Can it be an iPhone 14 contender?
New kid on the block
The Nothing 2 has landed – and I was immediately tempted.
Before getting into some details on how I’ve found Nothing 2 over the past few days, first a word about the company itself. I had heard they were a young, fresh, contemporary company – the new exciting kids on the block. The Red Bull of the cell phone world if you like. Well, so far I’ve been less than impressed.
Rather cheekily I reached out to them last week asking for a review unit. I know I am only a minnow out there, but equally so are they. As I pointed out in the email they need a break against the big boys, just like me. One reply said we’ll be in touch if we’re interested. Yup, you guessed it – not even the courtesy of a follow-up.
OK – I get it was launch week and they would have been busy, but to not even reply surprised me. I still reply to every comment here on Medium and YouTube – and I am not a department! The fact they thought I was not worthy I can deal with but I had another reason to contact them and again the outcome was not glowing.
Having bought the phone I needed a VAT tax invoice to put through my company. There was a link on the order confirmation but that was broken – a bad request (not good). Easy I thought…I’ll just DM them on Twitter – nothing. So I emailed them and eventually got a reply after about 2 days – but still no invoice.
So my first dealings with Nothing as a company have not been too promising, but putting that to one side, what’s the phone like?
Specs and pricing
In the U.K. we get two colour choices of white or dark grey & three spec options;
- 8GB RAM + 128GB storage – £579
- 12GB RAM + 256GB storage – £629
- 12GB RAM & 512GB storage – £699
If I were ordering this phone as my main workhorse I’d almost certainly go with the most expensive model as I reckon these days 512GB of storage is pretty much the sweet spot. To give you some context the Pixel 7 Pro I’ve been testing with 256GB storage costs £949. The Nothing is certainly well priced – performance-depending. I’ve chosen the 128GB model as it’s only going to be used for review purposes.
This phone is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 4nm processor chip and is snappy and quick when moving around the phone.
Design & quality
Compared to my iPhone and Pixel this Nothing 2 feels less premium due mainly to a couple of factors.
Both the iPhone & Pixel have a serious amount of glass on the reverse which the Nothing 2 doesn’t. It weighs 201gms the same as the Pixel, but feels of a lesser quality as it uses more plastic.
The Pixel has that glorious ‘infinity’ wrap-around glass display on the front and the shiny glossy reverse whereas the Nothing 2 saves weight with a plastic back and a simpler camera array that I will get back to later.
The front of the phone looks very similar to the iPhone with its squared-off edges, the placement of the physical buttons and even the antenna bands are placed in very familiar places.
The plastic-free 60% recycled packaging that the phone comes in is premium enough but overall though the phone feels quite low-end – I take my hat off to them for being different, but the feeling of quality needs to be looked at.
Environmentally this phone ticks the boxes – the aluminium is 100% recycled and the plastics 80%.
The Nothing 2 has a 6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED display which is engineered with Gorilla Glass and on first use it stands up well enough to the other phones.
It has a peak HDR brightness of 1600 nits but more realistically, a sustained outdoor brightness of 1000 nits. Indoors it’s fine but on bright days outside it struggles a little – but then again I have come from using the 14 Pro as my main phone so have been a little spoiled.
The variable 120Hz refresh rate means that scrolling and moving quickly around the phone feels smooth and sweet. There is a firm, solid haptic feedback which feels & sounds great. They’ve got that weighted just about perfectly.
Unlocking is either via fingerprint or face and the face recognition option works with a mask on as well – but hopefully, those days are long behind us.
Battery and connectivity
The battery has been a revelation.
Where the Pixel’s claims of a 24-hour plus battery life felt very optimistic, the 470mAh battery in the Nothing 2 seems to go on and on. I’ve only charged it once since I’ve been using it over the past three days. It’s the best-lasting battery I’ve ever had on a phone.
The wi-fi speeds are good too and the quickest of the phones I tested today. On my Wi-Fi, it managed a speed of 67mbps down, the Pixel 51mbps with the iPhone trailing in last with only 47.8mbps.
Right, it’s time to look at how these perform.
