CMF Phone 1 Review: Well-Designed or Over-Engineered?

Beebom Score

8
The CMF Phone 1 is a uniquely designed phone that brings back the days or removeable back covers and accessorize your phone. It has a feature rich display, one of the best software experiences with Nothing OS, and good performance, all of it available at a budget price bracket, making it an attractive option for enthusiasts.
Pros
A fresh new design on a smartphone
Lets you replace back covers and attach accessories
Bright and large Full HD+ 120Hz display
Clean and fluid software experience
Good performance in day to day usage
Decent battery life
Cons
No charger in the box
Only has a mono speaker
Screw indents make it uncomfortable to hold
Camera performance is average
Vibration motor is bad and feels cheap
Buy CMF Phone 1 (starts at Rs 15,999) Right Arrow

Nothing is a fashion-oriented technology brand that strives to do something new with the design of its products. These genes were later passed on to their sub-brand, which had something going on when they released their first set of devices. So when the news broke that CMF by Nothing was working on its first-ever smartphone, teasing an image of a dial, fans knew they were in for a surprise. I had the opportunity to use the CMF Phone 1 early and after spending a week with this customizable gizmo, I share my thoughts in this CMF Phone 1 review.

CMF Phone 1: Specs At a Glance

Before we begin, let us take a quick look at the specifications of the CMF Phone 1:

SpecsCMF Phone 1
ProcessorMediaTek Dimensity 7300 (4 nm, octa core)
RAM6/8 GB LPDDR4X RAM
Storage128GB
Display6.7-inch Full HD+ AMOLED,
120Hz, AGC DragonTrail Pro protection
Rear Camera50 MP Main (Sony IMX 882) + depth sensor
Front Camera16 MP
VideoUp to 4K at 30FPS
Dual SIMYes; Hybrid SIM slot
Connectivity9 5G bands, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC
Charging portUSB Type-C
Battery5,000mAh
Charging33W fast-charging, 5W reverse wired
IP RatingIP52
SoftwareAndroid 14-based Nothing OS 2.6
Pricestarts at Rs 15,999
Read complete specs at Beebom Gadgets

CMF Phone 1: Box Contents

CMF Phone 1 Box Contents

Now here are all the things that you will get with the mobile phone. Take a look at the list of all the box contents of the CMF Phone 1.

  • CMF Phone 1
  • USB Type C to C cable
  • An orange SIM card ejector pin
  • User manual and other paperwork

CMF Phone 1: Build and Design

cmf phone 1 original black back panel

Coming to the design, the phone has an unorthodox look to the back featuring exposed screws and a dial at the bottom. This gives the black variant that we had, an industrial look and feel, which I like quite a lot.

This back will make people’s heads turn when you take it outside, especially with the bright orange back panel. Yes, you can swap the back cover! More on this below. The matte textured plastic back and the grooves in the dial make the CMF Phone 1 grippy and gives it a premium feel compared to other devices in its category.

cmf phone 1 design

However, due to its large footprint, the sharp edges, and the screw slots, it does feel like the edges are digging into your palms after a while. And it can get uncomfortable while scrolling through Instagram Reels in bed. This issue is not helped by the 8 or 9-mm thickness (depending on the cover you use) of the flat sides, which house the volume rocker on the left and the power button on the right.

One-hand usage is possible but not ideal as the phone is too boxy and weighty to use. You will often find yourself using your pinky finger to rest the bottom of the phone where you will find the USB-C port for charging, a single mono speaker, and the physical dial on the right.

Overall, the phone has an industrial, almost prototype look to it that some will love, but non-enthusiasts might not prefer.

Replaceable Back Cover and Accessories

Let’s jump into the most hyped feature of the CMF Phone 1 – the replaceable back covers. CMF tried a mix of nostalgia by allowing you to replace the back and slap on other colored back panels. Trying out a new back cover took me back to the days of the Moto G’s and the Lumia’s. Those were colorful times.

Putting different colored back panels breathes a new personality to the device. Like the orange one feels bold while the mint green feels calming. While the back is removable, the battery is not. So you can’t reload the battery for an instant refill. This might bum out some people but who wants to carry a separate battery? Those things are dangerous.

cmf phone 1 back panels

You need to remove the five screws at the back of the phone to replace the covers. Yes, I’m sorry to break it to you, but the dial at the back is also a screw. The dial also serves a modular purpose as you can use it to attach many different CMF Phone 1 accessories like a stand, lanyard cable, or a magnetic cardholder.

I won’t lie, I had my share of fun removing and switching between different back covers and accessories. But the problem is you will need to remove those screws every time you decide to change the back. After the first few times, it feels tedious.

cmf phone 1 - change back panel

Plus, there is also the factor of losing said screws and dial, which I, unfortunately, did an hour into getting the phone (I found it after panicking for the next hour). And if you have children and often give them your phone to play games, that dial is a choking hazard.

