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February 25, 2024
Android & iOS App & Software Review Tech

Nothing Phone 2 review: the vibes abide

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The Nothing Telephone 2 is healthier than the Telephone 1 in a number of small methods. However I’m nonetheless not precisely positive what it is.

By the numbers, it’s a well-equipped midrange system. It prices $599 and comes with a succesful Snapdragon processor, an enormous, smooth-scrolling display, and some extras like wi-fi charging. Up to now, so good. However then, there’s the vibe, which is at the least half of the attraction. It’s tougher to quantify however lives someplace among the many translucent rear panel design, the sunshine strip notification indicators, and the distinct Nothing OS launcher. It’s not like an everyday telephone — it’s a cool telephone.

I believe you’ll get pleasure from utilizing it — so long as you’re not anticipating a transformational expertise

Woven into that vibe is Nothing’s origin story for the telephone: it’s for individuals who need to be much less distracted and extra intentional about how they use their system. It’s for individuals who need know-how to be enjoyable once more. It helps you concentrate on what issues. 

Right here’s the place all that lands in actuality: the Nothing Telephone 2 is a classy telephone for individuals who need their tech to face out. It’s not going to make you a extra centered, intentional particular person. It’s pretty priced, thoughtfully designed, and if its vibe aligns with yours, then I believe you’ll get pleasure from utilizing it — so long as you’re not anticipating a transformational expertise.

How we charge and overview merchandise

The Telephone 2 feels just like the system the Telephone 1 was meant to be. Nothing appears to have ironed out some earlier points — battery life is far improved, for starters. It lasts via a day of reasonable use because of a extra power-efficient Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset and a much bigger 4,700mAh cell (up from 4,500mAh). 

The 8 Plus Gen 1 is snappy; my overview unit has 12GB of RAM, and I can cruise between apps seamlessly. The bottom mannequin comes with 8GB of RAM, however I don’t suppose that may make any vital distinction in day-to-day use. The 6.7-inch 1080p display is without doubt one of the nicest you’ll discover on any telephone this far south of $1,000. It’s an LTPO display able to operating as much as 120Hz and all the way in which all the way down to 1Hz.

It’s greater than the 6.55-inch show on the Telephone 1, and the bezels are just a bit slimmer this yr, too. It will get brighter in direct daylight — allegedly as much as 1,600 nits, although Nothing isn’t precisely a dependable narrator on that entrance; it initially claimed the Telephone 1 might hit 1,200 nits earlier than walking it back to 700. In any case, I used to be ready to make use of the display comfortably on a hike whereas framing images in shiny sunshine.

The display is slightly greater and higher this time round.

The Telephone 2’s general construct feels fairly sturdy — there’s Gorilla Glass on the back and front and durable aluminum rails across the sides. The perimeters are flat, as on final yr’s mannequin, however there’s a slight curve to the again panel so it sits extra comfortably in your hand. That’s good, however I believe it contributes to a different drawback: this telephone is slippery as heck. Like, Google Pixel 6 and seven slippery. It slips round in my hand greater than I’d like, and if I set it down with the display aspect up on a {smooth} counter, it’s liable to shimmy proper off the sting.

Regardless of its sturdy construct, the Telephone 2 remains to be not fairly as water- or dust-resistant as different telephones round this worth. It’s IP54 rated — up from IP53 on the Telephone 1 — which implies it presents fairly a little bit of mud resistance however is barely splash-resistant. The Samsung Galaxy A54 5G and Google Pixel 7A, each of which value lower than the Telephone 2, supply extra sturdy IP67 rankings. Form of a bummer. On the software program aspect, Nothing is promising three Android OS updates and 4 years of safety updates each different month. That’s not the perfect coverage on the market, but it surely’s Good with a capital G. 

In different excellent news: the Telephone 2 is absolutely launching within the US, which the Telephone 1 solely type of did via a beta testing program. That is nice as a result of we sorely want selection in our midrange telephone weight-reduction plan right here. It received’t be bought straight via any service, however will probably be out there unlocked and can work on T-Cell and AT&T — but it surely received’t be licensed to work on Verizon. That fairly dramatically cuts down the variety of individuals within the US who can think about the Telephone 2.

Wired charging is even sooner this yr: as much as 45W in comparison with 33W. Simply be sure you BYO charging brick. Wi-fi charging remains to be supported at as much as 15W, and I believe that’s a sensible inclusion. A telephone that appears this excessive tech and gadget-y simply wants it, and I respect with the ability to set it down on my charging stand on the finish of the day. 