The specs read promisingly enough. The main camera is a ƒ1.88 50 MP 24mm lens with a Sony sensor. The Ultra wide is again a 50 MP ƒ2.2 lens but this one has a Samsung sensor. You don’t get a telephoto lens on the Nothing 2.
You get all the main settings you’d come to expect – Portrait, Macro, Pano and Motion Stabilisation.
You can record video at 1080P or 4K in either 30 fps or 60 fps.
One of the first things I noticed was that there is a notable lag on the shutter on the Nothing 2. The quality of the actual pictures holds up pretty well on it though. The colours are a little muted or flat maybe. They don’t look as natural and in lower (not low, but lower) light they don’t look as crisp.
Although you do get the Macro option, I don’t like the way it doesn’t kick in automatically, you have to manually engage it.
Video quality is a similar story. Skin tones are fairly well reproduced but again there seems to be just a little less overall sharpness to the images here too. Don’t get me wrong, they are not unusable far from it, but it’s just now we demand and expect so much from our cameras that the results are a little ordinary.
The call quality is clear and fresh and I couldn’t spot any appreciable difference on the nothing compared to either the Pixel or iPhone 14 Pro – in fact, if I was being generous I’d say the Nothing was possibly a little clearer.
However, the good news stops there – playing audio through YouTube Music & Spotify was by a long way the poorest of the three phones here. The speakers are woeful – thin, tinny and just lacking anything good about them. It was almost like a throwback to a transistor radio from the 80s. I was surprised at how bad they were.
Luckily pairing the Studio Beats Pro was simple enough though and with the Beats app on the phone at least you can get some decent audio that way.
The three mics do a good enough job though and manage to cut out some of the background noise too. You have three settings – voice focus, normal or environment.
This is where it starts to get interesting with the Nothing 2.
Using it feels very different from the Pixel – I’m not sure why, but it feels more individual. It feels like you can set it up and tailor it to how you want it to look and feel.
Everything seems customisable – even the status bar which can display battery percentage & the icon along with your internet speed. The Home Screen looks great too. The Nothing dot-matrix font isn’t universally loved I know, but I think it works on this phone.
The icons themselves which you can have labelled or not are also totally swappable – from the colourful default to the greyed-out Nothing pack or the Nothing pack with a touch of colour. There’s a ton of wallpaper sets to choose from – loads and there’s something for everyone.
The lock screen widget packs I like too – you get to choose between the clock being either analogue or digital and then useful ‘sets’ of widgets such as a settings pack or a weather pack.
The big ticket on this phone though is the transparent back and the glyph interface. The idea behind it is to encourage you to have less screen time. With the phone face down you set the glyphs to notify you when you have mail arrive when tweet drops or let you know there’s a new video posted on YouTube – you decide and there are all sorts of options you pick from.
Timers, bedtime schedules and per cent charging progress all use the glyphs too and if you want to get super creative there is a Glyph Composer which lets you record and make up your own Glyph Ringtones.
To further reinforce the notion of the phone being less intrusive there is also a ‘flip to glyph’ setting. With this enabled the glyph lights will just briefly glow silently to let you know something needs looking at.
Carl Pei has set out on a mission to make tech fun again – less corporate and more individual. To some degree, he’s achieved that with his first phone and this, the Nothing 2. Even the name itself is a stroke of genius – short, sharp, snappy and easy to remember. Not only that but it causes a question in your mind too.
They’ve not been afraid to be different and you can tell there has been a real effort put into making the UI feel less ‘grown-up’ and I mean that in a good way – it’s more fun and individual to use.
The cameras are average and the audio is awful, but aside from that, at the price point, this isn’t a bad phone. The battery life is insanely good and it just seems to go on and on (yup – I’m still on the same charge!)
I’m not sure what the answer is to make it feel more special, but as of now, the general feeling of it when you first pick it up sets your expectations low – which is a shame as it shines in so many other ways.
But if they are setting themselves out to be the young renegades and a breath of fresh air, they really need to get their customer care in order. For a smaller company, they have been shockingly bad to deal with – the phone itself though is fun.
They’ve dared to be different – and that I like.
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