Now that the hype train for the Nothing Phone 1 has slowed down a bit, it’s time to take a long, hard look behind the light show to find out whether this is indeed a game-changing smartphone in its segment, or whether all the hype was overblown. I’ve been using the Phone 1 as my primary phone for about a week and I think it’s safe to say that most people should be happy with what it offers, especially those who appreciate attention to detail.
The Phone 1 might not have the over-the-top specifications that some of the competition loves bragging about but it’s the combination of little things that add up to a good experience. It’s not perfect and there are some kinks that require ironing out, which we’ll explore in this review.
Nothing Phone 1 price in India
Prices for the Nothing Phone 1 in India start at Rs. 32,999 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. For Rs. 35,999, you get double the storage (256GB) with the same amount of RAM, and finally at Rs. 38,999 you get 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. These prices seem fine for the sort of features and specs on offer but keep in mind that the Phone 1 doesn’t come with a charger or a case, which are accessories that most of the competition offers.
Nothing Phone 1 design
We have already gone over the design of the Nothing Phone 1 quite extensively in our first impressions piece but I do want to point out a few things that I really like after using it for a longer period. The Phone 1 is a very comfortable phone to live with, and in a lot of ways, feels like an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13. The completely flat sides, front and back look very industrial, especially for the black variant.
Nothing Phone 1 specifications and software
The Nothing Phone 1 competes in a space that’s filled with phones sporting Qualcomm’s 800-series SoCs. The Snapdragon 778G+ SoC in the Phone 1 doesn’t have the same brute power, but it’s by no means a weak chip. It delivers a decent level of grunt and is fairly power efficient too thanks to its 6nm fabrication. Its performance falls somewhere in between the MediaTek Dimensity 1300 and Dimensity 8100 SoCs.
Other noteworthy hardware features of the Nothing Phone 1 include its IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, stereo speakers, in-display fingerprint sensor, and wireless charging. The latter feature really helps the Phone 1 stand out as this is the only current-gen smartphone in this segment to have it. The Phone 1 has a 4,500mAh battery and supports up to 33W wired charging, 15W Qi wireless charging, and 5W reverse wireless charging. The Phone 1 has support for up to 12 5G bands, dual-band Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and the usual array of sensors.
Nothing OS on the Phone 1 is based on Android 12. The company has promised a healthy three years of Android updates and four years of security updates. The software is free of any and all bloatware as you only get Google’s suite of apps. The Recorder app has been given a retro skin and the design of the camera app has clearly been inspired by iOS, but everything else is pretty much untouched. Nothing OS has some cool animations for locking and unlocking the display, and for when the phone is charging. I quite like the dot-matrix font that’s used throughout for menu labels and the always-on display.
My experience with the software was pretty good overall but I did encounter a few random bugs during my review period. There were times when the glyph lights would randomly get disabled and I had to manually re-enable them. The tap-to-wake setting for the display would not work at times, forcing me to press the power button. Auto brightness adjustment was a bit wonky when using the camera app as even under bright daylight, the brightness level would be too low for me to see the viewfinder clearly and manual intervention was needed.
Nothing Phone 1 cameras
The Nothing Phone 1 has a good primary camera and decent secondary ones. The 50-megapixel Sony IMX766 sensor of the primary camera is optically stabilised (OIS) and has an aperture of f/1.88. The ultra-wide camera also has a 50-megapixel resolution but it’s based on a Samsung JN1 sensor, which as we’ve seen in our OnePlus 10 Pro review, is not as good as the Sony one. It does have autofocus though, which means macro photos are actually usable. The 16-megapixel selfie camera uses a Sony IMX471 sensor which is decent as long as you give it ample light.
Verdict on Nothing Phone 1
The trouble with having this level of hype around the Nothing Phone 1 is that it automatically sets unrealistic expectations in the mind of the buyer. If you peel all of that away, you’re still left with an above-average smartphone that manages to offer enough unique features to stand out. Wireless charging is the one defining feature of the Phone 1 that no other recent offerings in this segment have managed to crack, unless you count the older but still relevant Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G (Review).
Some of the features of the Phone 1 that really stood out to me were its premium build quality, vibrant display, good primary camera, and clean Android experience. The glyph lights are a nice differentiator but I personally didn’t get much use out of them. The one thing that needs the most improvement right now is the secondary cameras, especially in low light. Video recording could also benefit from better stabilisation and features.
If you’re looking for something specific in your next smartphone, such as the fastest charging or great gaming performance, there are better phones in the sub-Rs. 40,000 segment that fulfil these needs. The Samsung Galaxy A53 5G (Review) is one of the only newer models in this segment to have an IP67 rating, apart from good all-round performance. If you’re looking for very good gaming performance, phones such as the Xiaomi 11T Pro (Review) and iQoo 9 SE (Review) would be better picks. The Motorola Edge 20 Pro (Review) should keep photography enthusiasts happy with with its 5X telephoto camera.