Nothing Phone (2a) Review: Lights, Camera, and a Banging Price

Pros
Good, bright display with symmetrical bezels
Unique and practical design with glyph lights
Dimensity 7200 Pro is a reliable performer
Camera performs well for a mid-ranger
Solid thermal management
Cons
Polycarbonate build
No charger or case in the box

When the Nothing Phone (1) launched back in 2022 with its unique glyph lights and transparent design, it took the market by storm. However, the Nothing Phone (2), which launched a year later didn’t have as much of an effect. But, the Nothing Phone (2a) is here now, and from the looks of it, this phone is probably the next big thing in the sub-Rs 25,000 price segment since the POCO F1 (review).

That’s a big thing to say, right? So, as soon as the device arrived at the Beebom office, I instantly pounced at the opportunity to test the phone out. So, allow me to take you through my findings in this in-depth review of the Nothing Phone (2a), as I push it to new extremes and try to figure out where it stands in the market. With that being said, let’s get right into it!

Nothing Phone 2a: Design and Build

Key Takeaways:

1. Nothing Phone 2a comes with a plastic back and sides, but the power button and volume rockers are made out of aluminum.
2. The center camera module placement allows the phone to rest flat, without wobbling.
3. The Phone 2a features 3 Glyph strips with one of them acting as a progress bar for certain apps.

I have been using the Black variant of the Nothing Phone 2a. There’s also the White variant, which we received later on. And if I were you, I would grab the white color option as it certainly looks a lot better in real life, with the ivory pieces at the back. Not to mention that all the transparent sorcery is coming to life a lot more.

With that out of the way, I’m not going to talk a lot about the Nothing Phone 2a box contents, as it was a rather underwhelming unboxing experience. Alongside the handset itself, you just get a SIM ejector tool, a double-ended Type-C cable, and two leaflets you will never go through. So yeah, no charger or case in the box.

The Nothing Phone 2a does not come with a charger or case inside the box.

However, it was when I picked up the Nothing Phone 2a that I was instantly impressed. I noticed how the matte finish of the Phone 2a’s plastic frame felt really good in hand. An instant sense of, “yes, I won’t be dropping it easily,” came over me. When I ran this feeling of mine by one of our in-house researchers who was testing out the Phone 2a as well, he gave me the most aggressive nod of agreement ever.

Story goes, that he has super clammy hands that make the devices he uses very prone to slipping. He uses the Nothing Phone (1) as his primary device right now and told me how the matte finish on the sides of the Phone 2a felt grippy and better than Nothing’s first phone. However, do note that for some reason the White variant of the phone does not offer this strong a grip at the sides.

It is the back of the phone, however, that makes Phone 2a stand out in a market where every other phone looks the same. I’m not saying it just because of the presence of Nothing’s trademark Glyph Interface or transparent rear panel. It is the amount of thought put into crafting this device.

The Phone 2a comes with just three Glyph strips at the back as compared to the Nothing Phone 1’s five and Phone 2’s eleven strips. However, it retains the Phone 2’s progress bar indicator strip that works with certain apps like Uber, Zomato, and the like.

Out of the three Glyph strips on the Nothing Phone 2a, one acts as a progress bar for apps.

This is something the Nothing Phone 1 lacks. However, do note that the Glyph lighting is limited to the upper portion of the Phone 2a’s back panel and does not bring a charging indicator like the other two phones.

Another thing is the unique and rather strange camera module design, which makes it stand out from Nothing’s own lineup of Phone 1 and Phone 2.

I’m not a fan of big camera modules that serve no utility. A very good example of a useful camera module design would be that of the Pixel 8 Pro, which does not just lift the device up evenly from the top, but keeps it steady to prevent wobbling. That camera module is also home to Pixel 8 Pro’s temperature sensor, which I tested out last year.

The Nothing Phone 2a does not come with anything as extravagantly useless but hits the spot in terms of sheer camera module design.

