Nothing Phone (1) Review: A Guiding Light

Well... 900 guiding lights to be precise

Nothing Phone 1 Review (1)
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After a bunch of teasers and after generating an insane level of hype, Nothing finally unveiled its first smartphone, the Phone 1 [stylized: Phone (1)] back on July 12. Our entire team was quite excited about it, of course, and we ordered one right away to prepare this Nothing Phone 1 review. But due to a series of shipping delays, we only received it like 3 weeks later.

Anyway, one of the reasons I was hyped about the Nothing Phone 1 is because of all its promises. The promises I was sure Nothing couldn’t keep, to be honest.

Trying to stand out in the smartphone market is not an easy job these days, especially for a new company. But more importantly, I wanted to see if the Phone 1 is actually a decent mid-range device behind all the hype, that “Carl Pei X factor”, and the funky design. And after using the Nothing Phone 1 for a little over two weeks for this review, here’s what I think about it.

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Nothing Phone 1 Review: Specifications

  • Body: 75.8 x 159.2 x 8.3mm, 193.5gm, Gorilla Glass 5, IP53 dust/splash resistant
  • Display: 6.55-inches Flexible OLED, 120Hz refresh rate, 240Hz touch sampling rate, Gorilla Glass 5
  • Other Properties: HDR10+, 700 nits peak brightness, 10-bit color depth
  • Resolution: FHD+ (2400 x 1080 pixels), 402 PPI, 20:9 aspect ratio
  • Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ 5G (6nm mobile platform)
  • CPU: Octa-core:
    – 1x Cortex-A78 (2.50 GHz)
    – 3x Cortex-A78 (2.20 GHz)
    – 4x Cortex-A55 (1.90 GHz)
  • GPU: Adreno 642L
  • Memory: 8/12GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128/256GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Software & UI: Android 12 with Nothing OS on top
  • Rear Camera: Dual (with LED flash);
    – 50MP, f/1.88 Sony IMX766 primary sensor, OIS + EIS
    – 50MP, f/2.2 Samsung JN1 ultrawide sensor, 114° FoV, 4cm macro
  • Front Camera: 16MP, f/2.45 Sony IMX471 sensor (hole-punch cutout)
  • Audio: Stereo speaker, 3 high definition mics, No headphone jack
  • Security: In-display fingerprint sensor (Optical)
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass, Front RGB, Gyroscope, Proximity, Sensor Core
  • Connectivity: Dual-SIM (Nano), WiFi 6 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (Dual-band), Bluetooth 5.2, GPS / AGPS / Galileo / Glonass / QZSS, USB Type-C, NFC, 4G LTE (VoLTE), 5G
  • Battery: 4500mAh with 33W fast charging (no power adapter provided)
  • Color Options: Black, White
  • What’s Inside The Box: Nothing Phone 1, SIM ejector, USB-C to USB-C cable, User manual and other documents
  • Price in Nepal: N/A (INR 33,999 for 8/128GB)

Nothing Phone 1 Review:

Design & Build

  • 75.8 x 159.2 x 8.3mm, 193.5 grams
  • Glass front/back, Aluminum frames
  • IP53 dust/splash resistant

Okay, the conversation about the Nothing Phone 1 definitely needs to start with the design. We’ve already seen a handful of phones with a transparent look in the past, but not like this.

Nothing’s approach is technically a semi-transparent design, with all the wires, integrated circuits, and other internal components gracefully hidden behind different layers. While revealing only the bare minimum to maintain a fresh look.

Nothing Phone 1 - Design 2

Needless to say, the Nothing Phone 1 is one heck of a head-turner! And one I’m partially personally fond of! In my experience, it has also been something of a conversation starter. Ever since I started using Phone 1, I’ve been stopped by a bunch of people asking me just what kind of phone this is.

And when I’d reply “it’s Nothing”, the pure confusion on their face is still kinda funny to me. It’s a terrible pun, I know, but I can’t help it.

And that confusion would quickly change to amusement when I’d start flexing the LED lights at the back. Once again, notification light is nothing new in the world of smartphones, but not like this. The “Glyph Interface” as Nothing calls it, definitely adds a unique character to the phone.

And I’ll admit that I was also pretty excited to see it in action myself. But sadly, that excitement didn’t last very long. I don’t mean to say it’s useless or anything, but it turned out to be one of those features that you stop caring about after a couple of days.

The Glyph Interface can do a lot of things

From sending notification alerts to setting custom light patterns, there’s a lot it can do. Including getting your crying 2-year-old niece to calm down, apparently!

