The Nothing Phone (1) is a refreshingly different smartphone. Instead of setting new records for a lot of money, it offers an extraordinary design with an entertaining light show at a reasonable price, but is also a good mid-range device in terms of technology that leaves nothing to be desired.
Through some very clever marketing in advance, Nothing managed to attract a lot of attention for the premiere of its first smartphone, although it was clear that it would only be a mid-range device. That could have been quite a failure if the high expectations had been disappointed and the phone (1) had turned out to be nothing special in the end. But that is not the case.
Sometimes something comes from nothing
With its first product, the wireless earphones Nothing Ear (1), the British company proved last September that it can also deliver after a lot of PR fanfare. That didn't come as a complete surprise when you know that Carl Pei is behind it, who used a similar marketing trick to put the smartphone company OnePlus, which he also founded, in the limelight. Other greats from the tech scene have also invested, including iPod inventor Tony Fadell and YouTube star Casey Neistat.
As with the earphones, Nothing has not reinvented the smartphone either, the Phone (1) is basically just a solid mid-range device. It only becomes something special with its back, which combines an extraordinary design with an entertaining but also useful function under transparent Gorilla Glass.
This back can delight
The transparent back doesn't really reveal the inner workings of the smartphone. Instead, the components are covered by cleverly designed plastic panels that house multiple MicroLED light strips. Not only does this result in an interesting design, the so-called glyph interface also serves a practical purpose.
If the device is connected to the power supply unit, LEDs indicate the charge level.
You can assign ten different light patterns to your contacts in the settings, which flash when you receive a call, email or message, accompanied by specific ring tones and vibrations. In everyday life, however, you usually only see the glyph patterns, because the back is ultimately hidden when you look at the display. If you place the smartphone face down on the table, sounds and vibrations are deactivated.
If desired, the back can remain dark
The brightness of the 900 LEDs can be set in the settings. It is also possible to determine idle times when the phone (1) does not give any light signals. You can also disable the glyph function completely.
If the device is connected to the power supply, you can see the charging progress on the LED strip above the USB-C input if you wish. It also flashes there when the Google Assistant feels addressed.
Soft portrait light
More Glyph functions may be added in the future, Nothing has released the interface for them.
As cool as the glowing back is, if the phone (1) is otherwise useless, it's of little use. But the manufacturer hasn't forgotten the basic requirements for a good smartphone over the Glyph fun.
Viewed from the side, the device looks like an iPhone.
The processing of the device is of high quality, even if it is only protected against splash water and dust according to IP53. According to Nothing, the license costs for a higher protection class would have been too expensive. The recycled aluminum frame is reminiscent of an iPhone and merges almost seamlessly into the 6.55-inch OLED display.
The screen is very sharp with a pixel density of 402 ppi, delivers strong contrasts and beautiful, realistic colors. It can also shine bright enough when needed and offers an adaptive refresh rate of 60 or 120 hertz. The optical fingerprint sensor integrated into the display works quickly and precisely. However, it sits a little too far down to really comfortably reach with the thumb.
The fingerprint sensor is a little too deep.
A protective film is already attached to the display at the factory. This makes sense, since the risk of getting scratches on the cover glass is relatively high if you place the smartphone on the table with the back side facing up.
Sufficient performance, great endurance
The Nothing Phone (1) is powered by Qualcomm's good mid-range Snapdragon 778G+ chip. Its performance is completely sufficient to handle all everyday tasks smoothly with 8 or 12 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and also to enable more demanding games. On the other hand, it is economical enough to enable the device to run for a very long time together with a 4500 mAh battery. In the test, the device usually lasted a day and a half without any problems.
Nothing comes with a power supply unit, and an empty battery is half full after 30 minutes when connected to a USB PD 3.0 port. The phone (1) can be charged inductively and if you want, you can charge earphones on the back of the smartphone if their box supports the function.
Good camera equipment
Main camera, …
… ultra wide-angle camera.
Three major Android updates, fair prices
There is praise for the software, which is almost pure Google Android 12 and does not come with any unwanted apps. Nothing guarantees three version updates and four years of security patches that are applied every two months. Two updates mostly fixed minor problems at the beginning of the test. Google Pay also works perfectly on the ntv.de device, which is apparently not the case with other testers.
There is still time for another update until the start of sales on July 21st. With this, Nothing could also eliminate funny translation errors. For example, in the German version, the ten manufacturer ring tones are called "no ring tones".
In the cheapest version with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash memory, the Nothing Phone (1) costs around 470 euros. It is available with 8 and 256 GB for 500 euros, for the variant with 12 and 256 GB 550 euros are due.
Without the Glyph back, the device would probably be even cheaper, but again just one of many similarly good mid-range smartphones, of which there are now more than enough. Design and light signals make the Nothing Phone (1) a special device that could be worth a few euros more to many users who are bored with Android monotony.