Let’s talk about the camera module placement first. When you hold the phone in landscape mode from any direction like when you are gaming (more on it later), your fingers don’t brush against the camera sensors and smudge them.

Additionally, this camera module also keeps the phone steadier when placing it on a flat surface. I have this lazy habit of typing with the phone placed on my desk instead of picking it up. And, I was surprised by how it did not wobble even slightly as my big, heavy hands went all combative on the display. So, while the camera module may remind you of Peppa Pig’s nose (unsee that), it brings some solid utility to the table.

The camera module on the Nothing Phone 2a keeps wobbling at bay and is also out of your finger’s reach when holding the device in landscape mode.

Besides, the back panel is glass-imitating polycarbonate and not glass like the other two phones from the brand. However, given how the phone was in my bag multiple times without any case and collided against my keys, two other phones, and more, I did not see any major scratches. Yes, some minor scratches did show up understandably, albeit not as easily.

I’d still recommend using a good-quality case if I were you. Especially, one with camera bumps to protect the camera module of the device. This is because since the camera module is also made out of plastic and the phone will rest on it for the most part, it won’t take long for the camera module and sensors to get scratches as well. Better not to find out.

Moreover, weighing 190 grams, it is a lightweight phone. It feels more comfortable to hold than even some of the slightly lighter phones in the budget due to the solid weight distribution at play here.

Then come the buttons, which are made out of aluminum. That is pretty rare in the budget segment and even in the more expensive price brackets. I daily drive a OnePlus 11R, and it also comes with plastic buttons. Even the POCO X6 and Moto Edge 40 Neo that I separately compared the Nothing Phone 2a with, come with plastic buttons. Unlike plastic buttons that rattle a lot, the metal buttons on the Phone 2a feel way more solid and durable.

I also like the placement of the buttons on the Nothing Phone 2a a lot. You get to see the power button on the right side of the frame, while the volume rockers are on the left. This lets me easily take one-handed screenshots and power off/restart the phone instead of pushing my buttons by cramming all of them on one side.

Nothing Phone 2a power button and volume rockers are made out of aluminum and feel more solid and durable

Another very important thing to note is that unlike the Nothing Phone 1, the Phone 2a will not let dust gather inside the transparent back. Nothing has addressed this issue and promised that the design construction of the Phone 2a will keep it from happening.

Nothing Phone 2a: Display

Key Takeaways: 1. The 6.7-inch AMOLED display comes with slim symmetrical bezels all around
2. There’s adaptive refresh rate support, which goes down to as low as 30Hz and up to 120Hz.
3. Although Nothing claims this display has a peak brightness of up to 1300 nits, we recorded over 1700 nits peak levels during our testing.

When I was done admiring the design of the phone, it was time to take a good look at the display. I have always like symmetry in everything and the symmetrical bezels on Nothing phones really hit the spot for me.

The Nothing Phone 2a is no exception, and we get a big 6.7-inch Full-HD+ (1084 x 2412 pixels) AMOLED display with symmetrical bezels all around. This display is also backed by a fast 120Hz refresh rate. The good thing is that this is adaptive and the refresh rate can automatically go down to as low as 30Hz.

According to Nothing, its Phone (2a) features a peak brightness of 1300 nits. However, when I put it side-by-side with the Moto Edge 40 Neo, which also supports 1300 nits brightness, the Phone 2a felt more comfortable to view outdoors and blinding indoors. Something didn’t feel right.

So, I decided to put it to the test using the Lux Meter at the Beebom office, and I was baffled to see the Nothing Phone 2a hit a peak brightness of over 1,700 nits. We have shown this in our YouTube video as well.

You get to enjoy this peak brightness when you toggle on the HDR video option in display settings. In the settings, you can also shuffle between the Alive and Standard color tone modes, and adjust the color temperature accordingly. But, note that you don’t get to see DCI-P3 coverage on the display, which gives the Moto Edge 40 Neo a bit of leverage as it produces slightly richer colors.

