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Nothing Phone 2 in gray with glyph lighting enabled
Damien Wilde / Android Authority
aa2020 recommended

Nothing Phone 2 review: Should you buy it?

Follow the light.
By

Published onJuly 13, 2023

aa2020 recommended

Nothing Phone 2

The Nothing Phone 2 hits the US with all the power of an elite flagship combined with the effortless cool of the Phone 1. If you've been waiting for a Pixel 7 alternative with superior peak performance or are just a sucker for retrofuturistic vibes, then follow the light and grab yourself a Nothing Phone 2 without hesitation.

What we like

Expertly crafted, effortlessly cool design
Brighter, beautiful OLED display
Solid main camera
Flagship-tier peak performance
Great battery life and fast, versatile charging options
Excellent value

What we don't like

Mediocre ultrawide camera
Only IP54
Outdated Gorilla Glass
Tinny speakers
Selfie video capped at 1080p
Quick to throttle under GPU load
aa2020 recommended

Nothing Phone 2

The Nothing Phone 2 hits the US with all the power of an elite flagship combined with the effortless cool of the Phone 1. If you've been waiting for a Pixel 7 alternative with superior peak performance or are just a sucker for retrofuturistic vibes, then follow the light and grab yourself a Nothing Phone 2 without hesitation.

Nothing Phone 2 review: At a glance

  • What is it? The Nothing Phone 2 is the sophomore Android phone from the London startup brand led by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, and the first to be made available to buy in North America. Following on from the warm reception of the Phone 1, the Nothing Phone 2 sticks with the signature Glyph lighting and transparent design while pushing performance to the next level with a high-end Snapdragon 8 series processor and making further refinements that elevate it from the mid-range to affordable flagship status.
  • What is the price? The Nothing Phone 2 is priced at $599 for the base model (8GB/128GB) in the US, with higher-spec variants retailing for $699 (12GB/256GB) and $799 (12GB/512GB). The Nothing Phone 2 starts at £579 in the UK, €679 in other European regions, and CAD$929 in Canada.
  • Where can you buy it? Pre-orders for the Nothing Phone 2 started on July 11 on Nothing's online store. General availability begins on July 17.
  • How did we test it? I tested the Nothing Phone 2 for seven days. The review unit was supplied by Nothing.
  • Is it worth it? The Nothing Phone 2 enters a North American smartphone market starved of affordable flagship phones not made by Google, and does so with all the power of an elite handset and the effortless cool of the Nothing Phone 1 that never reached US shores. If you've been waiting for a Pixel 7 alternative with style and substance, and can forgive a handful of concessions (most notably on durability) for superior performance and retrofuturistic vibes, then follow the light and grab yourself a Nothing Phone 2 without hesitation.

Should you buy the Nothing Phone 2?

Nothing dot logo on rear of Nothing Phone 2
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

The Nothing Phone 2 carries over the same transparent glass design and LED lighting array — portentously dubbed The Glyph — from the Nothing Phone 1, but ups the ante with more powerful internals, subtle build tweaks, and other minor spec bumps. The result is a familiar Android phone with a fractionally higher price tag, but one that pushes beyond the mid-range trappings of its predecessor to take on the biggest names in the business.

The Nothing Phone’s part-retrofuturistic overall aesthetic is kept intact, but when I put the Phone 2 next to the Phone 1, the tweaks to the formula — admittedly one still heavily indebted to the iPhone — started to show. The lighter two-tone shades of the Dark Gray model I have on hand work in tandem with the more varied and defined textures and lines to emphasize the internal components and carefully positioned covers far more than the Phone 1. I haven’t seen the White version in person, but it looks just as refined at a glance. The haptics have also been further tuned, and while the uniquely precise and crisp feel and sound of Nothing’s particular vibration style will continue to be an acquired taste (I personally love them), they’re far from the buzzy mess you can get from sub-flagship tier phones.

The overall footprint of the Phone 2 has increased and it’s marginally heavier, but it’s far from weighty and is actually thinner than before. The biggest difference in the hand is the rear glass, which is now subtly curved as it tapers into the squared-off recycled aluminum frame, eliminating some of the jagged edges of the Phone 1. Sadly, the actual glass on both the front and rear is still Corning’s aging Gorilla Glass 5 rather than a newer grade like Victus; a strange concession considering both the increased price tag and the fact that Nothing hopes you’ll keep the phone face down, glass first, to see all those funky Glyph lights. I haven’t seen any cracks or scratches on my unit yet, but I’ve been a little extra careful and wary because of it. It’s still a slippery customer too, so you’ll need a good Nothing Phone 2 case (preferably one that doesn’t obscure the back).

