Nothing Phone (1) Review: The flagship killer has evolved
It hasn't been smooth sailing for the Nothing Phone (1) since its launch. The myriad of quality control issues and software bugs may have left a bad taste in the minds of those expecting a radically different smartphone. But behind the regular issues associated with a first generation product, there lies a phone that is indeed radical in the way it approaches the concept of a smartphone. The Nothing Phone (1) is one of those very few phones that makes you fall in love with technology and everything that is great about it.
I know it sounds as if I am romanticizing a fancy midrange Android phone but the Nothing Phone (1) does so many things right that it makes me wait desperately for Nothing to fix its own internal manufacturing issues. After all, it is not everyday that a Rs. 33,000 smartphone gets to keep you from going back to your Rs. 1.5 lakh iPhone 13 Pro Max. The Phone (1) takes on iPhone SE 3rd Gen, the Pixel 6a, and the myriad of “gaming phones” from Chinese brands, and after experiencing them all, I am not afraid to call this a flagship killer.
Nothing Phone (1) Design
It is not everyday that you get to see a company spending a lot of money and efforts on just getting the design different. Vivo and Oppo have been entertaining us with gradient colours and colour-changing rears. Nothing simply does it differently with this semi-transparent rear. Yes, it incites the geek inside me, even though I know that's not how phone internals look like. The Phone (1) under its transparent glass rear shows interestingly shaped wireless charging coil, exposed screws, and that fancy LED notification light arrangement – the Glyph interface.
Before we dive into glyph, know that the Nothing Phone (1) looks great in white and stunningly stealthy in black. The flat sides with the large keys are reminiscent of the iPhone 13 while the astonishingly flat front has aesthetically pleasing slim and uniform bezels. Mind you, the side bezels are thicker than the bezels on a iQOO Neo 6, or the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The entire phone is rated IP52 certified for water resistance, and I unwillingly tested that in the ongoing monsoon season when it endured a 1 hour commute inside my damp trouser pocket.
The Glyph interface is what Nothing banks on to enhance its appeal. It may appear cosmetic at first, and to a large extent, that is actually its true purpose. However, the Flip to Glyph is what makes it useful – imagine your phone lying on the office desk with its face down, and all it uses is the beautiful arrangement of LED notification lights to tell you who's calling or texting. Using Morse code-like effects to notify amps up the “cool” factor. The same goes for the Morse code-style ringtones – they sound harsh but unmistakably Nothing.
Nothing Phone (1) Display
Nothing fancy here; just the usual stuff. This is a flexible OLED display with a resolution of FHD+ and a refresh rate of 120Hz. By all means, this is a very good display that keeps the colour vibrant and contrast-y. The viewing angles are wide but there's a slight yellowish tint that's visible on dark backgrounds. For usual display duties, it works just fine – be it social media or photos, it all looks good. I wish Nothing gave an option to lock the refresh rate to 120Hz instead of keeping it in the variable mode. Oh, there's also a very cool Always On Display with signature Nothing dot-matrix font for the clock.
Nothing Phone (1) Performance
Phones need to have powerful processors and I say that not becuase of the desire to show off the highest game settings on Call of Duty:Mobile. If the processor is powerful today, it will still be fast enough three years down the line. Carl Pei's ex-company OnePlus had the philosophy and hence, the phones used to be fast even after 3 years (although the software was a buggy mess). With Nothing, it was all about cost-cutting and the performance department got that.
The Snapdragon 778G+ is capable enough for an Android phone in 2022 and I have no doubts about it. Throughout my time, the chipset has handled some intense office multitasking, casual gaming, and the usual stuff. Other than the bugs in the initial few software builds, the phone has been highly fast and smooth. That said, it lacks that flawless urgency you get to see on phones with the Snapdragon 870, or Snapdragon 888, or the MediaTek Dimensity 8100.
And that worries me – how is this chip going to hold up in its third year, when it will have Android 15 and much evolved popular apps? Nothing might have to do some serious optimisation here to keep it this smooth. Maybe using the Snapdragon 870 could have removed this doubt, considering the greatness of that chip.
