Average phone review

Mid-range Android phone

No, I'm just kidding, I swear. there will be no more Nothing puns for the entire rest of this article. But in all seriousness, today I get to do something I don't get to do very often, which is review a new phone from a new company

So, this is the Nothing Phone (1). (futuristic music). So on one hand, this is a new phone from a new phone company, but on the other hand, you pretty quickly realize there's a lot of stuff here that we've seen before. It's a company from Carl Pei, former chief of OnePlus, running the hype playbook we've seen before of slowly revealing more and more info about a phone to drum up interest.

But what's new and interesting about this phone is what they've chosen as their differentiating feature. So, like I said in the impressions article, if you're a new company coming along, you have to give people a reason to choose it over the boring, established ones that most people buy. And so, OnePlus in the past would lean on exceptional specs for a low price, that was the thing that you could count on from a OnePlus phone to stand out. With Nothing, it's design. Now, I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this design after using it for the past week. There's both a dark and a light version of the Nothing Phone as you can see, they both have flat aluminum sides all the way around, the strategically placed antenna lines, power button on the right, volume on the left, and then the back is the signature transparent Gorilla Glass with a design underneath it.

It is a pretty simple design, but it is just nuanced and complex enough to appreciate it. It has some depth, you know, it has indicators for certain pieces inside the phone, like the wireless charging coil, it has exposed screws, it has written text on the back, and most importantly, it has the 900 plus LEDs organized in these diffused strips all around the back of the phone, with the unique functionality that I'll get to in a second.

But overall, with all of this together, I think it's safe to say I've never seen a phone that looks quite like this before. So as far as standing out from the pack with a unique design, well, mission accomplished. But at the same time, if you squint, it does kinda look like an iPhone still. You know, with the flat sides, and the dual camera placement, it has the shape of an iPhone. Matter of fact, this, well this is an iPhone, with dbrand's new Something skin applied to it, and short of lighting up the LEDs, it basically accomplishes 90% of the same look, from the different shading of the white color, to the red recording light, to the faithful indicator of where the wireless charger's supposed to be, in whatever phone you skin, all the way to the text on the corner, that is just a very well-considered Easter egg.

I guess that's why they're a channel sponsor, well done guys. I'll link it below. But the lights are what's really unique here, as you can see, the Glyph Interface.

So not only do they look quite unique, but they also serve a purpose. They actually have a function to them. At least they're supposed to. So there's one light up around the cameras, one at the top right corner, one big one all the way around the wireless charging coil in the middle, then an exclamation point at the bottom. So for getting a phone call, the lights all just light up and sync with whatever ringtone you have, sweet. The exclamation mark at the bottom will also light up to indicate your charge status, and then it can show you again with a convenient little bump. I definitely like that a lot. And then it'll also light up when you talk to Google Assistant.

So if you say, "Hey, hot word, what's the weather tomorrow?". You can see it lights up with a little feedback as you're talking, then it reads you your answer out loud. It's basically the defining feature of this phone, in the dark or the light.

I actually think it looks better in

The dark now that i've seen it, but it's huge for this phone.

They also made a transparent case to be able to see it all the time. Now here's the thing. All of these require you to have your phone out on your desk and face down, which is cool, but for me, personally, I typically have my phone in my pocket, or even if I don't, I'll have it on my desk, but it'll be face up. And even if it is on my desk and face up, I also typically have it on silent.

So now that I'm using this phone, I'm like, "Oh, I gotta make a conscious effort to make sure I remember to put my phone face down more often.". Just don't put it down on some grit, or some sand or anything, and scratch the screen. But it's the Nothing Phone, like that's the whole point, I gotta use it. But even then I still find myself just flipping over the phone to check my notifications, because I don't get that many calls, and most of the time, it's just a single, blinking light at the bottom, and I don't know what that means. Like I wish there was more granularity in what the settings could let me choose the LED lights to do. Like I remember back in the day, phones used to have RGB notification lights, so I knew that a yellow notification light meant. I have a new TweetDeck notification, or a new blue one is a new email, or a new green one is a new text message. With this one, it's all white LEDs.

