Nothing Phone 2 Review: Playing It Safe

The Nothing Phone 2 is making headlines just like the Phone 1 did a year ago. While the company still has a long way to go before it can reach the scale of some of its rivals, there’s no denying that its products are hard to ignore. The naming of Phone 2 makes it seem as though it should succeed the Phone 1, but it’s really meant to expand Nothing’s smartphone lineup, and you’ll see why later in this review. We’ve gone over some of the aspects of Phone 2 in our first impressions article, and now after more than a week of using it and receiving a software update, it’s time to see if it’s indeed something.

Nothing Phone 2 price in India

The Nothing Phone 1 was a mid-range smartphone and it launched with an appropriate pricing. The Nothing Phone 2 is positioned more as a ‘value flagship’ and is priced higher. It starts at Rs. 44,999 in India for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, followed by a Rs. 49,999 variant with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There’s a third variant this time with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, priced at Rs. 54,999. It’s rare to see this much storage outside of premium flagships which tend to cost over a lakh rupees, with the only other exception being the Realme Narzo 60 Pro 5G which has a 1TB storage variant for Rs. 30,000.

The Nothing Phone 2 comes in just two colours, white and a dark grey (instead of black).

Nothing Phone 2 design

I’ve been using the 512GB variant of the Nothing Phone 2 in dark grey, which I think looks just as nice as the black variant of Phone 1. The Phone 2 is a bit thicker (8.6mm) and heavier (201.2g) than Phone 1 but feels every bit as premium. In fact, it’s roughly the same dimensions as an iPhone 13 Pro Max (Review), only lighter. This does make it a bit challenging to use with one hand, especially when compared to the Phone 1, but you can get used to it.

The glass back of the Nothing Phone 2 features rounded edges which make it feels a bit nicer to hold. All the components and wiring beneath the transparent back are neatly hidden away by panels, with only a few Torx screws visible. Pulling off a transparent body isn’t easy, and once again Nothing has outdone itself.

Call it a gimmick or utility, but the Glyph light notification system is still a big selling point for the Nothing Phone 2. This time, some of the longer strips (around the camera and wireless charging coil) have been broken up into smaller segments. The LED lights themselves are a crisper white, compared to the slightly off-white LEDs on the Phone 1. Nothing has kept the red recording LED light too, except that it’s a horizontal bar instead of a dot.

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The Nothing Phone 2 features a 120Hz LTPO AMOLED display

 

The display of the Nothing Phone 2 has similar specs as that of the Phone 1, apart from a few notable upgrades. It’s larger now at 6.7 inches and features an LTPO AMOLED panel which can vary the refresh rate from 1Hz to 120Hz, which in theory, should help squeeze out better battery life. The outdoor screen brightness is now 1,000 nits and in HDR video playback, it can reach up to 1,600 nits (1,200 nits on Phone 1). The display also has a centred cutout for the selfie camera and the bezels around it are slightly narrower compared to the Phone 1.

While there are many phones in this segment that look and feel premium, the Nothing Phone 2 stands out simply because it feels like an iPhone. This is true for the Phone 1 as well, and I think it’s an intentional design decision. Nothing hasn’t changed the design of the Phone 2 a lot and that does make sense, so there’s no mistaking this for any other smartphone. The Phone 2 also does not ship with a charger in the box, but you do get a fancy-looking USB cable with transparent moulding near the Type-C connectors.

Nothing Phone 2 specifications and software

The biggest change in the Nothing Phone 2 is the SoC. It’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 which is a big upgrade from the mid-range Snapdragon 778G+ in the Phone 1. The 8+ Gen 1 is a flagship SoC which was released as a mid-cycle refresh in 2022 with improved power efficiency and performance. We’ve had a lot of phones launch this year with this SoC, the most affordable currently being the iQoo Neo 7 Pro 5G.

The Nothing Phone 2 has slightly better water ingress protection so it has earned an IP54 rating, but it’s still behind other phones in even lower price segments. Thanks to the larger dimensions, there’s now a 4,700mAh battery with support for quicker 45W fast charging. The phone still supports 15W Qi wireless charging and 5W reverse wireless charging. The Phone 2 supports a tonne of 5G bands, along with dual-band Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, and NFC.