The Snapdragon 778G+ chip, however, offers rock solid stability with regards to performance in the present day, and there's none of the performance throttling you see in the similarly priced “gaming phones.” Making the most out of this chip is Nothing OS based on Android 12. Honestly speaking, this is the finest iteration of a no-nonsense clean Android experience you can have today. It has all the Android 12 fancy widgets but sprinkled with the stock Android simplicity we have loved for years. Customisation features are limited to what you get with stock Android 12 – accent colours, icons, fonts, and the likes. The Nothing widgets are cool to look at as well. No preloaded third-party apps, no adware, nothing unnecessary! It is an all Google affair here, except for the Nothing camera app and Recorder app.
The stereo speaker setup is decent and they go loud too. However, the audio quality lacks the depth you get from the Xiaomi 11T Pro. No headphone jack here.
With both the defective and final units, I did not observe any connectivity issues over my Jio 4G network (there's support for 5G networks too). Call reception was loud and clear, and I did not lose signal even in congested areas. There's support for carrier aggregation as well.
Nothing Phone (1) Cameras
Nothing bucks the trend here. There are just two cameras and both of these form an overall good camera system. The 50MP main camera has a Sony IMX766 sensor at the helm and I am glad to see Nothing tuning its algorithms to get a natural look to the photos. Daylight photos maintain a neutral colour tone with ample details and good noise control. Cloudy conditions do make the photos look gloomy and the HDR does little to help with that. Night photos have that iPhone-like look and feel – natural colour tones and no over enhancement. However, you need to engage the Night mode to reduce the blurred details.
The 50MP ultra-wide camera has the Samsung JN1 sensor and its benefits are seen in terms of details. However, the colour science is different – it's mostly dull and leaves a lot of room for improvement. The macro function is just okay for daylight situations and it never is able to match the 5MP Xiaomi macro camera with 2 cm focal distance. The 16MP front camera is good with its colour science, details and subject detection in portrait modes. No complaints here. The Glyph lights make for great fill lighting in close up portraits.
The Nothing Phone (1) can record videos at up to 4K resolution and 30 fps. The performance is decent in both 4K and 1080p, as the colour science is once again more neutral than saturated. The iPhone SE 3rd Gen still rules the video recording game with its old 12MP camera.
Nothing Phone (1) Battery Life
With a power efficient Snapdragon 778G+ chipset and a well-tuned Nothing OS, the 4500mAh battery is able to deliver a day's worth of stamina on a single charge. This data comes from generic phone usage that involved an average 3 hours of voice call, 2 hour of social media browsing, some occasional 15-minute gaming sessions, and music streaming. Most people should be easily able to go an entire day without the charger.
As for the charger, there is Nothing! (Haha, you didn't see it coming) There's no charger in the box and the Nothing Phone (1) supports 33W of wired fast charging. Nothing sells a charger too but since I didn't have it, I mostly used a 33W Motorola charger and a 65W OnePlus charger to fill it up. It took just over an hour when the battery dropped to 20 percent. Not fast enough by today's standards but it does the job. The top-ups from 30-70 percent are quick though.
You also have 15W of wireless charging and 5W reverse wireless charging as well. I seldom used these but if you have a wireless charger around, this is certainly useful.
Nothing Phone (1) Verdict
No smartphone has ever been perfect and never will be; the same goes for the Nothing Phone (1). It could always have had faster charging and processors, or more cameras, or something else. But here's the thing – Nothing has got a phone that simply works for everyone and makes a fashion statement at the same time. And it is not an iPhone, it runs on the Android most of you and me love. This itself is a big reason for me to recommend the Nothing Phone (1) to most people. It is a phone that makes using the smartphone a happy experience. After all, who doesn't like their phone to blink massive lights to notify while its face-down? LED lights on phones are cool. FACT!
For the rational consumer, here's the rundown. The Nothing Phone (1) looks different, has an amazingly useful gimmick (the Glyph), has a nice and bright display, a pair of good cameras, a clean and sensible Android experience, a fast processor and a good battery life to sum it up. Wait, don't we say the same for those self-acclaimed flagship killers?
Hence, if you have a budget of somewhere between Rs. 30000 to Rs. 40000, the Nothing Phone (1) makes for a great pick. It has got just about everything you need, and some of that geeky flair. I am excited to see what the Nothing Phone (2) brings to the table.
- Unique design
- Reliable performance
- Good battery life
- Nice cameras
- Slow charging
- No charger in box
Display6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED 120Hz
RAMUp to 12GB
StorageUp to 256GB UFS 3.1
Rear Cameras50MP + 50MP