I love the concept and applaud CMF for bringing customization into this price range. I just wish for a simpler implementation, like on Nothing Phones. The list of accessories and back panel colors is also limited at the time of release, so I hope that CMF will continue to release new accessories and colors later on.

CMF Phone 1: Display Quality

CMF Phone 1 not only catches your eyes from the back but the front too, thanks to its tall 6.7-inch AMOLED panel. Watching content like The Boys or The Bear was such a good experience on this phone. Not once was I distracted by the odd shift in colors or the flickering of the screen.

cmf phone 1 display bezels

The 120 Hz refresh rate also feels smooth, and I didn’t face any jitters or slowdowns which happens at times with budget devices with high refresh rates. The brightness is apt for the cloudy outsides of Delhi. But I can’t say how well it will do in harsh sunlight.

For the number nerds, it averages 800 nits and goes up to 2000 nits. The fingerprint scanner is embedded under the display, and it’s quick and accurate.

CMF Phone 1 Display Side

Support for HDR is available, and there is AGC DragonTrail Pro glass protection on top. I can’t say how good it is compared to Gorilla Glass, but I’ll still recommend getting tempered glass. Coming to bezels, yes they are thick and you have a chin but don’t forget how much the phone costs. You’re getting a feature-rich display which would cost a premium a few years ago. From that perspective, the display checks all the boxes.

Speakers and Vibration

When I mentioned that I enjoyed watching content, I used earbuds because the phone only has a single speaker. It gets loud enough for phone rings, alarms, and notifications, but it hampers the experience when you’re watching something. I know I said this device invokes nostalgia but this is one aspect of phones I’d like to keep in the past.

The vibration motor is another part where cost-cutting was done. The haptics feel harsh, cheap, and the motor has a buzzing effect that doesn’t feel nice at all. Since Nothing OS also does not take much advantage of haptics, I preferred to have them turned off.

CMF Phone 1: Software Experience

The CMF Phone 1 runs on Nothing OS 2.6 based on Android 14. If you have tried a Nothing Phone before, then you are getting the complete software package. Like the name of the company, “nothing” is left out just because it is a budget smartphone, which is something that other brands practice (looking at you, Xiaomi).

CMF Phone 1 About Page

The only thing it misses out on is always on display, which is replaced by a Glance feature. It stays up for 10 seconds, similar to how Xiaomi and Poco do their so-called “AOD”. I don’t mind it that much. Didn’t even have it on till someone pointed it to me.

The animations are fluid, it sticks to the stock Android look with Nothing’s flair on top of it. Nothing OS 2.6 also features some new additions such as a Game Mode and an AI Vivid mode in the Camera app. There is virtually no bloatware on the phone, not even Netflix which is why the app does not support HDR even though the display does.

The lightweight OS also doesn’t overwork the processor so you don’t see any hiccups in day-to-day usage. In terms of updates, the company guarantees 2 years of Android updates so the phone will go up to Android 16. Given the track Nothing’s track record, you are in good hands in terms of updates. This is most definitely the biggest highlight of the phone.

Performance and Benchmarks

As an enthusiast’s brand, Nothing and CMF know that specifications are usually the first thing their audience considers when buying a phone. In competitive markets like India, this becomes a major factor as brands literally have benchmark scores on the promotional banners. That’s how much we Indians love math and numbers.

CMF Phone 1 Gaming

Thankfully, CMF didn’t cheap out much in the specs department as the CMF Phone 1 is the first device with the MediaTek Dimensity 7300 chipset. You can check out the benchmark in the linked article, but the gist is that it is an improvement over the Dimensity 7050. Also, check out the comparison between Dimensity 7300 vs Dimensity 7050.

Note, the chipset may be named Dimensity 7300 but it is not as powerful as the Dimensity 7200 Pro on the Nothing Phone 2a (review). We have a detailed comparison between the Dimensity 7300 vs Dimensity 7200. I know it’s confusing, so let’s jump into benchmarks and real-world usage.

Benchmarks

During this review, I ran all the necessary benchmarks on the CMF Phone 1, ranging from Antutu, Geekbench 6, CPU Throttling, and 3D Mark to push the phone to its limits. Here are the results for your convenience, but I suggest checking out our dedicated Dimensity 7300 benchmark guide for a closer look at the numbers and findings.

CMF Phone 1 Benchmarks

Day-to-Day Usage

As I said in the software part, the normal usage is good. The phone runs well and I didn’t face any slowdowns or lags in my time. But, it is not snappy and the app-opening speeds are a tad slow. But you can’t expect it to perform like a flagship now.

CMF Phone 1 Usage

Gaming

Even though this is not a gaming phone, I had to find a reason to slack off from work so I played all my favorite games on the CMF Phone 1. I have laid out the games, the settings, and the max FPS the phone was able to play them on in the table below.