So it would be cool if in the settings. I could set a certain dot pattern to mean a notification from a certain app. Like that basically seems like the whole point of these lights. Best case scenario, it can communicate with you without you having to pick it up. But as of right now, really your only options are to change the brightness, and then to turn certain light features on or off. I don't know, based on the light flashing, what type of notification I have, what app it's from, who's trying to contact me, nothing. I kind of assumed I would be able to do that, and I wouldn't put it past them to enable that with some sort of software update, but like I always say, buy a phone for what it is now, not what it's promised to be. So yeah, as of right now, that's not real.

Now there were some other questions about the lights. Some people were wondering if they took a lot of battery power. Nope. They don't. If you leave them literally on all the time for an hour straight, they'll take maybe 2 to 3% of your battery, so it's almost nothing. And then the other thing was, people were wondering about maybe some slight discoloration between the LEDs, because as it turns out, getting a bunch of different, small, cheap, white LEDs to all be the exact same color temperature is actually pretty difficult. Now I have noticed that the top left light around my camera is slightly more green than the rest of mine, but not enough to bother me, or make any difference in the way I use it, and the lights do actually get bright enough to use as a fill light. That's one of the features.

And so in really dark places, really, with a very close-up subject, I can actually say that it is better to use than a normal flash. But anyway, now that you know about the aesthetic, I can actually talk to you about using the actual phone, and I think a good place to start with that would be the price, and the price is starting at 399 Great British pounds. So that's the baseline price for this phone. And it behaves exactly as you'd expect from a mid-range Android phone in 2022. And when I say that, I mean that as a compliment.

There are some really good phones in

This price range, where it's kinda hard to go wrong with the top options here.

The Pixel 6as, the Galaxy A53s of

The world, and the nothing phone fits right in alongside those.

So it's really good.

It has a Snapdragon 778G+, and it runs Android very close to stock. I would keep in mind, the base price has just 128 gigs of storage, and that model only comes in black, but the version I'm testing, which has 256 gigs of storage, and 12 gigs of RAM, is 499 pounds, but it has performed very well. Big time shout out to this display. Not only is it a pretty big flat 6.55-inch, 1080p OLED with pretty good brightness up to 1200 nits, and not only does it have an under-display fingerprint reader that doesn't suck, and a corner hole-punch with the selfie camera, and not only does it have perfectly even bezels all the way around, which is a pretty notably more expensive thing to achieve, since you've gotta use a flexible OLED display, but it also has a high refresh rate.

Now it's not LTPO, but it will dynamically bump between 120Hz and 60Hz, depending on what you're doing, and it has a 240Hz touch sample rate. So it is very responsive and smooth, especially in just regular day to day stuff. It can drop some frames when you're doing some more heavy stuff, some gaming, when there's just a lot more going on, and that's understandable. This isn't a super-high-end, power-hungry chip, so there's gonna be some trade-offs, but it definitely helps that this software, Nothing OS, is mostly very close to stock Android, with just a few of their light touches on top.

Lots of those touches are aesthetic and animations. Like they have their own fonts with this dot matrix style, this nice extra custom animation when you pull open a folder on the home screen, or pull down the quick settings, and they have a couple of extra home screen widgets they've tossed in. And to me, it looks like the only stock app that they've touched, that they've skinned, are the camera, and this voice recorder app, which also has the dot matrix theme going on. And they say it's gonna also be able to add this Tesla car control feature, which kind of lit my eyes up like, "Oh, that's what I would be able to use," but right now, it's in the experimental features section, and even though I'm signed into the normal Tesla app, every time I try it, it just keeps saying, "No car is found in your account," so it doesn't work yet, but apparently, that's supposed to let you put some vehicle controls up in those quick settings, like a door unlock, or flashing the lights or something when they get that working.