Although Nothing claims that the Phone 2a can hit a peak brightness of 1300 nits, during my testing, it went over 1700 nits.

But, the bigger display on the Nothing Phone 2a coupled with impressive brightness levels made viewing HDR videos on YouTube a feast for the eyes. I also watched a bit of The Batman on Netflix and the black levels were amazing during those dark and gritty scenes. I also binge-watched Demon Slayer on the phone and it was fun to watch those splashy and gaudy fight scenes on this display as well.

Then comes the 2160 Hz PWM frequency which, if you are sensitive to the flicker of OLED displays at lower brightness levels, will make it easy on your eyes. All in all, the Nothing Phone 2a’s display is really good and bright and will not feel inadequate outdoors or indoors.

Nothing Phone 2a: Software Experience

Key Takeaways: 1. Nothing Phone 2a comes with NothingOS 2.5 based on Android 14, which is also bloatware-free.
2. From seamless animations to a super snappy UI in general, it offers top-of-the-line software experience in the budget.
3. Phone 2a will receive 3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security patches.

There are not a lot of mid-range bloatware-free smartphones available in the market right now. Yes, there is the Moto Edge 40 Neo, but it comes with its own set of UI optimization issues, which I have mentioned in my detailed comparison of the two phones.

Not to mention that it also comes with this widget that shows you ads on the home screen. Although it’s only a widget and you can remove it, but still. Apps like LinkedIn and Facebook also come pre-installed on the Moto Edge 40 Neo, by the way. You can uninstall them, but the Nothing Phone 2a does not feature any such apps. There are only essential Google apps on the phone.

The Android 14-based Nothing OS 2.5 is also unlike any other software I have used in this segment. The animations are mind-bogglingly smooth, and the UI, absolutely clean. Be it opening an app, summoning the recent apps tab or just multitasking and shuffling between apps, everything screams premium in terms of software experience. The AOD transition into the lock screen is also just so satisfying.

On top of that, the Nothing Phone 2a is backed by 3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security patches. Yeah, the POCO X6 is backed by the same software update policy but comes with Android 13 out of the box. So, it will only get to see up to Android 16.

Then, comes the Moto Edge 40 Neo, which will only get 2 years of OS updates, up to Android 15. However, since the Phone 2a comes with Android 14 right out of the box, it will receive up to the Android 17 update, which is as good as it gets.

On top of that, you get to control the Glyph Interface on the Nothing Phone 2a like on the other phones from the company. So, from setting a Glyph timer to creating custom ringtones with the Glyph Composer app, you can do it all on the Phone 2a.

Nothing Phone 2a comes with Android 14-based Nothing OS 2.5 right out of the box and offers 3 years OS updates. So, it will get updated to Android 17.

With the Nothing OS 2.5, you get a dedicated button to use toggle on/off the Music Visualization setting. With the Nothing Phone 1 and Phone 2, it was available only as an easter egg. So, there’s that. It is fun to use, but you will probably keep the Glyph lighting turned off for the most part.

Another interesting thing to note is that Nothing has exclusively provided AI generative wallpapers on the Phone 2a. Yes, the same feature you get to see on the Galaxy S24 and Pixel 8 series. Although the feature is comparatively limited on the Phone 2a, a good additional perk to have.

All things considered, you can take my word for it, nothing beats the Nothing Phone 2a’s software experience in the budget.

Nothing Phone 2a: Performance

Key Takeaways: 1. Nothing phones are known to not perform well in benchmarks, but the Phone 2a does.
2. From day-to-day usage to gaming experience, Nothing Phone 2a handles every workload you throw at it pretty well.
3. There’s also no thermal throttling, with the phone barely hitting the 42 degree mark.

Next, we have the Nothing Phone 2a’s performance to talk about. Getting the technicalities out of the way, the Nothing Phone 2a is powered by the custom MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro. Now, this processor is based on TSMC’s 4nm architecture, and backed by up to 8GB LPDDR4X RAM and up to 256GB UFS 2.2 internal storage.

