• | 12:00 pm

This new phone has generated a lot of hype. Can it deliver?

The phone ticks most of the boxes, but some important ones remain unchecked.

This new phone has generated a lot of hype. Can it deliver?
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Regarding smartphones, some people go with Apple while the rest follow the Android route, and for obvious reasons, there is no middle path.

We’re not getting into an Android vs. iOS debate here; that’s a different story for another day. The market is flooded with wannabe iPhones or phones that are mundane in design.

Let’s also keep the foldable phones out as people still doubt their durability.

So, there aren’t many options for a user looking to get a new mid-range smartphone with all the features yet wanting to make a statement. This is what Carl Pei, founder of Nothing, identified and came up with the Nothing Phone (1). To recall, this is the company’s second product, which brings transparency to your daily tech gadgets.

Interestingly, with the Nothing Phone (1), Pei decided to deviate from the most common trend on the Android side of the world, i.e., rather than going specs heavy, he chose functionality and design. However, Pei is to be blamed for igniting the specs war when he was promoting products of his previous company.

NOTHING TAKES ON TWO BRANDS WITH ONE PHONE

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, Nothing Phone (1) looks a lot like the iPhone. The overall design of the white-colored variant may have a lot of people mistaking it for an iPhone. The placement of the camera module, the flat metallic sides, front and back bears an uncanny resemblance to the latest iPhones.

While the similarities with the iPhone stop there, Pei did compare it with the iPhone during one of the most crucial brand presentations, suggesting that the company plans to compete with the best even with its first-ever smartphone. This is quite a bold step to take. Looking at the costs and challenges involved in making a smartphone, aiming to be the best could be a make-or-break decision.

Apart from the apparent design reference, Nothing has tried to offer a similar fluid user experience of an iPhone. The phone has a gorgeous AMOLED panel with a high refresh rate and a no-gimmick user interface that doesn’t let users miss the iPhone.

Since it’s an Android-powered phone, you can’t compare it with Apple’s flagship. This is where it takes on the other brands. However, we’d only consider Google as its other key competitor because, unlike most other Android phones, Phone (1) is the only smartphone in the market with an interface that’s closest to stock Android.

This pits the Phone (1) directly against the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. These premium flagship phones from the Android maker come with a customized-inhouse chipset, excellent camera performance, unique design, and vanilla Android experience. The Pixel phones are not only pricey and have a fan base of their own, but the ongoing global chipset shortage has resulted in less-than-ideal availability.

Phone (1), on the other side, has a chipset that Qualcomm has customized to support wireless charging for this phone. Additionally, the phone’s transparent rear panel coupled with the Glyph notification lights is unlike what you’ve seen on any other phone on the market.

This illuminating rear panel is an attention grabber. The in-hand feel, the slick user interface, premium build quality, and a practical use case of the additional lights at the back make us wonder why most other brands fail to think outside the box.

The Nothing Phone (1) can easily do most tasks in your day-to-day usage, including social media, browsing through the internet, calls, messages, WhatsApp calls, and more.

Even though it doesn’t have a custom skin like most other Chinese phones on the market, the glyph lights come in handy when you flip the phone to silent during busy hours of the day. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you might be left wanting more raw power and would question Nothing’s decision to use an old mid-range chipset on such a beautiful device.

In terms of camera performance, you get more than what you bargain for – though not up to the Pixel level; however, the images shot on this phone are detailed and vibrant. One might find them slightly saturated – but that is a matter of personal preference.

NOT ALL THAT GLOWS IS A DIAMOND

There is no doubt that Nothing has been able to put together an exciting set of hardware and design at a mid-range price. However, the phone seems to have been rushed through.

A quick search on social media is enough to tell you that many users have faced issues due to poor quality control. Dust particles can be seen making their way through the transparent rear panel, issues around the quality of the display panel, and misaligned components peeping through the transparent back panel could be an eyesore for a person conscious of aesthetics.

While these issues will take some effort and time to resolve. A few more on the software front need immediate attention. The in-display fingerprint sensor on the phone is fast and pretty accurate, but only when it works. You might have to try multiple times to unlock the phone, which is problematic when you need to use the phone urgently.

Applications crashing on the phone, and it becoming inexplicably slow to respond are problems that Nothing needs to address.

For some odd reason, Nothing has tried to imitate Apple, Google, and Samsung by omitting the charger from the retail box. Thankfully, the phone doesn’t have a proprietary charging tech like most Chinese smartphones available in the market and allows you to use any spare fast charging brick lying spare at your home. However, this could’ve been a tricky choice for a new brand.

Most of the issues highlighted here can be solved via software updates, and the company has already released a couple of them. However, for the hardware issues, the only option is to replace the phone. Mind you, Nothing is yet to work out setting up service centers.

Making phones is a tricky proposition, and the current supply chain issue has derailed the plans of many big brands. However, after all the hype created around the products, the expectations have been at an all-time high. Though the Nothing phone ticks most boxes, some important ones remain unchecked, where the experience gets spoiled.

One can hope the upcoming product from the company – we already hear that the Phone (1) Lite is in the making – will be more refined and well-rounded.

Most Innovative Companies comes to the Middle East this October! Click here to know more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jitendra Soni is a technology journalist who is always interested in everything ‘smart’. Outside of work, you'll find him dabbling with his smartphone camera. In the past, he was the editor of TechRadar India and was associated with a few other leading tech publications. More

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