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Nothing Phone (1) first impressions: I'm cool like that!

NextPit Nothing Phone 1 Review Test
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The Nothing Phone (1) is undoubtedly the one smartphone this year that comes with the most hype. This begs the question: is it overhyped? We simply have to wait for a full review before answering that. In the meantime, I was able to get a unit in my hands before its release and would like to share = my first impressions on the Nothing Phone (1).

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Nothing Phone (1) price and availability

The Nothing Phone (1) is available in the UK, Europe, Japan, and even India, but sadly, it is not going to make its way over to the US. You can pick it up in three different configurations of 8/128 GB, 8/256 GB, and 12/256 GB with a price tag of €469 (~$470), €499 (~$500), and €549 (~$550), respectively. Those who are interested will be able to pick it up from the official Nothing store and on Amazon.

Make no mistake about it—the Nothing Phone (1) is not a flagship handset despite all the hype surrounding it. It's a mid-range smartphone, one that sits on the premium band certainly, but at the end of the day, it is still mid-range, no more and no less. However, does it really offer anything different than LEDs and a transparent back?

Design: A mixture of boring and innovation

The Nothing Phone (1) clearly stands out for its design with a transparent glass back that reveals some components as well as the LEDs that light up of which Nothing calls "Glyph interface."


What I liked:

  • Transparent design makes quite a statement.
  • The Glyph interface a bit of a gimmick but it also spices up the experience somewhat.
  • IP53 rating, dual stereo speakers.

What I disliked:

  • Form factor was inspired by the iPhone 13 (not a flaw in itself, but relative to the cutting edge of the design).


Nothing Phone (1) vu du dessus avec le design au dos
The Glyph interface is supposed to change the way you interact with your smartphone. But I have to admit that it is a bit of a gimmick. / © NextPit

Well, I've seen it, you've seen it, everyone and their grandmother has seen it... the Nothing Phone (1) has a transparent glass back. It comes in a single shade of white for now, but a black version should arrive later.

And this design relies on the same visual cues like the Nothing Ear (1). The idea is to show a little, but not too much, the interior of the smartphone and its components. All of it comes together in an aesthetically pleasing manner that delivers a harmonious design. It's not just a matter of putting a translucent glass plate for fun.

We find different textures, some close to the surface of a golf ball with a small degree of roughness, not to mention an interesting plate at the right of the camera module. The oblong rectangle in the middle has a circular grooved surface like a vinyl. As for the plates at the bottom, they have been arranged to evoke the shape of a small elephant.

Nothing Phone (1)
The recycled aluminum frame is also very constant reminder of an iPhone with its straight edges and rounded corners. / © NextPit

I must say that overall, I feel like I am holding an iPhone 13 Pro in my hands with its aluminum frame sporting straight edges and rounded corners. The dimensions measuring 159.2 x75.8 x 8.3 mm while tipping the scales at 193.5 grams make it a fairly compact smartphone, where it is certainly not too bulky. However, the most interesting thing is the famous Glyph interface. Basically, it is a system of visual signals (but also sound) that act as notifications, of which these notifications are contextual in nature.

What Nothing wants to introduce is this: you can customize the Glyph interface to associate different types of light signals to different types of notifications. When your significant other calls you, LEDs can light up in different places and at a particular interval. What about the time when you're charging the smartphone? A small LED lights up to denote the charging progress. This way, you can lay the smartphone phone and know just what is happening to the device without having to look at your screen.

On paper, I find it to be quite the gimmick. At the same time, this kind of function is not supposed to transcend your existence to the core. A function is not useless just because it is optional. On the contrary, I find this route of gamification to be quite nice, especially since the manufacturer plans to implement new signals based on user community recommendations. For those who are not prone to such a gimmick, you can also opt to disable this Glyph interface.

Nothing Phone (1)
The Nothing Phone (1) is not tied down to any proprietary charging technology. / © NextPit

Screen: OLED 120 Hz panel

The Nothing Phone (1) packs a 6.55-inch OLED display with a Full HD+ resolution of 2400 x 1080p, HDR10+ compatibility with a 120 Hz refresh rate, a 240 Hz touch rate, and a maximum brightness of 1,200 nits.


What I liked:

  • 120 Hz refresh rate.
  • HDR10+ compatible.
  • No edges or chin.

What I disliked:

  • Relatively low 240 Hz touch sampling rate.

Nothing Phone (1) vu du dessus et de face avec l ecran
The Nothing Phone's 6.55-inch OLED display (1) has a variable refresh rate of 60 to 120 Hz in Full HD+ resolution. / © NextPit

On paper, the OLED screen of the Nothing Phone (1) is rather in line with what you would expect from a smartphone within this price range. I find the colorimetry a bit too saturated with the Alive color mode activated by default. But we'll have to wait for the full review before I can make a definitive statement about color fidelity.

The refresh rate is not very adaptive by default, It can automatically switch from 60 to 120 Hz in certain conditions, without any other interval. Again, I will have to test the responsiveness of the Nothing Phone (1) in my full review. However, I find the 240 Hz touch sampling rate to be a bit weak, especially for gaming use.

But apart from those gripes, the flat, bezel-less screen is nice to look at and most importantly, it doesn't have a big chin as is still often the case in the mid-range segment. It is also pierced by a small punch at the top left corner to accommodate the selfie camera. The fingerprint reader under the screen is very responsive in nature. And the haptic engine produces very clean feedback. It's a silly thing to say, but it reinforces the premium feel of the smartphone.

Nothing Phone (1) vu du dessus et de face avec le poincon en haut a gauche de l ecran
The Nothing Phone's screen (1) would look like an iPhone if it weren't for this punch hole in the top left corner of its OLED screen. / © NextPit

User Interface: Nothing OS, a very light Android 12 skin

The Nothing Phone (1) runs on Nothing OS, the manufacturer's skin based on Android 12. Nothing promises up to three major Android version updates and four years of bi-weekly security updates.


