The Nothing phone (1) review: iPhone contender or not?

Heading straight into the unknown requires boldness and the courage to be met by uncertainty.

This requires a certain level of guts and former OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei seems be the man ready to take on that challenge with his latest product offering “the Nothing phone,” officially titled Phone 1.

Pei established the handset in 2020, the second product since his initial offering, a set of wireless earbuds called ear 1.

With the smartphone, Pei has delivered what may on esthetics alone resemble a current crowd favourite, the Apple iPhone.

This was not by chance, as the handset, although new on the market is intended to take on the iPhone according to its founder.

The news sparked controversy and seems to have turned tech heads in the direction of the phone to see what this new arrival has under the hood.

Is the Nothing phone (1) really worth the hype?

The unique design is its selling point, with its edges almost resembling those of its intended rival the iPhone.

With a transparent back that shows off unique LED lines wired to light up when you receive a call or app notifications, the same light design is said to have been inspired by the New York City subway map from Italian designer Massimo Vignelli in the 1970s.

Ok, so it looks interesting, but can it really take on the iPhone?

So we’ve done some research, looked at some specs and while we wait for the device, here’s what we know:

The device is kitted with 900 small LED lights – at the back, that flickers when you receive a call and can be preset to flicker differently depending on who is calling.

One of the lights is set to even indicate charging percentage. But why would I look behind the phone to look at my charging percentage or who’s calling?

The retro-futuristic phone as described by Pei, runs on the latest version of Android, and can reportedly enable Tesla car owners to open their car doors, a partnership Pei has with Elon Musks’ tech business.

The phone sports a 6.55″ display, snapdragon 778G+, various storage options, 8GB/128GB, 8GB/256 and 12GB/256GB.

It also comes with a 5G chipset, a 4500MAh battery, 12 GB RAM and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 with a price estimated to be around R 15 000 when it hits our shores.

So far it comes in black or white, and is able to charge 50% battery in around 30 minutes as advertised. It has fingerprint sensors, an accelerometer, Bluetooth 5.2, A2DP, LE with a USB Type C port.

The 16MP selfie camera and a 50MP dual (Sony IMX766 sensor and Samsung JN1 ultrawide) rear camera raises an eyebrow as some Android phones sport the same camera combination.


This smart phone does not come with a radio or memory card slot but uses a 6.5″ OLED display at a 120Hz refresh rate, which seem quite pleasant on the eyes.

The phones’ looks are attractive, and the Flickering LED lights seem to be the crowd favourite selling point, but coming in from nothing to take on a crowd favourite like the iPhone is not an easy task.

A noble attempt from a worthy novice.

Details around the phones release date in South Africa are still sketchy, although the phone is available in Europe and several parts of Asia.

WATCH:  The Nothing phone (1) unpacked here

Feature image: Nothing/Twitter



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