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
Mike Lowe

Tech Editor at T3, Mike handles all things tech – from phones, tablets and laptops, to gaming and computing. He's been working as a consumer technology journalist for the best part of 15 years, previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for 10 years, and has provided freelance work to publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more over the years. In addition to his tech expertise, Mike is also a bit of a travel fiend, having travelled the globe extensively for both personal and work-related pursuits. You'll always find him setting up a new mobile phone, or critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next get-away.