Nothing claims its new Cellphone 1 can “Carry us again. To us” with “deeper interactions” and “courageous simplicity.” It’s not the life-changing cellphone that Nothing makes it out to be; it’s only a good midrange machine with flashing lights on the again.
The Cellphone 1’s distinctive light-up notification “glyphs” are considerably helpful, however greater than something, they’re a trend flourish. Provided that it’s backed up by strong efficiency and truthful value, there’s nothing unsuitable with that in any respect.
One necessary word: Cellphone 1 shouldn’t be coming to the US. When it goes on sale on July twenty first, it can price £399 (that’s about $475 US) for a mannequin with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. A model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage (the model I examined for this evaluate) will go for £499 (round $593). Will probably be accessible within the UK, components of Europe, India, and Japan, amongst different markets. Nothing doesn’t rule out bringing a future product to the US, however it positively received’t be Cellphone 1 because it lacks FCC certification.
The sunshine strips that make up Cellphone 1’s most attention-grabbing characteristic blink in mixtures that the corporate calls “glyphs.” There are 20 complete in two units, every tied to a corresponding sound: 10 glyphs for notifications and 10 for ringtones. (You’ll be able to allow one with out the opposite — lights-only for silent notifications or sounds with out lights, however you may’t change which tone every glyph is assigned to.) On a excessive degree, you may set a glyph for all incoming notifications and one for all calls and go away it at that, or you may get extra granular by going into particular person app settings.
As a result of the glyph lights are tied to particular tones, you need to use them for any app or characteristic that permits you to customise alert sounds. You’ll be able to assign particular glyphs to particular person contacts, although you’ll solely see (and listen to) the glyph you picked when that contact calls you, not once they message you, which is a bummer — who talks on the cellphone?
It’s also possible to assign completely different glyphs to completely different app notifications — even completely different sorts of notifications from the identical app, relying on the app. To do that, it’s essential head to that app’s notification settings, the place you may reassign the notification sound to the glyph of your alternative — this modifications the alert sound, however it additionally means you’ll see the corresponding glyph even when the cellphone is silenced. You’ll be able to set a glyph for any app notification that permits you to assign a customized notification sound — one glyph for work emails and a unique one for private emails, for instance, or separate glyphs for Instagram likes and feedback.
In principle, it’s a much less obtrusive option to have your cellphone inform you whether or not a notification is value interrupting no matter you’re doing — a contemporary revival of the good-old-fashioned multicolor notification LED (bear in mind these?). With a while and a little bit fine-tuning, this can be a characteristic that some folks would possibly discover genuinely helpful, particularly if you wish to triage notifications with out particulars flashing throughout the display. Personally, I didn’t precisely discover it transformative.
For starters, I’m within the behavior of placing my cellphone down with the display going through up after I’m not utilizing it, so I didn’t see the glyph flashing more often than not. I’m positive that’s a behavior I’d be capable of change with out a lot hassle if I gave it a while, however it hasn’t occurred within the couple of weeks that I’ve been utilizing the cellphone. In all probability as a result of there’s one other a part of the cellphone that lights up and tells me what sort of notification I’m getting: the display.
Glyphs additionally require some memorization to acknowledge the distinction between sure mild patterns. Was that “squiggle” or “beak”? Is the large blinking “C” an electronic mail or an Instagram DM? The system labored finest for me after I set particular glyphs for one or two necessary apps moderately than a bunch of various glyphs for various apps. That bought a little bit chaotic.
There are a few different makes use of for the lights exterior of notifications. When the battery is charging, the little exclamation mark on the underside of the again panel illuminates periodically. It’s neat however a little bit extra distracting than simply tapping the display to verify the cost degree. It’s also possible to use the glyph lights as a fill mild for the digicam. It’s a pleasant possibility and a bit much less intense than utilizing the flash, although with a cooler tone. And there’s an unadvertised bonus characteristic: in order for you a younger youngster to have a look at the digicam, they’ll positively do the trick.
The glyph lights are additionally very vivid at their default setting. You’ll be able to alter the brightness, and I turned them all the way down to about 30 p.c. In the event you’re going to be exterior in direct daylight, you would possibly need to maintain the brightness cranked up; in any other case, they’re very exhausting to see — sadly, the brightness doesn’t alter routinely to mirror ambient situations. They’re additionally disabled routinely when the battery is low. As soon as the battery is sufficiently charged, it’s essential flip them again on manually within the glyph settings menu.