Nothing Phone 2 with glyph lighting enabled on coffee table
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

As for The Glyph itself, Nothing has stuck with the same enigmatic layout of lines of curves, but has split the strips into 11 sections in total up from six, and added more lighting “zones” (read: more addressable LEDs; 33 up from 12), for greater diffusion and to allow for more functionality. I won’t go through all the new Glyph features here — read more at the link. The main additions I found useful were the Essential Glyph to distinguish WhatsApp messages from key contacts and the Timer to track timer progress at a quick glance.

The Nothing Phone 2's Glyph and transparent design stand out in a world where smartphones are almost uniformly generic slabs.

Does all this make the Glyph a killer app? Honestly, no. The broader feature set makes it less gimmicky than before, but the actual use cases aren’t exactly groundbreaking, and some are clearly underbaked (like the Progress tracker which currently only works with Uber; not particularly useful in my rural village where Uber is non-existent). For The Glyph to really take off, it needs app developer buy-in, and considering it’s a niche feature on a niche phone from a niche brand, well, I don’t see it. That said, I’m glad Nothing is sticking with it. It’s a novel, eye-catching design quirk in a world where smartphones (at least ones that don’t fold) are almost uniformly generic slabs, and the 8-bit-like tones and discordant beats (which you can customize in the Composer) that accompany Glyph arrangements are a genuine delight for nostalgia hounds like me (also the club ringtone is a “bop,” as the kids say).

Nothing Phone 2 About Phone screen showing Nothing OS 2.0.0 running
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

The Nothing Phone 2’s display sticks to an FHD+ resolution with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a smooth 120Hz refresh rate. The pixels-per-inch ratio is technically lower (392 down from 402) but you can’t tell the difference. Plus, the thinner bezels and larger size of the Phone 2 allow for more screen real estate, stretching from 6.55 inches to 6.7 inches. As with the Phone 1, it’s a nice panel with high contrast OLED colors, though it’s made even better by an increased peak brightness (up to 1,600 nits) for improved outdoor visibility, and the use of LTPO technology for adaptive refresh rates as low as 1Hz to preserve battery for static content. The only other change is the newly-centralized punch-hole for the selfie camera.

Call of Duty Mobile on Nothing Phone 2 top down
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

These minor upgrades are nice, but the biggest spec change lies at the heart of the Nothing Phone 2. Despite courting a captive audience of power-hungry early adopters, the Nothing Phone 1’s Snapdragon 778G Plus was something of a disappointment for many. It ran fine for everyday tasks in my experience, but gaming lagged behind (sometimes literally) and the customized version of Qualcomm’s mid-range chip began to age pretty quickly as more and more features were added to Nothing OS. The Nothing Phone 2 blasts all that with 2022’s marquee processor, the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1.

The massively improved peak performance goes a long way to justifying the Nothing Phone 2's higher (yet still affordable) price, though throttling is an early concern.

We already know from our extensive Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 testing here at Android Authority that the overclocked chip can offer significant peak burst and sustainable performance upgrades while improving efficiency and limiting temperature spikes over the regular Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. It may have been superseded by the Gen 2 in 2023, but the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is a great choice for a sub-$600 phone, and the generational improvement, as seen in the benchmarks below, is a massive leap forward over the Nothing Phone 1 that goes a long way to justifying the MSRP increase on its own.

I had no complaints about performance or overheating during my hands-on tests, be it general use multitasking with GPS and music streaming on the go or gaming with the power-sucking Honkai: Star Rail and a few demanding emulators. It should be noted, though, that the sustained performance drop in the 3DMark Wild Life stress test raises some questions about throttling under load. A 36% drop in GPU scores after just five runs is quite aggressive for this chip, and while overall stability of 54.3% over 20 runs still keeps it above the Pixel 7’s Tensor G2 throughout, it’s far below the steady performance we’ve seen from other Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 phones — the OnePlus 10T, for example, only dipped to 91% of its maximum in the same test. Here’s hoping Nothing can eke out more sustained GPU power through firmware updates.

