When Carl Pei found a poser on the MWC exhibition floor, he appeared to be almost thrilled. He used the phone to take a selfie and send a string of tweets.
After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even though most professionals in the field don’t take it well. On the other hand, Pei perceived it as an indication that Nothing was onto something.
Whatever issues one may have with the company’s strategy, one thing about it is undeniable: Its introduction into the market was a welcome jolt.
I’ll be the first to confess that things become a little monotonous as someone who has been covering the sector for far longer than I care to remember. As a result of manufacturers painting themselves into a corner, sales have slowed.
I won’t go so far as to say that the quality of the product was irrelevant; the Phone (1) still needed to be effective to sell units. However, Nothing did a fantastic job of igniting interest, and design played a significant role.
The question of what Pei had left OnePlus to create dominated much of the initial enthusiasm surrounding the business. With a company that had made a name for itself as a reliable alternative to bigger companies, he had developed goodwill.
However, after being incorporated into Oppo, that brand has had to deal with its own teething troubles.
It was the ideal time to embrace OnePlus’s humble beginnings and renew the direct connection to customers that fueled its early success. But Nothing has struggled with the same existential dilemma that any new arrival into an established market faces: Why?
The answer was and still is heavily reliant on aesthetics. Transparency combined with monochromatic flourishes (with the sporadic splash of red) and typography stylised to resemble circuit board etches established the tone for the design language that has pervaded all products since The Ear (1). While industrial, it is not chilly.
The fashion and shoe industries have been heavily incorporated into Nothing’s marketing plan. Limited-edition drops have been used to mark the opening of the company’s first retail location in London as well as pop-up shops. In fact, as I write this, that shop and a location in Manhattan are the only places where the Phone (2) is available in a restricted supply.
The Phone (1) completed its task. With a good product, it made Nothing in the smartphone market. Ironically, the only feature of the product that was actually eye-catching was the illuminated glyph pattern on the back.
It was a mid-range handset with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ processor. There is nothing wrong with midrange technology, but this product also tried to be a status symbol, like some limited-edition streetwear.
Making a good first impression was a challenging assignment for the Phone (1), but the Phone (2)’s job might be even more challenging. It must show that Nothing is more than simply a one-trick pony because it lacks the same level of innovation to carry it forward.
Smartphones are iterative products; supply chains and hardware production prevent major reimaginings on an annual basis. The Phone (2) must offer more than just innovation in order to increase the line’s attractiveness.
It is obvious that the manufacturer took feedback regarding the first chipset internally. The truth is that you’ll have a great experience with even a mid-range contemporary Qualcomm CPU.
High-end image processing and AI capabilities are some things you lose out on, but as a daily driver, it’s absolutely adequate.
I imagine that the Nothing team designed the Phone (1) with the assumption that the majority of prospective buyers wouldn’t be alarmed and chose a more affordable chip in an effort to make the pricing reasonable.
However, those who follow the market closely enough to keep tabs on a business like Nothing are frequently the same individuals who are preoccupied with buying the newest and best processor.
Right now, Nothing isn’t a big enough business with a wide enough audience to get the attention of more casual shoppers.
That is a result of investing more time, money, size, carrier relationships, and retail space. Currently, those that go looking are the ones who most frequently come across the device.
Pei had informed TechCrunch in February that Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line 8 series chip will be used in the Phone (2). Although it’s still not exactly the best, nothing lived up to its promise. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip inside was introduced in May.
Qualcomm released the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in November, and it now appears that its six-month upgrade is overdue. It appears likely that pricing issues played a role in the decision once more.
A manufacturer can avoid flagship costs, which frequently push phones over $1,000, by choosing an earlier version of a flagship chip. The first The Phone (2) costs $599.
For a while, OnePlus used this strategy in order to manufacture very good phones without charging prices that have slowed the growth of smartphones.
Notably, the $699 OnePlus 11 debuted in February alongside the Series 8 Gen 2; obviously, having a major manufacturer like Oppo on your side helps.
If scaling is the ultimate goal, prices will probably decrease as well, but as it stands, the Phone (2) isn’t priced to effectively compete in the budget market.
But the pricing is modest when compared to American phone purchasing standards.
The change from a 4,500 mAh to a 4,700 mAh battery is the other significant component improvement in this case. Although it’s not a significant upgrade, a little larger size combined with a more sophisticated technique will prolong the system’s life. The actual size of the phone increased from 159.2 x 75.8 x 8.3 mm to 162.1 x 76.4 x 8.6 mm, allegedly to accommodate a little larger battery.
The somewhat larger screen—up from 6.55 to 6.7 inches—is very probably a primary cause of the greater footprint. Since there is more screen space, the resolution is slightly greater here at 2,412 x 1080 as opposed to 2,400 x 1,080. It goes without saying that none of this constitutes a significant upgrade.
