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Nothing Phone 1 hands-on impressions: The gift of Glyph?
Update: Check out our full Nothing Phone 1 review for all of our in-depth analysis and final thoughts!
The hottest prospect in the Android smartphone world since the Essential PH-1 is finally here. This is the Nothing Phone 1.
The hype train ushering in the second product from London-based startup Nothing is ending its journey with a little more baggage than its first. The Ear 1 were quality earbuds launched at an affordable price that won the company a fair few fans. However, expectations for the Phone 1 are much higher as the brand — led by OnePlus co-founder and hypeman extraordinaire, CEO Carl Pei — has been upping the ante for its debut smartphone.
Yet rather than betting big on a premium flagship out of the gates, the Phone 1 arrives as a far more conservative affair than many might have expected; one that looks to build on the Ear 1 model — eye-catching, simple-to-use tech with a modest price tag. Does this approach pay off in the ultra-competitive smartphone space?
We’ll be answering that question in detail in our full review, coming very soon, where we’ll also be digging into the camera quality, charging speeds, and day-to-day performance. Ahead of that, here are our initial hands-on impressions of the Nothing Phone 1 after just a few short days with it.
Speak in Glyph
First impressions matter, and the Nothing Phone 1 makes a spectacular first impression. There’s plenty we can’t talk about just yet, things that may make or break the phone’s appeal for many. And while it’s not been all that easy to buy a Phone 1 until now (we’ll get to that), we’d always recommend waiting for the full picture before spending your hard-earned money.
With that said, after handling the device for a weekend, I can tell you with no qualms that the Nothing Phone 1 does not feel like a “cheap” phone. It’s pleasantly weighty, the buttons have a satisfying click, the Full HD+ AMOLED display is bright and vibrant, and the haptics are exceptional. Aside from a middling IP rating (splashproof only), there is very little that would limit the Phone 1’s credentials as a “flagship killer” if you were judging it purely from a design perspective.
Check out: The best budget phones
This isn’t the first transparent-backed phone we’ve seen, but it is surely the smartest, eschewing gaudy branding and fake components (hello, Xiaomi) in favor of hints at the phone’s internals, conveyed through a modern yet subtly retro aesthetic, and segmented by the Phone 1’s biggest gambit — the Glyph.
The Glyph is essentially a fancy notification light array split into four shapes that flicker in varying patterns when you receive a text, a call, or a custom app notification. It can also show charging progress and react to Google Assistant feedback. Will a quartet of LEDs revolutionize the smartphone game? I doubt it, but they’re undeniably an important part of the Phone 1’s identity, and help elevate the appeal of what could otherwise uncharitably be dubbed an iPhone clone. The squared-off, brushed metal rails, button placement, and symmetrical bezels owe more than a little to the Cupertino giant (no notch though, mercifully).
If the old-made-new design is one half of Nothing’s play for relevancy, the other half comes through its software. Put simply, if you want Google’s mobile OS (Android 12 out of the box) in its most basic form, the Phone 1 might be for you.
This isn’t a big surprise. The Nothing Launcher gave us an early taste of Nothing’s vision for its “skin” and that vision was pretty anemic. It turns out that’s perhaps by choice. Nothing’s own touches are there; the dot matrix typeface in menu headers and widgets, some unusually large circles in the notification tray, the Glyph controls, and other minor tweaks here and there. The rest, though, is about as close to stock Android as it gets.
Nothing OS is as close to stock as it gets, but feels like a sign of things to come.
All but two of the pre-loaded apps (a Recorder and the Camera) are Google apps. There are only four custom widgets at launch — three of which are clocks, the other being an NFT gallery app that’s easy enough to ignore, though its mere presence may not assuage anyone already set against the idea.
We’ll dig more into the fluidity and stability of the software in our review, but for now, Nothing OS feels like a sign of things to come, but one that is already signaling the brand’s ideal of an open ecosystem. Case in point: there are no exclusive features for Ear 1 and Phone 1 owners.
No filler, but not all killer
We’ve talked about what the Nothing Phone 1 is on the outside, but the inside is arguably even more fascinating.
At the heart of it all is the most controversial spec choice. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus that powers the whole show is a souped-up version of a mid-range chip launched in early 2021. Benchmarks will come later, but on paper, it’s a perfectly capable chip for a £400 phone, though you should know going in that the Phone 1 absolutely isn’t designed to be a budget powerhouse.
Power isn't everything, or at least that's what Nothing believes.
