Amidst the Galaxies, Pixels, and iPhones, it is hard for a new non-flagship phone to make headlines. Even less so for a new company that is just starting out with their first generation of devices. Well, the new tech company Nothing managed to do so with their first smartphone, Nothing Phone (1).
The tech company Nothing was founded by Carl Pei, the co-founder of OnePlus. OnePlus was the first smartphone brand to listen to phone enthusiasts. So, it was expected that Nothing can succeed where OnePlus is failing nowadays.
Nothing has a few other big names associated with it. Steve Huffman, the CEO and co-founder of Reddit; Kevin Lin, the Co-founder of Twitch; Tony Fadell, the former Apple employee who invented the ever-so-popular iPod; and internet personality Casey Neistat – they are all on the investors' board.
The expectations from this company were high from the beginning. So much so that when Nothing decided to offer shares to the public in the form of community investment, they were sold out in just 54 seconds, breaking all sorts of crowdfunding records.
Nothing is clear that they want Phone (1) to be the iPhone alternative for Android. However, their price is almost half of an iPhone and the specs are non-competitive compared to similarly priced Android phones, which puts it in a unique position in the market.
Except for the few folding phones from Samsung, Huawei and Motorola, companies have hardly brought any significant design changes in recent years. Nothing was quick to realise that Android phone manufacturers are not innovating anymore and that iPhones are the gold standard. This realisation heavily influences Phone (1) 's design language.
It is similar to Apple's signature slabs and the cameras are arranged similar to how they sit on iPhone 12. Besides the notch, its display is also identical to the iPhones of recent years.
Unlike every other Android phone on the market, this one does not have a chin and equips the screen with a uniform bezel, like an iPhone.
To achieve this uniformity and symmetry in the 6.55-inch OLED screen, Nothing decided to spend extra on a flexible display that bends backwards and connects to the motherboard on the back instead of on the chin of the phone. Nothing Phone (1) is basically the only Android phone without a chin.
Unlike an iPhone, the screen has Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, which is not as durable as Apple's ceramic shield. Even though Nothing Phone (1) is trying to be an iPhone alternative to Android, it is cheaper than an iPhone, making the comparison somewhat unfair from the hardware perspective.
Compared to similarly priced Androids, on paper, Nothing Phone (1) is underwhelming. It has Snapdragon 778G+ with 8-12 GB RAM and 128-256 GB of internal storage, a configuration often found on Android phones much cheaper than Phone (1).
However, the phone is heavily optimised to ensure a smooth experience and there are no bloatware or heavy skins on the UI. That is why, even though the phone's specs sheet does not scream power, the stock Android-like Nothing OS skin on Android 12 makes it a better experience than most Android phones around its price point.
But the phone's user experience with Nothing OS is not the biggest selling point. The chaotic aesthetic on the back differentiates it from the horde of Androids.
On the back of the phone 900 LEDs are used to form shapes and symbols that work as notification and charging indicators and a source of light for photos. The back shows the impressions and a graphical representation of the components inside, accompanied by the LEDs they named Glyph Interface.
The LED shapes light up individually, giving different combinations of how they synchronise and light up with a ringtone. At first glance, the synchronised lighting, strong haptic feedback and the internal parts impression through the transparent back may seem chaotic, but that is the beauty of this phone. These combinations can offer visual cues to help identify calls from contacts and notifications.
But how much these notification indicators would be of help remains a concern, given people would most like to keep their phone face up and hence see the caller on the screen instead of trying to decode cryptic lighting.
When not used as notification indicators, these LEDs can act as a light source for taking photos of close objects in low light. Even though the image quality of the macro photos or the photos taken from the 50 MP main and ultrawide sensor is not iPhone quality, they are still better than most Android phone cameras at this price range.
The phone has a pretty average 4500 mAh battery that offers 6 hours of screen time and can be charged with a 33W fast charger. The phone also supports 15W wireless charging and 5W reverse wireless charging with Qualcomm Qi standard.
For the price, the haptic motor, audio system and wireless connectivities are pretty good on this 5G-capable phone, making it a bargain even without the iPhone-look and the artistic aesthetic on the back.
At first glance, Nothing Phone (1) might seem like a hotchpotch of gimmicks, but underneath the chaos, there is a beautiful, solid, and reliable Android phone that will appeal to the masses. Even though Nothing Phone (1) is not the iPhone killer the company wants it to be, it is still a refined alternative to budget Android phones.
Where to buy Nothing Phone (1)
You can buy Nothing Phone (1) from independent importers and retailers like Dazzle, and the base variant's price starts around Tk53,999.