London-based enterprise, Nothing, were all over the headlines when the company launched it’s first-ever TWS earbuds – Nothing Ear (1) – back in July last year. One year down the road, the company is now back to the limelight with the launch of the new Nothing Phone (1) that shapes up to be one of the most exciting prospect in the smartphone world despite being essentially a mid-range model.
However, it’s $769 asking price in the local market means it’ll be facing some serious competition from other notable models such as the OPPO Reno8 5G and the upcoming Vivo V25 Pro 5G to name a few. This brings us the question whether the new Nothing Phone (1) really has what it takes to stand out within this highly competitive segment.
An Extraordinary Design
Nothing’s first-ever smartphone is all about design. Just like the Nothing Ear (1), the new Phone (1) also features a semi-transparent glass back that gives you a glimpse into some of it’s internal components.
Although the idea of a transparent back plate was already experimented by some other smartphone makers such as Xiaomi and Red Magic, but Nothing’s version is certainly more flashy and refined than what the past offerings had presented, thanks to the implementation of the so-called Glyph interface.
So what’s the hype on the Glyph interface all about? In short, these are microLEDs arranged in a unique pattern that light up whenever you received a notification or call. Speaking of phone calls, you also have the ability to customize the way you want these microLEDs stripes to light up within the phone’s setting where you’ll find 10 preset ringtones, each with a dedicated Glyph pattern that lights up in sync to the ringtone.
Needless to say, feature like this does have it’s real life functionalities. For instance, it often helps to prompt me if I didn’t hear the ringtone whenever I was dining in a noisy food place. Of course, that’s provided if you place the back of the phone facing upwards.
Aside from notifications, there are also other intuitive use cases for the Glyph interface where it can be used as an charging indicator that gives you a rough idea of the battery level. Otherwise, it can also be used to fill light when snapping close-up photos of subjects in poorly-lit environment. As such, this is by no means a gimmicky feature on the device.
Handling-wise, everything about the Nothing Phone (1) screams premium from it’s aluminum-clad frame to the Gorilla Glass back which actually gives you the impression that you’re holding on to a smartphone that’s twice it’s price. Also, the adoption of flat edges makes it easier to hold as compared to smartphones with curve edges which tend to be slippery especially when you’re using the phone with one hand.
Let’s not forget that the Phone (1) also comes with IP52 rating which allows you to have peace of mind when the phone was unintentionally exposed minor splash of water or light drizzle.
Gorgeous Display for Work & Play
The front side of the phone is a high-end affair. You get a decently-sized 6.55” OLED display that looks vibrant and punchy from different angles. The display itself is flanked by equally-slim bezels along the sides and adopts the conventional punch-hole cutout on the upper-left corner to accommodate a 16 megapixels front-facing camera for selfies and video calls.
Sporting a FHD+ screen resolution and a fast 120Hz refresh rate, the front display has no issue putting up sharp and smooth video footage when streaming your favorite drama on Netflix or Disney+. Likewise, HDR10+ support is also onboard for compatible media contents.
Just like any other high-end display, the refresh rate is adaptive in nature, meaning it’ll automatically adjusts the refresh rate between 60Hz and 120Hz according to the onscreen contents to lengthen it’s battery life.
Most importantly, the screen can also get sufficiently bright whenever the situation calls for it thanks to it’s impressive peak brightness that goes up to 700 nits. This is an important feature which is often overlooked by most consumers as it ensures the screen can remain legible even when using the phone in a bright outdoor environment.
Rounding out the front package will be a layer of Gorilla Glass 5 to provide the display with an additional layer of protection against scratches or accidental drops for those with butterfingers like myself.
Performance That Punches Above It’s Own Weight
Sitting at the heart of the new Nothing Phone (1) is none other than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 778G+ which is undoubtedly one of the best chipset you can probably get on a mid-range device.
In terms of day-to-day usage, the phone is able to deliver an amazing productivity experience with buttery-smooth performance when multi-tasking across multiple apps. In fact, you might be surprised that the phone barely stutters even when working on more resource demanding tasks such as video editing which is known to slow smartphones down.
