Nothing claims its new Telephone 1 can “Deliver 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 Telephone 1’s distinctive light-up notification “glyphs” are considerably helpful, however greater than something, they’re a vogue flourish. Provided that it’s backed up by stable efficiency and honest worth, there’s nothing flawed with that in any respect.
One essential word: Telephone 1 shouldn’t be coming to the US. When it goes on sale on July twenty first, it should 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 evaluation) will go for £499 (round $593). It is going to be obtainable within the UK, components of Europe, India, and Japan, amongst different markets. Nothing doesn’t rule out bringing a future product to the US, nevertheless it undoubtedly received’t be Telephone 1 because it lacks FCC certification.
The sunshine strips that make up Telephone 1’s most attention-grabbing function blink in combos that the corporate calls “glyphs.” There are 20 whole in two units, every tied to a corresponding sound: 10 glyphs for notifications and 10 for ringtones. (You possibly can allow one with out the opposite — lights-only for silent notifications or sounds with out lights, however you’ll be able to’t change which tone every glyph is assigned to.) On a excessive stage, you’ll be able to set a glyph for all incoming notifications and one for all calls and go away it at that, or you will get extra granular by going into particular person app settings.
As a result of the glyph lights are tied to particular tones, you should utilize them for any app or function that permits you to customise alert sounds. You possibly can 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 after they message you, which is a bummer — who talks on the cellphone?
You may as well 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, you want to head to that app’s notification settings, the place you’ll be able to reassign the notification sound to the glyph of your selection — this adjustments the alert sound, nevertheless it additionally means you’ll see the corresponding glyph even when the cellphone is silenced. You possibly can set a glyph for any app notification that permits you to assign a customized notification sound — one glyph for work emails and a special one for private emails, for instance, or separate glyphs for Instagram likes and feedback.
In concept, it’s a much less obtrusive method to have your cellphone inform you whether or not a notification is price interrupting no matter you’re doing — a contemporary revival of the good-old-fashioned multicolor notification LED (keep in mind these?). With a while and a bit fine-tuning, this can be a function that some individuals may discover genuinely helpful, particularly if you wish to triage notifications with out particulars flashing throughout the display screen. Personally, I didn’t precisely discover it transformative.
For starters, I’m within the behavior of placing my cellphone down with the display screen 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 bother if I gave it a while, nevertheless 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 screen.
Glyphs additionally require some memorization to acknowledge the distinction between sure mild patterns. Was that “squiggle” or “beak”? Is the massive blinking “C” an e-mail or an Instagram DM? The system labored finest for me after I set particular glyphs for one or two essential apps fairly than a bunch of various glyphs for various apps. That obtained a bit chaotic.
There are a few different makes use of for the lights outdoors 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 bit extra distracting than simply tapping the display screen to test the cost stage. You may as well use the glyph lights as a fill mild for the digicam. It’s a pleasant choice and a bit much less intense than utilizing the flash, although with a cooler tone. And there’s an unadvertised bonus function: in order for you a younger youngster to take a look at the digicam, they’ll undoubtedly do the trick.
The glyph lights are additionally very shiny at their default setting. You possibly can regulate the brightness, and I turned them right down to about 30 %. If you happen to’re going to be outdoors in direct daylight, you may need to preserve the brightness cranked up; in any other case, they’re very arduous to see — sadly, the brightness doesn’t regulate robotically to replicate ambient situations. They’re additionally disabled robotically when the battery is low. As soon as the battery is sufficiently charged, you want to flip them again on manually within the glyph settings menu.
As a differentiating function, the glyphs are perhaps a bit helpful, most likely principally gimmicky. Nevertheless it’s good. 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 should encourage you to maintain your clear cellphone case clear — Nothing will promote equipment tailor-made to the Telephone 1, however I didn’t get to check them out for this evaluation.
Most significantly, it doesn’t really feel like one thing that needlessly drove up the price of the cellphone. That’s some extent I preserve coming again to as I take advantage of the Telephone 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 generally helpful, then it feels extra like a bonus function, not a rip-off.
On the extra standard aspect, Telephone 1 features a 6.55-inch 1080p OLED with an adaptive refresh fee as much as 120Hz, that are nice specs within the mid-tier class the place excessive refresh charges aren’t too widespread. The Galaxy A53 5G matches its 120Hz refresh fee, however the OnePlus Nord 2 manages simply 90Hz, and the Pixel 6A will embody a typical 60Hz display screen. The Telephone 1 display screen sticks to that prime refresh fee more often than not, too, making for a really easy scrolling expertise. It presents 1,200 nits of peak brightness, which retains it usable even in direct daylight. The under-display fingerprint sensor is dependable and fast; it not often misinterpret my fingerprint, even with moist fingers or in direct solar.
The Telephone 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 evaluation unit with a wholesome 12GB of RAM handles each day duties with no downside — the cellphone feels very responsive, and apps load shortly. Haptics are reassuringly robust however not “buzzy.” Mixed with the quick refresh fee, 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 Telephone 1 does have an IP53 splash and mud resistance score, which is healthier than — watch for it — nothing, which is widespread amongst midrange telephones.
Battery life is one space the place the Telephone 1 falls behind different telephones across the identical worth — and even much less. The £399 (round $475) OnePlus Nord 2 lasted a bit greater than a day with a lot of screen-on time in our testing, and the sub-$300 Nord N20 simply will get by way of a full day of heavy use. In my expertise, the Telephone 1 is ready to get by way of a full day however not more than that. It appears to empty a shocking 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 protecting the lights illuminated repeatedly for 10 minutes solely drains the battery by an additional 0.5 %. In common use, they mild up for such a brief time frame 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 Telephone 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 Telephone 1, which implies you want to price range 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 obtained the job carried out) took the Telephone 1 battery from completely flat to 100% in a bit over an hour. For a midrange cellphone that additionally presents 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 no less than a fast 20-minute cost in the course of the day will go a great distance.
Nothing makes a giant deal about solely together with two rear-facing cameras on the Telephone 1 fairly than the surplus depth and macro sensors on so many Android telephones ( you, Samsung A sequence) that actually aren’t price anybody’s time. I want this was a norm fairly than a differentiator, however right here we’re.
The primary 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 — nevertheless it’s undoubtedly 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 function in telephones that price lower than $800. Video recording is accessible at as much as 4K/30p.
Photographs with the 2 rear-facing cameras in shiny mild are detailed and vibrant — a bit heavy on the saturation however normally not too heavy-handed. There’s a barely cool coloration solid that may make shadows look a bit blue, nevertheless 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 high-quality with topics that aren’t too sophisticated; in very low mild, they’re a grainy, noisy mess.
HDR on the Telephone 1 digicam is a 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 night time mode — the Telephone 1’s photographs are properly detailed, if a bit saturated, although a 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 could be with portrait mode pictures 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 gentle mixture of optical and digital picture stabilization. There’s a little bit of a crop leaping from 1080p to 4K (and a bit extra with stabilization enabled versus with out), nevertheless it’s nothing extreme. Clips at 30p can use HDR, nevertheless it’s unavailable at 60p. There’s a enjoyable, bonus glyph function for video, too: a small, crimson recording indicator mild that blinks if you’re filming. How’s that for nostalgia?
The Telephone 1 ships with Nothing’s light-touch tackle Android 12. It’s refreshingly clear — no duplicate apps and few pre-downloads. There are a number of 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, nevertheless 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 needs to permit third events to carry 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’ll be able to unlock your automotive doorways and begin the AC inside the system settings. If you happen to stay in a scorching local weather and personal a Tesla, that will 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 commenced revealing particulars about its first cellphone over the previous few months, one explicit spec raised a number of eyebrows: the Snapdragon 778 chipset. Particularly, it was shocking that the cellphone wouldn’t use the newest and biggest processor from Qualcomm.
The selection to incorporate a inexpensive (however nonetheless extremely succesful) chipset has helped form the Telephone 1 as one thing worthy of a special type of hype: an excellent, fairly priced cellphone backed up with a stable 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 obtainable right here.
The Telephone 1’s marquee function, the glyph notifications, are type of a gimmick — however they’re in the end innocent. It’s a part of the cellphone’s distinctive fashion, which some individuals (perhaps the sort who personal NFTs and drive Teslas) will discover interesting. Others received’t, and that’s high-quality. As it’s, the Telephone 1 doesn’t stay as much as Nothing’s advertising and marketing hype as a result of no shopper 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