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Nothing Phone 2a rear hero
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Nothing Phone 2a

Nothing Phone 2a review: Should you buy it?

Nothing saved its best for the rest (of the world).
By

Published onMarch 28, 2024

Nothing Phone 2a

Nothing Phone 2a

The Nothing Phone 2a pairs a simplified version of Nothing's flashy design with internals that punch above its price tag. Rather than cheap-out on a flagship design, Nothing took the time to make the Phone 2a stand on its own, and it created a winner... though one that doesn't at all play nice with US networks. But if you're anywhere else in the world, the Nothing Phone 2a is one of the best budget phones for the money.

What we like

Quirky design
Crisp AMOLED display
Punchy speakers
Decent cameras
Quick wired charging

What we don't like

Poor US support
Limited IP rating
Weak camera zoom
Nothing Phone 2a

Nothing Phone 2a

The Nothing Phone 2a pairs a simplified version of Nothing's flashy design with internals that punch above its price tag. Rather than cheap-out on a flagship design, Nothing took the time to make the Phone 2a stand on its own, and it created a winner... though one that doesn't at all play nice with US networks. But if you're anywhere else in the world, the Nothing Phone 2a is one of the best budget phones for the money.

Nothing Phone 2a review: At a glance

  • What is it? The Nothing Phone 2a is a new, budget-friendly entry into the nascent brand's lineup. It hangs onto key design elements like the transparent back, dual 50MP cameras, and Glyph Interface while swapping glass and metal for plastic and adopting a MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chipset.
  • What is the price? The Nothing Phone 2a is available in the US through a developer program, costing $349 for a version with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. In the UK, it's available with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for £319 or 12GB and 256GB, respectively, for £349.
  • Where can you buy it? In the US, you can only buy the Nothing Phone 2a through the in-house developer program. It's available directly from Nothing or through retailers like Amazon in Europe.
  • How did we test it? I tested the Nothing Phone 2a over 10 days, and the unit was supplied by Nothing for this review.
  • Is it worth it? If you're not in the United States, the Nothing Phone 2a is worth every penny. It pairs a unique design with internals that out-punch its price tag and calls to mind the old adage of being together rather than being the same. Nothing's software is as quirky as its hardware design, and it's nice to have a budget phone that doesn't simply feel like a cheap rip of its flagship counterpart. But please keep in mind that it won't work fully on Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, so save yourself the budget-conscious headache in the US.

Should you buy the Nothing Phone 2a?

Nothing has had an… interesting relationship with the US in its few short years of existence. It’s swung from limited launches of the debut Phone 1 to carrier support on AT&T and T-Mobile for the Phone 2. And yet, it remains almost an unknown brand to those outside the dedicated Android sphere, like OnePlus in the early days — hardly a surprise from a company headed up by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei. Also, like OnePlus, Nothing is hoping that the key to its next growth phase lies in a challenging segment — the budget Android market. It’s easier said than done, of course, but the Nothing Phone 2a looks like it has all of the right ingredients. Well, except for one…

Let’s touch on the good stuff before we get to that missing link. Up first, the design. It’s excellent. I love the Pixar-reject-esque style, with key elements from the Phone 2 but enough personality to stand on its own. The Nothing Phone 2a looks like it belongs on a control panel in the Millennium Falcon or hopping along helping Wall-E navigate the trash-covered remains of Earth rather than occupying a pocket as a sub-$400 Android phone.

Like its more premium predecessors, the Phone 2a has two rear cameras, a transparent back panel, and a flashy Glyph Interface, but they’ve been remixed just a bit. The cameras now sit centrally on the back panel instead of in the corner, and the Glyph Interface went on a diet, dropping from 11 LED strips to just three. Dropping wireless charging support (a fair trade at this price) also means that the Phone 2a does not feature a charging coil — an essential piece of the original transparent design — so now the bug-eyed cameras sit directly above an intestine-like panel that snakes its way to the bottom edge. If there’s one drawback to the continuity, however, it’s the fact that the back panel picks up fingerprints and smudges from the second you pick it up, which takes away from enjoying the Glyph Interface light show.

The Phone 2a’s overall design is still relatively flat and iPhone-like outside its camera position, but that’s not necessarily bad. There’s just enough of a curve on the back panel that it’s comfortable to hold the phone for long stretches at a time, and the mostly plastic construction keeps its sheer size from feeling like a brick in your pocket. We often get wary of durability when it comes to primarily plastic devices, but the Phone 2a earns at least a few points for its Gorilla Glass 5 display and official IP54 rating. Both are good for the money, though not quite good enough that we’d recommend the phone for an unprotected day at the beach.

