After weeks of teases, Nothing is finally announcing its debut smartphone — the Nothing Phone 1 — at a launch event today. Led by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, it’s the well-funded startup’s second product released following last year’s Ear 1 true wireless earbuds. You can check out my colleague Allison Johnson’s hands on impressions of the device right here. The big news is that the Nothing Phone 1 will be sold with a modest starting price of £399 (the equivalent of around $475 USD, though it’s not getting a widespread release in the US) when it goes on sale on July 21st. £399 gets you the model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, while stepping up to £449 (around $535 USD) gets you 256GB of storage. The model with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage goes on sale later this summer for £499 (around $593 USD). Unfortunately, as previously reported, the Nothing Phone 1 isn’t getting a full release in the US. Instead, Nothing says the Phone 1 will release across over 40 markets, including the UK, Japan, India, and countries in mainland Europe.
In contrast to a company like Apple, which tightly guards every detail of its products up until their official announcements, Nothing has happily revealed many of the Phone 1’s key features in the weeks leading up to today’s event. It’s a tactic that’s generated a lot of headlines, but it means we’ve gone into today’s event with a pretty clear idea of what the Phone 1 consists of.
Most notably, Nothing showed off the phone’s design a whole month in advance of today’s event, revealing an eye-catching set of light strips on the rear of the device (called the glyph interface) that are designed to serve a variety of uses.
For example, a light strip on the back next to the USB-C port can indicate how full the battery is while charging, while a central light illuminates to show when the phone is being charged (or charging another device) wirelessly. All the strips can flash to let you know when you have a notification or an incoming call and can sync up with the phone’s ringtones. The strips can also act as a fill light for its cameras, while an additional red LED on the back flashes when the phone is recording video.
On the rear of the phone, there are two 50-megapixel sensors: one main and one ultrawide. The main camera supports both optical and electronic image stabilization (OIS and EIS) as well as a range of software features including night, portrait, and document scanning modes. Meanwhile, the ultrawide camera has a 114-degree field of view and can take macro shots up to distances of 4cm. The Phone 1 is available in either white or black.
Around front, the Phone 1 has a 6.55-inch 1080p OLED display with a peak brightness of 1,200 nits. Its maximum refresh rate is 120Hz, but it can drop down to half that depending on what the screen’s displaying. There’s a small hole-punch cutout in the top left for a 16-megapixel selfie camera and an in-display fingerprint sensor for biometric security.
Internally, the Nothing Phone 1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G Plus processor. That may be a disappointment for anyone hoping the phone would use Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, but the company has said this less powerful chip offers a better balance of performance, power consumption, heat output, and price. That’s paired with either 8 or 12GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage. For software, the phone is running Nothing OS, which sits atop Android.
Nothing’s pitch for the phone’s Android-based Nothing OS software is that it’s designed to integrate better with third-party products. There’s the ability to control other devices like a Tesla car from the quick settings menu, including unlocking doors and turning on the vehicle’s AC. The software also shows the telltale signs of having been developed during the recent NFT boom and includes integrations like being able to show off the expensive images on the phone’s homescreen or track their prices. Nothing is promising three years of Android updates and four years of security updates (released once every two months).
The Phone 1 is powered by a 4,500mAh battery that can be charged at up to 33W with a cable or 15W wirelessly. There’s an IP53 rating for dust and water resistance, which means it should survive being used in light rain but shouldn’t be fully submerged.
The Nothing Phone 1 is one of the more interesting entrants into the smartphone market in recent years. But rather than attempting to match other more established brands spec for spec, Nothing is emphasizing novel features, like the Phone 1’s illuminating light strips, in an attempt to set it apart. But with the smartphone market increasingly dominated by Apple, Samsung, and large Chinese tech firms, Nothing could have its work cut out for it if it wants to compete at scale.