I have had the pleasure of using the device for almost a week and left no stone unturned in testing it. From running benchmarks to playing games and using it for day-to-day tasks, I have pushed the device to reach its utmost potential in these couple of days. With that said, here are my findings:

Day-to-day Usage

As I mentioned before, the Nothing OS 2.5 offers a phenomenal software experience. Now, this very software experience also ensures that the phone does not run into any hiccups in day-to-day usage. I found no stutters or lags, even with 20-25 apps running in the background. I could still seamlessly jump from one app to another without any issues. The Nothing OS is just very well optimized with the Phone 2a.

RAM management is also very good, with most of the apps still being able to resume from where I left them. There’s a certain sense of satisfaction in using the device as your daily driver that no other phone can mimic in the budget. I rarely encountered any bugs either.

There was this Netflix playback issue though, where Netflix content was stuck in the loading screen. Once, the Glyph lighting wasn’t turning on as well. However, a restart fixed both these issues. This was most likely because of our review units running pre-production software. So, regular users won’t have to worry about it.

With my daily usage experience with the Phone 2a almost concluded, it was time to throw some heavy duty benchmarks its way.

Benchmark

1 / 7

As you can see from the screenshots, I ran AnTuTu, Geekbench 6, CPU throttling, and a couple of other benchmarks to take a look at the numbers. I was pretty impressed with these, especially since Nothing phones never hit good numbers in benchmarks.

But, the Dimensity 7200 Pro SoC being very well optimized with the Nothing Phone 2a could be the reason behind it. Moreover, TSMC’s 4nm architecture is power efficient and stable, which explains the 91% stability it hit in the CPU Throttling test. Since it does come with an AI feature, I ran the AI Benchmark test as well, and that too turned out to be fine.

Nothing Phone 2a’s Dimensity 7200 Pro performs very well in benchmarks and offers a stable performance throughout.

Gaming

Sticking to my previous point when running benchmarks, the Nothing phones’ chipsets have never felt like they were optimized to bring true gaming performance. However, after gaming on the 7200 Pro-powered Nothing Phone 2a, I know for certain that’s not the case with this one.

While the competitor phones like Moto Edge 40 Neo and POCO X6 stuttered to some extent when running Genshin Impact, the Phone 2a delivered consistent frames without any major frame drops. It ran CoD Mobile pretty well too, and I had no problems with that game either. BGMI was able to run seamlessly as well. Here’s a look at the maximum graphics settings you can run these games at on the device:

GamesFPS/Settings
Genshin ImpactHigh Graphics: 42-55FPS
CoD MobileLow/Ultra Settings: 90FPS (Multiplayer), 90FPS (Battle Royale)
High/Max Settings: 60FPS (Multiplayer and Battle Royale)
BGMISmooth + Extreme Setting: 60FPS
HDR + Ultra: 40FPS

Most importantly, when running these games, never for once did the phone feel like it was getting uncomfortably hot. When I used the thermal gun at the Beebom office, it barely hit the 42 degrees mark when gaming, which is great.

Nothing Phone 2a: Cameras

Key Takeaways:

1. Nothing Phone 2a rear camera setup captures natural-looking photos, and it retains the details well during the day as well as at night.
2. The ultra-wide-angle sensor turns up shots with a bit of lens flare at times.
3. The 32MP selfie camera takes commendable photos with good edge detection during the day with slight skin smoothening at night.

Now, let’s talk about the camera specifications of the Nothing Phone 2a a bit. It comes with a dual rear camera system, with a 50 MP Samsung ISOCELL GN9 sensor at the helm as the primary sensor. The secondary sensor is a 50 MP Samsung ISOCELL JN1 sensor ultra-wide-angle sensor with a FOV of 114 degrees. At the front, the phone sports a 32 MP Sony IMX 615 sensor.

