Nothing Phone 1 has a surprising hidden feature – here's why its display is special

The screen might look 'normal' – but it's anything but that

Nothing Phone 1 review
(Image credit: Future / Mike Lowe)

I've been using the brand new Nothing Phone 1 for a full week. But it was only at the official launch event in London that the company's founder, Carl Pei, dropped a bombshell about the new phone. And it's not one that you'd expect. 

No, it's not to do with the transparent rear panel design, available in black or white. No, it's nothing to do with the Glyph lighting system that's integrated either. Instead it's a feature hidden in plain sight. 

The 6.55-inch screen on the Nothing 1 is actually a flexible OLED panel, the same type that you'd find in a curved screen phone. But, wait for it, the Nothing Phone 1 has a completely flat screen. So why the heck has the team used a flexible display?

The answer, as Pei so eloquently arrived at it in his video live stream of the phone (before appearing in person in the sticky-hot presentation room in central London), is in pursuit of perfection. 

Why did Nothing use a flexible panel in Phone 1?

The Nothing team didn't want the bezel around the Phone 1's design to lack symmetry from top to bottom. In smartphones with flat panels this can be difficult at the 'chin' of the phone, as this is where the 'connector ribbons' of the panel connect to the board. That might mean a bigger 'forehead' to match the chin, for example.

Not so in the Nothing Phone 1: the designers took a flexible OLED panel, which is then flexed around the base, so the connector ribbons can link around the back, out of sight, to complete the equalised bezel on the front. That's dedication to craft.

It's also dedication to eating up production costs. As Pei quipped: a flexible OLED panel costs "about twice" that of a standard one. And seeing as the Nothing Phone 1's starting price is just £399, that's miles cheaper than any curved or flexible display phone that you're ever going to see on the market.

Was it all worth it? We'll have to see how the legacy of Nothing's first phone pans out. At T3 we've got a sample in for review – here's my initial assessment with pros and cons – and will bring you a full article in due course. Here's hoping the success will be as strong as the brand's first product, the Nothing Ear 1 earphones, to put the Phone 1 in among the best cheap phones, eh?

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike has been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and is T3's Tech Editor. As a phones expert he's seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a full decade, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.