Reviews Hardware

REVIEW: Nothing Phone 2a - Glitz, Glyph, and Glitch

A unique and stylish mid-range smartphone with some noticeable trade-offs.

5 min read
REVIEW: Nothing Phone 2a - Glitz, Glyph, and Glitch

The Nothing Phone 2a is a unique and stylish $349 mid-range smartphone that stands out with its transparent design and signature Glyph LED lights. It’s Nothing’s first attempt at the midrange, and for the most part, Nothing has created an impressive piece of hardware when compared to the competition. However, its performance and camera capabilities come with noticeable trade-offs that you should know about if you are considering the Nothing Phone 2a.

Pros

  • Distinctive transparent design with Glyph LED lights
  • Solid AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate
  • Good battery life and fast charging
  • Affordable price point of $349
  • Clean Android software experience

Cons

  • Mediocre camera performance, especially with multitasking
  • Underpowered processor can struggle with demanding tasks
  • Limited update commitment (3 years OS, 4 years security)
  • No wireless charging or official IP rating
  • Limited availability and 5G support in the US

Design and Display

Nothing has a strong signature when it comes to the design of its flagships, and the 2a thankfully retains that distinctive transparent aesthetic. This time around, the backside is made of plastic instead of glass. And yet, the device still has a premium feel to it. The centered camera bump is symmetrical which is pleasing to the eye and has the added bonus of preventing the phone from wobbling on flat surfaces. 

Nothing Phone 2a display looks great outdoors.The NThe Nff

The 6.7-inch 1080p AMOLED display delivers a sharp, colorful, and bright experience with a smooth 120Hz adaptive refresh rate - an excellent panel for this price point. Not to mention, it competes well with the sun in daylight visibility at 1300 nits of brightness.

Software and Glyph Lights

Running Android 14 with Nothing OS 2.5.5, the software offers a clean, minimalist dot-matrix design aesthetic. You can, of course, opt for a much more widgetized home screen aesthetic if you wish to really lean into Nothing’s unique design touches. I tend to prefer a more vanilla experience. While only promising 3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security patches (a reasonable trade-off for mid-range hardware), the experience is smooth for daily use.

Nothing Phone 2 (left) vs Nothing Phone 2a (right)

The signature Glyph LED lights have been scaled back to just three zones, but still provide useful notification alerts, customization options like music visualization, and even alternative options for a flashlight. While not as visually striking and impressive as the 33 zones on the flagship Nothing Phone 2, the utility remains largely intact. Also, keep in mind that the zones aren’t all or nothing. For example, when the volume level setting is activated, the light in a single zone grows as the volume gets louder. The glyphs absolutely achieve their intended purpose on the Nothing Phone 2a.

Camera Performance

The dual 50MP camera system (main and ultrawide) is reasonably capable in good lighting conditions, with well-defined colors. However, performance suffers with movement or multitasking, exhibiting stuttering, freezing, and lag when switching lenses or taking bursts of photos. The lack of autofocus on the ultrawide camera also means no macro mode like what was included on the flagship. Any pictures had a generally hazy look to them that seemed to imply a lack of dynamic range, often when there was ample light to work with. Some video footage played back with noticeably absent image stabilization resulting in a fuzzing of the output when bumps occurred. Overall, the camera output is decent but inconsistent, and not on par with Google's Pixel A-series

Overall Performance and Battery

Powered by a custom MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chip, performance is smooth for basic tasks and gaming, but the camera operation clearly taxes the processor's limits. Demanding camera use cases like switching modes during video recording led to stuttering and freezing that was not necessarily constant, but definitely noticeable when it happened.

The Nothing Phone 2a handled Genshin Impact surprisingly well!

The 5000mAh battery easily lasts through a full day with around 20-50% remaining at bedtime. The phone is capable of 45W wired charging which is reasonably fast, though not exceptionally impressive. 

Price, Availability, and Trade-offs  

At $349, the Nothing Phone 2a delivers excellent value for its design, display, and core experience. However, the limited camera performance and underpowered processor for demanding tasks are compromises that you will notice from time to time.

Other trade-offs include no wireless charging, an IP54 rating (splash-resistant but not waterproof), no headphone jack or microSD expansion. However, I believe these are all worthy of omission in a phone at this price point.

One important note regarding US availability is that the device is only offered via Nothing's Developer Program. Part of the reason for this is that the phone lacks certain 5G hardware to be truly compatible with all major bands in the United States. I used the device on the T-Mobile network via Mint Mobile and had no issues with 5G connectivity, but your mileage will definitely vary depending on the network you are using. Worst case scenario, your 2a will connect to 4G at its highest. Have no fear, though, as Nothing offers a 14-day return window if you decide it's not performant enough.

Conclusion

Overall, the Nothing Phone 2a is a compelling mid-range option for those who prioritize style and uniqueness over raw performance, but the camera and processor limitations may be deal-breakers for some. It delivers an eye-catching design and solid experience at $349 but comes with clear trade-offs that users should weigh carefully based on their needs and priorities. One thing is certain: No other phone in this price category looks quite like the Nothing Phone 2a.

Nothing Phone 2a

A unique and stylish mid-range smartphone with some noticeable trade-offs.

BUY NOW
 
Jason Howell produces tech content with a focus on the human experience. His podcasts and videos can be found at youtube.com/Techsploder. Support his work on Patreon at patreon.com/JasonHowell.

Share This Post

Check out these related posts

REVIEW: OnePlus Watch 2 - Battery and the Beast