Nothing Phone 1 Review: Price and Availability, Specifications
Nothing Phone 1 Review, Let's take a look at the Nothing Phone 1 specifications, features, and other information that is currently available.
REASONS TO BUY
+ Really interesting design concept
+ Decent cameras without gimmicks
+ Well-priced proposition
+ Glyph lighting is fun
REASONS TO AVOID
- Battery life struggles to get through a day
- Do you really need Glyph lighting anyway?
- The default sounds/ringtones are grating
- Pretty chunky build
Nothing is a typical brand. During Amazon Prime Day 2022, it launched the Phone 1, which we reviewed here. A sort of "hey, we don't do things like others" move. That was clear when I attended the company's London launch event, where founder Carl Pei gave a pre-recorded video presentation (before entering the venue) in one of the most informal yet engaging presentations I'd seen in a long time.
The Nothing Phone 1 is equally appealing to look at, though I wouldn't call it casual: its transparent rear design, which houses a series of notification lights (dubbed Glyph by the company), has a kind of techno-industrial vibe to it. The Nothing Phone 1's fun factor and distinguishing feature are its design language and those lights.
That, and the price point. The Phone 1 isn't a flagship; it's a first attempt, designed to entice those looking for not only a unique phone to stand out from the crowd, but also one of the best cheap phones available. I agree that it's a good starting point, but has the Phone 1 convinced me that it will completely transform the Android market? Not exactly. Here's why:
NOTHING PHONE (1) REVIEW: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Nothing Phone 1 isn't a cheap piece of kit, as I mentioned above: it costs £399 in the UK, where Nothing is also based (a rare UK-based tech company), or €470 in Europe. There's also a more expensive model with 256GB of storage instead of 128GB.
However, that is your fate. Nothing is pursuing the superpowers, so there is no availability in the United States. In that regard, it is a relatively small launch that is primarily aimed at the European continent, adding to its unusual scope.
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NOTHING PHONE 1 REVIEW: DESIGN AND DISPLAY
And now for the visuals: the Nothing Phone 1 is undeniably a stunning device. I forget it has that rear, which from a distance looks more like a want-to-be case than a translucent rear. But it explains why people have frequently glanced over.
There's a white finish, which I've reviewed here, and a black finish, which I think looks better (I saw it at the launch event but haven't had one myself). There are no other interesting colors to be found: The design language of Nothing is very binary and industrial, right down to the dot-constructed Nothing logo on the back of the phone.
As I mentioned in my Nothing Phone (1), here are three things I like and two things I don't like: "You only need one look at the design of the Phone 1 to have a bit of a wow moment." It's unique in that it embodies the partially transparent design language introduced by the Nothing Ear 1 earphones, albeit in phone form.
"However, that doesn't mean the Phone 1 is completely transparent, as that would look awfully sloppy." Nothing has done a good job of positioning components into a sensible arrangement, so you can see the wireless charging coil on the back" alongside surrounding elements.
However, despite its 8.3mm thickness, it is a substantial handset. If you've handled a lot of phones over the years, you'll understand what I mean: that's not a thickness that's significantly different from anything else on the market right now; it's just that the very square edges and completely flat screen give your hand the impression that it's more brick-like than it really is. That's not ideal in terms of usability, but at least the screen is flat, so images look great with no contrast fall-off.
As it turns out, and as I discovered at the Nothing Phone 1 launch event, the screen is one of the most interesting aspects of this phone. What exactly do I mean? The Phone 1 employs a flexible display solely to allow designers to wrap the base around the bottom and conceal the ribbon strips that connect the panel, resulting in an entirely equal bezel all the way around. As a result, the 'chin' bezel is not larger than the 'forehead' bezel, demonstrating true craftsmanship.
The screen is a 6.55-inch OLED panel, which is slightly smaller than the current standard in most flagships, but it's a reasonable size to reach across while using. Like I said, it's a decent-looking panel, thanks in part to its flatness. While it isn't anything out of the ordinary, it does have all the mod cons, such as 120Hz refresh and 500 nits of brightness with HDR10+ support, making it very capable at this price point.
NOTHING PHONE 1 REVIEW: GLYPH LIGHTS EXPLAINED
But the real reason anyone will look at the Nothing Phone 1 is because of those rear lights, or Glyph lights as they're known within the software. It's a big reason for the phone's transparent design, which allows you to see all four lights beneath the skin.'