I tested the 12GB RAM variant and memory management wasn’t an issue. I can’t vouch for the 8GB RAM base model, but we’ve seen this exact same setup (with matching LPDDR5 RAM) on the Motorola Razr Plus with no issues whatsoever. If you’re looking for full future-proofing, I’d recommend going for the 12GB model as you’ll also double your fixed storage to 256GB too.

Nothing OS 2.0.0 default home screen on Nothing Phone 2
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

Another significant area of improvement for the out-of-the-box experience for the Nothing Phone 2 is the software. I called Nothing OS anemic in my Nothing Phone 1 review as it felt incomplete and underbaked, with missing stock Android features and a lack of anything new in its place. Over time, Nothing worked hard to change that perception with frequent updates filled with tweaks to existing features and entirely new ones. This has culminated with Nothing OS 2.0 on the Nothing Phone 2, and the custom skin finally feels ready for prime time.

Running over Android 13, Nothing OS 2.0 brings over all the great additions like the custom weather app, one-handed mode, and Glyph customization options, while adding more room for personalization. You can read about all the Nothing OS 2.0 features at the link, but my favorites are the monochrome mode icons (pictured) and the custom app folder illustrations that let you pick from pre-set dot matrix-style covers and hide the app clutter on your homescreen.

Nothing OS no longer feels like a beta.

The only mild criticism I can level at Nothing is that its ambitions of an “open ecosystem” with support for third-party brand devices isn’t really evolving. Support for AirPods battery icons and Tesla connectivity have been stuck in the Experimental Features section for months now, and it’s unclear what the endgame is. Props to Nothing for not locking its features to its own ecosystem, however. Even if you pair some Ear 2 buds, they’ll work the same as on any other Android device. The NFT widget appears to be gone, too. I won’t miss it!

Nothing Phone 2 camera with glyph lights enabled
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

The Nothing Phone 2’s camera setup is another area where Nothing Phone 1 users will feel a pang of the familiar, but the changes (and in some cases, lack thereof) are notable. I’ll include some samples below, but for more shots at full-res check out this Drive folder.

The main camera has the same overall specs, but swaps the Sony IMX766 sensor for the newer IMX890. This is the same sensor we saw on the OnePlus 11 (that Nothing-OnePlus heritage just won’t fully go away will it?) and the results aren’t too dissimilar, albeit with some custom image processing that builds on the Nothing Phone 1’s already solid main shooter.

The biggest improvement is in dynamic range, as multiple light sources are handled expertly. Noise has been reduced in shadows in good lighting, though the white balance does still tend to get a bit skewed in overcast settings (and I see a lot of those here in the UK). The colors continue to be contrast-heavy, which can bleed into other objects and surfaces, though sharpening is kept to a minimum and the auto HDR is far more punchy. AI-assisted motion capture technology also helps avoid blur on moving targets. There’s definitely a warmer temperature to photos captured by the Nothing Phone 2 compared to its predecessor, a look I prefer and one which is far more suited to hoarding those Instagram likes. The auto-night mode feature helps clean up noise in low light, though I’d prefer if it was a constant toggle option rather than one that only appears when the phone detects dim lighting.

A subpar ultrawide shooter, slight shutter lag, and 1080p-capped selfie video are sore spots in an otherwise impressive camera setup.

One mild disappointment is the presence of shutter lag. This was tolerable on the Nothing Phone 1 as it ran on a weaker chip, but the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1’s raw grunt and upgraded ISP should breeze through rapid snaps, yet there’s a half-second delay over my Pixel 7 Pro (running the same chip as the equally-priced $599 Pixel 7). It’s faster than the Nothing Phone 1 and possibly not enough that you won’t notice without direct comparisons with other devices, but I still hope Nothing can eliminate the slight lag with updates.

Nothing calls its 2x zoom “Super-res Zoom,” which, aside from being a branding that Pixel-fans will immediately raise an eyebrow at, is essentially a digitally-assisted crop of the main sensor. Detail is surprisingly decent at 2x, but anything beyond that starts to fall apart, though that’s to be expected with no telephoto lens on offer (just like the Pixel 7, no less).