There’s even this hidden feature that transforms the Glyph Interface into a music visualizer. But even as someone who has a habit of placing the phone face down, the Glyph lights didn’t make much of a difference in how I interact with notifications on the Nothing Phone 1.

The ability to set custom patterns or sound to certain contact or apps sure sounds interesting at first, but I found having to memorize those customizations a bit tedious. And counter-intuitive too.

Behind all the flashy lights and see-through design is also a well-made smartphone. The Nothing Phone 1 feels solid to hold, but it’s also quite wide for my small hands. Almost as wide as the iPhone 13 Pro Max! Having used the Pixel 6a not too long ago, this is a pretty big leap as far as hands-on comfort is concerned.

Nothing Phone 1 - Volume Buttons

And looking at its flat aluminum frames with rounded edges and flush buttons, it’s clear that Nothing was heavily inspired by the latest iPhones when designing the Phone 1 as well. The only piece that’s missing here is the alert slider.

Phone 1 is one well-made phone

At 193 grams, it isn’t “lightweight” by any means but the evenly distributed heft certainly makes it feel so. As for the color options, the Black and White choices almost feel like a personality test to me somehow. Westworld fans know exactly what I’m talking about!

We were originally looking to get the White variant but it ran out of stock immediately after the sale went live. Still and all, I like how the Glyph lights are more distinct here. And so are the fingerprint smudges, unfortunately.

In terms of durability, Nothing has gone with Gorilla Glass 5 both on the front and the back of the Phone 1. It’s not the most robust Gorilla Glass out there, but it isn’t exactly a dealbreaker either. The Phone 1 isn’t fully water-sealed too. IP53 can take care of minor splashes and such—sure—but I’ve had to be extra careful whenever taking the phone out with me in this rainy monsoon weather.

Display

  • 6.55-inches FHD+ OLED panel
  • 120/240Hz refresh/touch sampling rate
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection

On to the display portion of this review, the Nothing Phone 1 sports a regular 6.5” 10-bit OLED panel with a 120Hz refresh rate. Pretty standard stuff. What I’m especially fond of here though, are the uniform bezels on all sides.

And the actual quality of this screen is also quite nice. Some people have faced green tint and dead pixel issues with their Phone 1, but thankfully that’s not been a problem on our unit. It has nice viewing angles whereas colors look punchy and pleasing in the default “Alive” profile as well. But there’s a catch.

Nothing Phone 1 - Display 2

One thing I noticed right away when I started using this phone is that its factory color temperature calibration is way off. It is simply way too warm and it looks as if I’ve turned on “Night Light”, even though I haven’t. I’m just glad that there’s a temperature slider in the settings to solve this issue!

Another minor bug I noticed is that the adaptive refresh rate wasn’t working properly here. That means the phone would continuously stay at 120Hz even when it didn’t need to, thus consuming more power.

As it turns out, the “force peak refresh rate” feature under the Developer Options was enabled by default for some reason. Weird. Disabling it did fix the problem, although the display still gets stuck at 120Hz every now and then.

Not the brightest tool in the shed

The Nothing Phone 1 also gets bright enough under direct sunlight, but it’s far from the brightest screen I’ve seen on a mid-range phone.

Nothing Phone 1 - Display 1

Nothing says this panel can actually hit 1200 nits of peak brightness under certain conditions like HDR playback, but it’s currently maxed out 700 nits due to multiple reasons including battery consumption and heat.

And I can certainly see why they’d want to do so because the Nothing Phone 1 gets quite warm under direct Sun. Far warmer than the likes of POCO F4, Realme GT Neo 3, and other mid-range phones.

Moving on, the binge-watching experience is quite nice here thanks to the Widevine L1 certification. It is also HDR10+ certified but there’s no HDR playback on streaming platforms like Netflix for now.

Unbalanced stereo speakers

And as far as the sound quality is concerned, I’m not too impressed with its stereo speakers. Sure it gets loud enough but the imbalance between the top and bottom speaker units sounds a bit icky to me.

Nothing Phone 1 - Ports

Other than that, Phone 1’s optical fingerprint reader works perfectly fine. I do wish it was placed a little higher so that I could reach it more easily, but that’s okay. And I’m also quite fond of its sharp haptic feedback, which makes for a delightful typing experience.

Performance

  • Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ 5G SoC (6nm)
  • 8/12GB LPDDR5 RAM, 128/256GB UFS 3.1 storage (fixed)
  • Android 12 with Nothing OS on top
  • 3 generations OS, 4 years of security updates

Okay, let’s now get to the performance side of things. For its first-ever smartphone, Nothing didn’t immediately go for the latest and greatest chipset. Instead, Phone 1 uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778G+ processor, which is a slightly modified version of the famously reliable Snapdragon 778G mid-range chip that we’ve seen on a bunch of phones last year.

