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The Nothing Phone 2 and Its Flashy Lights Debut at $599

The Nothing Phone 2 goes on sale in the US on July 16, but the competition has never been more fierce.

Andrew Lanxon Editor At Large, Lead Photographer, Europe
Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.
Expertise Smartphones | Photography | iOS | Android | Gaming | Outdoor pursuits Credentials
  • Shortlisted for British Photography Awards 2022, Commended in Landscape Photographer of the Year 2022
Andrew Lanxon
6 min read
Image of the Nothing Phone 2
Andrew Lanxon/CNET

The first Nothing Phone impressed us with its solid all round performance, its low price and of course its flashing lights. But it never officially made it to the US aside from an unusual beta program. This second-generation phone is here to change that. 

When it goes on sale in the US and the wider world from July 16, the Nothing Phone 2 will have a range of upgrades from the processor to the design. And at only $599 (£579), it's still a relatively affordable option. Although it's facing some increasingly stiff competition, in particular from Google. The Pixel 7A's dual rear camera is the best you can get for the money, and its pure Android 13 software is slick and easy to use. 

While we expect the Nothing Phone 2's Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor to deliver better performance than the Pixel 7A's Tensor G2 chip, the Nothing Phone will need to offer more than just raw power to justify the additional cost over the Pixel's $449 price tag. 

Watch this: Nothing's Sequel Gets a Lot Right

A familiar, flashy design

Visually, there's not been a big departure from the first generation. The back is still transparent, letting you see a little inside the phone, including the exposed screwheads and various connecting segments. The glass is gently curved at the edges now to give it a slightly more premium feel when you hold it.

But it's the flashing lights -- or glyph, as Nothing calls it -- that's the big family resemblance here. Those LEDs light up the back of the phone and can alert you to incoming notifications, or for alarms, or can be used to show battery charge status or simply as a basic fill light when you're recording video. 

Nothing Phone 2 Is Flashier Than Ever

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The Phone 2 provides a bit more customization over the glyph this time round, allowing you to create custom light patterns for certain contacts or apps. There's also a glyph timer that will gradually tick down as it reaches zero, but it can also give a convenient visual cue of other time-related things such as when your Uber is going to arrive, so you can put it down and focus on sorting out your hair while keeping an eye on its progress. Nothing says it'll be working with other app developers to integrate this functionality. 

The glyph lights certainly made the original phone stand out against the competition and while they are arguably something of a gimmick, it's nice to see a bit of fun and flair in phones. Especially in mid-range phones like this where interesting designs tend to take more of a back seat in order to keep those prices down. 

Image of the Nothing Phone 2
Andrew Lanxon/CNET

But the lights aren't the only physical things to care about; the aluminum frame is recycled, there's a fingerprint scanner invisibly hidden beneath the display, and it's IP54 rated to help keep it safe when you have to take calls in the rain. The 6.7-inch display is big and bright enough to do justice to vibrant games or for watching YouTube videos on the move, and its adaptive refresh rate lets it drop down to only 1Hz to help preserve battery life or ramp up to 120Hz for smoother gaming. 

Older chip with big potential

Powering the Nothing Phone 2 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor backed up by either 8GB or 12GB of RAM. That's a slightly older generation processor, but it's still a potent chip that you can fully expect to handle most things you'd ever want to throw at it, from video streaming to photo editing or gaming. Nothing says it used an older chip as it wanted something tried and tested that would offer a more stable platform at a more reasonable price, and I think that's probably a fair trade-off. Bear in mind that the 8 Plus Gen 1 chip is in both the OnePlus 10T and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 -- two absolute powerhouse flagships launched only last year, so don't worry about the Nothing Phone 2 being able to handle any of your daily essentials. 

The Phone 2 runs Android 13 at its core, but Nothing has done a lot to customize the interface. It's a very monochrome experience, with a heavy reliance on dot-matrix style texts and icons. There are a variety of widgets that use these designs, and even the app icons are black and white to keep with that minimal monochrome aesthetic. That could make it quite difficult to find the apps you want if you rely on those color cues, but you can turn this off in the settings if you want.

A feature that I can see being quite handy is creating folders of apps on your homescreen and hiding them behind an icon -- I'm imagining filling this folder with my work-specific apps like Outlook, Zoom and Slack and then covering them up with the briefcase symbol so I don't have to look at them on my weekend. Lovely stuff. 

Image of the Nothing Phone 2
Andrew Lanxon/CNET

I don't often like UIs that heavily customise the look of Android, but there's something quite stylish about the design that Nothing uses on its phones. If you're into that kind of stark minimalism then you'll no doubt enjoy it. 

Nothing promises that the Phone 2 will receive three years of OS updates and an additional fourth year of security updates. That's a little below the five years that Samsung offers on its phones, but it could certainly be worse. Still, I'd hope to see all manufacturers extending their support period up to and beyond five years to keep phones safe to use for longer and therefore keep more of them out of landfills. 

Same cameras, better processing

The back of the phone is home to a 50-megapixel main camera and a 50-megapixel ultra wide camera. Hardware-wise, that's pretty much the same setup we saw on the Nothing Phone 1. But the improved Snapdragon processor allows for a lot better software processing, with Nothing promising improved colors, exposure and better HDR techniques to help you take nicer-looking shots. 

I've spent some time testing the camera out and am pleased to see vibrant, sharp images with decent overall exposure. 

img-20230703-101438611

Nothing Phone 2, main camera.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET
img-20230705-155052684

Nothing Phone 2, main camera.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET
img-20230703-101948932

Nothing Phone 2, main camera.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET
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Nothing Phone 2, main camera.

Andrew Lanxon/CNET

So while there's no significant upgrade in terms of bigger sensors, or zoom lenses, you should still be able to take much better images on the Phone 2 than on the Phone 1. But its bigger competition in photography comes from the Pixel 7A, which can take stunning images and costs a lot less, so I'm looking forward to seeing how these two stack up. 

The Phone 2 will shoot 4K video at 60 frames per second, and the 32-megapixel front-facing camera should do a decent job of capturing those embarrassing selfies. 

Powering everything is a 4,700-mAh battery that with reasonable use should be able to get you through a full day. As with all phones, your actual results will come down to how much you use it. Hammer it with video streaming and demanding gaming all morning and you'll need to give it a boost in the afternoon. Most of you will probably just get away with giving it a full charge when you go to sleep each night. 

Image of the Nothing Phone 2
Andrew Lanxon/CNET

It supports 45-watt fast charging, which Nothing says will take it from empty to full in 55 minutes. That's decent enough, although it's a way behind the 80- or 100-watt charging we've seen on other phones outside the US. At this price, though, I can't argue too much. It has 15-watt wireless charging too, as well as reverse wireless charging if you want to use your phone's battery to power up your headphones or, another phone entirely.

Is the Nothing Phone 2 a good phone to buy? 

If you're after a flashy phone that stands out from the crowd, then Nothing's latest is in a league of its own. Those lights do make a statement, and while I can't say I have any great desire to use them in everyday life, you may well find them useful. Beyond that, the phone does have a lot going for it, with its big screen, its potent processor and its cool-looking software. 

Image of the Nothing Phone 2
Andrew Lanxon/CNET

But it's a bit more expensive than the first version, and its $599 asking price puts it quite a long way above the $449 price of the Google Pixel 7A. And while I don't expect the 7A to compete on processing power, Google's cheapest phone does have a superb camera setup, and its pure Android interface is lovely to use. 

The midrange phone market has become one of the most hotly contested areas in 2023, and Nothing's higher price may mean it has a bigger fight on its hands to win space in people's pockets. 

Nothing Phone 2 specs comparison chart


Nothing Phone 2Pixel 7AGalaxy A54 5G
Display size, resolution, refresh rate 6.7-inch OLED; 2,412x1,080 pixels; 1-120Hz6.1-inch OLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels; 60/90Hz 6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels; 120Hz
Pixel density 394 ppi361 ppi403 ppi
Dimensions (inches)

6.23 x 3.02 x 0.32 in
Dimensions (millimeters) 162.1 x 76.4 x 8.6mm72.9 x 152.4 x 9.0 158.2 x 76.7 x 8.2 mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 201g (7.09 oz)193g (6.81 oz)202g (7.13 oz)
Mobile software Android 13Android 13Android 13
Camera 50-megapixel main. 50-megapixel ultrawide64-megapixel (main) 4k @ 6fps; 13-megapixel (ultra-wide) 4k @ 30 fps50-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro)
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel13-megapixel 4K@30fps32-megapixel
Video capture 4K at 60fps4K4K
Processor Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1Tensor G2Exynos 1380
RAM, storage 8GB + 128GB; 12GB + 256GB8GB + 128GB6GB + 128GB; 8GB + 256GB
Expandable storage NoNoMicro SDXC
Battery, charger 4,700 mAh; 45W wired charging4,385 mAh; 18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging5,000 mAh; 25W wired charging
Fingerprint sensor In-displaySideIn-display
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Headphone jack NoneNoneNone
Special features 5G-enabled, IP54 water resistance, flashing rear lights5G (5G sub6 / mmWave ), IP67 rating5G (mmw/Sub6), IP67 rating
Price off-contract (USD) $599$499 / $549 (mmW)$449 (6GB/128GB) at launch
Price (GBP) £579£449£449 (6GB/128GB) at launch
Price (AUD) AU$1,120 convertedAU$749AU$649 (6GB/128GB) at launch