Qualcomm has customized the chip specifically for Nothing, adding support for 15W Qi wireless charging. Elsewhere, the Phone 1 comes with a respectable though not huge 4,500mAh battery, 33W wired charging (no charger in the box), and 5W reverse wireless charging. There’s also 8GB RAM and 128GB non-expandable storage at the lowest end, going up to 12GB RAM/256GB storage for the top model, though this won’t launch until later in the summer.
An optical in-display fingerprint reader and stereo speakers help round out a fair spec sheet, and Nothing’s appeal to simplicity strikes again for the phone’s photography suite. The main camera is a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with optical stabilization, while the ultrawide is the same Samsung JN1 sensor found on the OnePlus 10 Pro. How exactly the pair perform against the best budget camera phones is still to be determined, but the dual-camera setup certainly leaves little room for gimmicks.
You can check out the full list of Nothing Phone 1 specs below.
Nothing Phone 1 specs
|Nothing Phone 1|
2,400 x 1,080 resolution
500 nits brightness / 1,200 nits peak
120Hz adaptive refresh rate (60Hz lowest)
240Hz touch sampling
Gorilla Glass 5
Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus
8 or 12GB
128 or 256GB
No microSD card support
33W PD3.0 wired charging
15W Qi wireless charging
5W reverse wireless charging
No charger in box
- 50MP Sony IMX766 wide-angle (ƒ/1.88, 1/1.56-inch sensor, 1μm pixel, 24mm focal, OIS, EIS)
- 50MP Samsung JN1 ultrawide (ƒ/2.2, 1/2.76-inch sensor, 114-degree FoV, EIS)
- 16MP Sony IMX471 wide-angle (ƒ/2.45, 1/3.1-inch sensor)
4K at 30fps
1080p at 30 or 60fps
Live HDR at 30fps
Slo-mo at 120fps (main lens only)
Night Mode at 720p/1080p (30fps)
OIS on main rear lens only
EIS on both rear lenses
No 3.5mm headphone jack
In-display fingerprint reader
Gorilla Glass 5 front/back
Gigabit LTE with 4x4 MIMO
Gigabit 5G dual Mode (NSA & SA) with 4x4 MIMO
5G NR*: Bands n1, n3, n5, n7, n8, n20, n28, n38, n40, n41, n77,
4G LTE: Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 26, 28, 32, 34, 38,
39, 40, 41,66
3G UMTS (WCDMA): bands 1,2,4,5,6,8,19
2G GSM : 850/900/1800/1900
Wi-Fi 4/5/6 and 802.11 a/b/g/
NFC enabled with Google Pay support
GPS with A-GPS. Up to dual-band: GLONASS (1), BDS (2),
GALILEO (1), QZSS (1)
Three years of upgrades
Four years of patches
Dimensions & weight
159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3mm
In the box
Nothing Phone 1
Pre-applied screen protector
SIM tray ejector
Nothing Phone 1 hands-on: New challenger approaching
For its initial run, the Phone 1 was only available through an invite system for Nothing Community members (big old-school OnePlus energy). The rest of us mere mortals can joy the fun from July 21, 2022 at 7 AM BST (2 AM ET), when it will go on general sale in the UK, across Europe, and other selected regions. The Phone 1 will be sold via Amazon, and Smartech at Selfridges London. Additionally, there will be a pop-up kiosk from 16-20 July in Seven Dials, Covent Garden, London where limited quantities of the device will be available to buy (between 10 AM and 7 PM BST).
Nothing has also confirmed that it has partnered with O2 as the exclusive carrier (sales in-store and online), while also striking similar deals with Telekom Deutschland in Germany, and Flipkart in India. If you’re in North America, however, you can’t buy it at all.
Nothing Phone 1: Hot or not?
For all the details on pricing, check out our announcement coverage. The big takeaway is the entry price: £399/€469 (~$475). That puts the Nothing Phone 1 in contention against the very best budget phones out there, such as the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G, Google Pixel 6a, Poco F4, and not to mention the ever-popular iPhone SE.
Without more testing, it’s hard to know how well the Phone 1 truly compares to such tough competition. It looks the part, but looks aren’t everything, you’ve got to have heart too. The Nothing Phone 1 is at the very least a contender though — a fair feat for a debut smartphone from a company founded less than two years ago.
What do you think of the Nothing Phone 1? Vote in the poll above and hit the comments if you have any burning questions you’d like to see answered in our review.