Needless to say, its performance has been top-notch!

Nothing especially highlighted the multitasking possibilities of the phone during its keynote speech, and… yeah. I’m happy with how Nothing OS handles memory management! There’s no aggressive RAM management going on in the background, which means I can shuffle between multiple apps without having to worry about reloading any app. Sweet!

And under regular usage, the Nothing Phone 1 doesn’t heat up or even get warm for that matter. But when bringing gaming into the mix, especially ones that are heavy on the GPU, the Phone 1 begins to show its limits.

Coming in hot

For instance, playing Genshin Impact at High settings with 60 fps on, I only got around 35-40 fps on average. That too with frequent frame drops and stutters. And after 20 minutes into the game, the front of the phone got as hot as 45°C!

Nothing Phone 1 - Gaming

Other relatively less demanding titles don’t generate as much heat while still delivering stable gameplay. But the temperature readings I’m seeing here are notably higher than other Snapdragon 778G phones I’ve tested so far.

So if gaming is a priority, then I can’t really recommend this phone to you. Not to mention, this isn’t exactly a “value-for-money” device either.

Instead of spending INR 34,000 on the Phone 1 after the recent price hike, you can get far more powerful phones like the POCO F4, Redmi K50i, OnePlus 10R, or the iQOO Neo 6. And most of them are available at a much cheaper price tag as well! So it’s pretty clear that Nothing is trying to position itself as a premium brand in the smartphone world.

Nothing OS is pretty great

Besides all the fancy lights and quirky features, the Nothing Phone 1’s clean software is also one of its biggest selling points. The near-stock and bloatware-free Nothing OS has been a delight to use so far. I did come across a couple of non-recurring bugs here, but they’re nothing an update or two can’t fix.

Nothing Phone 1 - UI

Also, most of Nothing’s cosmetic tweaks to Android 12 feel… refreshing instead of unnecessary. Like the oversized internet and Bluetooth tiles on the notification tray and its custom widgets. And the cherry on top is that Nothing has promised 3 generations of OS and 4 years of security updates for the Phone 1. Then again, don’t expect Android 13 to arrive on Phone 1 this year.

Cameras

  • Triple camera setup at the back
  • (50MP main, 50MP ultrawide)
  • 16MP selfie camera (hole-punch)

What about the cameras then? Before heading into the review, the camera was the area where I was worried the Nothing Phone 1 would disappoint the most. But I must say that the company has laid my doubts to rest quite comfortably.

Normal Images

Its 50MP IMX766 main camera takes great photos in ample lighting conditions. Images have plenty of details, nice colors, highlight control, and dynamic range.

The onboard OIS here does a fine job at preserving sharpness on moving subjects too. The photos are somewhat contrast-heavy, which I prefer, but this can result in crushed shadows when there’s not sufficient ambient light.

Ultrawide Images

I like what Nothing has done with the ultrawide camera too. Unlike your typical mid-range phone, the wide and ultrawide camera on the Phone 1 delivers fairly consistent images.

I won’t say it’s on the same level as the Pixel phones but it’s leagues ahead of what you get from Chinese brands.

However, that consistency starts to break down a little once the sun goes down. You can also shoot close-up macro shots from this ultrawide sensor, but the results are nothing extraordinary.

Portrait Images

I’m also really digging its portrait shots. The way it maintains skin tone, background exposure, and edge detection is really impressive.

So if you’re coming from Xiaomi or Realme phones which are notorious for messing up with skin tones, I bet this is going to be a total game-changer!

Lowlight Images

Lowlight photos from the Nothing Phone 1 are quite nice as well. Nothing’s image processing does a good job at preserving details whereas the photos aren’t grainy or anything either. Including those from the ultrawide camera!

But compared to the daytime shots, the images turn out slightly oversaturated. And also with a noticeably cool hue. With Night Mode on, you do get brighter shots with better details, although it doesn’t do much in terms of fixing the color science.

But what’s annoying here is that Nothing Phone 1 doesn’t let me manually select Night Mode all the time. If Nothing’s algorithm detects that there’s sufficient ambient light, the Night Mode toggle is simply nowhere to be found.

Even in situations where turning it on could actually deliver better photos. So to forcibly get Night Mode, I have to point the camera to a darker area, turn it on, and then take the photo I originally wanted. The whole thing is pretty frustrating, to say the least.

