The Nothing Phone 1 is what the OnePlus 10T could have been
The Nothing Phone 1 and the OnePlus 10T come from the same place. What’s the best Android phone for your money right now? Of course, every phone seeks to answer this question, but this is a rare occasion where we see two different companies with such a common history providing answers to the same question that are so different.
The two brands, driven by hype and linked by a common founder, answer the question, “What’s the best phone for less money?” Each has a different answer. One by appealing to the spec nerd in us and adding all the big numbers you’d like to see, while the other thinks the twinkling lights and flowery language are helpful. Both, of course, are based on a cult of personality and hype.
The OnePlus 10T is the star of this week. It stands out with flashy specs, but something about it feels cold and cynical. It’s just an Android smartphone. He’s not trying to do anything particularly well. It has good cameras, but they’re comparable to the much cheaper OnePlus Nord 2T and lack the Hasselblad tuning of the OnePlus 10 Pro. It’s encased in glass, but it’s an older version of Gorilla Glass and the chassis is plastic. Even the clean software OnePlus once boasted about is ditched for a rebranded ColorOS – a slap in the face to fans who believed OnePlus’ earlier promises to revert to the old-fashioned OxygenOS.
“There’s really nothing wrong with the OnePlus 10T. It performs quite well and to some extent meets the criteria of the OnePlus T series,” wrote Andy Boxall of Digital Trends in our OnePlus 10T review. It’s a perfect summary of what 10T is like. It’s written to order, giving everything you want, with little to delight you. In a word: soulless.
Nothing approaches this question from another angle. A phone designed for comfort, a gadget you might find useful (or not), and neatly included or excluded specs with a light software skin on it. Take the camera for example. It would have been very easy for Nothing to throw in three or even four cameras. Everyone does it, it’s a viable and inexpensive strategy. Nothing takes that bait, including just two cameras instead, and they work pretty well for taking “beautiful pictures”. Likewise, the lure of a flagship-class processor is tempting. Nothing opts for a low-end Snapdragon 778+ chip instead. It’s a move reminiscent of the Pixel 5 in 2020, prioritizing the overall experience over raw power. As such, this phone offers a very Pixel-like experience, warts and all.
OnePlus does the opposite, throwing everything and the kitchen sink, but carelessly. We mentioned the very old Gorilla Glass 5, the lackluster macro camera included just so they could say they have three cameras, and no wireless charging to speak of. As a testimonial, our review found the Nothing Phone 1 to be nicer than the cynical OnePlus 10T. “Unusual, individual and pleasant to use”, are things we expected from OnePlus. Now Nothing takes this stick and runs with it.
That’s not to say that I don’t find the Nothing Phone cynical at all. I once criticized the Nothing Phone for acting like a toy! In another world where this phone wasn’t touted as the next iPhone coming and didn’t have the quality control issues it has, I wouldn’t have bothered. However, what it has that the OnePlus 10T doesn’t is reflection. Are the flashing lights on the back the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen? No way. Are the specs the best? No. But at the very least, nothing is trying something deliberate, different and unique.
Which phone is best for your back? If you ask me, the answer is this, “the most thoughtful”.