It’s rare for the first generation of consumer technology products to be near perfect, but here we are with the Nothing Phone (1). It’s the first smartphone from Nothing—the new company headed by former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei—and only the company’s second release, following last year’s Ear 1 wireless headphones.
What is no it’s rare for a first generation product to have some kind of flashy features to draw you in. Remember the Red Hydrogen One and its funky holographic display? The Essential Phone’s magnetic dock that never amounted to much (for good reason)? Or even the Amazon Fire phone’s “Dynamic Perspective”? The glow on the Nothing Phone (1) is extra fun: 900 LEDs under the glass on the back that light up in unique patterns when notifications arrive and can act as an alternative camera flash when shooting in low light.
There’s nothing called a Glyph Interface. It’s stupid, and maybe even sly. But I love watching it. I love seeing it light up, so much so that I regularly turn my phone around when it’s on my desk to see the design. I also love the fun little sounds the device makes with Nothing’s custom ringtones and alerts. Beep boop! (Fair warning: Alarm sounds can seriously harm you if someone is sleeping next to you.)
What sets the Nothing Phone (1) apart from other first generation smartphones is that it performs every primary function very well. Take away the bright lights and you’re left with a simple, affordable and efficient phone, from the screen to the camera to the battery. It’s hard to find many faults. The only problem? Not sold in the US.
Nothing is everything
Price is everything these days, and the Nothing Phone (1) starts at £399, or roughly $472, which puts it in 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 get mostly premium smartphone specs, which is the same tactic OnePlus used back in the good old days.
There’s an exceptional 6.55-inch OLED screen. It’s sharp and gets bright enough to see clearly on sunny summer days. It also has an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate, which makes every interaction with the phone feel as smooth as a knife through soft butter. It’s a respectable size — not too big, not too small — with straight edges that make it easy to hold.
Performance is another exception. It’s powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ with 8GB of RAM, but I didn’t see any lag on the Nothing Phone (1). (You can also upgrade to 12GB of RAM.) Games like Dead cells and Alto’s Odyssey ran without problems, and more demanding titles like Genshin Impact performed well enough. The device never got suspiciously hot.
All the other important goodies are there, including wireless charging, reverse wireless charging to top up wireless headphones, NFC for contactless payments, a beautiful haptic motor for gentle vibrations, and Gorilla Glass 5 protecting the front and back. There’s an in-display fingerprint sensor that’s pretty reliable, and the dual stereo speakers sound great.