The camera app on the Phone 2a is straightforward and does not make anything unnecessarily complex, which I liked. There’s also Ultra HDR support for photos to take HDR rendering to a new level and retain the photo information way better than normal JPEG does.

I took quite a few shots with the Phone 2a’s camera setup, both during the day and at night. Let me take you through them:

Daylight

Starting with photos taken during the day, the Nothing Phone 2a maintains the details well. Also, there seems to be no unnatural processing of sorts to further enhance the image. For the most part, the colors that the Phone 2a’s primary sensor produces are similar to what you see with your own two eyes.

However, the ultra-wide can’t maintain these natural colors and there’s some color disparity of sorts. Details are retained well though, so no complaints on that front.

This is sadly rare in the budget segment with most phones unnecessarily boosting the photos to make them look more vivid. Even with human subjects, the Phone 2a manages the natural skin tones and details very well. Moreover, in portrait mode, the edge detection is great.

I also noticed how the Phone 2a’s sensors handle shadows and highlights pretty well. This allows the shots to have great dynamic range in them. But, do note that the ultra-wide sensor does not come with autofocus.

Night Time

At night as well, photos retain true-to-life tones and don’t boost the photos like other phones in the budget in order to make the colors look vibrant.

The sensors on the device also contain the light sources very well, without letting them blow up and ruin the pictures. That is always a good thing.

However, do note that pictures taken through the ultra-wide sensor of the Nothing Phone 2a sometimes had quite the lens flare in them. Maybe a issue with both our units or just due to the phones running on pre-production software? Either way, this was an issue.

Selfie Shooter

The front camera of the Nothing Phone 2a is commendable as well. While most of the other phones that I tested were overprocessing the images, the Phone 2a did no such thing. Instead, you get to see accurate skin tones and good details as you zoom in.

The portrait shots are pretty good as well, with good enough edge detection. However, at night, selfies have some sort of slight smoothening effect which I’m not fond of. Otherwise, detailing is handled very well here as well.

Videos

When it comes to videos, the Nothing Phone 2a can capture videos in up to 4K at 30 FPS through its primary rear sensor.

It can also capture 1080p 60 FPS videos from both the rear and front camera sensors. The stabilization is amazing throughout and there was absolutely no focus-hunting issue either. Additionally, the microphone quality is also pretty good and better than the other phones I tested out in the budget.

Night-time videos are also pretty good with well-managed light levels and stabilization not losing its grip.

Another thing to note is that the phone can capture HDR videos at 1080p 30 FPS. However, I couldn’t see any major difference as such when compared to regular videos.

Nothing Phone 2a: Battery and Charging

Key Takeaways: 1. The 5,000mAh battery on the Nothing Phone 2a delivered a screen-on time of around 7 hours and 30 minutes during our testing.
2. This battery backup is after we watched YouTube videos for 1.5 hours, binge-watched Netflix for 2 hours, gamed for around 3.5 hours and ran stress tests.
3. The phone takes about an hour and 10 minutes to fully charge with the 45W charger, which you need to buy separately.

Talking about the battery on the Nothing Phone 2a, it is a 5,000mAh unit. This battery capacity is backed by up to 45W fast charging support. You don’t get to see wireless charging, which none of the phones in the budget offer either. While the on-paper battery capacity is good, I had to see how it translates in real life. So, I took it out for a run.

The battery life on the Nothing Phone 2a is amazing, giving an average of 7 hours or more of screen-on time.

I played YouTube videos for around 1.5 hours, streamed Netflix content for 2 hours, played Genshin Impact for an hour, BGMI for around 1.5 hours, and even ran a round of 3DMark stress tests. After all this, Nothing Phone 2a delivered a commendable battery backup of 7 hours and 31 minutes.

As for the charging speeds, the Nothing Phone 2a was at 1% when I started charging it at 2:32 AM. At around 3:38 AM, the device was fully charged. So, in total, the device will take around an hour and 10 minutes to charge fully.

