Still a solid Pixel software alternative? [Video]

Still a solid Pixel software alternative? [Video]

Nothing hit the ground running with the phone (1). The firm’s first smartphone ships with a near-AOSP build, but it took longer than expected to release Nothing OS 1.5 on top of Android 13. Just what is new and does it improve the experience? We went hands-on to find out.

With the news that future Nothing smartphones could be coming to the United States, you might want to know what Nothing OS 1.5 has to offer over the Android 13 build found on Google Pixel phones. There really aren’t too many Android devices that offer clean, lightweight versions of the software without some major drawbacks.

The London-based startup isn’t taking on the biggest and best at this point, but Nothing OS 1.5 is certainly a lot more desirable than heavy third-party skins from the likes of Oppo and Xiaomi. Here’s everything you need to know:

Video – Nothing OS 1.5 Full Walkthrough

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Android 13 features

After all, because Nothing OS 1.5 is based on Android 13, it has wrapped a number of features and functions that have been common on Pixel phones since the official launch way back in August. Many of these features are aimed at improving usability and privacy on the device.

  • Active Applications: Background application processes can be managed and tracked from the Quick Settings panel. This allows you to stop rogue apps from running so performance doesn’t take a dive.
  • New settings buttons in QS panel: Nothing OS 1.5 adds accessibility improved settings and power controls to the quick settings panel. The new icons are found at the bottom right of a fully expanded notification panel. The “edit” icon for QS switches remains just below the quick access controls.
  • Extensive dynamic color options.
  • Theme Icons: As part of the default Nothing Launcher, there is a new option to toggle the dynamic color-driven “Theme Icons”. When enabled, supported icons will adopt a two-tone glyph design with a circular icon determined by the default system color rules.
  • Screenshot in Recents menu: The neat quick Screenshot tool is now present in the Recents app screen. It allows you to take a full-screen app screenshot without pressing hotkeys. Unfortunately, the copy text quick tool is not present in the Nothing OS 1.5 Open Beta update.
  • Per-app language settings: In addition to the default system language, Android 13 adds the ability to set app language on an individual app-by-app basis. This makes it easier for multilingual Nothing Phone (1) users to find the perfect setup for their device.
  • Floating menus for Internet/Wi-Fi and Bluetooth: Just like on Pixel devices, the expanded QS tiles for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections now appear in central floating notification panels rather than docked sections.
  • Bundled notifications: If you receive more than three notifications from at least three separate apps, Android 13 will bundle them together with shorter icons indicating that more app-specific notifications are waiting. This is visible when viewing the lock screen.
  • Scan QR code tiles in QS: Nothing OS 1.5 also adds the Google Lens powered QR code scanner to your selection of QS tiles. It simply launches Lens and allows you to scan QR codes without launching the dedicated app and changing settings.
  • New media player controls: bigger and improved with extra controls, the Android 13 media player includes improved features with playback scrubbing, app-specific control and theme based on album art. It is visible on the lock screen and in the notification screen.
  • Clipboard previews for copied text: When text is copied from web pages or other applications, it appears in a pop-up window in the lower left with the ability to edit the text, quickly share with other applications or Share Nearby to other devices on a similar to the screenshot popup tool.
  • Improved photo picker: Android 13’s photo picker is also available in Nothing OS 1.5. This privacy-enhanced pop-up UI allows you to give apps access to only the photos/albums you choose rather than your entire media/photo library.

Brand new features

In addition to many of the “core” Android 13 additions, Nothing has implemented a number of existing features that are technically brand new to the device. Some of these are even being seen outside of Pixel phones for the first time.

