The Nothing Phone 2a is a light-up budget phone for $349


Hot off the embarrassing implosion of its messaging app, the upstart hardware company Nothing is back to making phones again. This time it’s a budget device, the “Nothing Phone 2a,” which is being sold in Europe for 329 euros and sort of coming to the US for $349 on a “Developer program” with limited carrier support.

Just like the bigger Nothing Phone 2, this has a unique rear design full of lights and faux-mechanical cladding embedded under the clear back. On this model, that clear back is plastic, while the front is glass. There is some aluminum somewhere in the mid-frame, but the sides are plastic.

As usual with Nothing phones, it’s very odd to be able to see the screw heads on the back but not access them because of the glued-on rear cover. In a world where everyone, Nothing included, pitches “more sustainable” devices, you could be both good-looking and repairable with a design like this, if you just didn’t entomb the screws under a clear cover. The phone only has IP54 dust and water resistance, meaning it can’t handle much more than rain, so it’s not like the glue construction is doing much. Still, it’s nice to see a budget phone with some design work put into it, even if it is this phony faux-repairable design language.

For specs, we have a 6.7-inch, 120 Hz, 2412×1084 OLED display, powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro SoC. The Mediatek is a 4 nm chip with two Arm Cortex A715 cores and six A510 cores. In a 2023 flagship Arm SoC, these cores would handle the “medium” and “background” processing tasks with a “big” X3 core handling the primary workloads, but the budget chip has the primary core sliced off. So it’s slow, but it’s slow and modern, which is nice. You still get a 5000 mAh battery, which should last a while with the cheaper SoC. Nothing claims “2 days” of battery life, and if you need a recharge, 45 W fast charge is a nice-to-have feature at this price point.

The base model has 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, with an option to jump to 12GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. The phone has Wi-Fi 6E, UFS 3.1 storage, an in-screen fingerprint reader, NFC, and an Arm Mali-G610 MC4 GPU. It ships with Android 14, and Nothing promises three years of major OS updates and four years of security updates.

The rear camera design is a good exercise in restraint: There are only two cameras, a set of 50MP sensors (main and ultrawide) of unknown provenance. Often, Android manufacturers think “more cameras = better,” and these budget phones are loaded with useless 2 MP sensors that are just here to fill out a spec sheet. If we’re here to hit a price point, superfluous rear cameras should be the first thing to go. I would be happy with one!

The US launch situation is kind of sketchy. This doesn’t have the right bands for US carriers, so Nothing is making it available via a “developer program,” and you’ll just have to deal with the limited connectivity. You can view the bands here and what each US carrier needs here, but what really matters is what bands are prevalent in your local area, so we can’t draw too many conclusions other than “you’re winging it.” It’s a shame because this might be a serious budget competitor here otherwise. The main markets seem to be Europe, India, and Singapore, where the phone has more sensible carrier compatibility. Preorders start today.

Listing image by Nothing


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