High up on Carl Pei’s wish list for his new company’s first smartphone was the ability to marry hardware and software in a way that Apple makes look so effortless. Phone 1 is now official, and while it’s still early days as far as the firm’s ecosystem is concerned, does the handset itself stack up to Apple’s closest competitor?
To find out we pitted the Phone 1 against the iPhone SE (2022 edition), currently the most affordable model in Apple’s range. Now while Android and iOS are very different propositions, there’s plenty of intriguing tech on both sides that could convince fans of one to try out the other. Here’s which we think is the best choice for your cash.
Nothing Phone 1 vs iPhone SE (2022): price & release date
The iPhone SE is available to buy now. The 64GB variant will set you back £419/$429. There are also larger 128GB and 256GB versions, which cost £469/$479 and £569/$579 respectively.
The Nothing Phone 1 will go on sale on the 21st of July. The entry-level 8GB/128GB variant will cost £399, with 8GB/256GB setting you back £449 and 12GB/256GB costing £499.
Nothing Phone 1 vs iPhone SE (2022): tech specs
|Nothing Phone 1
|Apple iPhone SE (2022)
|6.55in OLED 2400×1080, 120Hz
|4.7in IPS LCD 1334×750, 60Hz
|50MP (main) 50MP (ultrawide)
|Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+
|Apple A15 Bionic
Design: see-through show-stealer
The iPhone SE is rapidly showing its age. It’s the only model in the iPhone line-up with a physical home button, and those chunky top and bottom bezels are positively prehistoric next to the Nothing Phone 1’s all-screen approach. With a 4.7in screen it’s also seriously small in comparison – some will love that there are still compact handsets on sale at all, but others will find it too fiddly. It’s still an exceptionally well-made device, though, with premium materials and a choice of colours.
Funnily enough the Nothing Phone 1 borrows a bit of design inspiration from Apple’s newer iPhones, with flat angles and a metal frame (made from 100% recycled aluminium) sandwiching two slabs of glass. The truly unique stuff is going on at the back, with a transparent finish that shows off some of the internal components. It also contains the glyph interface, a series of hundreds of LEDs that act as notification and call alerts, and can be customised for other features too.
At a time when even Apple fans are shunning the iPhone SE in favour of newer hardware, it’ll come as no surprise we think Nothing’s handset has the edge when it comes to styling.
Verdict: Nothing Phone 1
Screen: bigger is better
Apple’s smartphone screens have been consistently great, and the iPhone SE is no exception – but it’s still a fairly small IPS panel with a low resolution. Even with True Tone adaptive colours and a very respectable contrast ratio, it’s several steps behind the AMOLED screen seen on the Nothing Phone 1.
Nothing has opted for a Full HD+ resolution panel, which makes sense given the mid-tier pricing, but also made sure that the refresh rate can push up to a wonderfully smooth 120Hz. It plays nicely with HDR content and hides an in-display fingerprint sensor beneath its pixels. It’s considerably larger, too, at 6.55in.
Unless you have a vendetta against larger phones, Nothing has the clear win here.
Verdict: Nothing Phone 1
Camera: all about the processing
The Nothing Phone 1 has a two-lens rear camera, but the iPhone SE makes do with just one. It does has the advantage of Apple’s stellar image processing, though – made even faster and more effective by the A15 Bionic CPU. Smarter HDR and improved low-light video recording also made the cut for this latest generation. Nothing will be using a few algorithms of its own, but they aren’t quite up to Apple’s lofty standards.
In hardware terms, the Phone 1 has the advantage. Whereas the iPhone has a 12MP sensor, Nothing has equipped its handset with two 50MP sensors – one for the main lens and the second for ultrawide shooting. That means it’ll fit more of your scene into each shot. For close-up shooting, it also gets to use the glyph lighting as a fill light, which could result in more visually pleasing pics.
The Phone 1’s extra lens makes it more flexible, so if you like fitting more into every shot it gets the win. But for overall image quality, the iPhone sets the pace.
Verdict: Tie (hardware – Nothing. Image quality – iPhone)
Performance: Better be Bionic
Technically, both phones have bespoke silicon. Nothing got Qualcomm to develop a version of its Snapdragon 778G with baked-in support for wireless charging and reverse wireless charging – something you won’t find anywhere else for the price. It is, however, still a mid-range chip, meaning performance isn’t going to be flagship-fast, even with double or even triple the RAM you’d get from an iPhone SE depending on spec.
Apple’s phone, meanwhile, has the same A15 Bionic CPU you’ll find in the far pricier iPhone 13. It’s an absolute beast of a chip, able to blitz benchmark league tables and comfortably run the latest version of iOS.
The Nothing Phone 1 is certainly no slouch, but if you want the most power and gaming grunt for your money, the iPhone takes the lead here.
The other major thing to consider is software. iOS is leaps ahead of Android in many aspects, especially if you have other Apple hardware in the house. Nothing has grand ambitions to do the same, but we’re a long way from that today.
Verdict: Apple iPhone SE
Battery: close-run thing
In theory this is a big win for Nothing, seeing how the Phone 1 gets a 4500mAh battery while the iPhone SE mades do with a tiddly 2018mAh call – but things aren’t that simple.
The iPhone SE is somehow good for 15 hours of continuous video playback, which is almost on par with the much more expensive iPhone 13 Mini. Phone 1 just can’t get close to that. It’ll typically get you from morning to early evening, but for anything more you’ll need to ration your usage – not a great showing, really.
Both phones support wireless charging, but only the Nothing Phone 1 will reverse charge your accessories using its own power reserves. It has the edge where cables are concerned, too: the iPhone will manage 20W, but Phone 1 can top out at 50W with a compatible charger. Not that Nothing includes one in the box, mind.
Whether reverse charging appeals or not will largely decide who wins here. We’d rather have a longer life away from the mains, so are giving it to the iPhone.
Verdict: Apple iPhone SE
Initial verdict: Something for Nothing
In pure hardware terms, the Phone 1 has a head-and-shoulders advantage over Apple’s most affordable iPhone – at least in some areas. The iPhone SE claws back a few wins thanks to its A15 Bionic processor, and there’s no denying iOS is a brilliantly well-rounded operating system. It also takes superior photos, but makes do with a single lens – for many, the appeal of an ultrawide will sway it for Nothing.
If you’re not tied into iOS already, though, we think the Phone 1 is the better choice. It’s distinctive, with a gorgeous display, and runs a particularly streamlined version of Android. It’s also faster to charge, and has wireless charging to boot. The glyph lighting is really unique, and the dual cameras are more flexible than Apple’s one.
Winner: Nothing Phone 1