Nothing Phone 2a Review: Unique-Looking Mid-Ranger With Fantastic Software
March 5, 2024 Andrew Cheng

The Nothing Phone 2a is the young brand’s first mid-range smartphone, and it’s quite an intriguing product. Not only does it retain Nothing’s signature design language – a transparent back with the Glyph Interface lighting – it also has a very refined software experience.

But at the end of the day, the Phone 2a is still a mid-ranger, which comes with a number of limitations here and there. This is especially evident in terms of raw performance, but with that in mind, I still wholeheartedly recommend the Phone 2a to anyone that wants a polished, unique-looking mid-range smartphone with equally polished software.

What It Is

Display6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED (2412 x 1084), 30-120Hz adaptive
ChipsetMediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro 2.8GHz octa-core
GPUArm Mali-G610 MC4
Storage256GB, non-expandable
Camera (rear)50MP f/1.88, OIS
50MP f/2.2 (ultra-wide angle)
Camera (front)32MP f/2.2
5,000mAh with 45W charging
Dimensions161.74 x 76.32 x 8.55 mm
OSNothing OS 2.5 based on Android 14
Bluetooth 5.3
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/5GHz)
USB Type-C

On paper, the Nothing Phone 2a has a modest set of hardware. The MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro, for one, is more than fast enough for everyday use. But in more intensive tasks like gaming and photographing, the chip does show its limits.

There is one benefit to the Dimensity 7200 Pro chip though. Its power efficiency, combined with the Phone 2a’s sizeable 5,000mAh battery, results in pretty darn respectable battery life. More on this further down the review.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with the most attention-grabbing aspect of the Nothing Phone 2a: its design. While Nothing isn’t the first phone maker to release a phone with a transparent back panel, it does give the phone a unique aesthetic. That being said, I’m not too crazy about the dual camera setup looking like a pair of eyes, but there’s no denying that it has a…quirky aesthetic.

Of course, the Phone 2a also features the company’s signature Glyph Interface lighting that surrounds the camera module. I’ve said it before in my review of the Nothing Phone 2, and I’ll say it again: it is no more than a gimmick. But, I do think it is still a cool feature that differentiates the Phone 2a from other mid-range smartphones.

Whenever the Glyph Interface lights up when I receive a notification or a phone call, it does feel like a nice novelty. I personally don’t use the lighting system very often as I’m not comfortable putting the phone – or any phone for the matter – face down on a surface, but I still occasionally play around with it as a neat party trick.

I want to touch on the build quality of the Phone 2a too. Nothing says that the frame of the phone is made of aluminium, but it is (somehow) coated in polycarbonate. I thought this would make the phone feel…well, cheap, but I actually quite like how the slightly rough texture feels in my hands, much to my surprise.

Software is also a strong aspect of the Phone 2a, much like how it is with the higher-end Phone 2. Nothing OS feels very responsive and minimalist even on the Dimensity 7200 Pro chip, and the overall interface is intuitive to navigate around as well. Suffice to say this is easily one of my favourite versions of Android.

Besides that, there’s the display quality of the Phone 2a. Its 6.7-inch FHD+ AMOLED screen can produce bright, vibrant colours with deep, true blacks. Basically, winning traits of an AMOLED panel.

And then there’s the battery life of the Phone 2a. On average, I can get between six to seven hours of screen on time out of the phone’s 5,000mAh battery, which is really quite impressive. If you’re not a heavy smartphone user, I reckon you can even get up to two days of use out of the Phone 2a.

Last but not least is the camera performance of the Phone 2a. Under adequate lighting, the 50MP main + 50MP ultra-wide dual camera setup can take sharp-looking images with wide dynamic range. However, in low light conditions, it does show its weaknesses. Detail preservation isn’t quite as good with some noticeable artifacts, though for a mid-range smartphone at this price point, I would say the camera performance of the Phone 2a is more than acceptable.

While the Phone 2a’s camera performs relatively well, the same cannot be said of the shooting experience. I’ll elaborate in the following section.

The Bad Stuff

In my opinion, the one thing that holds back the Phone 2a is the MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chip. As I’ve mentioned before, it can definitely provide a good user experience in day-to-day use, but it’s a different story when I launch the camera app. The chip doesn’t seem to be fast enough to provide a seamless shooting experience, and as a result, the camera interface feels a tad too sluggish for my liking.

This extends to the gaming experience of the Phone 2a as well. Of course, the Dimensity 7200 Pro can handle less demanding games like Marvel Snap adequately, but in graphically intensive games like Honkai: Star Rail and Genshin Impact, it does struggle to deliver a smooth gaming experience.

However, at the end of the day, the Phone 2a is still a mid-range phone, so expectations have to be managed. For a phone that retails at RM1,699, I do think this level of performance is…somewhat expected, though there are certainly more powerful phones at this price point.

Is It Worth It?

It comes down to what you want out of a mid-range smartphone. While the Nothing Phone 2a doesn’t offer the best performance for the money, it’s still a very polished phone with excellent software experience, long battery life, and of course, a unique design.

For RM1,699 in Malaysia, the Phone 2a is relatively affordable too, and it can definitely compete with other devices that sit at this price point. For what it’s worth, I thoroughly enjoyed using the Phone 2a as my daily driver, even if I do wish it had a faster processor.