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Nothing Phone (2a) review: The best flashy midrange phone around

By Cheryl Tan - 19 May 2024
Launch SRP: S$499

Overview, Design, UI

Note: This review was first published on 10 May 2024.

Nothing Phone (2a). Check out the new Glyph Interface design on the rear.

Good for Nothing

After a rocky start with the Nothing Phone (1), the company turned things around by releasing the incredible Nothing Phone (2). Now, Nothing is looking to repeat that success in the midrange segment with the new Nothing Phone (2a)

Starting from just S$499, the Phone (2a) offers a custom Dimensity 7200 Pro chipset, dual 50MP rear cameras, a 6.7-inch AMOLED display with up to 1,300-nits peak brightness, and a simpler Glyph Interface light design on the rear that’s just as eye-catching.

The TL;DR version:

The phone performs excellently, takes nice photos and has an insane battery life. The S$499 price tag is just the cherry on top.

Note: You can find Nothing Phone (2a) on Lazada and Shopee.

In Singapore, the phone comes in just one configuration, the 12GB+256GB model. Nothing has had to trim some fat to keep the price low, resulting in using LPDDR4 RAM and UFS 2.2 storage

The battery inside has been upgraded to an even larger 5,000mAh battery with 45W wired fast charging, although wireless charging has been removed to keep costs down.

With all the small cuts to keep this phone below S$500, is it still a decent offering? Let’s find out.

  Nothing Phone (2a)
  Nothing Phone (2a)
Launch SRP
  • From S$499
Operating system
  • Android 14 (Nothing OS 2.5)
Processor
  • MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro
Built-in Memory
  • 12GB LPDDR4 RAM
Display
  • 6.7-inch flexible AMOLED display, 30~120Hz adaptive refresh rate, 2,412 x 1,080 pixels resolution
Camera
  • Rear:
  • 50MP main camera, OIS+EIS, f/1.88
  • 50MP ultra-wide, f/2.2, 114 ĚŠ FOV
  • Front:
  • 32MP, f/2.2
Video Support
  • Up to 4K30FPS
Connectivity
  • LTE / 5G (NSA, SA, NR)
  • Wi-Fi 6, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 5.3
  • GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO, QZSS
  • NFC
Storage Type
  • 256GB
Battery
  • 5,000mAh
  • 45W Fast Charging
Dimensions
  • 161.7 x 76.3 x 8.6mm
Weight
  • 190g


Flashy can be classy

Instead of 'fingerprint-magnet' sides, the whole back is a fingerprint magnet. Nothing that a case will solve.

Design-wise, the Phone (2a) retains the most iconic part of Nothing’s aesthetic: the transparent rear cover.

However, the back is now sheathed in clear plastic in line with its midrange phone status. The rear plastic is well-polished, making smudging incredibly easy. You’ll have to regularly wipe this phone down if you plan to show off the clear back and circuitry-based design. 

The sides are now made with matte plastic instead of aluminium, but what’s interesting here is that Nothing has used a "90° angle unibody cover wrapping around the edges". Instead of the rear plastic simply curving into the edges of the sides, the rear piece extends past the edge to "eat into" the plastic sides. It does look rather cool, but I’ve noticed that one downside of the plastic back is that when viewed at certain angles, you’ll see a rainbow after-effect (chromatic aberration due to optical birefringence). 

All the plastic used has pros and cons. Firstly, the Nothing Phone (2a) is very comfortable to hold and incredibly light at just 190g, which can be great for those looking for a lighter handset in their pocket but still want a big display.

The downside is that the Phone (2a) also feels like a dummy phone. The matte plastic sides make the phone look even cheaper, and it takes some getting used to if you're accustomed to using high-end phones (like us).

Another point to note is that using plastic on the rear doesn't feel ideally durable since it's prone to scuffing by sharper items sharing a space with Nothing Phone (2a). So don't forget to shop for a durable phone case to pair with this phone.

Under intense 2pm sunlight.

The Phone (2a)'s 6.7-inch display, while retaining the same size as the Phone (2), sees some corners cut to bring down its cost.

It’s not an LTPO panel, meaning the refresh rate switching isn’t as fast or smooth. I’ve observed this a few times when switching between apps in a web browser and scrolling. It takes a few swipes for the screen to kick into 120Hz refresh rate, which means you get up to two seconds of jerky scrolling at the start. The minimum refresh rate can only go down to 30Hz as well (LTPO goes to 1Hz). However, these trimmings aren't a deal breaker for me at this price segment.

The display of the Phone (2a) is protected by Gorilla Glass 5. While the peak brightness (1,300 nits) is lower than that of its flagship counterpart, the screen is still legible under bright afternoon sunlight. Colours and details onscreen look perfectly fine, supports 10-bit colour and HDR10+, as well as the same display resolution of 2,412 x 1,080 pixels.

The Phone (2a) gets the same IP54 dust and water resistance as the Phone (2), which is nice plus point for a value-oriented phone.

Glyph Volume Indicator.

We won’t get into too much detail about the Glyph Interface as we’ve covered it extensively in our review of the Nothing Phone (2). In Phone (2a), all the core features are present except for my favourite: the charging progress meter.

Oddly, all the other features like Flip to Glyph, Glyph Timer, and Glyph Progress made their way onto the midrange unit. Maybe I'm a little salty about being left out, but here's to hoping that this is an oversight by Nothing and that it's just one software update away.

Running on Nothing OS 2.5, the Nothing Phone (2a) will receive three years of software updates and four years of security updates. While that’s not on par with the flagship phones, a decent amount of support is promised for a midrange phone at S$499. 

Nothing Icon Pack.Colour Icon Pack.

Furthermore, the Nothing OS (based on Android 14) is excellent. Nothing’s custom skin is incredibly clean and well-optimised. It's further enhanced with a coherent design language based on Nothing’s dot matrix font and general black-and-white aesthetic.

Similar to Nothing OS 2.0 that we saw on the Nothing Phone (2), there’s the option to use the “Default” icon pack, which reverts all the icons to regular coloured ones if needed. 

I noticed that the Phone (2a) has fewer bloatware apps installed, if you can even call it that. The only preinstalled first-party app was Nothing X, the company’s app for its Nothing earbuds. Even Glyph Composer (for customising the LED backlights), which came preinstalled on the Phone (2), wasn’t installed out of the box here. Less bloatware is always a good thing in our books. 

Like before, the UI was smooth and fluid, and no bugs were encountered. Nothing has been very hands-on with pushing out minor software updates. One month of testing brought me to Nothing OS 2.5.5, which has many updates addressing camera performance, general UI smoothness, haptics, and more. We noted in our Phone (2) review that Nothing seemed to be committed to listening to its users and rectifying problems, and it’s nice to see that nothing has changed in this regard.

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9.0
  • Design 7.5
  • Features 8
  • User-Friendliness 8.5
  • Performance 9
  • Value 9.5
The Good
Exceptional battery life
Unique design
Value-for-money
Performance is on par with more expensive midrange phones
The Bad
LPDDR4 RAM and UFS 2.1 storage
Only three and four years of s/w and security updates, respectively
Phone can feel a bit toy-like without a case
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