Nothing Phone 2a: Connectivity

Key Takeaway: The Nothing Phone 2a comes with 13 5G bands which offered great connectivity with full bars for the most part. There is also NFC support here.

In terms of connectivity, you get all the good stuff and there’s not much of any compromises here. The Nothing Phone 2a comes with WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3. You also get NFC, which is great. Additionally, the smartphone comes with 13 5G bands.

I ran the 5G speed test as well to see how stable the 5G connectivity is. Whether I used a Jio or Airtel SIM, I got pretty good 5G coverage, with those bars being full most of the time. So, even when it comes to connectivity options, the Nothing Phone 2a won’t let you down.

Should You Buy the Nothing Phone 2a?

Right now, the Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 price segment has sort of become the new budget category for smartphones. This has happened because of Redmi and Realme pushing their beloved Note and Number series past the Rs 20,000 price point.

Now, with multiple smartphones releasing left, right, and center in this price bracket, we rarely get to see an offering that redefines the category. So, ultimately, it is the pocket burning flagship phones which bring that extra something to talk about. However, that changes now with the Nothing Phone 2a, for sure.

Nothing Phone (2a) is the offering that will make Realme, Redmi, OnePlus, and the likes shake in their boots.

From a well-thought-out design to the cleanest software experience possible, the Nothing Phone 2a is everything you would expect from a good near-perfect smartphone.

I’m saying near-perfect because there are a couple of things that Nothing should have done to make it a complete smartphone. Firstly and most importantly, the brand should have offered a charger in the box. In a saturated market where competitor phones are providing not just a charger, but also a good quality case right in the box, it only makes sense.

It would have certainly added a lot more value to the phone, especially since Nothing’s own 45W charger costs Rs. 2,499. There are other cheaper alternatives available, but you will have to spend that extra money nevertheless. Besides, you will need to pay for a good case since it does not come with one. Those looking to buy a sub-Rs 25,000 phone are on a strict budget (or already stretching it) and don’t want to compromise. So, honestly, this is a bit of a disappointment.

Then comes the build quality, which is somewhere Nothing has done some cost-cutting. In a sea of phones with glass and vegan leather backs, Nothing Phone 2a’s plastic back sticks out as a sore thumb.

We don’t know how much effort or money it takes for Nothing to put the Glyph lights on its devices. And I understand that the Glyph lighting has become the brand’s identity at this point. But, when it comes to creating a budget-focused phone like the Phone 2a, could it have been omitted?

Instead of the Glyph lights, could providing the device with a metal construction or glass back have been a better idea? Or, is that too much to ask for? Maybe Nothing is already exploring ideas around this with its next offering. Or, maybe not. But, either way, these things definitely matter and give certain competitor phones leverage over the Phone 2a.

Another thing to consider is that being the growing brand that it is (although fast-growing), it was only recently that Nothing opened its first exclusive service center in Bangalore. There are several multi-brand authorized service centers. However, since the brand is new, just the one “Nothing-branded” service center. So, although this is a great phone, do be wary of the repair situation too.

All things considered, I can easily say that I haven’t used a phone with such incredible software and fluidity in this price bracket in a while. In addition, the design choices, bright display, stellar speakers, exceptional cameras, and incredible battery life make it unbeatable.

Unless something as substantial as this releases, I don’t mind calling it my current favorite budget smartphone. Starting at Rs. 23,999 for the 8GB+128GB base model, the Nothing Phone 2a has set a bar too high for any budget phone to beat. At least for now.

What about you? Are you planning on buying the Nothing Phone 2a? If not, which smartphone do you have your eyes on instead, and why? Let us know in the comments down below!

Beebom Score
7
Design and Build
9
Display
10
Software Experience
9
Performance
8
Cameras
7.5
Battery and Charging
8
Connectivity
Comments 1
  • A says:

    Are UFS 2.2 and LPDDR4X true?

Leave a Reply