After being limited to Europe for its first year, upstart Android manufacturer Nothing is coming to the US. That means it’s possible to buy a Nothing Phone 2 and use it on any cell phone provider, so let’s take a quick look at one.
The price starts at $599, fitting it into the space formerly occupied by the now-obsolete base model Pixel 7. For this price, you get a device that looks like a flagship on the surface with a large 6.7-inch, 120 Hz screen and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 of the last generation. However, the lack of water resistance is really crippling. Even the $349 Pixel 6a is IP67 rated, so it’s submersible, but this phone can only handle light rain. Nothing is OnePlus founder Carl Pei’s second big business, and OnePlus also had a very strange relationship with water resistance. If the company were just normal and competitive in this area, its devices would be a lot more desirable. Water resistance is a feature people are used to now and definitely something you would expect at this price point.
But there are some good features here. I’m a big fan of the flat front screen, which bucks the pointless, long-standing trend of distorted screens that curve along both edges. Flat screens will hopefully become the trend in the future. The metal bands on the sides are also nice if they are a bit reminiscent of the iPhone.
On so many phones, the back is a big slab of nothing, and it seems like nothing is thought of at all other than the camera bump. So I can appreciate the decision to try and do something with this big block of space. What you get here on the back is a bunch of widgets and lights covered in a Gorilla Glass panel. Only in terms of daily use, the back is not beautiful. It doesn’t seem to have any kind of oleophobic coating, so it’s just a big greasy fingerprint magnet. The actual display glass, with a coating, is much nicer, but you still touch the back a lot.
What really bugs me about both Nothing phones is that the design and functionality don’t really match. The best description I can think of for the transparent back is ‘restoring cultural appropriation’. The phone clearly wants to go for a mechanical, tech look with all kinds of knick-knacks on the back, including exposed wires and screw holes, but nothing can back up all those mechanical design elements with real functionality. You can see the screws, but you can’t really touch them because they are embedded behind the bonded glass panel.
It’s one thing if you opt for an iPhone’s opaque glass or aluminum sheet, where the image is that every phone is a strong locked device and the inside is full of magic. Nasty Look mechanical but not are mechanical is deeply uncool. It makes the Nothing Phone a poser – a fake, a phone for people to believe the hacking scenes on CBS shows. Don’t talk about the conversation if you can’t walk the walk.