  • Game Dashboard: Google’s gaming toolbox is also now part of Nothing OS 1.5 with the built-in game mode, including the dedicated Game Dashboard feature. It allows you to track in-game screen refresh rates, take in-game screenshots, quickly enable or disable “Do Not Disturb Mode”, plus start live streaming to YouTube via a linked account. Game Dashboard may not work with every game.
  • Personal Safety app: The Nothing Phone (1) is the first device outside of the Pixel ecosystem to come pre-installed with the Personal Safety app. Disappointingly, car crash detection is not available. However, you can access other features such as Crisis Alerts, add medical information and add emergency contacts.
  • Redesigned volume control panel: Floating volume controls in the sidebar now include quick access to notification, media, and alarm volume controls via the three-dot overflow menu.
  • Live Captions: AI-generated captions are now available for all video content with the addition of Live Captions within Nothing OS 1.5. A quick toggle to enable this feature is also now available under the sidebar’s volume controls.
  • New Weather App: Nothing built a dedicated weather tracking app from the ground up using the firm’s dot matrix font and key design elements. It is powered by AccuWeather.
  • Screenshot Shutter: Sound and Vibration got a new option that allows the user to completely disable the screenshot shutter sound when using the default ringtone mode.

UI and cosmetic changes

Obligatory user interface and cosmetic changes are also present. Most of these tweaks are made to improve the aesthetic and visual flair of Nothing OS 1.5 on phone (1), but they don’t affect overall functionality.

  • Separation of Wi-Fi and Hotspot from Unified Internet Switch: Nothing OS 1.5 separates the large QS Internet tile with the Hotspot feature now sitting behind a dedicated tile. With this change, the ability to quickly enable/disable Wi-Fi connection is now lost. A floating panel will appear much like on Pixel devices where you can enable/disable Wi-Fi connections and see any nearby networks.
  • Smaller lock screen icons: Home and Google Wallet icons are now smaller on the lock screen similar to the Pixel series. However, the Home icon still does not conform to the updated icon.
  • Lock screen clock widget emulates at a glance on Pixel: When notifications are visible on the lock screen, the Nothing OS persistent clock/date widget now mimics the At a Glance widget found on Pixel devices. The digital time sits above the date and current weather conditions/temperature. In Android 12 and Nothing OS 1.1.7, the weather conditions are found above the digital time.
  • Rounded M3 Buttons: More areas of Nothing OS now include rounded M3 buttons or more prominent button borders. A good example is the “Clear All” button found in the Recent Apps menu.
  • Adjusted on-screen prompts: On-screen pop-ups to allow access to notifications or location information now include rounded buttons and conform to Dynamic Color settings.

Performance improvements

  • 50% boost in app load times: Nothing claims that the firm’s Android 13 build offers up to 50% faster app load times. In practice this seems to be true, but depends a lot on the application in question. However, the system should be faster when accessing apps on the device with this performance boost.
  • Self-healing: The Nothing OS system will automatically delete unused application cache and expired system dumps in an effort to improve long-term performance levels. It’s not clear how much of a difference that makes at this stage.
  • Sleep Standby Optimization: A quietly added feature in Nothing OS 1.5 is sleep standby optimization. It works by temporarily restricting mobile data and certain features on the device when it is in standby mode to help increase longevity. However, this may affect the speed at which notifications are received.

Known issues

  • Google Pay not working: Wireless payment cannot be made with the Nothing OS 1.5 beta.
  • Netflix may not work normally: Due to the nature of this beta update, certain applications, such as Netflix, may have problems or not work properly.
  • Picture-in-picture may not work normally.

When will your Niks phone (1) get Android 13?

nothing os 1.5

The Nothing OS 1.5 Open Beta offers some important performance-related improvements for what is still a midrange smartphone with modest internal hardware.

At this early stage, we would not recommend installing this Android 13 beta build on your device due to the lack of NFC payment capabilities. There are other risks like the potential to brick your device if you don’t follow the correct process. The folks at XDA have a fantastic guide on how to get started. There are also numerous leaked versions of Nothing OS 1.5 that can be downloaded via the links below:

We expect the stable release sometime in Q1 2023, which could be very soon, as this build is pretty bug-free for the most part.

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