Nothing phone (1) initial review: Much ado about Nothing - MrLiambi's blog


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Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Nothing phone (1) initial review: Much ado about Nothing

To say there's been hype around the Nothing phone (1) would be an understatement.

However, while drip-fed leaks, snappy social media posts and an exclusive launch via StockX have helped play their part in building to a crescendo, the real test for Nothing begins now.

With just a pair of headphones to its name currently, the company is now preparing to break into an extremely competitive mid-range smartphone market. 

The Nothing phone (1), then, represents the real beginning of founder Carl Pei's ambitions with this new brand.

But has all the hubbub been worth it? We've been playing around with the phone in order to find out - here are our initial impressions.

Design and build

  • 159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3mm; 193.5g
  • Aluminium frame; Gorilla Glass 5
  • IP53
  • Transparent rear with Glyph Interface

The unique design of the Nothing phone (1) has been widely shared. Turning to a transparent back glass plate, the insides of the phone can be seen and have been carefully designed to provide interest and texture.

There's a deeply satisfying geekery to the Nothing phone (1), and, while we've seen similar transparent finishes from HTC and Xiaomi in the past, those mostly showed off fake components. Nothing, conversely, had to consider what you'd be looking at and design around it.

Adding substance to the design is something called the Glyph Interface. These lines of white LEDs are designed to illuminate the rear of the phone and can actually notify you of different things - notifications, the phone's charging status and more are all carefully synced with the geeky sounds that the phone offers.

We've seen rear LED displays on gaming phones before, and it lends a feeling that Nothing phone (1) is a slightly fringe option. It's a design that's very much sitting on the edge and looking in, rather than trying to appeal to a mass audience.

At the same time, though, there's still something controversially conventional about the phone (1).

The angular aesthetic is highly reminiscent of recent iPhone designs - even down the shape of the buttons. Is this Nothing's ploy, to reflect Apple's quality in a cheaper device and sell it to the fringe? Or was this an OEM design that was originally designed to look like the iPhone that's been adapted by Nothing?


  • 6.55-inch OLED
  • 2400 x 1080 pixels; 402ppi
  • 60-120Hz adaptive; 240Hz touch sampling
  • HDR support

The display on the Nothing phone (1) is flat and befitting of that iPhone-like design, with a neat bezel trimming the edges and equal on all sides. Unlike the iPhone, however, there's no ugly notch. Instead, we have a left-mounted punch hole for the front camera, which is perhaps similarly out of place.

There's a fingerprint scanner under the glass, meanwhile, and our first impression of the display here is that it's perfectly vibrant and packs plenty of punch. That's now typical of this segment of the market, of course, where OLED is now common.

However, offering an adaptive refresh rate isn't as common. It's not the same as you'll find on flagship devices, as it only runs from 60-120Hz depending on the content you're viewing, but it's a notable inclusion that we're looking forward to putting to the test properly over the coming weeks.

The same is true of HDR content - we'll be comparing the Nothing phone (1) to plenty of phones in order to properly gauge just where it sits on the scale.

Hardware and performance

  • Snapdragon 778G+; 8-12GB RAM; 128-256GB storage
  • 4500mAh battery
  • 33W charging; 15W wireless; 5W reverse wireless

The hardware loadout of the Nothing phone (1) sets it out as a mid-range device. The Snapdragon 778G+ is a 5G SoC, meaning you have fast connectivity for data and plenty of power.

This isn't sitting in the same space as flagship phones, neither in terms of the power or the battery capacity, but we've seen some really impressive mid-range devices over the past couple of years.

The difference between flagship and mid-range in daily use is usually minimal, and, in many devices, you'll find that the lower power hardware offers better stamina; it's often less power-hungry until you push it to run hard, like when playing games.

This side of the performance is something we can't yet comment on, nor can we reflect much on the battery life of the phone.

It's not the fastest charging device out there on paper, though, and there's actually no charging brick in the box, either - just the USB-C cable.

Support for wireless charging gives you another option, mind, while there's even reverse wireless charging available on the rear of the phone to help boost your headphones on the fly. Indeed, Nothing needed to customise the Snapdragon hardware to make this possible - and it's slightly rare on a mid-range phone to get this function.

There's testing we still need to do, but, given the hardware options, we're expecting competitive performance from this phone. We think its closest rivals are likely to be the Google Pixel 6a, the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and perhaps the OnePlus Nord 2T.


  • Dual rear cameras
    • Main: 50MP, f/1.88, 1/1.56in, 1μm pixels, OIS
    • Ultrawide: 50MP, f/2.2, 1/2.76in, 0.64μm pixels
  • Front: 16MP, f/2.45, 1.3.1in, 1μm pixels

There are two cameras on the rear of the Nothing Phone (1), and it seems the aim here is to deliver two good cameras rather than one good camera and a lot of lenses for the sake of it. This is a slight departure for devices in this position, which often feature a quad camera system that's pretty much useless. Foregoing this is something we generally applaud, and we're pleased that Nothing is keeping things realistic.

One of the sneaky advantages of the Glyph Interface is that it can also double up as a fill light to provide better illumination when snapping pictures, spreading the light more evenly on closer subjects. There's also a red LED on the rear of the phone, which ensures the subject can see when you're recording them.

The main camera offers all the common modes you'd expect, including a Night Mode, and we'll be putting it all to the test in our full review of the camera's performance soon.

On the video front, you can record up to 4K 30fps. This means you don't get as many high-tier options as you would up at the flagship level, but that's to be expected.

The front camera, meanwhile, is 16-megapixel, offering all the normal portrait modes and beauty filters. Again, we'll bring you a full evaluation of this element - complete with glorious selfies - in our full dive.

Software: Nothing UI

  • Android 12 at launch
  • 3 Android OS updates
  • 4 years of security updates

The Nothing phone (1) launches on an almost pristine version of Android. There's no bloat or additions, and, in that sense, it's closer to the experience of a Google Pixel than other mid-rangers. As we mentioned earlier, this will go head-to-head with Pixel 6a, which is where Nothing's tweaks want to win you over.

We've not fully evaluated the software, but we've already found some useful elements, like the Quick Setting that lets you toggle cellular, Wi-Fi, or the hotspot. That's much simpler than the stock Android 12 offering and it works so much better, addressing a really simple pain point.

Nothing has also infused to phone with its dot-matrix system lettering and a few cool wallpapers to try and define the Nothing experience a little better, and there are little touches that reflect this retro-cool feel, like the tape-style voice recorder.

There will be updates to bring more functionality, and one feature that Nothing has been talking about is seamless integration with Tesla, so you'll have a Quick Setting to get started with your car, as well as widgets, including a Nothing NFT Gallery. Do mid-range phone buyers also buy NFTs? And do they also buy Teslas?

More importantly, there's the commitment to three Android version updates and four years of security, which is pretty competitive for this level of phone.

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