New smartphone manufacturers rarely manage to arouse enthusiasm for their debut works – the market is too saturated, the roles are too clearly divided. Nothing has succeeded with the Phone 1, however. But do you live up to the expectations that have been raised?

The smartphone revolution was a good 15 years ago. In 2007, Apple ushered in a new era with the iPhone that would forever change the everyday lives of people around the world – for better and for worse. Accordingly, smartphones of all kinds are now widespread in the world. The number of people who rush to their trusted dealer when a new device appears is shrinking from year to year.

It looks even more so when an entirely new manufacturer of Android devices starts up. Because whether Nokia, Oppo, Samsung, Realme or Xiaomi is on the back loses importance in terms of the same components. Nothing, the brand new brand of former Oneplus director Carl Pei, has miraculously escaped this fate. The native Chinese with a Swedish passport has achieved what many manufacturers currently only dream of – people have been waiting eagerly for their Phone 1, as Nothing’s first device is called. In the test we answer the question: Rightly so or for free?

Unique look of the Nothing Phone 1 as a unique selling point

Nothing must have asked the question what can make an Android smartphone unique at all. It’s not the hardware – how you throw the components together is ultimately a question of the desired selling price. The formula is reliable: the more you ask for, the more you can pack in – from the processor model to the memory to the camera, money is the only limiting factor. Nothing has found its salvation in the optics of the phone – and with a transparent back and the so-called glyph created something that is actually a unique selling point.

The Glyph is 900 LEDs housed behind a transparent glass on the back of the Nothing Phone. She is able to create a wide variety of patterns and conjure up impressive effects. Nothing uses the wild glow for various tasks, especially when you lay the device face down. Because then the Glyph acts as a notification indicator that announces calls with different lighting patterns, indicates the arrival of messages or visualizes the current battery charge level.

Calls in particular seem to have played a central role in the development, because the ring tones composed specifically for the Phone 1 can be assigned to contacts and accentuated with clear light patterns. A gimmick? Absolutely. Make something anyway.

The Glyph can also be used as a ring light to brighten rear camera footage. Later, Nothing wants to open the Glyph for external developers to find their own applications for the light show.

Mid-range for the sake of the price

Apart from the pretty light show, the Nothing Phone 1 is a solid mid-range device at a fair price. Depending on the memory and RAM, the device costs between 469 and 549 euros. In return, you get a 6.55-inch OLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G processor and a 4500 mAh battery. It’s all wrapped up in a pretty case that closely resembles the iPhone 12 or 13.

The feel is good, the smartphone feels great in the hand and immediately feels familiar, especially to Apple connoisseurs. In contrast to a (much more expensive) iPhone 13 Pro, the overall impression is far less valuable, but the weight of the Phone 1 is significantly lower at 193 grams. The display is easy to read indoors, the only thing that isn’t bright enough to display content clearly in bright light.

Also very strange: the back is noticeably slippery. From the wireless charger that iPhone spends all day on, the Phone 1 falls in minutes. Why is not entirely clear.

In the test, all components – i.e. processor, RAM and battery – were sufficient for everyday use without any problems. The Phone 1 is not a high-flyer, lags behind many devices in most benchmarks and lasts for a maximum of one day. But: For less than 500 euros, the expectations look different than in the premier class in the four-digit range. After all, the device supports wireless charging and even reverse charging. That means you can turn the Phone 1 into a charging station for headphones or other smartphones. This is not a matter of course in this price range (see Google Pixel 6a). The same applies to the fingerprint sensor under the display and the possibility to unlock the smartphone with your face. Both work, neither is part of the standard in this class – even if it is not uncommon.

Solid camera, but no surprise

The camera system on the back consists of two snaps, each with 50 megapixels, and the selfie camera on the front has 16 megapixels. This ensures good results on both sides, in the test the Phone 1 did not stand out with negative results, even if – of course – other devices such as the iPhone 13 Pro Max capture significantly more details. Since two updates with improvements for the camera have already appeared in the course of the test, the impressions are probably not final. Test shots follow, with which you can get a small picture of what the camera can do.

Before the conclusion, a detour to the software: The Phone 1 comes with Android 12 and its own Nothing OS user interface. The system is very similar to iOS, which is why the operation is very simple and intuitive. It is extremely positive to note that Nothing lives up to the company name when it comes to the question of unnecessary, pre-installed software. Because the Phone 1 does without all the hassle that other manufacturers throw at customers regardless of the devices.

Conclusion: Successful debut without danger for the upper class

The Nothing Phone 1 is a successful entry into the smartphone market. We respectfully acknowledge that a device actually manages to stand out from the crowd. In times of the RGB renaissance in gaming computers, the Glyph is contemporary and should certainly find fans. The absence of annoying bloatware is also a statement.

Without the transparent case and the lighting, the Phone 1 would probably not have attracted attention either: it does a solid job in all respects, but does not stand out either with inimitably good recordings or with unprecedented performance. The device is absolutely mid-range – and therefore relatively fairly priced. For 470 you get far worse devices.

But also better ones. The Phone 1 is by no means a “flagship” killer, and certainly not a competitor for the iPhone 13, which is obviously taken as a model. Founder Carl Pei should have turned the price screw properly.

If you can do without the Glyph and want to have as much smartphone as possible for the money, you are probably better off with the Pixel 6 at the moment. The slightly older device does a better job in all respects and is crammed with top hardware. Current price: around 510 euros. Visually, the pixel is like so many other devices, but uniformity.

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