GamesSettings
Genshin ImpactHighest Settings + 60FPS (Averages 30 FPS)
CoD MobileMax Graphics = Very High + Very High
Max Framerate = Low + Max (Averages 60 FPS)
BGMIMax Graphics = HDR + Ultra
Max Framerate = Smooth + Extreme (Averages 60 FPS)
Warzone MobileLow Visual Quality + Uncapped FPS + High Resolution
(Averages 30 to 50 FPS)

The gaming experience wasn’t the best here, because like I said, this isn’t a gaming smartphone. It manages to do well with optimized games like COD mobile and BGMI. But demanding games like Genshin Impact and Warzone took a toll on the performance. The new Game mode also didn’t help at all with the performance. So, this is something CMF should look into and fix in upcoming updates.

Camera and Video Quality

The phone only has a single 50 MP primary Sony IMX 882 sensor and no OIS. The other camera is sadly a depth sensor. I would have at least wanted an 8 MP ultrawide lens. The front has a single 16 MP shooter for selfies. Without further blabbering, here are the camera results.

Day Time Photos

The 50 MP Sony sensor clicks good photos when ample light is available. The color tone is consistent and natural-looking for the most part, as some photos have saturated colors. The details are good, even in cloudy situations when there isn’t enough sunlight. But zooming in will break the illusion as it loses details in some objects.

Night Time Photos

At night, despite having no OIS, the CMF Phone 1 did a fine job. As you can see in the samples, there is a good amount of detail in the Starbucks logo, the mural on the wall, and the PVR plaza. However, there is a blue tint going on in each nighttime image. There is visible grain in some pictures, which could have been helped with OIS.

Selfies and Portraits

In selfies, some photos come out looking natural, and pretty good to look at, while others appear boosted for some reason. It preserves details on faces and doesn’t do any beautification (which is great) but colors can look a bit off at times.

CMF Phone 1 Camera Selfies

I like how it handles edge detection in portrait photos. It managed to didn’t blend my hair with the background which most phones at this price tend to do. The details are preserved here, but the issue of colors as it made my face a little reddish.

CMF Phone 1 Portraits

The case is similar with portraits taken from the primary lens. I won’t say that the depth sensor brought any significant improvements to portrait shots.

Video Quality

Talking about videos, the back camera can capture up to 4K 30 FPS, and since there is no OIS, it relies on EIS instead. During my review, the footage from the CMF Phone 1 was serviceable but had jitters here and there. Videos aren’t smooth even at 1080p 60 FPS. There are also no focus-hunting issues to report.

Overall, I will say that the camera performs better than my expectations, but has consistency issues. This is typical with Nothing Phones as even the 2a before it also received several updates to improve the camera quality.

Battery and Charging

Coming to the final stop of the review, let’s talk about battery life on the CMF Phone 1. The mobile phone has a 5,000 mAh battery unit. In my usage, playing heavy titles, binging Family Guy, and scrolling through brain rot reels for hours on end, i had a screen-on time of about 6 hours with 8% gas left in the tank.

CMF Phone 1 Charging

When it came time to charge the phone, I couldn’t find the charger in the box. You can get a 33-watt official charger which should top off the phone to 100% in an hour and 50% in about 20 minutes.

Verdict: Should You Buy the CMF Phone 1?

So now comes the important question, should you buy the CMF Phone 1? Let me preface this by saying that Nothing and the team at CMF should be appreciated for trying something new in the segment. Like Carl said when Nothing was first established – wanting to do something different in the industry, and I think they have achieved it with this device.

CMF Phone 1 Camera

But, the CMF Phone 1 is not for the average joe and takes aim at enthusiasts who often opt for phones at a higher price range. You would typically go for a budget phone if you need a secondary device or want to buy one for your parents. The bulky size, fiddly back cover system, and average camera performance make it unsuitable for either of those conditions.

It is an easy win if you have a strict budget of under Rs 16,000 and prioritize software updates, a great display, and the ability to customize your phone’s back. But if you are seeking a comfortable everyday phone, then you will find better options by spending slightly more.

To help you seek out those viable options, we have compared the CMF Phone 1 extensively with its peers. So, check out the comparisons from the links below:

That said, what are your thoughts and opinions on the CMF Phone 1? Is it the phone you expected it to be from Nothing? Let us know in the comments below.

Beebom Score
8
8
Build and Design
8
Display Quality
9
Software Experience
7.5
Performance
7
Camera and Video Quality
8
Battery and Charging
The CMF Phone 1 is a uniquely designed phone that brings back the days or removeable back covers and accessorize your phone. It has a feature rich display, one of the best software experiences with Nothing OS, and good performance, all of it available at a budget price bracket, making it an attractive option for enthusiasts.
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