What really differentiates Nothing’s smartphones is its software, and the Nothing Phone 2 ships with Nothing OS 2.0 (2.0.1 after the most recent update). It’s mostly stock Android 13 but with Nothing’s dot matrix theme applied everywhere from the system menus and boot animation to widgets. The latter can now be enabled for the always-on display too, allowing you see the weather and a timer, and use the flashlight, among other things, without unlocking the phone. You can also make the system UI look ultra-minimalistic by forcing all app icons to monochrome and removing app labels. The size of app icons on the homescreen can be increased so it’s easier to find the ones you use frequently.

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The Glyph lights on the Nothing Phone 2 get a lot more functionality

 

The Glyph lights on the Nothing Phone 2 now feature 33 addressable zones and get more functionality. Besides using them to check the charging status and Google Assistant activity, you can now check the phone’s volume level and track the progress of tasks in certain apps such as Uber. There’s also a new Glyph composer for creating your own sounds, a new sound pack for ringtones and alert tones, and a new ‘essential’ notification tagging system that keeps one of the Glyph lights on till you’ve read or dismissed all notifications from your chosen app.

This is a feature that ideally should have been on the Phone 1 as well, and I do hope the previous model gets it when it eventually receives the Nothing OS 2.0 update. Speaking of which, the Phone 2 is set to receive three years of Android updates, and four years of security patches.

Nothing Phone 2 performance and battery life

The Nothing Phone 2 sold in India only works with an Indian SIM. In fact, it won’t let you complete the setup process till a valid SIM is inserted, which doesn’t happen with most other phones sold here. Once everything is set up and running, the usage experience is very good. There’s zero notification spam on Phone 2 simply because there aren’t any third-party apps; just Nothing X for the company’s earphones, and Google’s apps.

The display gets sufficiently bright, colours are punchy, and viewing angles are good. The refresh rate is constantly changing based on the activity being performed and generally tends to settle at 10Hz when there’s no touch input. Just like on the Phone 1, I didn’t find myself using the Glyph lights on the Phone 2 very often as the always-on display offers all the information you’ll need at a glance. I still think it’s a bit of a gimmick but at least it’s a more functional gimmick now.

Multimedia performance on the Nothing Phone 2 is equally good. The stereo speakers can get very loud and sound rich with decent bass even at full volume. The display officially supports HDR10+ video playback but not Dolby Vision. At the time of this review, Netflix wasn’t able to detect the display’s HDR capability but Prime Video was able to play HDR10+ shows. Watching content on the Phone 2 was very enjoyable thanks to the large display, bright and punchy colours, and good sound.

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The always-on display on the Nothing Phone 2 shows rich information

 

Overall system and app performance was also excellent. In the time I used the Nothing Phone 2 as my primary device, I did not face any slow-downs or lag with everyday tasks. Juggling between Slack, Chrome, and social apps was not an issue. The phone seemed to have enough reserve power and RAM (12GB variant) all the time. Games ran very well too. Fortnite ran at a steady 60fps at the ‘Epic’ graphics preset and with HD textures enabled. Other titles such as Asphalt 9: Legends and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City ran smoothly too, at the highest available settings. Certain areas on the back of the Phone 2 did get warm, but nothing beyond that.

Battery life on the Nothing Phone 2 is solid and a full charge typically lasted a day and half in my experience. In our battery test, the Phone 2 ran for a crazy 26 hours, 44 minutes while playing an HD video in a loop. Nothing claims that the Phone 2 can be fully charged in 55 minutes, which is not the quickest for its segment. Nothing sells its own 45W PD power adapter, which is an additional cost to consider.

Nothing Phone 2 cameras

The cameras on the Nothing Phone 2 have gotten some upgrades, compared to the previous model. It’s still a dual-camera setup on the back, but the main sensor is now a 50-megapixel Sony IMX890. It is optically stabilised and supports a ‘Super-res zoom’ feature for supposed better zoom images at 2X magnification. The ultra-wide camera is the same as the one on the Phone 1, and has a 50-megapixel Samsung JN1 sensor. I’m personally not a fan of this sensor due to the smaller pixel layout, but it does have autofocus which means it can capture high-resolution macro photos. The front camera has been upgraded to a 32-megapixel Sony IMX615 sensor which is an improvement over the Phone 1.

Nothing Phone 2 daylight camera samples (tap to see full size)

 

The main camera in the Nothing Phone 2 is a step up over the Phone 1 as textures on objects are a bit sharper and better defined. If you have ‘Scene Detection’ enabled, colours on certain objects such as flowers or trees can look exaggerated. Close-up shots look good too with very good details and sharpness and a pleasing background depth. Macro images also pack good details and natural colours. In low light, the camera app automatically enables Night mode, and here too the benefits of the upgraded sensor are visible. Landscape shots are brighter with better details and dynamic range, and close-ups look good too.

Nothing Phone 2 low-light camera samples (tap to see full size)

 

The ultra-wide camera does a decent job with daytime shots but quality is visibly weaker compared to shots taken with the main camera. However, due to a better image signal processor in the upgraded SoC, images do look a tad better compared to ones shot with the Phone 1. Low-light photos pack decent details and colours but the quality is not as good compared to what something like the OnePlus 11 5G can produce.

The selfie camera does a decent job in daylight. With the retouching filters disabled, it captures fairly accurate skin tones and facial details. Portrait mode also works well and does a good job of separating you from the background. However, this camera does struggle in low light as even with Night mode, images are underexposed and look dull.

Nothing Phone 2 selfie camera samples (tap to see full size)

 

The Nothing Phone 2 can record up to 4K 60fps video and supports LiveHDR recording at 4K 30fps. There’s also an Action Mode and a Night Mode, both of which are limited to 1080p 30fps. However, the quality of recorded videos is strictly average. Even in daylight, a faint jitter is visible if you’re walking and recording, and colour saturation looks a bit off. Low-light videos aren’t noisy, but this jitter is more pronounced with every footstep. In very dark scenes, Night mode does make a difference to exposure. When recording at 4K 30fps, you can still switch between the two rear cameras, but it’s worth noting that the ultra-wide camera capture considerably weaker quality footage, especially at night.

Verdict

The Nothing Phone 1 offered a comprehensive package for its price, and while it didn’t necessarily excel at everything, it didn’t miss out on any important features either. The Nothing Phone 2 feels exactly like that, just in a different price segment. Sadly, our criticisms of Phone 1 also apply to the new model: the ultra-wide and selfie cameras are strictly average in low light, and video recording needs improvement. I also think Nothing should have bundled a fast charger with the phone considering most of the competition still does this.

The Nothing Phone 2’s strongest feature remains its software. Other than a Google Pixel 7, I can’t think of anything else that comes close to it in this segment. It’s slick, refined, and feature-packed without feeling bloated. Those who intend to use the Glyph lights will appreciate that added functionality. Battery life is another big plus point for the Phone 2, and its premium in-hand feel is second to none.

If you’re looking for a specialist rather than an all-rounder, though,you might want to consider some of its competitors. If gaming is a priority, then you’ll find the same SoC in much less expensive smartphones such as the OnePlus 11R 5G (Review) and iQoo Neo 7 Pro 5G, both of which also support much faster charging. If survivability if important, then phones such as the Samsung Galaxy A34 (Review) and Motorola Edge 40 (Review) come with an IP68 rating and still cost a lot less.

The 512GB variant of the Nothing Phone 2 does not offer the best value, as of now anyway. At Rs. 54,999, you could get the Oppo Reno 10 Pro+ 5G (Review) or the OnePlus 11 5G (Review), both of which offer higher-resolution curved-edge displays and better camera performance.

Overall, the Nothing Phone 2 is a solid option that offers a decent number of premium features without really missing out on anything. The launch pricing might be a put-off for some buyers considering the fierce competition, especially for the top-end variant. However, its unique software experience and quirky design are unmatched.


Will the Nothing Phone 2 serve as the successor to the Phone 1, or will the two co-exist? We discuss the company’s recently launched handset and more on the latest episode of Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.
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