One be aware although — my charger appears to reengage charging occasionally all through the night time to maintain it topped off at one hundred pc, and that makes the Glyph lights blink to substantiate charging is going on. I don’t need a strobe gentle on my bedside desk, but it surely’s straightforward sufficient to toggle the glyphs on and off within the fast settings.

I’m eternally grateful when corporations stick to 2 good cameras relatively than cramming in pointless additional low-res sensors.

The Telephone 2 comes with an analogous rear digicam {hardware} setup because the Telephone 1: a 50-megapixel f/1.9 principal digicam with optical picture stabilization and a 50-megapixel ultrawide. There’s a brand new 32-megapixel selfie digicam on the entrance. The corporate says that its HDR processing has been improved, because it now makes use of extra particular person frames for every shot. Testing this out in shiny noon solar, I can verify that the Telephone 2 avoids committing HDR crimes, although it loses extra highlights than I’d choose. Total although, they’re nice-looking photographs.

Nothing says that a part of its digicam software program enhancements contains higher recognition of transferring topics — in flip, boosting the shutter velocity so that you’re extra more likely to get a pointy shot. That’s essential if you happen to’re taking photos of a transferring child or pet, notably in dim gentle the place cameras like to make use of longer exposures to let in additional gentle. You are likely to get a number of blurry images from smartphone cameras in these conditions.

This isn’t tremendous low lighting, however the Telephone 2 nonetheless needed to work to freeze the movement of my toddler throwing pillows round on the sofa.

I’m truthfully very impressed with how effectively this works on the Telephone 2 — it cranked the shutter velocity as much as 1/500sec for a sequence of images of my toddler leaping out from a pile of pillows, and all of them are sharp. Element is slightly smoothed out from noise discount because it additionally had to make use of the next ISO, however I’ll take that over a straight-up blurry picture any day. I’d like to see different telephone digicam makers copy this transfer from Nothing.

At the least a part of Nothing’s acknowledged mission is that can assist you take management over how a lot you utilize your telephone, and the Telephone 2 comes with each software program and {hardware} tweaks that can assist you do this. On the {hardware} aspect, there are the glyphs: they’re damaged up into extra sections this time round, and you’ll compose your individual morse code-like combos of blinks and bloops. There’s nonetheless the useful Flip to Glyph characteristic, which silences notifications and simply makes use of the glyphs for notification alerts. 

This time, there’s additionally one thing known as the “important” Glyph: you designate sure notifications as important, and when a kind of alerts arrives, a Glyph gentle will keep illuminated to let you already know. That’s useful if you wish to go heads-down on some work however you continue to need to be interrupted to learn a textual content out of your associate or a Slack DM. But it surely’s not fairly as helpful as having completely different focus modes for various conditions since your definition of “important” interruptions is probably going completely different at completely different occasions of day. If you wish to change which apps can interrupt you, you need to go into the Glyph settings each time.

The Telephone 2 does truly supply Android’s conventional Focus mode, which helps you to disallow sure apps from sending you notifications for a time frame, however the controls are much less granular than what Nothing presents with important glyphs. You may permit sure kinds of notifications to indicate as an important Glyph — whereas, with Focus mode, you may solely permit or disallow all the app. 

One of many Glyph lights serves as a progress indicator and visible timer.

One other new Glyph characteristic is the flexibility to indicate progress and monitor sure time-based occasions — one of many gentle strips illuminates or dims progressively, like a progress bar. That is restricted to some issues for the time being, together with a silent timer and an integration with Uber. I like utilizing the timer after I steep my morning espresso within the French press: it’s the identical four-minute timer on daily basis, and it’s silent so it doesn’t wake the remainder of the home when time’s up.

The Uber integration is neat, in idea, however I’m undecided after I’d truly need to use it. The Glyph will gentle up as your Uber driver will get nearer, however to make use of it, you’d have to have your telephone face down on a desk when you wait. I are usually doing 4 different issues on my telephone as I’m ready for an Uber, so it doesn’t appear that helpful to me. Nothing anticipates bringing extra third-party apps on board, and I can see myself utilizing it for one thing like monitoring a meals supply, which appears to be on the roadmap. 

Now you can add some fundamental widgets to your lock display, they usually’ll stay seen on the AOD

On the software program aspect, Nothing’s Android OS pores and skin now contains an possibility to show your entire app icons to monochrome, and it helps you to arrange them into folders with little dot-matrix cowl icons. The concept is to tamp down the distractions from colourful app logos. Personally, I felt slightly bit misplaced each time I opened up the app drawer on the lookout for one thing particular and got here face-to-face with a wall of black-and-white icons. I suppose I depend on shade to identify the app I’m on the lookout for rapidly, and sadly, the dearth of colourful logos didn’t make me any much less susceptible to senseless Instagram scrolling. 

Nothing’s up to date always-on show is rather more useful: now you can add some fundamental widgets to your lock display, they usually’ll stay seen on the AOD. There are a number of climate widgets you may add for extra element on the day’s forecast, a clock you may set to maintain tabs on one other time zone, and fast settings shortcuts. Notification icons seem under all of this as they usually would. If there’s one factor that was only at stopping me from choosing up the telephone and getting sucked into an unscheduled social media scrolling session, it’s the information-rich AOD — not the glyphs.

Nothing OS comes with a brand new possibility to vary all of your app icons to monochrome.

What this boils all the way down to is that the Telephone 2 has two programs for notifications: one based mostly in software program and one based mostly in {hardware}. The corporate appears to need us to embrace the latter extra, however I had a tough time with it myself. It’s such a reflex to set my telephone down with the display dealing with up that I needed to remind myself to flip it over.

And I typically need extra info than much less — even when the important Glyph lights up, I choose the telephone up and often find yourself simply dismissing the notification that triggered it as a result of it wasn’t all that essential in any case. It appears like much less of a distraction to simply look on the show, learn the Slack notification that simply arrived, and dismiss it. 

It’s such a reflex to set my telephone down with the display dealing with up that I needed to remind myself to flip it over

I requested Nothing CEO Carl Pei why he felt it was essential to develop this hardware-based notification system on the again of the telephone relatively than one thing like Apple’s Dynamic Island, placing progress indicators and updates on the display, the place your consideration often is. He stated that if notifications are on the display, “Then there’s at all times the temptation to simply do one thing else in conjunction to checking for that standing.” The numerous hours of display time I log on daily basis are likely to agree with that assertion.

The Telephone 2 is designed to regularly “nudge” individuals towards Nothing’s imaginative and prescient of placing your telephone down extra typically, Pei instructed me. The 2-ish weeks that I’ve been utilizing the telephone aren’t actually sufficient time to say whether or not I’ve modified my telephone habits considerably. However to this point, I haven’t. Perhaps it’s my anxious mind demanding extra info after I see an “important” Glyph seem. Perhaps it’s the truth that I’m additionally utilizing a Pixel Watch that already lets me triage notifications with out choosing up the telephone. Perhaps I’m too used to having all of my notifications seen without delay. It’s in all probability the entire above. 

The Telephone 2’s complete deal could be tiresome if it wasn’t additionally an excellent telephone.

I believe you in all probability already know if the Nothing Telephone 2 is for you. In the event you respect the eye-catching design and a no-screen focus mode sounds interesting — and also you’re not on Verizon — you then’ll be lots pleased with this system. The little upgrades all through the {hardware} and software program make a major distinction. I didn’t really feel fairly as very like a beta tester utilizing Telephone 2 as I did with Telephone 1.

Going again to the numbers for a minute, the Nothing Telephone 2’s clearest competitor within the US might be the also-$599 Google Pixel 7. I can’t consider a telephone extra in contrast to the Telephone 2. If Nothing needs to make your life simpler utilizing {hardware} and good old style blinking lights, then Google’s more-software-is-better strategy is about as distant as you will get. So we might go down the spec listing, however I believe your private tech ideology might be a greater compass right here. In case that doesn’t suffice: the Pixel 7 has an IP68 score and a greater general digicam system however a worse display.

Your private tech ideology might be a greater compass right here

The Telephone 2’s complete deal could be slightly tiresome if the system itself wasn’t good. That’s not the case. It is a totally good midrange telephone, and it’s attempting to do one thing slightly completely different. I respect that. I simply don’t suppose it’s for me — however possibly I’m a misplaced trigger. On the very least, I respect having Nothing formally on the scene within the US, even when the Telephone 2 isn’t fairly my vibe.

Images by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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