I’ve been happily avoiding the Nothing Phone (1) hype so far – nothing that’s been officially announced sparks joy, and I’m very wary of products for which the main selling point is the charisma of the influential figure behind it (see also: everything Musk has ever touched).
But a recent leak has lit a small spark in me for this upcoming debut Android phone. Apparently, the phone will launch at a mid-range price – €500 to be exact (which converts to around $540, £430, AU$750).
That’s less than I had expected the Nothing Phone to debut for, as the pomp and ceremony that’s already been held for the phone led me to believe it’d be a premium handset to rival the Samsung Galaxy S22 or iPhone 14. And even though I’ve still not really boarded the hype train, I’m at least lining up to buy a ticket.
Mid-range is perfect
The mid-range Android phone market is one of the fastest-paced and most competitive areas of the smartphone world, with companies jostling to offer devices that blend middling prices with high specs.
The mid-range phone market is where OnePlus earnt its popularity – that same OnePlus whose co-founder is now in charge of Nothing – and it’s also how brands like Xiaomi and Oppo grew from ‘fledgling Chinese phone companies’ to ‘global players’.
Due to the competition in the mid-range phone market, both from the multitude of mobiles and the pressures of the equally-charming budget and premium sectors, these devices need to be great. Companies have to be incredibly competitive, offering the highest specs at the lowest prices, to play in the league.
And the most memorable mid-range phones do just that: the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 and Oppo Reno 10x Zoom had fantastic cameras for their prices, while the Moto G200 and Poco F4 GT offer top-end performance on a budget.
It doesn’t hurt that the mid-range market is more appealing to tech aficionados. People who don’t know their Snapdragons from their Dimensities are more likely to wander into a store and buy the first expensive Galaxy S or iPhone they see, or perhaps whichever budget Moto G or Nokia handset catches their eye.
However, people who like picking over specs and features are likely more drawn into the particular nuances of different mid-range phones.
That is the Nothing Phone (1)’s market after all: the device is being sold on the legacy of Carl Pei, Nothing’s founder, with features that appeal to tech fans. The design of the device gives that away more than anything else: the back is see-through, so you can see the internals of the handset.
The slowing market
Despite the competitiveness of the mid-range phone market, I haven’t really been captivated by such a phone in a while now – partially due to the mobile trends diverging from features I like (where have the curved-edge phones gone? Why are there rarely any mid-range camera phones?), but partly for another reason.
Lots of the makers who grew popular from mid-range phones, like OnePlus and Xiaomi, have now largely abandoned the market in favor of the more profitable premium phone game. There’s simply less effort being put into the mid-range market, despite the potential big wins involved.
That’s why the Nothing Phone (1)’s leaked price interested me though: it shows that Nothing is willing to step up and make a medium-priced phone, instead of jumping straight into the premium market.
I’m much more likely to be impressed by a phone that juggles great specs with an affordable price, than one which costs an arm and a leg and barely provides a better experience.
Each of my favorite phones that I’ve tested while working for TechRadar have been mid-rangers, and I’m excited by the possibility that the Nothing Phone (1) could join that list.
Wait – did I just use ‘excited’ and ‘Nothing Phone (1)’ in the same sentence? Oops – better keep that in check until the official price is actually announced.