Unfortunately, the ultrawide camera continues to be the odd one out in an otherwise decent group of cameras. It sticks with the same Samsung JN1 sensor as the Nothing Phone 1 and benefits from that phone’s myriad firmware updates that targeted the ultrawide shooter, but overall the results still suffer from muddy textures and halo effects around objects. The macro mode remains its saving grace, as it uses the high-megapixel ultrawide camera and autofocus to take usable extreme close-ups.

That just leaves the selfie camera, which has doubled its megapixel count to 32MP. I was really happy with the snaps, especially the detail and color accuracy. Natural bokeh is already decent, but you can take it further with portrait mode. The edge detection missed a stray clump of hair in the seaside wind in my tests, but in calmer environments, it was far more consistent.

Video also received some love, with Action Mode (capped at 1080p/60fps) offering superior stabilization for fast-moving footage. You can still use the Glyph as a fill light and the red video recording light dot is still there buried in the camera app settings for alerting someone when you’re filming them. The real headscratcher, though, is the continued lack of 4K video on the selfie camera, let alone 4K at 60fps. Why this restriction exists on a phone intended to appeal to vloggers and the TikTok generation is beyond me. At least the rear cameras now shoot 4K/60fps to match the competition.

Battery usage screen on Nothing Phone 2
Damien Wilde / Android Authority

The Nothing Phone 2’s larger footprint allows room for a slightly larger battery. With the 4,700mAh cell, combined with the efficient processor and LTPO display tech, the Nothing Phone 2 comfortably outlasts the original. For my average mixed use (music/video streaming, photography, plus general social media and web browsing), it pushed through a day and a half before dropping below 10%. That fell to the following morning with more stressful testing and gaming, but it’s still early days as Adaptive Battery gets used to my usage patterns. Overall, pretty great, as is the charging; 45W Power Delivery PPS support means you’re looking at just under an hour to go from zero to 100%, and 50% in closer to 20 minutes. You’ll need a compatible brick to hit those top recharge speeds, but the Phone 2 supports a smorgasbord of fallback standards in case you have an older adapter. Add in 15W wireless charging and 5W reverse charging for your accessories and you’ve got an all-round impressive phone for battery life.

Questionable durability and tinny speakers rank among the few areas where the Nothing Phone 2 falls short of nearby rivals.

Middling cameras and not-quite-tough-enough glass aside, the Nothing Phone 2 does have some pesky flaws that keep it from true greatness. Chief among them is the IP54 rating. It’s a notch above the IP53 rating on the Nothing Phone 1, so it’s now protected against sprays of water from any direction, but it’s still not officially rated for immersion or completely ingress protected. At $599, we’re in full water and dust resistance territory for most phones, and it falls behind even cheaper options from Apple, Samsung, and Google. The optical in-display fingerprint reader is also a finicky customer that doesn’t always work the first time, and its oddly low placement means you have to stretch with your thumb if that’s your usual choice for fingerprints. Elsewhere, the bottom speaker has an extra gap in the grille, and the balance between it and the earpiece speaker has been fixed, but the sound the pair delivers is quite tinny and lacks any depth at any volume; again, a tough pill to swallow at this price considering the richness of the Pixel 7’s audio.

Finally, Nothing’s update policy is good enough, with three years of OS updates and four years of security patches. That’s a decent stretch of coverage and Nothing has thrown off any worries that it won’t deliver long-term support with the way it treated the Nothing Phone 1. However, four years of security support does fall one year short of Samsung’s mid-rangers and (once again) Google’s Pixel 7 that linger around the same price tag.

Nothing Phone 2Nothing Phone 2
AA Recommended
Nothing Phone 2
Expertly crafted, effortlessly cool design • Flagship-tier performance • Excellent value
MSRP: $599.00
The Nothing Phone gets a power boost.
Building on the success of Nothing's debut Android handset, the Nothing Phone 2 features the same unique transparent look and Glyph lighting but adds more processing power, a larger screen and battery, and makes some subtle design tweaks. You can also buy this one in the US!

What are the best Nothing Phone 2 alternatives?

