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Nothing's Phone (1) Is All About Those Lights

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  • Posted on 20th Jul, 2022 08:51 AM
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Nothing has released Phone (1) outside of the US, and the biggest feature might be the lights encased in the transparent housing, which can be used to differentiate notifications.

  • Nothing’s Phone (1) packs an array of LED lights behind its clear-glass rear panel.
  • Those lights can flash out custom notification patterns for individual contacts.
  • It’s still just an Android phone, but it’s a really, really cool one.

Nothing

As gimmicks go, the light show round back on Nothing's Phone (1) is pretty conspicuous. But it's also useful and—above all—fun.

The Phone (1) is essentially just another Android phone, but it shows what can be done when you stray from the increasingly dull slab-of-glass design invented by Apple and copied by pretty much every other smartphone maker. And while there are a few nice design touches and features, the one that really shines—quite literally—is the array of LEDs on the back.

"Nothing's Phone (1) is said to be disrupting the smartphone market by revamping the modern user experience. Most notably, their play has come in the form of notification-based LED lights on the back of the device," digital marketer Aaron Gray told Lifewire via email.

Light Show

The Phone (1) comes from Nothing, a UK-based company founded by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei. Its much-hyped first handset is only available outside the US, but that hasn’t stopped it from making a huge buzz, thanks to a constant drip-feed of media releases and a genuinely cool design.

Nothing

The front and sides of the Phone (1) look just like an iPhone but flip it over and you see everything. The back panel is—like the iPhone—glass, but this time it’s transparent, a window showing the machine's guts, including a charging coil, the cameras, and the striking array of LED strips and stripes.

And these lights, more than the nicer clean UI design, or anything else, really define the Phone (1). They can be assigned to shine and pulse in different patterns and to communicate different messages sans sound without having to look at the screen.

Nothing calls this array of LEDs the Glyph interface, and it can show battery level and be used as a flash for the phone’s camera. But it can also be used to show custom patterns for notifications, so you could have a standard notification for most incoming messages but a different light show for calls and texts from your significant other.

Accessibility

The lights aren't just a fun aspect of the design (although it certainly is fun). It's also an important boon to accessibility. For example, when you're using the phone in a very loud place, you may not be able to hear the standard alert tones, and in a very quiet place—unless you're some kind of sociopath—you will have the phone muted.

Nothing

"[T]here are some design features that can help make smartphones more accessible. One example is LED notification lights. These lights can be used to indicate all sorts of notifications, like incoming calls, new messages, and so on. For someone who is hard of hearing, this can be a very useful feature," software engineer Daniel Chen told Lifewire via email.

If you've ever seen workshops where the phone is hooked up to a flashing lamp or a noisy bar or restaurant where the kitchen's food-ready bell is connected to a flasher, you'll be familiar with the utility.

The Phone (1) is not unique in this aspect. The iPhone's LED camera flash can be repurposed to signal incoming calls and other notifications in the Accessibility Settings. You can also flash the LED using iOS Shortcuts, which can be a nice ambient way to know an action is being carried out. But the Phone (1) goes one better, thanks to the custom patterns that can be assigned to individual contacts.

Unfortunately, Phone (1) suffers in terms of accessibility because it is based on Android. A clean, good-looking, heavily-customized variant of Android, but it still uses the same guts under the hood, and right now, nothing comes close to Apple in terms of built-in accessibility features.

Nothing

It's hard to come up with a genuinely new phone these days because a phone is not just a single computer but part of a system. It needs apps, it needs to sync with your existing devices and services, and so on. Android and iOS are like the boomers of the current computer world. They came up together, they had it easy, and they've ruined it for pretty much everyone else.

If you want to build a phone today, you are pretty much stuck doing it with Android, which already has the whole infrastructure thing done for you. But that doesn't mean your handset has to be yet another dull, me-too device aimed at capturing the lowest end of the market.

Viewed in this light (pun totally intended), the Phone (1) is pretty great. And the fact that it costs a little over half the price of an iPhone while doing it only makes it cooler.

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