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Nothing Phone (1) Review: The flagship killer has evolved

Nothing Phone (1) Review: The flagship killer has evolved

The Nothing Phone (1) redefines what you expect from a mid-range Android smartphone, with an incredible focus on a refined user experience. Here’s our full review.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the Nothing Phone (1) since its launch. The myriad of quality control issues and software bugs may have left a bad taste in the minds of those expecting a radically different smartphone. But behind the usual problems associated with a first-generation product, there is a phone that is actually radical in the way it approaches the concept of a smartphone. Nothing Phone (1) is one of the very few phones that make you fall in love with technology and all that is good about it.

I know it sounds like I’m romanticizing a fancy mid-range Android phone, but the Nothing Phone (1) does so many things right that it makes me desperately wait for Nothing to fix its own internal manufacturing issues. After all, it’s not every day that a Rs. 33,000 smartphone can set you back to Rs. 1.5 lakh iPhone 13 Pro Max. The phone (1) takes on the iPhone SE 3rd Gen, the Pixel 6a and the myriad of “gaming phones” from Chinese brands, and having experienced them all, I’m not afraid to call this a flagship killer.

Nothing Phone (1) Design

It’s not every day you see a company spend a lot of money and effort to make the design different. Vivo and Oppo have entertained us with gradient colors and color-changing backs. Nothing takes away just that element with this semi-sheer back. Yes, it fires up the nerd in me, even though I know that’s not what the inside of the phone looks like. The phone (1) under the transparent glass back displays interestingly shaped wireless charging coil, visible screws and the fancy LED notification light arrangement – ​​the Glyph interface.

Before we dive into the glyph, know that the Nothing Phone (1) looks great in white and wonderfully stealthy in black. The flat sides with the large keys are reminiscent of the iPhone 13, while the astonishingly flat front has aesthetically pleasing slim and uniform bezels. Remember that the side frames are thicker than the frames of an iQOO Neo 6 or Samsung Galaxy S21 FE. The entire phone is rated IP52 certified for water resistance and I reluctantly tested it in the ongoing monsoon season when it endured an hour’s commute in my damp trouser pocket.

The glyph interface is what nothing uses to enhance its appeal. It may seem cosmetic at first, and to a large extent that is actually its true purpose. However, Flip to Glyph is what makes it useful – imagine your phone is face down on your office desk and all it uses is the beautiful arrangement of LED notification lights to let you know who’s calling or texting. Using Morse code-like effects to alert amplifiers up the “cool” factor. The same goes for Morse-style ringtones – they sound harsh but unmistakably nothing.

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Nothing Phone (1) Display

Nothing fancy here; just the usual stuff. This is a flexible OLED screen with a resolution of FHD+ and a refresh rate of 120Hz. All in all, this is a very good screen that keeps the color vibrant and contrast-y. Viewing angles are wide, but there is a faint yellowish tint visible on dark backgrounds. For normal viewing tasks, it works just fine – be it social media or photos, everything looks great. I wish nothing provided an option to lock the refresh rate to 120Hz instead of keeping it in variable mode. Oh, there’s also a very cool Always On Display with the signature Nothing matrix font for the clock.

Nothing Phone (1) Performance

Phones must have powerful processors, and I’m not saying that because of the desire to show off the highest gaming settings on Call of Duty:Mobile. If the processor is powerful today, it will still be fast enough three years from now. Carl Pei’s ex-company OnePlus had the philosophy, and so the phones used to be fast even after 3 years (even if the software was a buggy mess). With nothing, it was about cost cutting, and the performance department got it.

The Snapdragon 778G+ is capable enough for an Android phone in 2022, and I have no doubt about it. During my time, the chipset has handled some intense office multitasking, casual gaming and the usual stuff. Aside from the bugs in the first few software builds, the phone has been very fast and smooth. That said, it lacks the flawless urgency you’ll see on phones with the Snapdragon 870, or the Snapdragon 888, or the MediaTek Dimensity 8100.

And that worries me – how will this chip hold up in its third year, when it will have Android 15 and heavily developed popular apps? Nothing might need to do some serious optimizations here to keep it so smooth. Perhaps using the Snapdragon 870 could have removed this doubt, considering the greatness of that chip.

