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Nothing Phone 2a review: This experience-focused phone sets high benchmarks

The Nothing Phone 2a sets out to shake up the midrange segment with a compelling package that has something for everyone

Nothing Phone 2a

Nothing Phone 2a

Harsh Shivam New Delhi
British consumer technology brand Nothing's Phone (2a) sets out to be a compelling smartphone inspired from premium siblings but catering especially to budget-conscious consumers. Priced at Rs 23,999 onwards, it promises a well-rounded smartphone experience, at least on paper. Yet, the crucial question remains: does it deliver when put to the test in real-world situations? Let us find out:

Design

The Nothing Phone (2a) draws inspiration from its brand’s design philosophy and maintains the transparent design language with a glossy finish on the back cover. However, a notable change is the positioning of the rear camera module. This smartphone sports a horizontally aligned dual-camera setup, featuring an elevated, pill-shaped module resembling WALL-E's face from Pixar films.
Encircling the centrally placed camera module is a ring-shaped design beneath the glass, housing a miniature flashlight positioned at 2 o'clock and a microphone just outside it, in the same direction. Glyph lights, which are unique to Nothing smartphones, surround the circular design with two arc-shaped lights on the left and a single bar-shaped light on the right side.
 
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera module
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera module
The transparent back panel is bordered by blackened edges, mirroring the dimensions of the bezels framing the flat front display. The front glass seamlessly melds into the boxy plastic frame, distinguished by a unique matte finish that dodges imitation of metal frames.
On the right side, the frame accommodates the power button, while the volume buttons are located on the opposing side. Notably, though the buttons share the same matte black finish as the frame, they appear slightly darker. The bottom side of the smartphone features an ejectable SIM tray, a microphone, a USB-C port, and a speaker grill. On the contrary, the top side features just a secondary microphone.
The full flat display on the Nothing Phone (2a) enhances its overall appearance and adds a premium touch to it. Despite the entirely plastic frame, its quality suggests durability. Beyond its distinctive appearance, the smartphone also boasts a comfortable feel in hand. Weighing a mere 190g, the phone is lightweight, further enhancing its ergonomic appeal. Moreover, the centrally positioned camera module prevents wobbling when the device is placed on a flat surface.
However, the design does come with its drawbacks. A slight gap between the back panel and the frame tends to accumulate dust, necessitating regular cleaning. Additionally, the transparent nature of the back panel makes even minor scratches visible. Coupled with its glossy finish, the back cover is prone to collecting fingerprints and dust, which may cause issues to some users.
 
Nothing Phone 2a: Back panel
Nothing Phone 2a: Back panel

Display and audio

The Nothing Phone (2a) flaunts a vibrant display that strikes a perfect balance, avoiding excessive contrast that might detract from the natural visual experience. With sharp visuals and right colour accuracy, the smartphone ensures an immersive viewing experience that retains its allure from every angle. The 120Hz refresh rate enhances scrolling responsiveness, making interactions feel snappy and seamless. While it may not be the brightest display available, it manages to stand a sunny afternoon. However, the auto brightness adjustment does feel a tad sluggish.
In terms of software features, Nothing refrains from bombarding users with uncanny display enhancements but has provided support for HDR and HDR10, enhancing content consumption on its already impressive display.
 
Nothing Phone 2a: Display
Nothing Phone 2a: Display
On the audio front, the Phone (2a) impresses with its stereo speaker system, delivering ample volume levels suitable even for outdoor settings with less ambient noise. The speakers offer clear vocals and a punchy output, although they may lack in reproducing thumping bass. Nonetheless, they prove to be an ideal companion for watching movies, videos, and playing games when not wearing any headphones.

Camera

The Nothing Phone (2a) boasts a dual 50MP camera setup on its rear. The primary sensor excels in capturing vibrant outdoor scenes, producing sharp images with well-balanced colours and fine contrast. Images appear natural and exhibit remarkable clarity.
However, shooting in indoor lighting presents some challenges. Images tend to appear brighter than reality, occasionally leading to distortion in low-light conditions. Under artificial lighting, pictures may appear overexposed, necessitating manual exposure adjustments for optimal results.

