Nothing Phone (2) review: A stiff glyph

The Nothing Phone (2) offers a unique design, but you'll either love it or hate it, and that undermines an otherwise solid phone.

Nothing Phone (2) review: A stiff glyph

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Scores

  • Design: 8/10
  • Performance: 8/10
  • Overall: 8/10

Pros

  • Unique design
  • Great battery life
  • Decent camera

Cons

  • Super-slippery back
  • Glyphs are a bit of a gimmick
  • Worst camera shutter sound ever

Well, this is definitely something. Despite being around in the US and Europe since 2020, the Nothing brand of smart devices has come to Australia this year with the Nothing Phone (2) and the Phone (2a).

I’ve been playing around with both models for a few weeks, and for a new-ish brand, I have to say I’m thoroughly impressed by the quality of the hardware and software on offer. While other newer smartphone brands tend to lack polish, this lacks for very little.

The question I had going into this review is this: Why would somebody choose this phone over something like the Galaxy S24 or even a Pixel 8? 

The answer, it seems, will come down to personal preference. Nothing’s uniqueness is something, but it’s not for everybody.

Glyphs flashing on the Nothing Phone (2) as it sits on a rug

What is the Nothing Phone (2) offering?

On the inside, the Phone doesn’t offer much to get excited about. You can check out the specs below, but in all honesty it sits on par with other Android devices at around the same $999 price point.

What is different with the Nothing Phone (2) is the styling. The back of the phone is a transparent plastic back, which shows off a series of LED strip lights in a pattern around the device.

These “glyphs” are designed to flash or light up, and what they show can change.

You can program them to flash in certain combinations for different contacts, or use them as a visual countdown timer. 

They can visually display when you adjust the volume up and down on the rear of the phone.

It can flash in a seemingly random pattern as a music “visualiser” when you are playing music through the speakers. On a side note, you should never, ever, play music through your phone’s speakers. Get a pair of wireless headphones or a Bluetooth speaker.

The glyphs are even open to third-party developers, with Uber using them to show how far away your pickup is. The only other 3rd party options currently are Zomato (who uses that?) and Google Calendar, which lights up as you get closer to your next meeting.

The biggest problem I have with this whole system is that it’s not 100% clear what I’m looking at. If I have a timer running before a meeting in my Google calendar, what’s showing and why?

Ultimately, once I’d tested the function, I forgot about it. It simply wasn’t useful to me.

The Nothing Phone (2) UI on a wooden background

Nothing UI

The other point of difference on this phone is the Nothing UI, which strips everything down to a really barebones, analogue look. You’ll either love it or hate it. I didn’t love it.

It is seamless and well-designed, but the dotted fonts and widgets just don’t suit my personality. It’s not a negative against the phone, but the style is quite unique, and may not suit everyone’s tastes.

You get an option during setup to use Nothing’s style or the Android default style. It doesn’t change the full UI, but I found Android’s default apps much easier to parse. The Nothing icons all kind of merge into one look and unless you know where everything is by default, it can be a nightmare to translate.

The good news is that this is an Android phone, so there’s plenty of customisation on offer, and you don’t have to use the Nothing UI. 

Close up of the glyphs lighting up on the Nothing Phone (2)

What does the Nothing Phone (2) do well?

For a device that you can pick up for less than a grand, the Nothing Phone (2) has a lot of grunt.

In GeekBench 6 benchmarks, it outperforms the Google Pixel 8, and is roughly on par with the iPhone 14, despite costing a bit less.

Copy: Moto RAZR 50 Ultra Benchmarks
Infogram

The screen is nice, with a good level of brightness, detail, and refresh rate. There’s a dedicated Game mode on the phone to help deliver the best possible performance and avoid unwanted screen presses too.

The cameras do a pretty good job for a phone of this price. Colour reproduction is good, and there’s plenty of detail, as you can see from the example photos.

There’s no telephoto lens, so you can’t get up close and personal with distant subjects (like the kangaroos I saw on a walk!), but given the price of the phone, I don’t think that’s too disappointing.

Unfortunately, the shutter sound is right up there with babies crying on a plane and fingernails across a blackboard as one of the most annoying things I have ever heard in my entire existence. It’s also exceptionally loud.

Battery life is solid, easily getting through the workday for me. The wireless charging works well, and there’s 45W fast charging on offer as well.

Looking at the charging port of the Nothing Phone (2)

What could the Nothing Phone (2) improve?

This phone is slippery. It will slide right off a desk if you aren’t careful.

I think part of this is by design, so you will pop the phone screen-side down to watch the glyphs. But old habits die hard, and I had to catch the phone before it fell a few times during my review.

Sure, I wasn’t using a case, and maybe that would fix it. But what’s the point of covering up the glyphs?

I also want to see more functionality from the glyphs. Currently, I just don’t think there’s enough to really make it the key selling point. 

Perhaps a small LCD screen alongside the main glyph light to communicate exactly what the light is meant to be showing? Or a way to cycle through the different glyph functions on the back?

I’m just spitballing, but I feel like the current implementation just feels undercooked.

Lit up Nothing Phone (2) on a rug

Verdict

I’m impressed by the overall existence of the Nothing Phone (2). This company has managed to build a really solid phone that has plenty of unique features to help it stand out in a pretty crowded market.

But those features don’t really offer enough to switch away from the likes of Samsung, Motorola or Oppo, in my opinion.

Ultimately, whether you want this phone will come down to whether you like the styling. It performs impressively enough for a phone in its price bracket, but if you don’t love the style, then it’s probably not the right phone for you.

Buy the Nothing Phone (2) online

Nothing Phone (2)

The Nothing Phone (2) is a strong performer, doing everything it needs to get you through the day. But its unique design decisions means you'll love or hate it, and that limits its appeal.

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Nothing provided the product for review.