Hands-On, Smartphone

Nothing Phone 1 Hands-On: Can It Live Up to the Hype?

There’s no phone quite as hyped up as the Nothing Phone 1 in recent memory. The unconventional, “glyph” LED notification system on the transparent back panel of the phone is heavily marketed, and for good reason: it does give the phone a very unique aesthetic.

But beyond this one feature, the Phone 1 can also be seen as nothing more – I’m sorry, I had to do the pun – than a regular upper mid-range smartphone, though it does have a premium appeal. With that in mind, is the Nothing Phone 1…worth the hype? Let’s find out.

Without a doubt the see-through back panel of the Phone 1 with the glyph lights is the device’s best selling point. It really differentiates the phone from the rest of its competition, and if you want a device that stands out, the Phone 1 is an easy choice.

Whenever you get a notification or a phone call, the Phone 1’s glyph lights will light up. There are even different notification sounds that are linked to a specific glpyh lighting pattern. This level of customisability is surprisingly fun to explore, even if it’s ultimately a…well, novelty.

Yes, the Phone 1’s LED notification system is very eye-catching, but how often do you place your phone on a surface with the screen facing down? It’s not very practical to do so, especially if you enabled the always on display of the device.

Nonetheless, I do like the overall design language of the Phone 1. Not only does the transparent back panel gives it a sleek aesthetic, I really dig the flat sides of the device too. It’s an ergonomically-sound design choice as it offers more surface area to get a good grip on the phone.

Under the hood of the Nothing Phone 1 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ chipset with 5G connectivity. Though it’s not the fastest chip in the market, it’s still able to provide a fast, zippy user experience. It’ll be interesting to see how well it can run demanding games like Genshin Impact.

Further enhancing the user experience of the Phone 1 is its 6.55-inch 1080p OLED display with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate. The high refresh rate makes every single motion look extra fluid, and the OLED panel itself is also pleasant to look at with vibrant colours, reasonably good brightness, and of course, deep, true blacks.

As for battery life, the Phone 1 is packed with a reasonably big 4,500mAh battery. This should translate to above average battery life, especially with the power efficiency of the Snapdragon 778G+ chipset. The phone also supports 33W fast charging; not the fastest charging rate, but not exactly slow either.

Last but not least is the camera performance of the Phone 1. It features a dual camera system made up of a 50MP primary sensor and a 50MP ultra-wide angle shooter; yes, there’s no telephoto lens, unfortunately enough. Aside from that, it also has a 16MP selfie camera.

Under good lighting, the Phone 1 can take good-looking shots, as you can see in the sample shots below. The camera interface is quite responsive as well, though switching between different lenses takes longer than expected.

Of course, the true test of a camera’s capability lies in its low light performance, which I haven’t had the chance to try out yet with the Phone 1. Based on early reviews though, I’m not particularly optimistic about the camera’s low light performance.

Now, prices. For the Malaysian market, two variants of the Phone 1 are offered here. There’s the 8GB + 256GB model for RM2,399, and a more practical 12GB + 256GB variant for RM2,699. However, the latter will only be available here sometime in mid to late August next month.

These prices are certainly quite steep for a mid-ranger, though you’re really paying for the unique looks and premium appeal of the Phone 1.

So is it worth it to pay that much for just a mid-range phone? Well, only a full review of the Nothing Phone 1 can shed some light on this, though I am excited to see how well the phone can serve as my daily driver. It’ll also be interesting to see exactly how hard it would be to get the phone in Malaysia.

After all, the Phone 1 was quickly sold out in its first sale on Crossover’s website earlier this week, and the next round of (confirmed) sale is happening on 1 August. Given all of the hype that’s been built up for the phone, it may prove to be difficult to secure a unit.

The hype surrounding the Nothing Phone 1 is something that many brands struggle to replicate, and there’s no denying that Nothing’s marketing team did an excellent job here. But whether or not the Phone 1 itself is good…is a question that can only be answered in a full review.

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