Nothing Says Something About the Monochromatic Landscape of Smartphones

06.10.24 | By
Nothing Says Something About the Monochromatic Landscape of Smartphones

Nothing has always looked different from its beginning. Founded by Chinese-Swedish entrepreneur Carl Pei in 2020, the brand’s see-through industrial design language – spearheaded by music device darlings Teenage Engineering – quickly allowed the startup to find a niche within the competitive mobile device category. Supplemented by their own clarified flavor of Android known as Nothing OS, and directed by Dyson’s longtime former design lead, Adam Bates, the London-based operation’s goal to “make tech fun again” has taken form in various iterations, both obvious and surprising; this includes lab coats inspired by 1970s-era IBM and vibrant yellow variant Ear (a) earbuds. Count the new Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition as another expressive extension of the brand’s inside-out ethos, one notably embellished by its own brand of colors.

The Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition features a transparent back panel, revealing internal components and dual rear cameras.

The standout feature of the Nothing Phone (2a) is undoubtedly its Glypth interface. A futuristic interplay of LED lights, the Glyph interface isn’t just for show. It’s designed to provide a new way to interact with your device. Notifications, call alerts, and charging status are conveyed through a series of dynamic light patterns on the phone’s translucent back, creating a visually engaging experience that’s as functional as it is mesmerizing.

The brand’s name says otherwise, but there’s indeed something about the Nothing phones that stokes curiosity. In an industry saturated with sameness, the Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition’s bold, visually arresting design and innovative LED-illuminated Glyph notification interface are outliers. The special edition is also divergent from the brand’s primarily monochromatic palette, one magnified by conspicuous moments of color across the device’s case back.

Adam Bates, Design Director at Nothing, says the inspiration behind the Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition’s more colorful variation is an expression of the company’s distinct brand identity. Red, blue, and yellow embellishments dot the transit-inspired graphic case back with a dual lens camera array that imbues the device with a pair of “eyes.”

Adam Bates, Design Director at Nothing, with shoulder-length hair wearing a dark jacket examines a Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition, in a room with shelves containing tools and components.

“The [Phone (2a) Special Edition] is the first product to explore our palette of the primary colors; red, blue, and yellow. Its overall aesthetic references some of our design heroes from the past, whilst creating a new expression for a smartphone. Elevating a functional device into a striking piece of art,” says Adam Bates, Design Director at Nothing.

Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition’s snaking graphic case is attributed in part to Massimo Vignelli’s iconic NYC subway line. But the sum of its design seems even more strongly an homage to the British studio, Designers Republic, sharing many of the hallmark details – imaginary corporate brand iconography, futuristic typography, with a sprinkle of Japanese transportation signage thrown in – that made the British design studio so ubiquitous during the aughts.

A white Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition with a transparent back showing internal components and a dual-camera setup, placed on a grid background.

A Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition with a transparent back cover showing internal components, including dual cameras and various circuits, is floating above a grid-patterned surface.

Underneath its striking exterior, the Nothing Phone (2a) SE doesn’t skimp on performance. The Nothing OS experience is delivered via a 6.7” flexible AMOLED display capable of 1,300 nits of peak brightness, 20GB RAM (12 + 8 GB RAM Booster), and 256GB of storage. Inside a MediaTek Dimensity 7200 Pro processor is paired with a 5,000 mAh battery, delivering somewhere along the lines of a mid-tier smartphone, but honestly more than sufficient for the vast majority of users. In hand, the device feels satisfyingly comfortable in dimension, with just enough heft to keep it on the right side of perceived quality/durability (unlike many devices, the Nothing Phone (2a) SE doesn’t immediately scream, “put on a case!”).

Nothing smartphone showcasing a transparent back revealing internal components on the left, and the front screen displaying a weather widget, date, and camera interface on the right, exemplifies the sleek design of the Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition.

Another notable update is ChatGPT integration now living across all of Nothing and CMF by Nothing’s audio and smartphone catalog. Accessible via a ChatGPT widget living on the device’s home screen, users can circumvent traditional search engine queries.

The Nothing Phone (2a) Special Edition is as much a fashion accessory as it is a piece of technology supplemented by a visually engaging UI and notification system, distinguishing itself from all the perfectly fine slabs of sameness we’ve all become used to. If you’re of the belief a phone should not only be a functional tool but also a reflection of personal style, the £349 ($445) device is yours to be had from Nothing’s site, with limited in-store availability at the Nothing Store in London.

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Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at