When Carl Pei, the founder of Nothing teased us months ago that the successor to the Nothing Phone (1) will use a Snapdragon 8 series chipset, I was so excited and eagerly waited for the official announcement. This is because I have been a long time Android fan since the day of Google Nexus One and have been using flagship android from one generation to the next until the evolution suddenly halt and all these manufacturers kept on playing back and forth. One day they announced this one feature as the most important and the most innovative ever, just to change their mind on the next day. Then the next model will repeat the same thing and this has been running for years that I tend to feel that most of the flagship smartphones are the same, the only difference is the brand name.
Then came Nothing Phone (1), a flashy smartphone that brought the reputation of the ex-founder of the infamous Flagship Killer device. But not just me, many were disappointed with the choice of hardware they chose. Mid range chipset, mediocre display, and sub par camera. As an high end android user, I definitely couldn’t live with that phone as my primary device.
So when Nothing Phone (2) finally reached our office door, I was so excited to review the device with my mind already set that if everything is as good as on paper, this will definitely be my next device.
First time holding the Nothing Phone (2) I straight away like the a bit curvy design at the back. Yes some of my colleagues said they prefer the flat back of Nothing Phone (1) and it looks more premium that way. But for me the curvy design is more ergonomic in hand that provides not just better grip, but also better feeling in hand. Not to mention that curvy design is also more friendly in-the-pocket compare to a sharper squarish edge. Another noticeable thing I noticed is the more solid aluminum frame which Nothing said is 100% made out of recycled.
There’s nothing much in the box, just like in other typical flagship smartphones. The lack of power adapter which has been a norm nowadays, for me is more towards these manufacturers to cut cost compare to saving the earth. But one thing special that also has been hyped up by Nothing prior the launch – the transparent USB Type-C cable. When I first read Carl Pei tweeted this, I felt that’s just another fancy gimmick. Nobody cares about the cable. But upon looking at it the first time, I can say it does look unique and cool. It’s not too over or too fancy. The transparent part is very subtle but enough to make the cable looks special.
Another feature I’m excited to try about is the Nothing OS 2.0. Just like the previous Nothing OS 1.55 that relies heavily on dot-matrix style texts and icons, the design looks neat and minimalist. But don’t be fooled with it’s simplicity because to be honest, it is easily the most customizable android OS I have ever seen since the day of the earlier Oxygen OS. You can change the theme pack easily between Nothing theme to other theme, including the preset Android theme that makes all the icon looks like on a a stock android. There are lots of customizable widgets that makes the homescreen feel lively and unique to me. However I couldn’t really enjoy customizing it as much as I want to because the unit that I receive somehow has demo mode pre-installed that reset everything to factory setting after every few minutes. I already reached to Nothing Malaysia about this and still waiting for them to send another review unit.
Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, 12GB base RAM, up to 512GB UFS3.1 storage, 4700mAh battery, a high brightness LTPO display – what more can I ask for? Despite not using the latest chipset, this older chipset still runs great and handle everything thrown at it with ease. For productivity, media consumption or even for leisure, Nothing Phone (2) comes with an all rounder specifications for all purpose of usage. I have a hardcore gamer friend that said to me before about the not so nice experience when gaming on Nothing Phone (1), and this Nothing Phone (2) changed his mind completely with its smooth gameplay, brilliant screen, and acceptable cooling system that keeps the temperature maintain cool to warm during intense battle.
In simple words – now it has more purpose than just to showoff to people around you. There are more customization on it now, such as customizing how it flashes to certain contacts or to different apps notification. One new thing I like the most is there’s a glyph timer that shows progress of let say your Uber rider to reach your house. Well unfortunately this feature only work with timer or Uber at the moment but Nothing Malaysia is working with app developers from other 3rd party apps such as Grab to integrate this cool functionality.
The not-so-great thing
First, the camera. Second, the camera. Why I mentioned camera twice? Well because two things I like to complain about Nothing Phone (2) are from the camera side. First why does it comes with just two lenses? No telephoto lens? For me as a flagship device, especially at this price range, three lenses are a a must : Main camera, ultrawide camera and telephoto camera. Then the second one, the quality. Well of course the quality has improves a lot vs Nothing Phone (1) but for this one, let’s stop comparing with its predecessor. Nothing Phone (2) should be compared with the current flagship devices in this price segment such as with Oppo Reno 10 Pro+, OnePlus 11, Galaxy S23, or Xiaomi 13. And sorry to tell this, they all take better photos than Nothing Phone (2).
Don’t get me wrong though, the photos are still good, and I still believe if you don’t compare the photos taken by Nothing Phone (2) directly with the other devices I mentioned above, you will be fine. In fact in certain conditions, you might still be happy with the quality. But as a tech reviewer, I have played with all these devices, so it’s easy to notice the difference and I hope the quality could be better and the processing could be a lot simpler and faster.
Nothing Phone (2) has more pros than cons albeit the not-so-flagship camera setup really disappoint me. This what keeps Nothing Phone (2) from becoming a truly high end device in my opinion. At RM2,999 for 256GB storage variants and RM3,499 for 512GB storage variants, it puts Nothing Phone (2) to compete directly with the likes of OnePlus 11 (starts at RM3,299), Xiaomi 13 & Oppo Reno 10Pro+ (both at RM3,499 respectively), vivo X90 (RM3,699) and Galaxy S23 (now selling at RM3,299) – and all these devices have a better if not similar hardware plus an obviously superior camera. But for me, I will still not hesitate to choose Nothing Phone (2) because of one thing : the operation system. It’s so smooth and efficiently optimized that I don’t think I can stand a cluster look or occasional performance hiccup that is pretty common in other Android UI. The way I look at it now, there is no other Android devices can compete with Nothing Phone (2) when it comes to design uniqueness and performance all at the same time. And for the first time I can safely say this, Nothing is more than just a flashy smartphone manufacturer.
If you would like to pre-order Nothing Phone (2) pre-order begins 17 July 2023 at any DirectD outlets near you or DirectD official online store.