Nothing Phone’s US “beta test” targets people with more money than sense
Enlarge / Phone Nothing (1) I bet the farm that you will instantly fall in love with this backpack design. If you don’t, there’s not much to see.
Does anyone remember “Nothing Phone?”
The oddly named Nothing is a new smartphone company from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, and its first phone, the Nothing Phone 1, was launched about half a year ago in Europe, India and China for €469 ( about $500). Nothing right now will let you buy that phone in the US for $300. The company is calling this a “beta test,” but it doesn’t sound like you’re testing anything other than market interest. The “beta test” tag means that buying the phone comes with caveats that make it a pretty terrible deal.
First, a quick recap: the Nothing Phone 1 is a mid-range $300 phone with a Snapdragon 778G+, a 6.55-inch, 2400×1080 120Hz OLED display, a 4500mAh battery, and a bunch of other jaw-dropping specs in the “meh category”. The device doesn’t have a clear sales pitch for why it’s a good smartphone, with only a few light stripes on the rear panel to separate it from the crowd. The company hopes the quirky back panel will throw you off.
So, regarding this beta test – for $300, you’re not actually buying a US-spec phone. Instead, Nothing will send you the Europe/India/China production model, hoping everything will work. You will be missing the main frequency bands on each carrier, so depending on your location, you may have signal issues. The phone’s FAQ says 5G is not supported at all on AT&T or Verizon, and is only partially supported on single-band T-Mobile. You also lack LTE bands on any carrier. Voice over LTE and Wi-Fi won’t work on AT&T, CDMA won’t work on Verizon, and you’ll have to call Verizon and ask the company to add your phone to its IMEI database at so that it is activated.
And there are no guarantees. The FAQ notes that there is a 14-day return policy and then “no after-sales service after this period”. The phone ships in five to seven business days to all 50 states. You will also receive a Nothing Phone NFT.
The only bit of testing you can do on the phone is with the Android 13 beta it ships with, though you can just as easily try it out in official Nothing Phone sales regions. Of course, a beta OS comes with a risk of your phone not working properly. A beta version of Android won’t pass Google’s Play Integrity API (this was called “SafetyNet Attestation”), so higher security apps will probably throw error messages and close. These are typically banking apps, tap-and-pay, some games, and DRM-laden media apps like Netflix and YouTube.
Even with the discount, paying to “test drive” a half broken product is a really tough sell. If you’re just looking for a good phone at a low price, the Pixel 6a usually costs $449 and is often on sale for $300 or $350. (The $350 deal is happening right now.) In addition to being much faster than the Nothing phone, it also comes with some nice features like Federal Communications Commission certification, the ability to connect to the cellular system, a production OS that it can run apps and a product warranty if something breaks. There’s also an LED flash if you’re really into rear panel lights.
Nothing says the “Nothing Beta Membership Program will last until June 30,” which presumably means the phone won’t be on sale until then. This is also when the Nothing Phone 1 will be about a year old. The company says the US is “set to be an important market for us”, so perhaps the next model will sell properly here. It would be nice to have a new smartphone competition in the US, but not like this one.