What I liked:

  • Lightweight interface.
  • Android 12 features.
  • 3 versions of Android updates and 4 years of security updates.

What I disliked:

  • I want more Nothing widgets.

Nothing OS is an Android skin that I found to be very light. There's no bloatware and, even more fortunately, no ads in the user interface. And Nothing has implemented the new features of Android 12 such as dynamic themes, Power menu, Privacy Dashboard, and even the new widgets rather well.

The manufacturer has obviously added its own widgets to its launcher that I find to be very nice visually, although I would have liked to have a little more choice. The ability to enlarge the icon of a single app, which you use frequently, for example, is also pretty cool.

Nothing also explained that it's working on pairing Bluetooth devices from third-party manufacturers. The idea is to allow you to connect wearables or connected objects from other brands in an easier manner somewhat like Google Fast Pair+. The manufacturer explained that it already worked with Apple for their AirPods but also with Tesla. It is well known that cool people drive a Tesla.

The Nothing Phone (1) also benefits from a very generous update policy for a mid-range smartphone. Nothing guarantees three major versions of Android as well as four years of security updates with bi-monthly patches. This is still something that is too rare in this price range.

Nothing Phone (1) performance

The Nothing Phone (1) packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ SoC that was manufactured using the 6nm process and mated to an Adreno 642L GPU, all coupled with 8 or 12GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage.

I don't have anything to say about this part for the moment since the conditions of the embargo imposed on the media prevent me from doing so. So, you'll have to wait for my full review which is coming very, very soon.

The Snapdragon 778G+ is a markedly mid-range chipset. It's this point in particular that has caused a bit of disappointment among some groups who were hoping the Nothing Phone (1) would be an ultra-premium flagship.

However, it is a platform that Qualcomm has had time to optimize and which is far less energy consuming than its high-end equivalents and especially one that has far less issues with overheating. I launched Apex Legends Mobile and the game automatically set the graphics to Normal (notch 2 out of 6) with the framerate at High (notch 2 out of 4). But as I explained earlier, I will tell you more about the performance when the time comes.

Photo: Two lenses, no fuss

The Nothing Phone (1) is equipped with a dual camera module spearheaded by a 50 MP wide angle lens and the Sony IMX766 sensor as well as a 50 MP ultra wide-angle lens. As for the selfie camera, it offers a 16 MP resolution shooter.

 

Nothing Phone (1) vu de dos avec le double module photo
The Nothing Phone's dual camera module (1) has the merit of not incorporating a useless 2 MP macro sensor. / © NextPit

Here too, I can't tell you much until I can publish my full review of the Nothing Phone (1). As mentioned earlier, we salute the fact that Nothing has not integrated the unnecessary 2 MP depth or macro sensors. THANKS A BUNCH! Secondly, we can expect very good wide-angle results with the excellent Sony IMX766 sensor that has already proven itself on many other smartphones.

On the other hand, I am a little less hyped by the ultra wide-angle lens and its Samsung Isocell JN1 sensor whose FOV is limited to 114°. We should also check out what Nothing has done on the software side because the photo application looks rather generic. Video recording is limited to 4K definition in 30 FPS with the main lens.

Battery life: Wireless and reverse wireless charging

The Nothing Phone (1) packs a 4,500 mAh battery that supports 33 watts of wired fast charging, 15 watts of Qi wireless charging, and 5 watts of reverse wireless charging.


What I liked:

  • Wireless charging feature is rare in this price range.

What I disliked:

  • Charger is not included.
  • Fast charging at 33-watts is a bit weak.

Well, I know I sound like a broken record now, but I'm going to have to ask you to wait for my full review which is not allowed to be published just yet even though one might have details about the Nothing Phone (1)'s battery life.

Once again, Nothing repeated the same formula that worked well with its Ear (1) earbuds. It offers wireless and reverse wireless charging in a price range that almost does without these features.

On paper, the 4,500 mAh battery seems sufficient for everyday use. On the other hand, take note that Nothing sells its USB-C charger separately. Thankfully, the manufacturer does not offer proprietary charging technology. To take advantage of the 33-watt fast charging in wired mode, any charger that is compatible with the USB PD 3.0 standard will do.

Conclusion

Was the Nothing Phone (1) overhyped or oversold? Personally, I don't care. No, the Nothing Phone (1) is not a €1,000 flagship with the latest Snapdragon SoC. So what?

Seriously, do you really want a flagship? I think Nothing has been playing it smart since the beginning and manages, for now, to always offer products that are powerful enough to be relevant, cheap enough to be manageable in terms of production, and cool or original enough to seduce users who are less obsessed by specifications than a big geek like me.

I think Nothing is making a conscious choice not to target a market of ultra-specialized technophiles. They don't want to repeat OnePlus' mistake of promising the moon to hordes of nerds while slashing prices like crazy. Yes, they're making a big deal about their design. But behind these branded signature moves, we end up with a very well-balanced product, at least on paper.

Just to be sure, I'll see you very, very, very soon for my complete review of the Nothing Phone (1).

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  • storm 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    They made good on source code release in a prompt way. That's not nothing.


  • storm 3 weeks ago Link to comment

    Custom notification light and such has been around since the Galaxy Nexus at least. It's never mattered and I don't see it mattering here.

    Glass back, major fail at this point. At least it's not a curved screen.

    Based on the firmware leaks. It sounds like a cludge of low to mid grade parts stitched together in the usual 1+ mode we all sadly know. BYD, Meizu, a pan-OEM camera app that left all the other maker builds in for extra bulk...

    But now with a London UK badge to mask the Chinese spyware stigma.