The Nothing Phone 2A proves thoughtful design can come at a budget price

Nothing Phone 2a on a solid red background showing glyph interface.
A standout in a sea of same-looking budget phones.

Budget phones tend to be pretty forgettable, but the Nothing Phone 2A isn’t your average budget phone — that much is obvious just looking at it.

The 2A is Nothing’s third phone, and its first attempt at a truly inexpensive device. And it’s very budget-friendly: the Phone 2A goes on sale today starting at £319 (€329) for a model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. A 12GB/256GB version will cost £349 (€379). Preorders open today, and the phone will ship on March 12th. The 256GB variant will be sold in the US for $349, but there’s a catch — it’s only available through a developer program and the phone will only work on T-Mobile. That’s our loss, because Nothing has created a device that really stands out from the crowd.

Nothing Phone 2a on a solid red background showing home screen.
The minimalist aesthetic carries through the homescreen treatment.

We’ve had a few glimpses of the Phone 2A in the past few weeks so its specs don’t come as a total surprise, but here’s the rundown: it comes with a 6.7-inch, 120Hz OLED screen with Gorilla Glass 5 and 1080p resolution — well, 1084 x 2412, to be exact. There’s a massive 5,000mAh battery that supports 45W wired charging, though there’s no wireless charging here. The Phone 2A uses a MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro chipset, which we already knew, and comes with an IP54 rating, which we didn’t.

The design is unmistakably Nothing, from the transparent back panel to the stylish monochrome UI. The centered camera module includes a 50-megapixel main with an f/1.8 lens and optical stabilization, which is very rare in phones under $500. There’s a 50-megapixel f/2.2 ultrawide and a 32-megapixel front-facing camera. Three light strips around the rear cameras make up the Phone 2A’s glyph interface, bringing over familiar features from the Phone 2 like “flip to glyph” to quickly silence the phone and instead be notified via its flashing lights.

Nothing Phone 2a on a solid red background showing always on display
Blinking lights are cool and all, but this always-on display is where it’s at.

Given all of the above, $349 is an extremely reasonable asking price. Sure, the outer frame and back panel are plastic, it’s only splash-resistant, and the glyph interface is still mostly a curiosity, but it’s only $349. It’s easier to understand why certain features like a more robust IP-rating aren’t here, more so than on the $599 Phone 2.

That price tag also makes it easier to appreciate what is here: the glyph interface feels like a fun extra, and the informative always-on display is one of my favorites on any phone. There’s NFC for contactless payments, which isn’t always the case on budget phones, and if you’re unsure exactly where to tap the device you can just look — it’s right there on the back of the phone. Likewise, Nothing’s minimalist UI feels almost like a luxury in this category, where you’ll occasionally find the worst kind of bloatware.

It’s almost too good to be true — and if you live in the US, that’s kind of the case. The Phone 2A is only available through Nothing’s developer program, which is open to anyone, but the device only works on T-Mobile’s network. It supports the carrier’s n41 band, which is really the backbone of its 5G network, but Verizon and AT&T’s 5G networks aren’t supported. Even if you’re on T-Mobile, it seems a little dicey to rely on the Phone 2A as a daily driver without full support on LTE and low-band 5G. Disappointing, but hey — cool phones skipping the US? That’s nothing new.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge