Nothing Phone (2) first impressions: An evolutionary leap

When I first saw the Nothing Phone (1) last year, it reminded me of the gadgets of the late 90s and early 2000s, particularly from Apple and Nintendo. In a true fashion, the Phone (1) paid homage to translucent devices of the past. At a time when smartphones have become instantly recognisable and boring, the Phone (1) gave an impression that Nothing wanted to do something new and fresh.

The strategy of combining nostalgic styles with new audiences seemed to work but I felt the Phone (1) could have been so much better. Nothing too realised where it went wrong with the Phone (1) and its successor, the Phone (2), seems less bizarre and more acceptable as an Android-powered smartphone. The Phone (2) is clearly Nothing’s attempt to make a better smartphone.

I spent a few minutes with the Nothing Phone (2) at the launch event in Mumbai, and here are my early thoughts.

nothing It still has an aluminum frame, which is now 100 per cent recycled (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Subtle design differences

At first glance, the Phone (2) looks exactly the same as its predecessor. Nothing hasn’t made any major alterations to the physical design as such. Like the Phone (1), the Phone 2’s transparent glass back shows off a bit of what’s inside the body. You will see some innards and the LED that shows under the glass, which Nothing calls the Glyph interface (more on that later).

It still has an aluminum frame, which is now 100 per cent recycled, while the phone gets a slightly larger 6.7-inch screen that offers variable refresh rates that can reach up to 120Hz. I must say, the display is bright and colourful, good enough to catch an episode of Silicon Valley on a flight from Delhi to Mumbai. The difference in real estate is indiscernible, however, the 6.7-inch screen size still feels like the perfect size for many people, especially those who like big phones.

During my brief time with the Phone (2), I picked it up more often. The glass is gently curved at the edges and the display has thinner bezels. The phone felt solid and premium in my hand. It is slightly heavier and ever so slightly thicker, unless you compare them side by side, it is not noticeable.

Nothing Glyph interface is core to the identity of the Phone (2) (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Glyph lights are more capable

The flashing lights that many people made fun of on the Nothing Phone (1) aren’t going anywhere. In fact, the Glyph interface, as Nothing calls it, is core to the identity of the Phone (2) as well. As far as I remember before Nothing, Nokia that went crazy with the idea of flashing lights on the 3220.

Anyway, the Phone (2) comes with an arrangement of LEDs that light up to indicate notification whenever you receive a message or a call. That’s not to say it’s precisely the same as the Phone (1). With the Phone (2), Nothing is promising deeper customisation, letting you create custom light patterns for certain apps or contacts.

My favourite part is a new glyph timer that gives a clue about how close your Uber is. Nothing says it is also working with Zomato to integrate this functionality in the future.

Nothing Nothing Phone (2) is based on the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Older flagship chip but supremely capable

The one thing I did notice after using the Nothing Phone (2) is how responsive it is compared to the Phone (1). There’s absolutely zero lag time when scrolling through apps or taking notes. It is because of a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 processor, which is faster than last year’s Snapdragon 778G Plus in the Nothing Phone (1). Sure, the Phone (2)’s processor is slightly older, but that would still make the device one of the fastest phones you can buy. Elsewhere, the phone comes with either 8GB or 12GB RAM and 128/256 and 512GB storage.

The Phone 2 runs on Android 13, but Nothing has heavily customised the user interface. I like the monochromatic feel of the interface, and especially the dot-matrix style texts and icons. Nothing promises that the Phone (2) will receive three years of OS updates and an additional fourth year of security updates. That’s an attempt to match the likes of Samsung and the rest of the players in the industry.

This year’s Phone (2) does have a marginally bigger 4700m Ah cell than the Phone (1)’s 4500m Ah battery. However, it remains to be seen how it performs in our tests. But I hope the phone’s battery should last a day on a single charge. It supports 45-watt fast charging, which Nothing says will take it from zero to full in a flat 55 minutes.

Nothing Nothing promises that the Phone (2) will receive three years of OS updates (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

Same cameras but expect better processing

I wasn’t entirely convinced with the Phone (1)’s cameras. They were less sharp and lacked fine details compared to the iPhone 13’s cameras. This time around, Nothing once again sticks to the same camera setup we saw on the Phone (1). There are two 50-megapixel cameras—one main camera and the other an ultra-wide one.

It would be too early for me to pass the verdict on how the cameras perform, but I think the improved Snapdragon processor will bring better software processing resulting in better colours and exposure.

Watch out for our detailed review of the Phone (2) which will be live this week.

Early thoughts

Overall, for someone who’s been happy using the Nothing Phone (1) will find these updates in Phone (2) a little indulgent. Frankly, people will not be able to tell the difference between the Phone (1) and Phone (2).

It’s not to say that things really didn’t move on from the Phone (1) in a significant way. The design may be the same as last year but the performance and the screen are much improved, and amidst all this, the price has also risen, with the base model starting at Rs 44,999.