In terms of the industrial design, not much has changed. True story: For a half-day, I believed I had misplaced my phone (2). It turned out that I had mistaken it for an iPhone while it was on my desk.
Should I have made that admission? Most likely not, but we’ve already written 1,000 words, so what the heck? Pei has made it apparent that he admires Apple and the iPhone, and the Phones (1) and (2) are a clear example of this admiration. Of course, things are most intriguing about back.
On the original model, the Glyph interface was the one feature that everyone praised, so it only makes sense that it has gotten some of the largest hardware improvements here.
The illumination back increases from 12 to 33 LED “zones,” which greatly increases the system’s customizability. Such personalization helps to elevate the feature above the level of a novelty.
The past several days while using the phone, I was reminded of something Pei said to me in a MWC interview:
Foldables, in my opinion, are a supply chain innovation rather than a result of customer insights. OLED is a fantastic technology, therefore whomever creates it can make a ton of money.
After a while, many more businesses start producing that, forcing them to cut their pricing. Therefore, they must determine what else they can sell for a higher profit. They create bendable OLEDs, which they can market for more money.
What does that mean for Glyph now? Nothing isn’t a manufacturer, so we aren’t discussing a supply chain driver here.
However, is a rear panel that lights up a response to consumer intelligence or a clever ploy to pique interest? Or to put it another way, is it form or function? From my point of view, it’s a feature that first started out as form in search of function and eventually managed to uncover some really helpful use cases.
You can disable notification sounds and rely solely on the LEDs while the phone is face down. The light patterns can be used as a countdown clock, battery meter, and volume indicator in addition to notifications.
Except for a tiny portion on the right that becomes red when capturing video as a pleasant gesture for everyone else around, the lights are all white and remain that way.
Do any of these characteristics influence the game? Of course not. However, it’s pleasing to see the design develop into something greater.
Nothing has additionally allowed access to the API for programmers, stating that “The new Glyph Interface also acts as a progress tracker for your preferred ride- or delivery-service providers.
Keep an eye on the countdown of the lights to see when your driver or food order will arrive. all without requiring your screen to be visible.
It’s difficult to imagine the interface providing genuinely game-changing applications, even with nearly three times as many LED zones as its predecessors, but it’s interesting to watch what developers come up with.
Here, one of the subtlest design changes is the most appealing. By switching from a back that is fully flush to glass that is curved and rounded, the design is elevated and more impressive. It simply feels better.
Nothing OS 2.0 is the other significant component the firm is promoting here. It is essentially an Android 13 skin that keeps the company’s own design.
It uses the circuit board etching style for text, numbers, and even certain graphics for programs like weather. It is monochromatic with the occasional red burst. Imagine it as a Nothing-specific version of Android’s Material You customization.
The icons for many of the larger programs are identically black and white. Slack, Reddit, LinkedIn, Discord, and DoorDash all matched by default, but larger apps like Zoom, Facebook, and Instagram did not. You truly want it to be all or nothing, to put it that way. Overall, it has a lovely, easy-on-the-eyes design.
You may always choose the standard icons if you prefer something more conventional, but I like the company’s dedication to maintaining consistency in the design.
Nothing has been promoting image devices in addition to talking about chips. Although the main sensor has been upgraded from the Sony IMX766 to the IMX890, the device still features two rear-facing 50 megapixel cameras.
It’s uncommon for firms to specifically mention their camera sensor, but Nothing wants to emphasize that it isn’t cutting corners with these parts.
The OnePlus 11 and a number of other phones from Oppo and fellow Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme all use the same sensor. In contrast, the front-facing camera has been increased in resolution from 16 to 32 megapixels.
But in all honesty, the new chip is the largest advancement in camera hardware. The use of computational photography is a crucial component that makes the final photographs more colorful and well-balanced.
The shots mainly met my expectations. Although they are not particularly good, they do the job. The $499 Pixel 7 prevails, nevertheless, in the general price range.
It’s difficult to picture Anything ever truly competing with Google given their enormous competitive advantage.
And if image is your primary concern when using a phone, it may still be worthwhile to consider purchasing a flagship like the Pixel 7 Pro or one of many Samsung models.
In the music business, there is a proverb that states that you have your entire life to compose your first record and only 18 months to write your second. Phone (1) established the company in the market, and Phone (2) focuses on enhancing the experience through enhancements to the hardware and general software updates.
Overall, the Phone (2) is a quality midrange gadget. It isn’t a flagship-killer, and Google will remain difficult to beat at that price.
It costs more than its predecessor (£399, or $460 at launch), thanks to some significant hardware improvements. Don’t worry if you jumped the gun and purchased the Phone (1); there isn’t enough value in this to warrant spending an additional $500 a year from now.
While nothing earth-shattering is presented here, there is nothing wrong with giving a reliable midrange device, particularly when doing so in a fashionable manner.