Nothing phone (2) hands-on impressions: The big leagues

Just like last year’s phone (1), the Nothing phone (2) is easily the most hyped phone launch of 2023. While sequels are usually more of the same, this one is far bigger than that.

Because sure, it follows the same Nothing playbook: a unique transparent aesthetic that’s as much “power nerd” as it is “hipster,” a huge marketing campaign that seems to be tying the phone to potentially releasing a kraken, and odd marketing phrases like bringing you “new ways of interacting with a smartphone.”

But two big things are happening with this particular entry into Nothing’s family: it is the first true flagship phone from the company, and it is the first phone to (officially) release in the US. And while I can’t say much right now (this is just hands-on impressions), I’m pretty confident that you’re going to love it. Let me explain.

Nothing phone (2) price and configurations

Carl and the gang have gone pretty aggressive on the Nothing phone (2) pricing:

8GB/128GB: $599/£57912GB/256GB: $699/£62912GB/512GB: $799/£699

That is $200 less than the Samsung Galaxy S23 and iPhone 14, and $100 cheaper than the Google Pixel 7. With a cost like that, this could very well be the next big summer blockbuster.

Nothing phone (2) design

(Image credit: Future)

When compared with the phone (1), nothing of note has really changed from an aesthetic point of view — bar an upgrade in the materials and a curved glass back. But in a time when all other smartphones are pretty stale, the phone (2) stands head and shoulders above as one of the most interesting and (in my opinion) best looking phones out there.

The transparent design round the back gives you an unfiltered view of the electronics, and gives everything a raw retro futurism that I love. Add to that the improved feel of the 100% recycled aluminum frame (alongside a far tighter design with minimal gaps across all the components on the back. This looks and feels far more refined than the phone (1) and rightfully claims its place in the flagship category.

The commitment to sticking out like this may not be for everyone. For every geek’s appreciation (like me) of the subtleties of the dot matrix branding and the utilitarian persona of seeing the phone’s innards, will be another person’s view of it looking a bit over-engineered.

Plus, there are key things that the leaks got wrong that I’m very happy about. The display glass is flat — only the back glass is slightly curved around the edges to make your hand grasp around it more comfortably, and the aluminum band around the outside is flat too with chamfered edges.

(Image credit: Future)

And of course, we must turn our attention to the second iteration of the Glyph interface, which now has 33 individually addressable zones. First thing you’ll notice is that there are some new gaps placed in between the continuous curves of the LED lighting around the charging coil and cameras, which I think adds to the utilitarianism of the phone’s look. 

I left my time with the phone (1) thinking this all felt a little like a gimmick — something that was there to bring an additional cool factor without much use (besides being a really nice fill light for low light photography).

This time round, Nothing has thrown the kitchen sink at it to deliver on its mission to reduce the time you need to look at the screen. Previous features are still here like Flip to Glyph, the battery level indicator and volume checker. But the company added more everyday functionality like watching a light bar slowly trickle down instead of watching a countdown timer on your screen.

(Image credit: Future)

On top of that, third-party integrations are making the most of this too, such as the light bar draining away based on how far away your Uber ride is or your delivery order. It’s small, intentional implementations like this that will tell the story of how the Glyph is a genuinely useful addition to the whole phone’s experience. Hopefully more developers jump on board.

You can also have a little fun with it too, thanks to the Glyph composer enabling you to create your own ringtones with the lighting system. All of this adds to a mightily interesting visual presence that is sure to make your phone a talking point of any trip to the pub with mates.

Nothing phone (2) display

(Image credit: Future)

The Nothing phone (2) packs a stunner of a display: a 6.7-inch OLED panel with LTPO, HDR10+, a 1,600-nit peak brightness, a sharp 2412×1080-pixel resolution, and an adaptive refresh rate up to 120Hz.

While I adore the monochrome, refined look of Nothing OS 2.0 (more on that later), once you put something with color on the screen, you really start to see if come to life. Without going in-depth (that’s for the full review), I can say that watching (and crying at) the likes of the Ted Lasso finale really shows the explosion of vibrant color across the green pitch and team shirts, while highlighting the impressive HDR contrast in darker scenes.

Add to that a well-placed fingerprint reader with a simple circle UI (none of this over the top magic spell-esque reader animation of other phones), and this is a stellar screen.

Nothing phone (2) performance

The Nothing phone (2) guns for a flagship experience, but stops just short of the bleeding edge. That is not a bad thing when it comes to what’s inside: a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, up to 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.

Thanks to a litany of software updates, the mid-range Snapdragon 778+ 5G in the phone (1) continued to feel super smooth in most situations (provided you don’t try to push it). The difference here, however, is night and day in terms of snappiness of app opening, multitasking, and performance across processor-intensive apps. 

It really helps bring the Nothing OS experience to life as not just a cool-looking UI, but one that gets out of the way for you to get things done rapidly.

Nothing phone (2) battery life & charging

(Image credit: Future)

Inside, the battery capacity has improved from to 4,700 mAh — up by 200 from the phone (1), while also upping the fast wired charging speed to 45W.

I am bound by the embargo from telling you what this battery life is like in practice until my full review. But hopefully the team don’t get too angry when I give a little bit of the game away and say I got a full day’s use out of this without needing to worry about its longevity. Plus, in any moment where I did do some battery-intensive tasks, the speed of that charging gave me a lot of confidence.

Nothing phone (2) cameras

(Image credit: Future)

The Nothing phone (2)’s camera system is a story of two parts: hardware and software.

On the hardware front, the 50MP main camera has been upgraded to the Sony IMX890 sensor that is found in the OnePlus 11, which is paired with the same great 50MP ultrawide found in the phone (1), and an updated 32MP selfie shooter (double the resolution of phone (1)). There is also a new 18-bit Image Signal Processor in here that is able to capture 4,000 times more camera data than Nothing’s first phone.

That enables a lot on the software front, which combines the knowledge of a year’s worth of camera tweaks the company implemented on the phone (1) (i.e. a dramatic, contrasty look) with a new Advanced HDR, which captures the same scene eight times at all different levels of exposure.

You can see the results for yourself just below, taken on a rather gray evening in my hometown.

Image 1 of 6

(Image credit: Future)(Image credit: Future)(Image credit: Future)(Image credit: Future)(Image credit: Future)(Image credit: Future)

As for video, you can shoot up to 4K 60 fps footage, or even crank on HDR at the sacrifice of that frame rate for 4K30. 

Nothing phone (2) software

(Image credit: Future)

Nothing OS 2.0 overlays Android 13 with a complete transformation, but does so with Google Pixel levels of cleanliness. No bloatware and no unnecessary over-engineering of the experience with pointless proprietary apps. 

I love that the OS feels super smooth with its animations and transitions, along with that dot matrix typography and commitment to keeping everything uniform with a feature that makes all app iconography fit to the monochrome style. You’ll discover more nifty implementations as you go along, such as customizable folders with icons to not look so busy, more Nothing-created widgets, and 

As for the future, Nothing has committed to three years of OS updates and four years of security updates, which leaves a lot of time for the team to smooth out any wrinkles.

Outlook

(Image credit: Future)

I can’t give final thoughts, but the fact I can’t wait to tell you what I truly think of the Nothing phone (2) should tell you all you need to know about my experience.

It feels great in the hand, stands out from the crowd, and the rough edges of the phone (1) have been smoothed out, which is delivering a fantastic experience across hardware and software.

This time around, Carl Pei’s hype machine may be just about backed up by a true summer blockbuster of a device.

Nothing Phone (2): Price Comparison



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