  • Google Pixel 7 ($354.99 at Woot!): I mentioned the Pixel 7 throughout this review for a good reason. The best value phone on the market comes in at the same $599 price tag but remains a better all-rounder than the Nothing Phone 2 thanks to superior durability, Pixel-exclusive software features, and the magic of Google’s computational photography. Yet while the Pixel 7 has a unique camera bar, the rest of the design isn’t as spiffy as the Phone 2, and Nothing has it beat on raw power for both peak processing performance and charging.
  • Google Pixel 7a ($477 at Amazon): If you can’t stretch your budget over the $500 barrier, the Pixel 7a takes most of the Pixel 7 experience and packages it for $100 less. Yet while it’s still a superior camera phone overall, the limited battery endurance and pitiful charging power are smoked by the Nothing Phone 2.
  • Samsung Galaxy A54 5G ($379.5 at Amazon): With no new Fan Edition phone in sight in the US, Samsung’s closest competitor isn’t the Galaxy S23 but the more affordable Galaxy A54 5G. With Galaxy S stylings, a stunning display, and a whopping four years of software updates (and five years of security patches), the Galaxy A54 5G is a reliable pick, though you’ll miss out on the fun of The Glyph, far superior peak performance and charging, wireless charging, and 4K/60fps video.

Nothing Phone 2 specs

Nothing Phone 2
Display
6.7-inch LTPO OLED
Flat Gorilla Glass 5 cover
2,412 x 1,080 resolution
120Hz variable refresh rate (as low as 1Hz)
240Hz touch sampling rate
1,600 nits peak pixel brightness
HDR10+ support
1-bit color depth
Processor
Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1
GPU
Adreno 730
RAM
8 or 12GB LPDDR5
Storage
128, 256, or 512GB
UFS 3.1
No microSD card slot
Power
4,700mAh battery
45W PPS/PD wired charging
15W wireless charging
5W reverse wireless charging
No charger in box
Cameras
Rear:
- 50MP wide (Sony IMX890, ƒ/1.88, 1/1.56-inch sensor, 1µm pixel size, 24mm focal length, OIS, EIS, HDR)
- 50MP ultrawide (Samsung JN1, ƒ/2.2, 1/2.76-inch sensor, 114-degree FoV, EIS, HDR)

Front:
- 32MP wide (Sony IMX615, ƒ/2.45, 1/2.74-inch sensor, HDR)
Video
Rear wide:
- 4K at 60 or 30fps
- 1080p at 60 or 30fps
- Slow motion at 4K at 120fps
- Slow motion at 1080p at 120, 240, or 480fps

Rear ultrawide:
- 4K at 60 or 30fps
- 1080p at 60 or 30fps

Front:
- 1080p at 60 or 30fps
Audio
Triple mics
Dual stereo speakers
No 3.5mm headphone jack
Bluetooth 5.3
Durability
IP54 rated
Biometrics
Optical in-display fingerprint sensor
Face Unlock support (insecure)
SIM
Dual physical SIM
No eSIM
Connectivity
4G: Gigabit with 4x4 MIMO
5G: Gigabit 5G Dual Mode (NSA & SA) with 4x4 MIMO
Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, 2.4G/5G dual-band, 2x2 MIMO and MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi Direct
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
Bands
5G NR: n1, n2, n3, n5, n7, n8, n12, n20, n25, n28, n30, n38, n40, n41, n66, n71, n75, n77, n78
4G LTE (FDD): B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B12, B17, B18, B19, B20, B25, B26, B28, B30, B32, B66, B71
4G LTE (TDD): B34, B38, B39, B40, B41, B42, B48
3G UMTS: B1,2,4,5,6,8,19
2G GSM: GSM 850,900,DCS,PCS
Ports
USB-C
Dual-SIM tray
Software
Nothing OS 2.0 based on Android 13
Three years of Android upgrades
Four years of Android security updates
The Glyph
33 individual addressable LED zones
Covered with Gorilla Glass 5
White light only
Dimensions and weight
162.1 x 76.4 x 8.6mm
201g
Colors
Dark Gray or White
In-box contents
Nothing Phone 2
Transparent USB-C to USB-C cable
Transparent SIM tool
Pre-applied screen protector
Paperwork

Nothing Phone 2 review: FAQ

The Nothing Phone 2 is not waterproof. It has an IP54 rating for protection against water sprayed from all directions, but not immersion.

No, the Nothing Phone 2 does not come with a wall charger, though it does come with a nifty USB-C to USB-C cable with transparent casings.

No, the Nothing Phone 2 does not support eSIM. However, it does have a dual-SIM slot for two nano-SIM cards.

Yes, the Nothing Phone 2 has 15W Qi wireless charging.

Yes, the Nothing Phone 2 has a pre-installed screen protector.

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