Rounding out the design, the Nothing Phone 2a packs a massive 6.7-inch display that’s almost identical to the one on the Phone 2. The flat, 120Hz AMOLED is simply gigantic, and it has even bezels on all four sides with only a small punch hole for the selfie camera. Large displays are nothing new for the budget Android segment (which probably has to do with getting more phone for your money), but the Phone 2a’s panel is especially good. It’s brighter than the display on Samsung’s Galaxy A25 5G and sharper than Motorola’s Moto G Power 5G (2024) — not to mention it’s a punchy AMOLED panel instead of the latter’s LCD.

Nothing's quirky, Pixar-esque design is one of the best budget looks... maybe ever.

Specs, of course, only get you so far, but the Phone 2a’s panel had no problems keeping up with my usage, whether indoors or out. I’ve been using it as my streaming partner to keep up with Shogun on Hulu, and outside of one particularly sunny day, I haven’t had problems catching details in darker scenes. The Nothing Phone 2a also kept up with the trailer for the Star Wars series, The Acolyte, which dropped while I was out for a walk. Speakers tend to go hand in hand with display quality, and the Nothing Phone 2a is no exception. While you won’t find a headphone jack, the single down-firing speaker pairs nicely with the earpiece to push pretty good, distortion-free volume. Synchronizing the Glyph Interface to your music is fun, too, but not something I’d recommend in public.

My Nothing Phone 2a came with Android 14 and the Nothing OS 2.5 skin right out of the box. Like the rest of the design, Nothing OS has somewhat of an acquired taste — which I have enjoyed so far. It uses dot-based designs for most widgets and offers plenty of quirky customizations, like the ability to quadruple the size of an app icon on your home screen. Even still, I wouldn’t call Nothing OS 2.5 a heavy Android skin. It largely feels like Google’s Pixel UI or Motorola’s My UX, but it has more personality than the former and less bloatware than the latter. Nothing only asked to install a few Google apps during the setup process, all of which you’d find on a Pixel device anyway.

The Phone 2a is also in line to receive three years of Android updates and an additional year of security support, which is a longer update promise than several of its closest rivals in its price tier. It will outlast Motorola’s latest Moto G series, as well as the current crop of OnePlus Nord devices, though Nothing still comes up a bit short of Samsung’s four years of Android versions and five years of security patches for some A series phones.

On top of a shift to the budget segment, the Nothing Phone 2a also marks a swap from Qualcomm to MediaTek under the hood. It packs a co-engineered Dimensity 7200 Pro chipset that uses TSMC’s second-generation 4nm process. The chipset is also backed by up to 12GB of RAM and 256GB of fixed storage, both of which dwarf most Android devices at this price point. The octa-core chipset easily has enough power to cruise through daily tasks like social media and responding to emails. I’ve had no issue loading it with lighter games like Railbound and Candy Crush and swapping between them. I’m in the midst of a low-travel time of year right now, so the Phone 2a didn’t have a chance to be my navigation companion, but the large display offers more than enough real estate for use as a partner in the kitchen, too.

Nothing Phone 2a Wild Life Stress Test

Our benchmarking data backs up my day-to-day experiences, too. The Nothing Phone 2a ran through our gauntlet of tests with better results than more affordable devices like the Motorola Moto G Power 5G (2024) and Samsung Galaxy A25 5G while struggling to keep time with more expensive options like the Google Pixel 7a and Nothing’s own Phone 2. The Pixel 7a’s Tensor G2 and Phone 2’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 easily set the tone in Geekbench 6 and 3DMark’s one-off Wild Life tests, as you’d expect from mid-to-upper-mid range options. However, what the budget-minded Phone 2a’s Dimensity 7200 Pro lacked in single-run strength, it made up for with consistency during our stress testing. It turned in stability scores of 99.1% and 99.7% in 20 runs of Wild Life and Wild Life Extreme, respectively. So, while the Phone 2a might not set the world on fire when you jump into a game, it won’t throw in the graphics towel after just a few minutes.

