Hands-on: The Nothing Phone 2a is a brilliant budget pick

The camera island on the back of the Nothing Phone (2a) with the glyph lights illuminated
(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Update March 6, 2024: Updated the article to reflect additional availability worldwide.

Last week, Nothing unveiled the design of the Nothing Phone 2a at MWC Barcelona 2024, showcasing the redesigned glyph interface for the first time. Now that I've had the phone in my hand for a few days, I can bring some more detailed impressions about Nothing's first budget-priced phone.

There's very little here not to love. The display is a crisp OLED panel with 2,160Hz PWM dimming and good enough brightness to see in the sun — although it's nowhere near as bright as some other recently-released phones — and the dual 50MP cameras are surprisingly capable despite the $349 price tag.

The 32MP selfie camera is twice the resolution of the Nothing Phone 1, and the MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro processor inside is nearly 20% faster than the Snapdragon 778G+ in that phone, all while retailing for far less. This is a budget phone that's actually good for gaming, and I had no problems playing anything I tried on the device.

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Nothing Phone (2a) specs
Nothing Phone 2aSpecs
ProcessorMediatek Dimensity 7200 Pro
Display6.7-inch Flexible AMOLED with Gorilla Glass 5
Display specs30-120Hz, 1,300 nit peak brightness, 2,160Hz PWM
Camera 150MP Samsung GN9, f/1.88, 1/1.56-inch, OIS, PDAF
Camera 250MP Samsung JN1, 114-degree FoV
Front camera32MP Sony IMX615
Battery5,000mAh, 45W wired charging
Connectivity5G, Wi-Fi 6e, Bluetooth, NFC
IP ratingIP54
Size161.74 mm x 76.32 mm x 8.55 mm
ColorsWhite, Milk, Black
Starting Price$349/£319/€329/₹23,999

The company outfitted the Nothing Phone 2a with a fully polycarbonate chassis — even the aluminum side rails are coated in a grippy polycarbonate resin — and it's both light and durable because of it. It certainly feels "cheaper" than the Nothing Phone 2, but that shouldn't be a surprise, given that it's nearly half the price.

Nothing even went so far as to use 100% recycled aluminum, tin, and copper throughout the phone. Plus, I was told that scrap material from Nothing Ear 2 production was used to ensure less waste and a lower carbon footprint for the new device.

The glyph interface is back and has been refined, offering three different LED strips on the top half of the phone surrounding the unique camera lens configuration. That's fewer LEDs than the Nothing Phone (1) or (2), but most of the functionality remains the same.

I'll say the white model looks a lot more attractive than the black model because of the curvature of the glass around the lenses, which was designed to help protect the camera and offer a bit of style.

The display's 2,160Hz PWM dimming mode kicks in below 50% brightness. Above that level, you'll find it uses DC-like dimming for a more eye-friendly experience. That's excellent news for PWM-sensitive folks, but no surprise given that Nothing's phones have been on our list of best phones for PWM-sensitive people since we began keeping tally.

This isn't the most comfortable display I've used lately, but it's still better than displays that use PWM at all brightness levels — better than all Samsung and Pixel phones, in other words.

Nothing Phone (2a) with the stock glass red wallpaper

(Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

The one hold-up is the phone's availability. Open sales start on March 5 in the UK, Europe, Australia, and India and the phone comes in three colorways: White, Milk, and Black. You can only get the pure white version on the Nothing.tech website, though, so plan accordingly.

One model ships with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage for £319/€329/₹23,999, and users can opt for a model including 12GB RAM and 256GB storage for £349/€379/₹27,999. Folks in India can get a special middle-priced model for ₹25,999 which includes 8GB RAM and 256GB storage.

U.S. customers need to apply as a developer in order to purchase it.

But U.S. users can only buy the Nothing Phone 2a by signing up for the company's Developer Program after March 12, where a $349 model with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage in the black colorway can be had. Nothing will release the white model after a week, but there's no mention of open sales for "regular" users in the future.

Nothing has a fantastic budget phone on its hands here that could easily top the list of best cheap phones. We'll be putting it through our usual set of tests over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for a full review to see the final determination.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu