Nothing Phone (2) review: monochrome is the new black

16comments
Nothing Phone (2) review

Nothing Phone (2) Intro


The Nothing Phone (2) is currently the latest flagship phone from startup Nothing. Yes, we recently saw the launch of the Nothing Phone (2a), but that's more of an affordable midrange option. The (2) has been out for almost a year now — since July of 2023 — and we expect it will be refreshed in the coming months.


For the time being, does the Nothing Phone (2) deliver? It has a unique design, unique take on the user interface, and a very special Glyph Interface on its back. It looks geeky, but clean, simplistic, but also well-engineered, it has decent hardware and OK cameras. Does it all come together nicely? We take a deep dive here:

6.4
Nothing Phone (2)
Nothing Phone (2)
What we like
  • Unique, quirky, interesting design
  • Good display and performance at great price point
  • Nothing OS offers great homescreen customization
What we don't like
  • Speakers are a bit tinny
  • The UI needs more reskinning to keep the feel consistent throughout phone
  • Camera improvements are noted, but it still needs work
6.4
PhoneArena Rating
6.5
Price Class Average
Battery Life
6.5
7.1
Photo Quality
6.9
6.6
Video Quality
5.8
5.6
Charging
7.6
7.3
Performance Peak
4.3
4.3
Performance Daily
6
6
Display Quality
8
7.5
Design
7
6.9
Wireless Charging
5.9
6
Biometrics
7
7
Audio
6
6.8
Software
5
6.3
Why the score?
This device scores 1.5% worse than the average for this price class, which includes devices like the Motorola Edge (2024), OnePlus 12R and Google Pixel 8a
User Score
Be the first to review this phone

Do not let the score discourage you — this is our new PhoneArena Review Scoring system, which is designed to battle the "review score" inflation we've been seeing over the past decade. There's lots of headroom and it uses a true 1-10 rating (instead of rating every phone 8-10). So, the Nothing Phone (2) is, indeed, above average.

What’s new about the device

  • More powerful hardware
  • Slightly bigger display
  • LTPO screen that can go as low as 1 Hz
  • Glyph interface upgrades
  • Camera improvements

Table of Contents:

Nothing Phone (2) Unboxing



Minimalist design in a minimalist package. We get the phone and the charging cable. Bonus points, though, the USB C cable has transparent plug pieces!

Nothing Phone (2) Specs

Encroaching on premium territory

While the Nothing Phone (1) had more midrange specs, the Phone (2) is swinging for the top row:


Yep, those are flagship specs at a very, very good price alright. Also, that main camera is 50 MP like with the Phone (1), but it's a new sensor inside — a Sony IMX890.

Nothing Phone (2) Design & Colors

Beautiful simplicity
 

The Nothing Phone (2) is a glass and metal sandwich — Gorilla Glass on the front and the back with an aluminum midframe — that's 100% recycled aluminum, mind you, and 80% of the plastics are recycled or bio-based materials. And it's all IP54 rated — not the highest level of ingress protection, but it will be plenty enough to give you peace of mind if you splash some water on it.

The device feels large-ish, almost like an iPhone 14 Plus, teetering on the edge of being too big. The glass panel on the back curves into the edges, so it's softer on the palm — the Nothing Phone (1) was more jabby.

Warning, this is the most slippery phone we've seen in a while. I've already had two occasions where the Nothing Phone 2 will slip off a surface for no apparent reason — my desktop speakers and a piece of furniture in my hallway. The phone feels like it has a mind of its own if it's not laid on a perfectly flat or grippy surface.

It's not the heaviest phone out there, but there's a decent feel of heft to it. Though it feels perfectly balanced, so handling is not an issue.

Of course, the star of the party is the LED array on the back — the Glyph interface. It's an odd-shaped symbol, which is sort of becoming the "logo" of Nothing... without being an official logo. This time around, the Glyph is split in more parts, allowing the LEDs to light up in more patterns and even giving you a progress bar on the back. Nothing is doubling down on the idea of letting you flip the phone over on its face to keep distractions locked away, while still giving you some minimal information with the LEDs on the back.

As for colors, no surprises there — there's a black one and a white one. Though the black model leans more towards the gray-ish look, so the design elements that are tucked under the glass back are better-visible.

The power and volume buttons feel nicely clicky and solid. There's a single USB C port for charging or data transfer and no, there's no headphone jack.

Nothing Phone (2) Display



The new Phone (2) has a 6.7-inch OLED panel on the front — just slightly bigger than the 6.5-inch screen of the Nothing Phone (1). It is now an LTPO panel, so it can bring refresh rates down to 1 Hz — useful for an always-on feature that wouldn't drain the battery too much.

The resolution here is 1080 x 2412 pixels, giving us about 394 pixels per inch. So yes, the screen is sharp and dense. It's HDR10+ compliant and has a 1,000 nit full screen brightness with 1,600 nit peak pixel brightness.

Display Measurements:



The display can be woken up by tapping on it or lifting the phone. However, on many occasions, we would pull the phone out of a pocket to see a message "PIN failed 5 times, wait 30 seconds to try again". Meaning, the Phone (2) was constantly getting activated by rubbing against my leg — Nothing needs to use that proximity sensor and not allow this to happen. For the time being, we've chosen to disable "Tap to wake" to avoid further frustrations.

There's an under-screen fingerprint scanner embedded here — it's of the optical variety, where the area around your finger lights up to ensure a read. It's... not the fastest scanner out there — the best we can say about it is that it's fine. Mostly accurate, and responsive enough, but not the fastest.

Nothing Phone (2) Camera

Now with Snapdragon 8+ smarts


The main camera sensor is new — still a 50 MP resolution like the predecessor, but now a new Sony IMX890 sensor. Plus, Nothing has been working hard to improve its post-processing algorithms and leverage the smarts of the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. There's a 2x Super-Res zoom, which should be lossless as per the marketing materials. Well, let's dive in!

Main Camera - Day



When you have plenty of daylight, the Nothing Phone (2) can take some truly beautiful shots. We especially appreciate that it doesn't oversharpen details too much in a vain attempt of simulating extreme resolution, and the noise reduction doesn't outright delete fine details.

The colors are slightly saturated, creating a quick "Wow!" effect, but at least they are true to life, with no weird hues in the greens or the blues.

The HDR a hit and miss. On one side, we like how dynamics are preserved, on the other — the Phone (2) can blow out highlights or crush shadows when faced with challenging scenarios. Also, HDR auras can be spotted in pictures — objects surrounded by soft white bloom, where the HDR algorithm was stitching different exposures. This is a common problem in many smartphones, but devices like Google's Pixel are much better at dealing with it.


Main Camera - Low-light



In low light, the camera is OK, but it's definitely not as good as the Pixels or Galaxies out there. Light sources will get blown out and shadows can get dark. It is definitely above average at night, but still has a way to go.

Zoom quality


Nothing uses the technologies inside the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 for better subject separation and zoom quality. By utilizing the 50 MP sensor, the phone can give you a 2x "lossless" zoom by cropping into the sensor.

So, is the "lossless" zoom any good? Here's what we did — we took a 1x photo and a 2x photo. Then, we cropped in the 1x photo to "simulate" a digital zoom. Here's the result:


Answer — yes, the in-phone 2x zoom is much better than what we could muster up to "simulate" a digital zoom. Not only are details sharper, but the phone also adjusted the exposure and dynamics as we were taking the photo.

Recommended Stories
Now, the Phone (2) does cap out at 10x zoom, and we can see that it can't do much more than that. At 10x, details and colors are already becoming washed out and unpleasant to view. But, at 8x, it still looks OK, so we'd say it's usable up until that level, as long as you have the good lighting to help.

Ultra-wide Camera



The colors from the ultra-wide camera are a bit more washed out and details are a bit softer, with aberration sometimes appearing around the edges of photos or spots where light is peering through leaves. The ultra-wide shots are mostly good enough and you can definitely set up an epic photo with the 114-degree lens.

Selfies



The 32 MP selfie camera pulls out a ton of detail — unflattering as it may be. We also like the skin tones, though it also tends to saturate colors a pinch too much. We also find that, unlike with the main camera, the selfie camera's HDR is not afraid to completely flatten an image's dynamics if it deems the need to do so (selfie 2).

Portrait Mode



As any modern smartphone, the Nothing Phone (2) has a Portrait Mode for fake bokeh effects and isolating shots. However, it's hit-and-miss with the edge detection, it accentuates warm colors a bit too much, and the fact that it only works in a wide angle (does not allow you to zoom in for an actual portrait) kind of made us stay away from it.

Simply taking a picture at 2x zoom provides a much better "portrait" even if there's no fake blur in the background.

Note: Nothing JUST released an update, which gives us 2x zoom in Portrait Mode


Nothing Phone (2)
PhoneArena Camera Score
BEST 154
139
PhoneArena Photo Score
BEST 160
147
Main (wide)
BEST 85
80
Zoom
BEST 27
19
Ultra-wide
BEST 25
21
Selfie
BEST 30
27
PhoneArena Video Score
BEST 149
131
Main (wide)
BEST 79
75
Zoom
BEST 24
12
Ultra-wide
BEST 23
21
Selfie
BEST 28
23

We have rigorously tested the camera on the Nothing Phone (2) and above you can see the results of those tests. We carefully measure the performance of all cameras in various test scenes, ranking the performance across important metrics like exposure, subject exposure, color accuracy, detail, artifacts and more. We do these tests for both photos and videos. 

You can learn more about our PhoneArena Camera Score testing protocol here.
 

Nothing Phone (2) performance and benchmarks


So, the Nothing Phone (2) comes with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 — sure, it's an older processor, but that doesn't mean it's bad, right? Nobody who bought a flagship in 2022 is currently thinking "Welp, I need a new phone, pronto".

No, we are not apologizing for Nothing here, but the point is — we can very much swallow using a previous gen processor when the phone starts at $600.

As for performance — we found the Phone (2) to be pleasantly snappy. The 4 nm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is fast, the 120 Hz screen helps immensely, and the light Android interface carries the rest.

Here are some benchmarks:

Geekbench 6
SingleHigher is better
Nothing Phone(2)1658
Nothing Phone(1)1035
Google Pixel 71452
Apple iPhone 14 Plus2170
Geekbench 6
MultiHigher is better
Nothing Phone(2)4358
Nothing Phone(1)2933
Google Pixel 73318
Apple iPhone 14 Plus5112
3DMark Extreme(High)Higher is better
Nothing Phone(2)2674
Nothing Phone(1)769
Google Pixel 71854
Apple iPhone 14 Plus2817
3DMark
Extreme(Low)Higher is better
Nothing Phone(2)1654
Nothing Phone(1)761
Google Pixel 71521
Apple iPhone 14 Plus2244

And those numbers are mirrored in real life — apps install fast, launch quickly, cycling through the recent apps wheel doesn't freeze up, and touch response does not feel sluggish at all.

Nothing Phone (2) OS / Android version



The Nothing Phone (2) received Nothing OS 2.5 in December, 2023. It updated the phone to Android 14 and added more features — customization options for the wallpaper, live wallpapers, Glyph Timer improvements and access from the lock screen, camera stability fixes, weather app facelift, new widgets, various small improvements.

Nothing Phone (2) launched with Nothing OS 2.0, which very clearly showed the direction and intent the company has for its products — simple, effective, not overbearing or distracting.

Nothing wants to give you the option to remove the colorful noise and branding from app icons on your home screen. The default theme for Nothing OS is monochrome. And — get this — it doesn't need an icon pack. Nothing OS will auto-swap any app icon with a monochrome version of it. Of course, you can pick a more "normal" theme if you wish to, but we find that black-and-white look to be quite refreshing.

This will work for absolutely any obscure app, even if no developer made an alternative icon for it. If it doesn't happen on your device — do download the Nothing Icon Pack from the Play Store. It's not a conventional icon pack per se, but a piece of the puzzle that allows the Nothing Launcher to do its magic.

The homescreen folders have been improved, too. On the Phone (1), we noted we can have a big folder, which allows you to tap on icons within it, effectively increasing the number of apps you can have on one homescreen (this feature is now adopted by more and more manufacturer UIs). They look like oversized widgets that can quick-launch icons. In Nothing OS 2.0, you can choose the shape of these oversized folders — they can hold 6 apps in a circular form, or 9 apps in a square-shaped widget.

You can see in the screenshots that you can also remove the titles of apps for a cleaner look, and you can remove the search bar if you wish to.

Our one complaint with Nothing OS 2.0 is that it doesn't go far enough. It kind of feels jarring when you are viewing that beautiful, simplistic homescreen and you tap to go in the phone's Settings — you are immediately greeted by the off-white of Google's Material You, which simply does not fit the aesthetic otherwise. 

Maybe our favorite new feature in Nothing OS 2.0 is the ability to put quick toggles on the lockscreen. Any toggle that typically resides in your notifications shade can be moved to the lockscreen for quick access. For example — hotspot on/off, or flashlight!

Also, props to Nothing for making their own Weather app — another one of our pain points from the Phone (1) has been addressed.

The original Nothing Phone launched with some weird and annoying bugs that weren't device-breaking, but still kind of annoying. Thus far, Nothing OS 2.0 has been treating us nicely. The only bug we discovered so far was that the camera app would choose to "remember" the wrong settings — disabling our 3x3 line guide, enabling selfie beautify even though we always turn it off, or enabling mirrored selfies for some reason. That behavior went away when we reset the camera settings and chose our preferred modes from scratch.

Nothing promises 3 years of Android updates and 4 years of security patches for the Phone (2). This means that, if all goes well, we should get:

  • 2023 (summer) - Nothing Phone (2) launches with Android 13
  • 2023 (late) - Nothing Phone (2) gets Android 14
  • 2024 (late) - Nothing Phone (2) gets Android 15
  • 2025 (late) - Nothing Phone (2) gets Android 16
  • 2026 (summer) - Android update promise ends
  • 2027 (summer) - Security patches end

New Glyph features



And then, there's the Glyph interface on the back — it can now go brighter than before, but it can also go dimmer than before. Also, there's now an ambience sensor on the back of the Nothing Phone (2), so you can let the Glyph set its own intensity.

In the software, you can set certain apps to be "persistent" — they will keep pinging the Glyph pattern you've chosen for them until you actually pick up the phone to see your notification.

Also, the top arch of the central Glyph can now serve as a progress bar. You can set this to be a timer that you can see ticking down even when you put the phone face-down. Nothing suggests this can be used by people who employ the Pomodoro Method — set up a timer for 25 minutes of focused work and flip your phone to mute any distractions.

It also supports 3rd party app integration. For the time being, the only app that supports it is Uber — you can see that your Uber ride has been confirmed and how long it will take for it to arrive just by checking out the progress part of the Glyph interface.

Lastly, there's a Glyph Composer app. Now, the Nothing Phone (2) does come with a selection of cool, clicky, machine-sounding ringtones that also light up the Glyph interface in their own pattern. But now, you can also "compose" a tune of your own, which will light up the LEDs in the pattern you recorded.

Unfortunately, Android is not great when it comes to audio latency and we found the "composing" process to be a bit frustrating. Trying to tap a melody that has a rhythm to it will quickly teach you why Android audio latency has been driving musicians crazy for years. In any case, after a dozen attempts, you can get something custom, made by your own hands. It would be cool if Nothing can set up some kind of quantization or note editing options here.

At launch, there are 5 sound packs for the Composer, but the feature is open for artist partnerships — more sound packs and pre-made custom tones will be coming in the near future.

The good news: most of these Nothing OS 2.0 features are coming to the Nothing Phone (1)! Minus the Glyph progress bar since this is tied to the new hardware of the Nothing Phone (2).

Nothing Phone (2) Battery

"Keeping the lights on", hehe, get it?

Nothing Phone (2)
( 4700 mAh )
Nothing Phone (2)
Battery Life Estimate
6h 29m
Ranks #28 for phones tested in the past 2 years
Average is 6h 40m
Browsing
15h 59m
Average is 15h 7m
Video
10h 14m
Average is 9h 57m
Gaming
5h 27m
Average is 7h 58m
Charging speed
45W
Charger
0%
30 min
0h
Full charge
Wireless Charging
15W
Charger
0%
30 min
0h
Full charge

The Nothing Phone (2) comes with a 4,700 battery — that's not the biggest out there but its just slightly shy of the 5,000 mAh we usually get in flagship phones. In any case, we have yet to put it through the ringer, but we are hopeful it's going to hold its own.

It doesn't wow us with an eternally undrainable battery, but we were able to rely on the Phone (2) to hang in there for a whole day and still have battery well above the reds at the end of the day. But, as expected, gaming will drain that cell much faster. Here are our benchmarks:

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:


Web Browsing(hours)Higher is better
Nothing Phone(2)15h 59 min
Nothing Phone(1)12h 28 min
Google Pixel 713h 56 min
Apple iPhone 14 Plus14h 51 min
Video Streaming(hours)Higher is better
Nothing Phone(2)10h 14 min
Nothing Phone(1)10h 13 min
Google Pixel 79h 13 min
Apple iPhone 14 Plus10h 53 min
3D Gaming(hours)Higher is better
Nothing Phone(2)5h 27 min
Nothing Phone(1)3h 58 min
Google Pixel 74h 43 min
Apple iPhone 14 Plus8h 18 min

As for charging, you can top it up with a 45 W fast charger or plop it on a 15 W Qi charger. Also, the Nothing Phone (2) can give off power, so you can charge your earphones case with 5 W of power from the phone.

Nothing Phone (2) audio quality and haptics


The stereo speakers of the Nothing Phone (2) sound... fine. They are not overly loud, but at least they don't distort. They are clear, but not boomy or meaty. You won't be enjoying music through those, but they can make do for a talking head YouTube video. Most importantly, their sound curve perfectly complements the ringtones of the device, all of which are clicky, mechanical-sounding, and with a pronounced pop.

Speaking of clickiness, the haptics of the Nothing Phone (2) are precise and responsive. They kind of have to be, considering so many glowing patterns of the Glyph and the ringtones are tied to them. So, the feedback from the phone feels mechanically pleasing and accurate.

Nothing Phone (2) Competitors


The Nothing Phone (2) sits in a very interesting spot — that's a lot of cool specs for a starting price of $600.

The first phone that comes to mind is the base Pixel 7. It has the same setup with dual cameras on the back, and Google's take on Android with the exclusive Assistant features, speech-to-text, and camera post-processing. And, indeed, we find the Pixel 7's camera to be better than the Nothing's. But, on the flip side, we like the performance and battery life of the Nothing Phone (2) better, so there's a give and take.

Another phone that comes to mind is the iPhone 14 Plus — now, this one is way over the budget for a Nothing Phone (2). But the two phones feel like they would satisfy the specific type of user that wants a no-frills, large-screened smartphone. Though, the Nothing does have a 120 Hz display, while the iPhone line still only gives ProMotion to the Pro models.

What about the Samsung Galaxy S23+? Again, we have similar sizes here, similar screen specs, too, and the Galaxy has a more elaborate camera setup and a newer, faster processor. Though, it does start at $400 more than the Nothing Phone (2). You should be able to squeeze out slightly better performance from the Galaxy S23+, but for the price difference — we have to wonder if it's worth it. Also, in comparing the cameras, we can see how shots from the Nothing Phone (2) can come out better than the Galaxy ones. However, the telephoto and more extreme zoom of the S23+ is hard to beat.

By all means, it seems the Nothing Phone (2) is very well positioned in the market — it can easily draw attention away from competitors in its price range, and while it lacks the over-the-top features of some more expensive models, it makes up with style and precise targeting. Nothing is clearly doubling down on making a phone that looks understated, and allows you to "disconnect while staying connected" — the Glyph on the back serves that purpose, and the ability to strip any branding and colors from the homescreen further underpins it.

This is a phone for people that want to make a statement — "We love tech, but we hate how much tech tries to push itself on us". What should we call this style? Nerd minimalism?

Nothing Phone (2) Summary and final verdict



The Nothing Phone (2) is, we feel, a worthy successor and an evolution of what the Phone (1) was. It finally has a flagship chip, even if it's not the latest-and-best. It has more features for the Glyph interface, giving those that are trying to grasp or like the concept of keeping your phone face-down something more to hold on to. And the Nothing OS 2.0 adds awesome ways to make your homescreen clean, simple, unique, and still extremely functional.

Obviously, Nothing still has a long way to go — the camera algorithms still need work to meet the competition, the UI feels like a solid base is there but it needs to go further with the overall Android skin customization, and we still get (very minor) bugs on launch.

But once those things start getting addressed, the price may also start climbing towards the flagship threshold. For the time being, we are perfectly happy with the Nothing Phone (2) for the $600 smartphone that it is — it's unique, performs great, and the camera is OK and dependable for capturing memorabilia. If you've been thinking about a "smartphone detox while still having a smartphone" — monochroming the homescreen and developing the habit of putting the Nothing Phone (2) face-down may actually give you that experience.

Giving it an 8.5 because that's how we rated the Pixel 7 and we feel like the Nothing Phone (2) is a solid Pixel 7 alternative.

 *Disclaimer: You may notice review scores have changed on PhoneArena! Since September 20th, we have started using a new scoring system. Learn more about the new PhoneArena Smartphone Review Rating system here.

Pros

  • Unique, quirky, interesting design
  • Good display and performance at great price point
  • Nothing OS offers great homescreen customization

Cons

  • Speakers are a bit tinny
  • The UI needs more reskinning to keep the feel consistent throughout phone
  • Camera improvements are noted, but it still needs work

Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless