d count on however with out the bloat of duplicated apps, principally relying on these offered by Google, which is an effective factor.

The interface is sprinkled with a contact of dot-matrix nostalgia in its widgets, typeface and logos, plus some customized wallpapers and a voice recorder app with a novel record-player-like interface. It’s engaging with out being too radical.

The corporate will supply three years of main Android updates and a complete of 4 years of safety fixes each two months. That’s respectable however a 12 months in need of that supplied by Google and Samsung’s competing units, and nicely behind Fairphone and Apple’s six- to seven-year help.

Nothing OS was {smooth} and secure however I encountered a couple of small bugs, a few of which have been fastened throughout the testing interval, so I’ve little doubt these remaining issues will likely be sorted out. When restoring the cellphone from a cloud backup of my information, autorotation between portrait and panorama didn’t work, and neither did the Glyph mild exhibiting Google Assistant exercise. Organising the cellphone with out restoring my information fastened the issues.

Digital camera

The camera app on the Nothing Phone 1 showing the viewfinder.
The digital camera app is straightforward to make use of and similar to these on different Android smartphones, so will likely be acquainted to many. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The Phone 1 has a refreshingly easy lens lineup on the back, with solely two 50-megapixel cameras – one regular and one ultrawide – forgoing further garbage macro or monochrome cameras frequent on mid-range telephones for advertising functions.

Each cameras are good for the cash. The primary digital camera produces the perfect photos which have typically good color stability and element. Images can lack a bit sharpness and nice element when considered at full dimension, and it may be a bit tough to get a pointy shot in low mild. The ultrawide produces photos with cooler tones and softer element however continues to be respectable. The digital camera can often oversaturate elements of an picture, equivalent to pink flowers shedding all definition and nearly glowing.

The cellphone has no telephoto digital camera however the digital zoom produced usable photos at 2x, turning into filled with artefacts after about 5x magnification. The glyphs may be lit as much as create a fill mild at evening as a substitute of utilizing the flash, which is novel however produces a blue hue to the photographs. The selfie digital camera is equally good, producing detailed pictures in good mild.

Video recording was strong for the cash however solely as much as 4K at 30 frames a second, not 60 as is more and more frequent.

General, the Phone 1 is able to producing actually good photos, and beats many mid-range rivals, however received’t hassle the perfect.

An image showing the fingerprint scanner lighting up beneath the screen of the Nothing Phone 1.
The optical fingerprint scanner underneath the display screen is quick and correct. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Worth

The Nothing Phone 1 prices £399 (A$749) with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, £449 (A$799) with 8GB and 256GB, or £499 (A$849) with 12GB and 256GB, and is obtainable in black or white relying on the mannequin.

For comparability, the Google Pixel 6a prices £399, the Samsung Galaxy A53 prices £399, the Fairphone 4 prices £499, and the Apple iPhone SE prices £419.

Verdict

The Phone 1 is a remarkably well-executed first try at a smartphone from Nothing.

Its design is distinctive on the back and easy elsewhere. You may not just like the iPhone-like look however the recycled aluminium sides actually really feel extra premium than the aggressive mid-range value may counsel.

The glyph lights on the back are actually novel and crowd pleasing however remembering which sample is which is tough, and I usually keep away from placing telephones face down to stop scratches. It’s good to see one thing completely different and enjoyable, although.

Regardless of an odd bug attributable to be fastened, the Android software program is pleasingly bloat-free, which helps the cellphone really feel snappy in use. The battery life is fairly good, too. 4 years of promised software program updates is sweet however not the perfect, and depends on Nothing succeeding in fulfilling its dedication, which isn’t assured for any new entrant.

It has very stiff competitors from rivals equivalent to Google’s glorious Pixel 6a, however in contrast with a whole lot of boring mid-range telephones, the £399 Nothing Phone 1 stands out.

Professionals: novel back design, glyph lights are one thing completely different, good display screen, respectable efficiency, strong battery life, recycled aluminium, bloat-free Android 12, competitively priced.

Cons: no optical zoom, solely 4 years of safety updates, solely splash-resistant, Nothing a little bit of an unknown amount.

A photo showing the cameras and other design elements on the Nothing Phone 1’s transparent back.
The design of the back exhibiting the wi-fi charging coil, screws and different element is the Phone 1’s standout function. {Photograph}: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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