As a differentiating characteristic, the glyphs are perhaps a little bit helpful, in all probability largely gimmicky. However it’s sensible. It stands out and makes a press release to anybody else who sees it, and it doesn’t take something away from the expertise of utilizing the cellphone if you happen to’re not into it. If something, it can inspire you to maintain your clear cellphone case clear — Nothing will promote equipment tailor-made to the Cellphone 1, however I didn’t get to check them out for this evaluate.
Most significantly, it doesn’t really feel like one thing that needlessly drove up the price of the cellphone. That’s some extent I maintain coming again to as I exploit the Cellphone 1 — if this was a $1,000 flagship cellphone constructed round this supposedly life-changing, blinking notification system, I’d really feel cheated. However this can be a $500-ish cellphone, and if the lights are solely typically helpful, then it feels extra like a bonus characteristic, not a rip-off.
On the extra typical aspect, Cellphone 1 features a 6.55-inch 1080p OLED with an adaptive refresh charge as much as 120Hz, that are nice specs within the mid-tier class the place excessive refresh charges aren’t too frequent. The Galaxy A53 5G matches its 120Hz refresh charge, however the OnePlus Nord 2 manages simply 90Hz, and the Pixel 6A will embody a normal 60Hz display. The Cellphone 1 display sticks to that prime refresh charge more often than not, too, making for a really clean scrolling expertise. It gives 1,200 nits of peak brightness, which retains it usable even in direct daylight. The under-display fingerprint sensor is dependable and fast; it hardly ever misinterpret my fingerprint, even with moist palms or in direct solar.
The Cellphone 1 makes use of a midrange Snapdragon 778 chipset with 5G connectivity. Don’t count on to have the ability to import a tool and toss your SIM card in it — Sascha Segan at PC Magazine tried it out on a few US networks and didn’t have a lot luck. My evaluate unit with a wholesome 12GB of RAM handles every day duties with no drawback — the cellphone feels very responsive, and apps load shortly. Haptics are reassuringly robust however not “buzzy.” Mixed with the quick refresh charge, all of it feels prefer it ought to price greater than $500 or $600.
There’s no headphone jack or MicroSD card slot; Nothing is following within the flagship OEMs’ footsteps by not together with them. The Cellphone 1 does have an IP53 splash and dirt resistance ranking, which is healthier than — anticipate it — nothing, which is frequent amongst midrange telephones.
Battery life is one space the place the Cellphone 1 falls behind different telephones across the similar value — and even much less. The £399 (round $475) OnePlus Nord 2 lasted a bit greater than a day with numerous screen-on time in our testing, and the sub-$300 Nord N20 simply will get via a full day of heavy use. In my expertise, the Cellphone 1 is ready to get via a full day however not more than that. It appears to empty a stunning quantity when the cellphone is in standby — I’d choose it up within the morning to seek out the battery down by double digits in a single day.
The glyph lights don’t look like completely accountable, both. Nothing claims that conserving the lights illuminated constantly for 10 minutes solely drains the battery by an additional 0.5 p.c. In common use, they mild up for such a brief time period at such rare intervals that I can’t think about they’re contributing to the issue a lot in any respect.
However the excellent news is that the 4,500mAh cell within the Cellphone 1 helps 33W quick wired charging. Qi wi-fi charging at as much as 15W and 5W reverse wi-fi charging are additionally included — not one thing you discover in most midrange telephones. There’s no charger included with the Cellphone 1, which implies it’s essential finances one other $30–40 for a quick charger if you happen to don’t have already got one, so I examined quick charging with an adapter from an organization that does embody one with its telephones: OnePlus.
A 65W charger (overkill however bought the job finished) took the Cellphone 1 battery from completely flat to 100% in a bit over an hour. For a midrange cellphone that additionally gives wi-fi charging (i.e., not OnePlus’ midrange fashions), that’s superb. The cellphone’s battery efficiency isn’t among the many finest for the cash, however at the very least a fast 20-minute cost in the course of the day will go a good distance.
Nothing makes a giant deal about solely together with two rear-facing cameras on the Cellphone 1 moderately than the surplus depth and macro sensors on so many Android telephones ( you, Samsung A collection) that basically aren’t value anybody’s time. I want this was a norm moderately than a differentiator, however right here we’re.