Nothing Phone 2a cameras close up
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

Let’s talk about the Phone 2a’s most anthropomorphic feature — its pair of rear cameras. They’re almost the same as the duo found on the more premium Phone 2, with Nothing choosing to modify its software features rather than its hardware capabilities — though it did trade its primary Sony sensor for a Samsung alternative. The dual 50MP sensors (one wide, one ultrawide) occupy a curved bump right in the middle of the back panel, which makes them look like a pair of eyes staring back at you. They’re a pretty good set of eyes, too, with the primary camera offering a wide f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization and the ultrawide camera delivering a 114-degree field of view. The Phone 2a’s third eye is a 32MP selfie camera that sits in a punch hole at the top of the display.

Like so many of its peers, this budget camera phone’s biggest strengths lie within the ultrawide to 2x zoom range. The Phone 2a captured pretty good detail in all four images above, with the small text still legible on the stickers to the left. There’s a little bit of lost detail in the wood boards on the side of the Rusty Scupper Restaurant, though I’m pleased you can still see the neon coils inside each letter in the sign. The image of cherry blossoms on the right is probably the best of the four, with accurate pinks and purples in the flowers and a few different colors still visible in the sky.

Pinching in to 4x zoom or 10x zoom (there’s no handy button-based toggle) quickly shows the Phone 2a’s limits with the hardware on offer. I tried to capture a few of the textures seen around my local climbing gym, but the final results look more like image grain rather than climbing hold grain. Typically, there would be a different texture between the green holds and the gray wall, but the Phone 2a mostly melds them together with soft details in the bolt holes and chalk smears. You can check out full-resolution versions of the images above and more at this Google Drive link.

On the video side, the Nothing Phone 2a supports up to 4K recording at 30fps or 1080p at 60fps, as well as a stabilized option called Action Mode. It’s a helpful option if you plan to capture videos of your kids or, well, anything else that moves, but unfortunately, Action Mode is limited to 1080p at 30fps, which puts a pretty solid cap on the quality you can achieve. As with the Samsung Galaxy A25 5G, I prefer stability and decent resolution over a sharp but shaky clip, so Action Mode it is. The Phone 2a’s selfie camera can also record 1080p video at up to 60fps.

Nothing Phone 2a battery benchmarks

Rounding out the Phone 2a, Nothing packed its most affordable device with its largest battery — a full 5,000mAh cell. It’s 300mAh larger than the battery on the Phone 2 and, combined with the mid-range Dimensity processor, manages to stretch for hours on end. I couldn’t put my personal SIM into the phone (for reasons we’ll get to shortly), so I can’t speak to how searching for a cell tower will impact the battery, but I ran our in-depth battery drain test for good measure. The Phone 2a beat Google’s Pixel 7a on several fronts, including photo and video longevity, and matched it in terms of web browsing and 4K video playback with nearly 1,000 extrapolated minutes of runtime. What this translates to in real life is that you probably won’t need to charge your Phone 2a more than every other day, even with a data connection in play.

Nothing Phone 2a charging cable
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

The Phone 2a keeps things pretty simple when you need a charge with 45W wired charging. It skipped out on wireless charging to keep the cost in check, which is also why there’s no visible coil in the transparent back panel. Honestly, at this price point, I’d rather have fast wired charging than mediocre wireless charging, and the 90-minute charge time helped to confirm that decision for me. There’s no charger included in the box, so you’ll have to supply one, but Nothing’s USB-C cable follows the brand’s transparent design language, which earns it some style points against other black or white alternatives.

Alright, remember when I mentioned a missing ingredient in the intro to this review? Well, here it is. Despite everything that the Nothing Phone 2a does well in terms of a large display, sizeable battery, smooth software, and solid performance, I can’t recommend it for buyers in the US. It’s a knockout value at just $349, especially with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, but its official position in the US is as part of a developer program. While you don’t technically need to be a developer to buy one (you just have to sign up), Nothing hasn’t made any adjustments to the phone’s network band compatibility for the US market. That means you’ll have trouble connecting it to any of the major networks.

If you try to use the Phone 2a in the US, you're gonna have a bad time.

Nothing is reasonably clear about this shortcoming, breaking down the carrier bands that the Phone 2a does and does not have and how they impact performance on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. In short, you’ll get 3G and 4G coverage from AT&T and 3G and 4G coverage with some (but not all) 5G support from T-Mobile. However, if you’re on Verizon, the Nothing Phone 2a is a non-starter. It doesn’t work on Big Red’s 5G network, nor does it support CDMA. Further, you’ll have to contact Verizon directly to add your IMEI number to its database before you can connect at all — something I elected not to do as part of this review because I don’t know my local Verizon representative well enough to send them down this rabbit hole with me.