However, the Snapdragon 778G+ chip offers rock-solid stability in terms of performance, and there’s none of the performance throttling you see in similarly priced ‘gaming phones’. Making the most of this chip is Nothing OS based on Android 12. Honestly, this is the finest iteration of a no-nonsense pure Android experience you can have today. It has all the fancy widgets of Android 12, but sprinkled with the standard Android simplicity we’ve loved for years. The customization features are limited to what you get with stock Android 12 – accent colors, icons, fonts and the like. The nothing widgets are also cool to look at. No preloaded third-party apps, no adware, nothing unnecessary! It’s an all Google thing here, apart from the Nothing camera app and the Recorder app.

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Also read: Oppo Reno 8 Pro 5G review: Great and reliable, but lacks the WOW factor

The stereo speaker setup is decent and they go loud too. However, the sound quality lacks the depth you get from the Xiaomi 11T Pro. No headphone jack here.

With both the defective and final devices, I did not observe any connectivity issues over my Jio 4G network (there is support for 5G network as well). Call reception was loud and clear, and I didn’t lose the signal even in busy areas. There is support for carrier aggregation as well.

Nothing Phone (1) Cameras

Nothing bucks the trend here. There are only two cameras and both of these make up a generally good camera system. The 50MP main camera has a Sony IMX766 sensor at the helm, and I’m glad to see that nothing tweaks the algorithms to get a natural look to the images. Daylight images maintain a neutral color tone with plenty of detail and good noise control. Cloudy conditions make pictures look gloomy, and HDR doesn’t help much with that. Night photos have that iPhone-like look and feel – natural hues and no over-enhancement. However, you need to enable night mode to reduce blurred details.

The 50 MP ultra-wide camera has the Samsung JN1 sensor, and the benefits are seen in terms of detail. However, color science is different – ​​it is mostly boring and leaves a lot of room for improvement. The macro function is perfectly fine for daylight situations and it can never match the 5MP Xiaomi macro camera with 2cm focal length. The 16 MP front camera is good with its color science, details and subject recognition in portrait mode. No complaints here. The Glyph lights provide great fill lighting in close-up portraits.

Click here to check image samples

Nothing Phone (1) can record videos with up to 4K resolution and 30 fps. The performance is decent in both 4K and 1080p, as the color science is again more neutral than saturated. The iPhone SE 3rd Gen still rules the video recording game with its old 12MP camera.

Nothing Phone (1) Battery life

With a power-efficient Snapdragon 778G+ chipset and a well-tuned Nothing OS, the 4500mAh battery is capable of delivering a day’s endurance on a single charge. This data comes from generic phone usage which involved an average of 3 hours of voice calls, 2 hours of social media browsing, some occasional 15-minute gaming sessions and music streaming. Most people should easily be able to go a whole day without the charger.

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As for the charger, there is nothing! (Haha, you didn’t see that coming) There is no charger in the box and the Nothing Phone (1) supports 33W wired fast charging. Now, nothing sells a charger either, but since I didn’t have one, I pretty much used a 33W Motorola charger and a 65W OnePlus charger to top it up. It took a little over an hour when the battery dropped to 20 percent. Not fast enough by today’s standards, but it does the trick. However, the refills from 30-70 percent are fast.

You also have 15W wireless charging and 5W reverse wireless charging as well. I rarely used these, but if you have a wireless charger around, this is certainly useful.

Nothing Phone (1) Dom

No smartphone has ever been perfect and never will be; the same applies to Nothing Phone (1). It could always have faster charging and processors, or more cameras, or something else. But here’s the thing – Nothing has a phone that simply works for everyone and makes a fashion statement at the same time. And it’s not an iPhone, it runs on the Android most of you and I love. This in itself is a big reason for me to recommend the Nothing Phone (1) to most people. It’s a phone that makes using your smartphone a joy. After all, who doesn’t like their phone flashing massive lights to notify while face down? LED lights on phones are cool. FACT!

For the rational consumer, here is the overview. The Nothing Phone (1) looks different, has an incredibly useful gimmick (Glyph), has a nice and bright screen, a couple of good cameras, a clean and sensible Android experience, a fast processor and a good battery life to sum it up . Wait, aren’t we saying the same thing about the self-proclaimed flagship killers?

Therefore, if you have a budget somewhere between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40000, Nothing Phone (1) is a good choice. It has just about everything you need, and some of that geeky style. I’m excited to see what Nothing Phone (2) brings to the table.

Product name

Nothing Phone (1)

Benefits

  • Unique design
  • Reliable performance
  • Good battery life
  • Nice cameras

Cons

  • Slow charging
  • No charger in the box

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