Nothing Phone Review (1): Lots of Unique, Yet Familiar Things

We are all used to comparing phones with their competitors before investing in one. Sometimes that just oversimplifies things that impact our choices. This is more true than ever in the case of the new Nothing Phone (1). In many ways, it tries (successfully too) to fit a number of great things into an Android phone, while also retaining a lot of familiar elements. Yet, at times in your interaction when hovering over the software, you may feel like it’s still a “work in progress.”

The Nothing Phone (1) makes no attempt to hide the effort to refresh the Android phone experience that has become incredibly too familiar. You can point to those seemingly off-the-belt phones emerging all too regularly, mostly from Chinese smartphone makers (though they’re playing the ‘Made in India’ card). This similarity is not just limited to the design and physical elements; it’s just as disappointing on the software side. All these apps preloaded. Intrusive advertisements. This mess.

More of the same? The answer is resounding

Even for someone who has seen the ins and outs of the smartphone world first-hand, for Carl Pei’s London-based startup, things couldn’t have been more difficult, in terms of choosing a direction. for the first phone they would make. Would it have been safer to just follow the pattern, take the well-trodden path, and just make another phone? Saving money too maybe, in the process? “Nothing” chose the exact opposite from the start, with the transparent back panel. Remember we talked about the unique elements of the Nothing Phone (1) earlier? It’s just one of them.

The look sets it apart

The unusual back panel is sure to be an attraction. It’s a transparent glass that somewhat reveals what usually consists of the beating heart of a phone. Notice that “Nothing” has tastefully shielded all those unsightly cables and connectors, but you see the magnetic charging coil, for example. You can have it in white or black. If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of the processor, in this case the Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ chip, that’s not going to happen.

It’s Corning Gorilla Glass, which means you’re well protected against scratches and bumps – for once on a phone, the oleophobic coating works well too, and fingerprints don’t show easily. The usual warnings about drops and glass cracks may still apply.

The rest of the design is simply geared towards ergonomics. Screen size is definitely a factor, but the flat aluminum spine and uniform bezel all around the screen (most Android phones have thicker chins) allow it to fit nicely in the hand. There is a definite sense of a polished build, without cost cutting.

Read also :“Nothing” to launch a new Android phone this summer – What to expect

He just can’t read your face

What also absolutely doesn’t work is the “face unlock” option. No matter what we’ve tried, including face registration in different lighting conditions, the Nothing Phone (1) just can’t be trusted to unlock it with your face alone. The good thing is that the fingerprint sensor is responsive and has no quirks.

Can software updates alone make facial recognition more accurate? We’re not entirely sure. Phones that have taken this difficult path before have never fully recovered.

Glyph is special, but it needs to keep improving

Beneath the transparent back are light bands, evenly distributed across the device, called Glyph. They almost wrap around the camera module, encircle the wireless charging coils, and even indicate battery charge (this feature was added with the latest “Nothing OS” update). The idea is that these light up when you have a new notification on the phone (you can adjust the brightness in the settings).

It will work with any ringtone you choose for calls. Good thing, because the default notification tones tray in particular is quite disappointing. It’s subjective, but none of the tones in the posts really successfully grab your attention without sounding harsh (yes, we know about retro inspiration). Incidentally, what we’re using right now is called “none”. The glyph is just one color – a cool shade of white.

It can be easy to point to Glyph and say “now what?” and you would be absolutely right. It might just become a feature you’re excited about for a few days and then forgotten about. “Nothing” also needs to open them for third-party apps, for unique notification patterns. We’re also hoping for an option to add repeat reminders for notification illuminations that we may have missed on the first attempt.

Is the Nothing Phone (1) powerful enough?

There is a misconception that you only need to have the most powerful smartphone processor to get good performance. Fake. The Nothing Phone (1) is powered by the Snapdragon 778G+ chip and you’ll have the option to choose between 8GB and 12GB of RAM. While we generally always recommend more RAM as the safest bet, given the minimalism of Android 12-based Nothing OS, we’re absolutely certain that even 8GB will suffice, even for a step up from casual gaming. Our experience with F1 Mobile Racing, which now has the 2022 season update, attests to this.

Battery life is robust – Nothing Phone (1) does 100% to 55% after 5 hours of screen time. Not the fastest charging speeds though (that’s a thing with Android phones these days), but still fast enough at 33 watts for wired charging and 15 watts for wireless (using Qi chargers). If you have headphones with a wireless charging case, just place them on the back to charge them at 5 watts. “Nothing” does not bundle a charger with the phone, and this 45 watt adapter will be a separate accessory (the price is around 2,499).

“Nothing OS” adds a retro overlay, but is firmly rooted in modern minimalism

More than anything else, the retro dot-matrix font (like on the weather and clock widgets) visually sets the Nothing OS apart. You can even place an NFT on your home screen in a widget.

There’s a sense of calm when using Nothing OS, a feeling that has gradually disappeared from Android phones (faster in most cases, a bit slow with OnePlus phones). You’ll appreciate the clean interface; absolutely no preloaded apps bother you with unwanted notifications. And of course, no annoying ads on the lock screen. There’s often the argument that consumers don’t mind buying such phones anyway, but perhaps the flip side is that they didn’t really have a choice.

Some rough edges need to be smoothed out. For example, the recalibration of options. Let’s take a very simple measure – to choose the grid size for the icons (4X5 is too big for us). This is hidden deep inside the ‘long press’ button on the home screen > wallpaper and style > scroll down to ‘app grid’.

Are all cameras equal? 50-megapixel bets need to be fine-tuned

Instead of lots of megapixels in the main sensor and a mediocre second camera (usually an ultrawide), nothing was simple – 50 megapixels each for the main and ultrawide cameras. While the first is a Sony IMX766 sensor, the second is a Samsung JN1. In our experience with the Nothing Phone (1), camera performance was acceptable, but nothing remarkable. In both cases.

Colors pop well and there’s good dynamic range even in photos that have inconsistent lighting. We’re quite impressed with the way similar colors are distinguished, greens and blues in particular. There are certainly a lot of improvements with the latest “Nothing OS” version, but there is still some softness around the frame in most photos which compromises detail. And often we found ourselves manually tapping to select focus. Both issues can be fixed by updating the software.

Can the Nothing Phone (1) be your choice in a sea of ​​similarities?

It is difficult to make revolutionary changes to a smartphone, as we are in the cycle of evolution. Yet it doesn’t have to be a depressing sea of ​​similarities either, cut from the same piece of cloth that all Android phones have become. Nothing tries to tweak a few things and for the most part has managed to create a phone that stands out. And that’s backed by performance you can’t complain about. This combination by itself may just add that extra value for money.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is technology editor for Hindustan Times. When he doesn’t understand technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.
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