The principle rear-facing digicam is a 50-megapixel sensor with an f/1.9 lens that features optical picture stabilization. OIS isn’t unparalleled on a midrange cellphone — the Samsung Galaxy A53 5G and Pixel 6A each have it — however it’s positively not assured beneath the flagship class. The opposite rear digicam is a 50-megapixel ultrawide with an f/2.2 lens; round entrance, there’s a 16-megapixel selfie digicam. There’s no telephoto digicam wherever, however that’s a scarce characteristic in telephones that price lower than $800. Video recording is accessible at as much as 4K/30p.
Pictures with the 2 rear-facing cameras in vivid mild are detailed and vibrant — a little bit heavy on the saturation however normally not too heavy-handed. There’s a barely cool coloration solid that may make shadows look a little bit blue, however it’s the type of factor that you just solely discover in a side-by-side comparability with one other digicam. Portrait mode photographs in good mild look nice with topics that aren’t too sophisticated; in very low mild, they’re a grainy, noisy mess.
HDR on the Cellphone 1 digicam is a little bit squirrely. One picture of a high-contrast scene exhibits a blue sky, whereas the sky in one other picture of the identical scene taken from a really barely completely different angle is blown out. In dim lighting — and in very dim lighting with evening mode — the Cellphone 1’s photographs are effectively detailed, if a little bit saturated, although a little bit coloration element will get misplaced in shadows. Optical stabilization appears to assist out most in reasonably dim mild when shutter speeds dip beneath 1/30 of a second. It’s not as useful as I’d hoped it will be with portrait mode photographs in these lighting situations — out of seven photographs I took of my husband in a reasonably well-lit bar, solely three are sharp.
Video clips are usually good, with a gradual mixture of optical and digital picture stabilization. There’s a little bit of a crop leaping from 1080p to 4K (and a little bit extra with stabilization enabled versus with out), however it’s nothing extreme. Clips at 30p can use HDR, however it’s unavailable at 60p. There’s a enjoyable, bonus glyph characteristic for video, too: a small, purple recording indicator mild that blinks if you’re filming. How’s that for nostalgia?
The Cellphone 1 ships with Nothing’s light-touch tackle Android 12. It’s refreshingly clear — no duplicate apps and few pre-downloads. There are just a few nods to retro tech all through the interface, together with Nothing’s most popular dot-matrix font on menu web page headers and an audio recording app styled like a classic tape recorder. There are additionally 4 Nothing-designed homescreen widgets for time and climate, plus a widget to show your NFTs. It’s a small factor and never enabled by default, however it tells you a large number about who Nothing is designing this cellphone for.
In any case, the corporate has promised three years of OS platform upgrades and 4 years of safety updates, which is among the many finest software program assist insurance policies for Android telephones — if Nothing makes good. Contemplating that is the primary machine from a brand new firm with no monitor report, that’s a giant “if.”
Nothing says it desires to permit third events to deliver controls for his or her merchandise proper into the cellphone’s OS, and for a begin, it’s working with Tesla. The corporate says you may unlock your automotive doorways and begin the AC throughout the system settings. In the event you stay in a sizzling local weather and personal a Tesla, that may be useful. As somebody who lives within the Pacific Northwest and drives a Honda Match, I can’t say it has the identical draw for me.
When Nothing began up its hype machine and started revealing particulars about its first cellphone over the previous few months, one specific spec raised just a few eyebrows: the Snapdragon 778 chipset. Particularly, it was stunning that the cellphone wouldn’t use the most recent and biggest processor from Qualcomm.
The selection to incorporate a inexpensive (however nonetheless extremely succesful) chipset has helped form the Cellphone 1 as one thing worthy of a unique type of hype: an excellent, fairly priced cellphone backed up with a strong software program assist coverage. It’s precisely the type of cellphone we may use extra of within the US, so it’s an actual disgrace that it received’t be accessible right here.
The Cellphone 1’s marquee characteristic, the glyph notifications, are type of a gimmick — however they’re finally innocent. It’s a part of the cellphone’s distinctive fashion, which some folks (perhaps the sort who personal NFTs and drive Teslas) will discover interesting. Others received’t, and that’s nice. As it’s, the Cellphone 1 doesn’t stay as much as Nothing’s advertising and marketing hype as a result of no client tech product presumably may. It’s only a cellphone — and that’s okay as a result of it’s a superb one.
Images by Allison Johnson / The Verge