There are four lights in total: one around the camera unit, one surrounding the wireless charging core, one above the USB-C charging port, and one in the upper right corner at a 45-degree angle (as if 'pointing' around to the front-facing camera).
You can no longer explicitly control these lights at your leisure. From the camera app, you can illuminate the entire area like a mega-torch. Alternatively, you can enable their various functions, which include notification-related patterns, the ability to assign specific contacts (up to 10) to individual patterns, and, er, the ability for Glyph to 'dance' during music playback.
Finally, the Glyph lighting is Nothing's "fun factor" moment. And it's entertaining. But it's not very useful. Not to me, at any rate. Except for the light strip that fills up during charging to display the battery percentage visually.
One of the reasons for having it is that you can turn your Nothing Phone 1 screen side down and not be distracted by unwanted calls because you'll have assigned one or two specific contacts their own individual Glyph callsign. I understand the concept, but we're talking about a swarm of lights in the back here, which isn't subtle for you or those around you.
I've also had issues with the lights pinging on in the middle of the night for various reasons, and when you set the phone down from use, it'll give you a confirmatory Glyph 'ping' of lights - which for the last week has made me immediately pick up the phone again, assuming there's a message.
What was the end result? Glyph has been largely turned off. As a result, I've effectively dialed out the Nothing Phone 1's key differentiating feature. As a result of those omissions, I can only treat it like any other phone of this type and price point on the market.
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NOTHING PHONE 1 REVIEW: PERFORMANCE AND BATTERY
This is when the Nothing Phone 1 faces its first major challenge: battery life. A 4,500mAh battery is housed inside, which is sufficient for a phone of this size and with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778 platform.
Despite this, the battery life of the Nothing Phone 1 has been a real struggle - I've needed to recharge at the plug before the day was done. Nothing claims a full 18-hour charge time. I've been pressed to go beyond 12 hours, delivering approximately 5 hours of screen time.
I don't think the poor battery life has anything to do with the Glyph lights. Sure, they'll use something, but it's Nothing Launcher, the Android skin that the company uses, that's draining the most battery overall. Overall, this is a surprise.
This is the most difficult obstacle that the Nothing Phone 1 must overcome. I'm sure it could be improved with some updates. I hope it is because it is the only thing that would prevent me from continuing to use this phone as my daily driver.
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Otherwise, performance is quite good: we've reached a point where even Snapdragon processors a couple of steps down the ranks are perfectly capable, and I've had no problems running multiple apps, gaming, and so on. Nothing looks unique, to be sure, but it stays very close to Android, so there's nothing hidden away, no notification issues like with many Chinese brand competitors, and so on.
NOTHING PHONE 1 REVIEW: CAMERAS
When I first saw the Nothing Phone 1, I assumed the cameras would be an afterthought. But nothing has been particularly wise here: the Phone 1's dual rear system includes two 50-megapixel sensors, one wide and the other ultra-wide. So there is no middle ground between the two.
Even better, unlike so many others, the Phone 1 does not dabble in crappy camera gimmicks. There's no unnecessary macro or depth nonsense here. And I wholeheartedly support it.
That has allowed the company to concentrate on the positive aspects of what it is working with, such as the addition of optical image stabilization (OIS) to proceedings, which is extremely useful for added stability. When I used the Camera app as my viewfinder, I could almost feel the stabilization in action.
I haven't taken many pictures with the Nothing Phone 1, but I have taken enough to see how it processes what it collects (some of which are shown above). It also does a good job, thanks to the success of the main Sony sensor used under the skin.
However, in low-light situations, Nothing's lack of image processing results in more image noise and grain than some more established competitors.
Also Read: OnePlus Nord 2T Review
And, before I forget, the Glyph lights can be used as a fill light, which is ideal for close-up shots or video recording. There is no other device on the market that offers such a feature, so the lighting USP has practical applications.
NOTHING PHONE 1 REVIEW: VERDICT
The Nothing Phone 1 may have delivered the hype ahead of launch like no other, but after extensive use, I've discovered that its fun-factor Glyph notification lights can't outweigh the fundamental lack of battery life per charge.
It's still a good value phone and one that doesn't skimp on many key areas where it counts, such as cameras and screen quality, which will certainly help its cause. The Phone 1 does not truly reinvent what a phone is or does, but it does demonstrate that there is room for other ways of thinking in this crowded Android market.
The big question, however, is whether the Phone 1's Glyph lights will truly resonate with its target audience. Otherwise, it's probably time to turn off the lights.