Likely, the Nothing Phone (1) also appears to handle thermals pretty well despite the lack of a dedicated cooling system. This is something important for mobile gamers as it helps to ensure the processor is able to work at optimal performance to output consistent frame rate when gaming.
Memory-wise, the Phone (1) is offered in three different configurations in the local market: 8GB+128GB, 8GB+256GB as well as 12GB+256GB. For most users, the 8GB+256GB model is more than good enough for a seamless smartphone experience, although power users would gladly take the top-of-the-line model with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage for all their productivity needs.
A Highly Versatile Camera System
Nothing Phone (1) is one of the few mid-range devices, apart from the Google Pixel 6a (Review), that finally ditches those sub-par macro and depth cameras which we don’t really need on a smartphone.
The Phone (1) features a dual-cam setup comprising of a 50 megapixels (f/1.9 aperture) main camera with OIS stabilization which will be paired with another 50 megapixels (f/2.2 aperture) ultra-wide camera for all your photography needs. Of course, it would be good to have a telephoto camera onboard, but that will be a bit demanding for a phone that cost less than $800.
Much to my expectations, the main camera is able capture surprisingly good photos that are comparable to those taken by other more expensive flagship phones in some occasions. The photos turn out well in terms of exposure and dynamic range, allowing them to look flattering and realistic even though color saturation does occasionally tilt (slightly) towards the heavier side.
Similarly, the camera also does an excellent job in preserving intricate details thanks to the adoption of a high-res imaging sensor which works in tandem with other advanced AI and computation photography algorithms to improve the overall quality of the photos.
For low-light photography, the Nothing Phone (1) has a reliable night mode feature which does a remarkable job in improving the overall brightness and details of the scene, making them look more flattering than before. The only quirk is that the feature doesn’t kicks in automatically, but you can easily activate it when you see a moon icon on the viewfinder whenever the camera detects a low-light scene.
Those who love to take landscape photography would be glad to know that the phone (1) also has an (almost) equally capable ultra-wide camera that’s able to deliver the same impressive results as the main camera across all lighting conditions. Likewise, this camera also doubles up as a macro camera which is able to capture photos as close as 4cm away.
Speaking of close-up photography, you can also rely on it’s digital zooming capability to capture sharp-looking photos with excellent details. Although this may be down to personal preference, but I do find it much easier to use optical/ digital zoom for close-up shots as compared to ultra-wide/ macro cameras which require you hold the phone steadily at a really close distance from the subject.
All-Day Battery Life
To keep it’s lights on, the Nothing Phone (1) is backed by a respectable 4,500mAh battery which has no trouble lasting through the day on a single charge even with one or two hours of gaming during my daily commuting. Quite impressively, the Glyph lightings doesn’t seem to incur any notable strain on it’s battery life during my testing and even if it does, it’s probably within the 3% to 5% range. That means you wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the Glyph notification system on at all time.
Like some other recent mid-range devices, the Nothing Phone (1) will not be coming with an in-box charger. However, good news is that you can simply use back any available USB-C charger from your previous smartphones as long they’re still working. Otherwise, you can also choose to purchase an official 45W charging brick from Nothing at just $39.
Speaking of charging, the Nothing Phone (1) is able to support up to 33W wired charging via a USB-PD 3.0 charger. During my testing, the phone is able to get from 0 to 50% in around 30 minutes, while a full charge takes approximately 1.5 hours.
If you’re looking for a smartphone that literally stands out of the crowd, there’s probably no better option than the Nothing Phone (1). The new Phone (1) is by far the coolest-looking smartphone that will hopefully inspire greater innovation in the increasingly humdrum smartphone space.
Design aside, the phone (1) also offers a reliable smartphone performance, decently good camera system as well as a respectable battery life that makes it an ideal smartphone for both work and play. Also, let’s not forget that the phone also has one of the best display in the segment featuring HDR10+ support and a fast 120Hz adaptive refresh rate.
Pricing & Availability
For those who’re interested, the Nothing Phone (1) can be purchased in Singapore starting today from just $769 via it’s official online store as well as local telcos such as M1 and Singtel.