But, you know, for now, don't count on it. I think basically I'm just happy there's no bloatwear. Like there's just a very clean, reasonable, refined Android experience, and I think part of that is that it's not arriving on U.S. carriers.

So you might have seen the headlines, this phone's not destined for the U.S., at least not right now, but I also am having no problem using it on AT&T. Doesn't get 5G, but I've had no problems with getting 4G everywhere, but it basically feels like a tweaked Pixel, which is a compliment. I like it. And then the rest of the phone, across the board, is pretty middle of the road. Pretty mid-range. Like I said, it's not really flexing with the specs, so these are some pretty modest ones across the board here. There's a 4500mAh power battery inside, which I was comfortably getting all-day battery life with. So that was nice.

It was a solid five to six hours of screen-on time, which from my use is a B+, and the charging speeds were, yeah, pretty modest. 15W wireless charging, and 33W wired charging, which will get you half battery in half an hour. It's not bad. The haptics are solid, definitely not bad, but not notably amazing or anything. I like 'em, but the speakers are pretty forgettable. Technically they're a stereo pair with that earpiece up top, but the earpiece is not doing much work, and blocking the bottom speaker pretty much mutes the phone. And it's only IP53 water resistant, which means no dunking, or splashing, or wiping down the phone, like you might be able to with an IP68 phone. It's just one of the short places they've saved some money.

And the cameras.

Typically, this is the thing where you

Separate the mid-tier from the flagship pretty quickly.

And I don't know if it's just because I just finished testing one of the absolute best smartphone cameras in the world, but the Nothing Phone's cameras were particularly average. So there's a pair of 50 MP cameras on the back here, with the primary having OIS and at f/1.8, and with 114-degree ultra wide. I think some people might go into this with high hopes based on the hype, but they'll pretty quickly adjust, because again, this is a $400 phone, okay. So if I give it good light, and good enough conditions, I can get some decent shots. Nothing to write home about, but acceptable photos, which is good. But as soon as you have anything less than a ton of light, the photos very rapidly deteriorate, mostly just adding a bunch of noise, and the shutter speed going way up, getting way slower.

So you can pretty much forget about taking pictures of moving objects in anything other than direct sunlight. For context though, just so you know, the main sensor is the Sony IMX766, which we just saw in the ROG Phone 6 I reviewed, and it's also in phones like the OnePlus Nord 2T. So set your expectations right, and you won't be that disappointed, but if you were hoping for some type of flagship killer camera, this is definitely not it. But hey, on the sustainability note, the Nothing Phone is made from a 100% recycled aluminum, these rails, and also an impressive 50 plus percent of the plastics inside are made from bio-based and recycled sources. Also, the box it came in is very thin and small, which of course is too small to include a charging brick, but it is fully recyclable paper and cardboard, so I can appreciate that. Basically I'm overall happy to report that the average Phone doesn't feel like cheap corner-cutting, as much as that does feel like they set out to make a phone that hits a certain price point, and then separate it from the pack by being a good user experience, but also having a unique, cool, interesting aesthetic.

I think that's really smart. So I think the bigger picture now is, okay, they're working on an ecosystem around this thing, this new average company.

They started with the earbuds, which were not the most amazing sound or performance in the world, but had a very solid user experience, and a very distinctive design. And then they moved on to a phone, which didn't have the most amazing performance or specs in the world, but had a really solid user experience, and a really distinctive design. So what's next? Is it gonna be a tablet, a smart speaker? I don't know, it could be anything, but whatever it is, I think we can safely expect it to not be super focused on performance and specs, but to just have a solid user experience, and a distinctive design. That's what they're gonna lean into. That's smart, and I like it. So even if it might not be for me, someone who's pixel peeping, and is particularly concerned about performance on the highest end, I do like that we're still getting cool-looking stuff. That I just gotta say that. More cool-looking stuff, please, in the world of not-as-cool-looking stuff.