Outside of the US, however, the Nothing Phone 2a is a no-brainer. It has two sharp cameras, a flashy (but not too flashy) Glyph Interface, and a massive, smooth AMOLED panel. If you want a unique-looking Android phone and you’re working with a tight budget, this is probably the one for you.

Nothing Phone 2aNothing Phone 2a
AA Recommended
Nothing Phone 2a
Quirky design • Crisp AMOLED display • Punchy speakers
MSRP: $349.00
The first true budget phone from Nothing.
The Nothing Phone 2a aims to deliver all the core features and style of the Nothing Phone 2 at a cheaper price point.

What are the best Nothing Phone 2a alternatives?

Nothing Phone 2a vs Nothing Phone 2
Ryan Haines / Android Authority

If you are put off by the Nothing Phone 2a’s lack of US support, fear not. There are several other options worth considering, and they all work on the main US networks:

  • Nothing Phone 2 ($699 at Amazon): If you’re dead-set on a Nothing device in the US, it’s much easier to recommend the Phone 2. Yes, it’s significantly more expensive, but the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset offers much power, and the 11-piece Glyph Interface is far more customizable.
  • Google Pixel 7a ($477 at Amazon): Google’s most affordable Pixel 7a feels like the Nothing Phone 2a’s closest mid-range rival, and not just because it’s another A-series device. It offers a pair of rear cameras and relies on the flagship-grade Tensor G2 for Google’s class-leading image processing.
  • Apple iPhone SE (2022) ($429 at Amazon): It’s hard to believe at first, but this is still Apple’s most affordable iPhone. The iPhone SE (2022) remains stuck in the body of an iPhone 8 and is limited to just one rear camera, but it’ll pick up software updates for years and is still capable of blitzing through benchmarks.
  • Samsung Galaxy A25 5G ($299.99 at Amazon): Samsung’s budget-friendly Galaxy A25 5G is slightly more affordable than the Nothing Phone 2a, but it offers many of the same benefits. It has a third rear camera to work with and a longer commitment to software updates. Oh, and it’s much easier to use in the US.
  • Motorola Moto G Power 5G (2024): Motorola finally started bringing power back to the Moto G Power in 2023, and it’s keeping a good thing going. The Moto G Power 5G (2024) offers competitive features like 30W wired charging, 15W wireless charging, and NFC support, all without giving up the headphone jack.

Nothing Phone 2a specs

Nothing Phone 2a
Display
6.7-inch AMOLED, FHD+ resolution
120Hz display refresh rate (30Hz-120Hz)
HDR10+
Processor
MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro
RAM
8 or 12GB
Storage
128 or 256GB
Power
5,000mAh
45W wired charging
No charger in box
Cameras
Rear:
- 50MP main
f/1.88, 1/1.56-inch sensor, OIS & EIS, AF

-50MP ultrawide, f/2.2, 114-degree FoV
1/2.76-inch sensor

Front:
- 32MP
f/2.2, 1/2.74-inch sensor
Video
Rear:
4K at 30fps
1080p at 60fps
1080p at 120fps (Slo-Mo)

Front:
1080p at 60fps
Audio
Dual stereo speakers
Dual mics
No 3.5mm port
Connectivity
5G (Sub6 only)
Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth 5.3
NFC support
SIM
Dual nano-SIM tray
Security
Optical under-display fingerprint sensor
3 years of OS updates
4 years of security updates
Durability/Materials
IP54
Polycarbonate back
Aluminum chassis
Software
Android 14
Nothing OS 2.5
Dimensions and weight
161.74 x 76.32 x 8.55mm
190g
Colors
White, Black, and Milk
Extras
Glyph lights on back
Supports countdown timer light

Nothing Phone 2a review: FAQ

No, the Nothing Phone 2a only supports physical nano-SIM cards.

The Nothing Phone 2a is the third model from Nothing Technology Limited, which was founded by Carl Pei, formerly of OnePlus.

Yes, technically you can buy the Nothing Phone 2a in the US. However, it’s only being released as part of a developer program and does not come with full support from the main US carriers.

No, the Nothing Phone 2a comes with either 128 or 256GB of fixed storage.

No, the Nothing Phone 2a does not have a headphone jack.

No, the Nothing Phone 2a does not support wireless charging, but it does support 45W wired charging speeds.