From the back, nothing makes the Phone 1 unmistakably different. Even before the light strips light up, it’s clearly not an Apple or Samsung or Motorola phone. When the “Glyph” flashes to indicate a notification or an incoming call, you Definitely Know this is something else. This is the definition of attention grabbing.
Otherwise, the Phone 1 looks very familiar. And that’s really not a bad thing.
What’s in before No Separately, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: OnePlus. Carl Pei has nothing new to venture after his 2020 departure from the company he co-founded. With Nothing’s style-first focus, it doesn’t look like it’s trying to directly clone OnePlus’ flagship specs for a cheaper formula, but it’s not far off. The Phone 1 thus far exists in a cloud of hype generated by nothing – no doubt a carryover from OnePlus. It also lacks the hallmark specs of a true flagship: no Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, telephoto camera, or IP68 water resistance. But the price is right: it starts at £399 (about $475 USD). Something seems familiar.
There’s also a (kind of) literal elephant in the room — Nothing Spokesperson Melissa Medeiros said some people see the shape of an elephant in the coils and components on the Phone 1’s back panel. The phone’s unusual back panel has been at the center of early first looks and Nothing’s promotional materials, and it features a transparent glass that shows off the phone’s guts – tinted white or black, depending on the model you ordered. The elephant isn’t the first thing I’d look for in this Rorschach test, but once you know where to look, it’s there.
Light strips distributed across the back panel flash in combinations called glyphs, and they are functional as well as decorative. You can assign special glyphs to individual contacts and app notifications. The glyphs are each paired with their own signature sound, combining chirps with old-school-tech-inspired pings and quirky names like “squiggly” and “isolator.”
By enabling a feature called “flip to glyph”, you can automatically turn off notification sounds by placing the phone screen on a flat surface while keeping the glyph light notification active. You can also turn off the glyph light completely, but what does that mean? (Glyph lights are really bright by default, but you can tone it down in the settings.)
The Phone 1’s homage to retro tech continues through the OS, with a dot-matrix font sprinkled across menu screens and used in a couple of preloaded clock and weather widgets. The preloaded voice recording app is styled with a nod to analog tape recorders, and the alarm harks back to the digital bedside clocks everyone’s fathers had in the ’80s.
There’s a lot more to the future about the Phone 1. One of its homescreen widget options – along with a retro, dot-matrix weather widget – is a place to display your NFTs. I don’t have any apes and personally find the inclusion a bit off, but the widget isn’t enabled by default, and it’s easy enough to pretend it doesn’t exist. Nothing at all The wallpaper options provided also lean towards the futuristic with a hint of mystery about them. There’s also system-level integration with Tesla as an experimental feature at launch that gives access to some car controls from the quick settings without having to download a separate app. You know, for all you Tesla owners out there. I won’t hold my breath for the integration with my Honda Fit.
But, with one foot in the past and the other in the future, the Phone 1 lands completely in the present. outside these features (some might say gimmick) And some custom widgets and alert sounds, there’s not much that sets it apart from any other existing Android phone. Taking Nothing on Android 12 is a light touch, free of unnecessary pre-downloaded apps and duplicate virtual assistants. The phone’s 6.55-inch OLED is pleasant to use and offers smooth scrolling with the 120Hz screen. Its Snapdragon 778 chipset translates into decent day-to-day performance in the version I tested with 12GB of RAM. It is absolutely a very good, very accurate midrange Android phone.
The Phone 1’s camera hardware is also respectable but not revolutionary. There’s a 50-megapixel standard rear camera with an f/1.8 lens and optical stabilization. It is paired with a 50-megapixel ultrawide one, and a 16-megapixel selfie camera on the front. Nothing’s a Big Deal About Promotional Materials No Including additional depth or macro sensors to reduce the number of lenses on the back of the camera. Incidentally, OnePlus is notorious for including such sensors in its phones. As it stands, there’s nothing on the Phone 1’s spec sheet or in the initial photos I’ve taken to indicate that its cameras are remarkably good or bad.
Apart from the very obvious design difference on the back panel, the shape and finish of the phone resembles the recent iPhones. The sides of the aluminum frame are straight, and the screen is rounded at the corners. I reached for it more than once thinking that it is the iPhone 13 Pro Max that I am also using at the moment. While you can’t see the twinkling lights on the back, the Phone 1 is a pretty mainstream, familiar-looking device. It could have been phone launcher without glyph feature.
We’re working on more thorough testing with the Phone 1, but the first impression it leaves is a good impression – if not exactly what Nothing and its hype machine are hoping to provide. It’s a pretty good set of what the Phone 1 has to offer for a midrange phone, with a clean interface and a new notification system. It doesn’t strike me as the revolutionary device that the company is marketing it. This isn’t pure retro nostalgia, and it’s not the phone of the future. That’s okay because for now it has a pretty good shot at being an excellent midrange phone.
Photography by Alison Johnson / The Verge