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Nothing Cellphone 1 vs Google Pixel 6a: Which is greatest?

So you’re after in the market for a new phone, preferably one that won’t break the bank, and have narrowed it down to either the Nothing Phone 1 or Google Pixel 6a.

The former comes from a flashy new start-up with a love of transparent tech and unique lighting, but is a bit of an unknown entity. The other looks set to be the latest in a string of excellent affordable handsets, straight from the company that’s actually in charge of Android. Which one gets your cash?

We’re still waiting for the Pixel 6a to land, but in the meantime we’ve compared the official spec sheets to see which phone is shaping up to be the best bang for your buck.

Nothing Phone 1 vs Google Pixel 6a: price & release date

The Nothing Phone 1 will go on sale on the 21st of July. The entry-level 8GB/128GB variant will cost £399, with 8GB/256GB setting you back £449 and 12GB/256GB costing £499.

The Google Pixel 6a is scheduled for release this summer. Google hasn’t confirmed exact dates for availability, but it did reveal that the sole 128GB variant will cost £399/$449.

Nothing Phone 1 vs Google Pixel 6a: tech specs

Nothing Phone 1 Google Pixel 6a
screen 6.55in OLED 2400×1080, 120Hz 6.1in OLED 1080×2400, 60Hz
rear cameras 50MP (main) 50MP (ultrawide) 12.2MP (wide), 12MP (ultra wide)
Front camera 16MP 8MP
processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G+ Google tensor
R.A.M. 8/12GB 6GB
Storage 128/256GB 128GB
batteries 4500mAh 4410mAh
Dimension 159x76x8.3mm 152.2×71.8×8.7mm
weight 194g 178g

Design: svelte or see-through?

Both the Pixel and the Phone 1 have the styling we’d expect from far pricier phones. On Google’s end, that’s because it has essentially taken wholesale from the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, including the width-spanning camera bar on the back. It’s made from plastic, rather than glass, though.

Nothing, on the other hand, seems to have taken a teeny bit of design inspiration from Apple. It has completely flat glass and flat metal frame, like the iPhone 13.

Flip it over, though, and you’ll immediately spot the firm’s unique transparent design in full effect. The see-through glass shows off the phone’s inner workings, including a wireless charging coil and the unique glyph interface lighting, which flashes when notifications come in. For sheer wow factor, it takes the win.

Verdict: Nothing Phone 1

Screen: that’s refreshing

Google’s affordable phones tend to stick to smaller screen sizes, and the Pixel 6a is no different. At 6.1in it’s reasonably compact, with respectably skinny screen bezels given its affordable nature. The 2400×1080 resolution is bang on the money, too. As with other Pixel phones, it’s using an AMOLED panel for unbeatable contrast.

Nothing has gone bigger with a 6.55in panel, but stuck with a 2400×1080 OLED. Bezels are even on all four sides, and the hole punch camera has been moved to the upper left corner, rather than the center like it is on the Pixel 6a. Overall pixel density might be down compared to Google’s phone, but there’s really not much in it.

The big separator is refresh rate. Google has stuck with a vanilla 60Hz for the Pixel 6a, which isn’t a big surprise given the more expensive Pixel 6 has a 90Hz panel. There’s got to be a reason to want to step up, after all. Problem is, Nothing doesn’t have to balance a range full of multiple handsets (not yet, anyway), so it can go all out for Phone 1. It has a 120Hz panel, which will make scrolling through social media feeds and website that much smoother.

Verdict: Nothing Phone 1

Camera: all down to algorithms

While both phones have a duo of rear cameras (one main, one ultrawide), nothing seemingly has a head start over the Pixel 6a with its two 50MP sensors. Google’s phone makes do with two 12MP sensors, which won’t be able to resolve as much detail. Phone 1 also gets the benefit of glyph lighting, which can be used as a fill light for close-up shots.

Pixel count is only part of the story, of course: sensor size dictates how much light each one can capture, and Google knows one thing or two about extracting excellent photos from its hardware. Its algorithms are able to stack multiple exposures to finely balance image brightness, and work wonders in low light.

Based purely on our experience with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, we’ve got to hand the win to Google here – but will be happy to be proven wrong if Nothing manages to pull off some computational photography of its own

Verdict: Google Pixel 6a

Performance: you look tensor

It’s a bit of a technicality, but both phones do have their own bespoke silicon. Google has used its Tensor chip in the more expensive Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, so the Pixel 6a is hardly going to struggle with any app or game available in the Google Play Store right now.

Nothing asked Qualcomm to add wireless charging and reverse charging support to the Snapdragon 778G+ CPU it’s using in Phone 1, as that chip doesn’t natively support the tech. It means you won’t find any other phones with those features – but it’s still very much a mid-range processor underneath. It’ll run Android 12 smoothly enough, and will play most games with a few detail settings dialed back.

If power is what matters, though, the Pixel 6a should be the phone to go for – unless benchmarks say otherwise when we get both phones in for review.

Verdict: Google Pixel 6a

Battery and perks: cable cutter

On paper, the Nothing Phone 1 edges ahead of the Pixel 6a with its slightly bigger battery. It has a 4500mAh cell, while the 6a makes do with 4410mAh. The Pixel’s Tensor CPU also has higher power consumption than the Snapdragon 778G. While we don’t know how well optimized either phone is just yet, we’re betting Phone 1 will last a little longer away from the mains.

Nothing also has the advantage of charging speeds, managing 50W on a compatible charger. It can also charge wirelessly. The Pixel 6a is only good for a pedestrian 18W, and doesn’t support any kind of wireless charging.

On the software side, going with Google guarantees you’re getting the latest Android updates as soon as they land – and as the dev team intended, with no outside interference from third parties. Nothing has promised several years of updates for Phone 1, but we’ve yet to see how quickly it can churn out security and software updates.

Verdict: Nothing Phone 1

Initial verdict: the newcomer looks promising

As much as we’re sure the Pixel 6a will be a proper Android bargain, we can’t help but feel Nothing has pulled a blinder by pricing its debut effort so low. It might fall behind in a few places, but the fact it gives Google a bloody nose (at least from looking at the spec sheets) is mighty impressive.

The unique styling, faster charging and unique glyph lighting all give it a real edge in everyday use. Whether that’s enough to offset the Pixel’s beefier processor and excellent track record when it comes to algorithmic photography? We’ll leave that up to you – but we’d put our money on the Phone 1.

Winner: Nothing Phone 1

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