READ: Nothing announces Phone 2a limited drop at select locations on March 6
Portrait mode continues to shine under natural lighting, showcasing the phone's adeptness in adjusting depth to ensure subjects remain crisply defined. While artificial lighting may introduce some delays in focusing and occasional soft edges, the overall portrait quality remains commendable.
The ultra-wide-angle camera emerges as a surprise standout feature. Images captured with this lens display a natural appearance, accurately rendering colours and vibrancy even indoors. However, they may exhibit slightly less detail and produce a mild fish-eye effect, elongating objects near the edges.
The 32MP front camera clicks decent pictures outdoors while accurately maintaining the vibrancy and saturation levels. Indoors, the images might look a bit soft, lacking details.
On the video front, the Nothing Phone (2a) supports recording in 1080p resolution at both 30 and 60 fps, while 4K recording is capped at 30 fps. Videos shot at 1080p/60fps showcase sharpness and accuracy, even in low-light conditions, with optimal stability ideal for dynamic scenarios such as walking or vehicle recording.
Although 4K/30fps videos maintain good quality, they may appear slightly jittery. Notably, the phone offers a dedicated stability enhancement mode called "action mode," restricted to 1080p/30fps recording. Additionally, users have the flexibility to switch between standard H.264 and H.265 video encoding, with the former offering compatibility with most apps and the latter being useful to save storage space.
 
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples

 
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples
Nothing Phone 2a: Camera samples

Performance and battery

The Nothing Phone (2a) is powered by a custom-made MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chipset, supported by up to 12GB of RAM and up to 256GB on-board storage. This combination ensures smooth performance for everyday tasks, with swift app launches and seamless scrolling through social media. Even during multitasking, such as simultaneous video calls and app usage, the phone maintains its speed and responsiveness without any signs of slowdown.
Casual gaming and high-resolution video recording are handled effortlessly by the Nothing Phone (2a). However, when tackling graphically demanding games like Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail, the smartphone may experience occasional stuttering. Fortunately, the 8GB RAM Booster comes to the rescue, offering the option to allocate additional virtual RAM. Opting for the maximum 8GB boost provides a noticeable performance enhancement, particularly during gaming sessions. With the RAM boost enabled, the phone maintains a consistent frame rate of 35 to 40 fps on the highest graphic settings, with significantly fewer frame drops. When limiting the frame rate to 30 fps on the highest settings, the Phone (2a) delivers a smooth gaming experience with minimal frame rate fluctuations. However, during testing, playing at medium or high graphic settings with a 45 fps limit provided the best overall experience.
Impressively, the Nothing Phone (2a) is equipped with a 5,000mAh battery that effortlessly lasts a full day with mixed usage, leaving some juice remaining. For instance, charging the smartphone up to 95 per cent in the morning, easily ended up with 23 per cent at midnight. All this while it was tasked with playing games, scrolling social media, surfing the web, video calls and occasional camera snaps. Notably, while a charging adapter is not included in the box, using a standard 25W third-party adapter results in a full charge in approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Software and user experience

The Nothing Phone (2a) impresses the most on the software front. Powered by Android 14, this smartphone presents users with a choice between the standard Android interface and Nothing's own custom UI, NothingOS 2.5, both stripped of unnecessary bloatware and distractions.
A standout feature of the custom UI is its innovative approach to home screen organisation. It allows placing quick setting widgets on the homescreen for managing specific settings. Additionally, the inclusion of a ChatGPT widget offers seamless access to AI-chatbot Voice chat functionality with just a tap, similar to Android’s Google Assistant or Siri on iOS.
Furthermore, the UI allows users to group similar apps on the homescreen into customisable drawers, each with its own distinct icon for easy identification. One more such useful feature is the gaming dashboard that allows streaming games to other platforms and displays current frame rates on screen. Although this feature is not unique to Nothing, it looks clean, compact and does not interrupt the game itself.
Notably, the Glyph interface on the back of the device adds a unique touch. The customisable light bars serve as intuitive indicators for incoming notifications, while the Glyph timer feature transforms them into a practical visual timer, ideal for workouts.
 
Nothing Phone 2a: Glyph lights
Nothing Phone 2a: Glyph lights

Verdict

The Nothing Phone (2a) delivers exceptional value for its price, offering a balanced blend of performance and functionality without excessive frills. It excels across various aspects, ensuring seamless performance in daily use and providing avenues for indulging in occasional hobbies like gaming and photography.
This commendable performance is bolstered by the smartphone's clean and bloatware-free UI, which enhances everyday tasks with added functionality. However, if you're in the market for a device with a more feature-rich focus, exploring alternative options might be in order.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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First Published: Mar 06 2024 | 9:57 AM IST

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