Nothing Phone (1) Review - Something Decent Now, More For Later

Updated: Aug 19

Our experience with the Nothing Phone (1) has been an eye opener as to how much style or character may seem to someone like you or me. The Nothing brand made some headlines last year introducing itself to the world with its transparent earbuds that was also heavily focused on its design, so you’ll notice a common theme here for their first phone.

This phone could pretty much fit comfortably in a futuristic movie set or in your hands, weighing 195g with Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back. It has a very distinguishable shape akin to the likes of an iPhone 12 or 13 in this flat edged design — which they also claim to be made of recycled materials in its side aluminium rails, while 50% of the plastic components are made with bio-base or post-consumer recycled materials. It really feels like everything was strategically placed. The exposed details on the back showing visible screws, the wireless charging coil, with panels hiding most of the internals — along the LEDS that make up the Glyph Interface fitted around the dual cameras, a standalone strip near the top right corner, a bigger one around the charging coil, and another strip at the bottom. It goes without saying, this is the biggest feature which sets it apart from the rest. Made up of 900 LEDs which lights up for notifications, charging status, it could even be paired to an individual contact with a separate ringtone and a unique Glyph pattern to match. Although this aims to help with the user experience when the screen is facing down to notify an incoming call or a received text message, there isn't much customisation to the light patterns available. It would've been nice to see an option to customise for different apps to let you know which app received a notification instead of the preset ones available.

But to make things feel a little more special when listening to music, there is a Music Visualisation toggle within the Glyph Interface settings, which lets the LEDs sync with whatever song you choose. It even works when you have it paired with a bluetooth speaker, IF the stereo speakers alone might not satisfy your audible needs which it didn't quite for us. Quite the party trick, but what does concern us a little is how long these LEDs will actually last looking the way it does, before strain, heat and overall use might leave any dead LEDs over long periods of time. Though it does act as a neat way to record yourself using the main camera on the back, while the LEDs act as a fill light when in darker lit rooms or environments. But where we're not so impressed, is its cameras, consisting of a dual 50MP wide and ultra-wide camera powered by an f/1.8 and f/2.2 Sony IMX766 sensor.

Video outputs are predominantly good to say the least but lack variable frame rate options in 4K and are locked in at 30fps. This could be troubling for moments under lights that don't match frequencies and will cause flickering in your footage. Despite this, it holds up well in producing vibrant colours and rich blacks for parts with most shadows – something that Sony sensors are known for, and it also comes with OIS so your footage should be considerably smooth for those bumpy car rides or handheld shots. Photo outputs also deserve a decent B+ for capturing high dynamic range in broad daylight but it excels more in sharpness — retaining quite a lot of detail even in the ultra-wide angle by making full use of that 50MP sensor when there's sufficient lighting. But as soon as less light is available, there will be some drastic shutter lag and might even cause some noise.

In most cases, the dual 50MP cameras are sufficient enough for most users looking to snap a good photo or video but still feels like it's missing that magic touch, which is no surprise provided this mid-tier phone doesn’t aim to be a top performer when it comes to mobile photography or faster chipset performance. To which in its own respect handles like a mid-range phone does with its Snapdragon 778+ and Adreno 640, scoring 815 for single-core and 2970 for multi-core on Geekbench. Graphics tests also come in at an average frame rate of 17fps and manages an overall score of 2842. Gaming situations aren't exactly the smoothest especially with touch-sampling rates of 700Hz, feeling as though it's just a tad bit slower in reaction times for games such as Call of Duty. Nevertheless, its 120Hz refresh rate 6.55" OLED display with perfectly-even thin bezels ties in well for the overall look & feel of the phone. It even has a peak brightness of 1200 nits so there won't be any trouble using it outdoors under direct sunlight and it also comes with adaptive refresh rates to bump it down 60Hz to preserve battery life. Standby time with its 4500mAh battery got us about a full day of use and doesn't come with a power brick, but does support up to 33W fast charging which should get you to 50% in 30 minutes. The Nothing Phone (1) comes with Android 12, options of 8GB or 12GB RAM and storage options of 128GB or 256GB with a starting price of RM2399 or S$769. While Nothing represents something, even in the paradox they believe to exist in this smartphone ecosystem, they're boldly making a statement, representing themselves as something more than just another android on the market - literally flashing their way onto the scene. All in all, a smart way in delivering good user experience, tied with a unique design. While this first iteration doesn’t quite compare against some well known Chinese brands in this price range, they seem really confident in upholding identity first, before getting to know who else might be interested in a phone like this. It’s pretty much an educated guessing game with every phone. For us, we're simply excited to see what else Nothing will come up with next. We also hope it would come with a faster processor, some tweaks to NothingOS, faster screen sensitivity, more frame rate options in 4K and maybe even add a telephoto lens. But in this world of futuristic gadgets, a little novelty isn't too bad of an idea for attaching something personal to represent your character. Whether you're as transparent as the Nothing Phone (1) or as loud-and-in-your-face as an ROG 6 Pro or as serious as a Galaxy S22 Ultra, identity holds value. And that's not nothing at all.

 

Written by Fitri Aiyub


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