Selfie Images

Like the primary images, I found that its selfies are also richer in contrast. So chances are you might end up with a bit gloomy selfies at times.

But overall, I like how the photos retain ample details and skin tone, alongside a balanced subject and background separation.

Videography

The Nothing Phone 1 has impressed me with its video recording abilities too. At least from the rear camera. There’s no 4K 60 fps recording option here, but it shoots steady videos across all resolutions available; from both wide and ultrawide cameras.

I wish Nothing could’ve managed similar color-tuning on videos like the photos though, because you can clearly tell that the videos have higher saturation and contrast levels.

As for the selfie videos, you can only shoot at up to 1080/30 fps here. Like most other mid-range phones. The actual quality of the video itself is not too bad, but it can’t handle background exposure very well—especially when you’re shooting against the Sun.

Battery

  • 4500mAh battery with 33W fast charging
  • 15W wireless, 5W reverse wireless charging

Finally, the battery life on the Nothing Phone 1 is just average. On days with heavy gaming and lots of mobile data and GPS usage, it would give up on me before I got home by evening. But under light usage, I did manage to get around 6 hours of screen-on time from this thing.

Nothing Phone 1 - Charging

Unfortunately, Nothing doesn’t provide a compatible charger inside the box. And you’ll have to buy its 45W power adapter separately, which costs about INR 2,500.

Or according to Nothing, if you have a Quick Charge 4.0 compatible charger, that works too. But interestingly enough, using the Ugreen Diginest 100W power strip that meets all of Nothing’s charging requirements including Quick Charge 4.0 and Power Delivery 3.0, the Phone 1 climbed from 1 to 100% in an hour and 40 minutes. That’s 30 minutes slower than the official claim!

On the other hand, the Acefast A15 65W power brick that only supports QC 3.0 actually managed to fully charge the phone in roughly 70 minutes only!

The ambient temperature was pretty much the same in both test conditions at around 25-26°C. And I also let the phone adequately cool down in both tests before I plugged it in so… I don’t really understand why this is happening. Apart from wired charging, Phone 1 also supports 15W wireless and 5W reverse wireless charging.

Nothing Phone 1 Review: Conclusion

Okay, let’s now wrap up this review of the Nothing Phone 1. It goes without saying that the Nothing Phone 1 easily stands out from the crowd of saturated mid-range phones in 2022. That semi-transparent design mixed with the Glyph interface sure does offer a “breath of fresh air” to anyone who’s looking for a phone with a unique character above everything else.

And even if you don’t care about any of those funky design elements, this is still a solid all-rounder phone that deserves your attention.

That’s not to say the Nothing Phone 1 is perfect by any means as we’ve discovered throughout this review. There are quite a few software bugs to iron out here, it has some hardware limitations compared to the competition but more importantly, Nothing is asking for a premium price for this phone.

Nothing Phone 1 - Design 1

You can easily find a bunch of mid-range devices with better performance at cheaper prices, but I doubt any of them can duplicate this guy’s fresh smartphone experience. And such refreshing phones are exactly what the Nepali smartphone needs right now. As the $300 import ban is coming to its end, I just hope some domestic mobile distributors are eagerly looking to bring the Phone 1 home.

So yeah, did Nothing revolutionize the smartphone industry with the Phone 1? I don’t think so. But did it add a little excitement to this space? Absolutely! And I can’t wait to see what Nothing has in store with the Phone (2) or whatever it ends up being called. Carl Pei directly accused all the smartphone makers of coming up with iterative upgrades instead of substantial innovations, so it’ll be really interesting to see how Nothing will subvert such a trend.

  • Watch our video review of Nothing Phone 1

Nothing Phone 1 Review: Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Unique design
  • Glyph Interface is pretty cool
  • 120Hz OLED display
  • Reliable performance overall
  • Takes nice photos, videos
  • Decent battery life
  • Supports wireless charging

Cons:

  • Weak ingress protection
  • Some software bugs here and there
  • The display doesn’t get bright enough
  • Poor stereo speakers
  • Not the best thermal management system
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Build
9
Display
9
Performance
8.5
Back Cameras
9
Front Camera
8.5
Software & UI
9
Battery
8.5
Speaker & Haptics
8.5
Value for Money
9
The unique design elements of the Nothing Phone 1 ultimately deliver a smartphone experience like no other. Sure it's not the revolutionary product that the hype painted it out to be, but the Phone 1 is competent enough to be the guiding light to the smartphone industry about where it should head next.nothing-phone-1-review