It is tempting to import Nothing Phone 1. The combination of attractive design, all-round performance and reasonable price can make it more attractive than other mid-range smartphones and even some expensive flagships. But is it really worth the effort to get the Phone 1 to the US? Not necessary. There are a number of challenges that you will have to overcome even once the device is in your hands.
Imports can cost more than you think
The Phone 1 costs £399 in the UK and €469 in the EU, or about $478 at the time of this writing. However, you can’t just ship it to a US shipping address. We haven’t found a major UK or European retailer that will ship Nothing products to the US, and it’s unlikely you will, given that the Phone 1 hasn’t received the FCC certification required for legal domestic sales.
If you don’t know someone willing to serve as an intermediary, you’ll need to enlist the help of a parcel forwarding service that will ship Phone 1 to a US address. In the UK, your options include companies like Forward2Me, MyUS and Reship. Many of them will handle single shipments, but you may need to sign up for a membership (usually $10/month). And a custom order can be expensive. Forward2Me, for example, currently estimates you’ll pay between $29 and $47 to ship a regular smartphone box.
At the very least, you may not have to pay significant import duties. While US Customs and Border Protection requires a handling fee ($2 to $10 for unofficial entries like this one), you can import goods for personal use without paying duties and taxes as long as they cost less than $800. Parcel forwarders will take care of the paperwork and will often quote the actual shipping cost. However, be sure to read the terms and conditions of these services and be prepared for the possibility of additional fees.
The phone may not work properly
Spending can’t be a real deal breaker. If anything, you need to worry more about network compatibility. While Nothing Phone 1 supports 5G and LTE frequencies from some US carriers, it lacks the long-range bands for T-Mobile and Verizon. You won’t get that reliable coverage and performance may drop. In testing PCMagSascha Segan noticed that the Phone 1 only managed 100Mbps download speeds on 5G in areas where other phones reached 400Mbps.
This assumes that you can get the phone working in the first place. Without FCC certification or US carriers, there is no guarantee that you will connect. Nothing warns that the Phone 1 can’t make 5G or LTE calls to AT&T as an uncertified device, and the Segan lost Verizon service after two hours of use. Don’t expect functionality to improve as well. As Nothing founder Carl Pei explained PCMag, certification in the US was not worth the trouble without an agreement with a local carrier; any broken link is likely to remain broken.
After sales support is also a problem. Nothing’s warranty only covers service within the original region of purchase, so you cannot seek official assistance. We also don’t expect independent repair shops to fix the Phone 1. In other words, you’ll probably have to buy a brand new phone if something breaks.
What are the alternatives?
Pei pointed out that U.S. community investors can get the Phone 1 through a closed beta program. Nothing also has “big plans” to launch the phone for the US at some stage. However, if you’re not in this beta and don’t want to wait for the sequel, you’re probably better off buying an alternative device. Luckily, there are several viable models in the sub-$500 range.
The Google Pixel 6a (launching July 28) might be the easiest choice. It won’t have a slick 120Hz screen, wireless charging, or dual 50MP rear cameras like the Phone 1, but you’ll get a fast processor and the latest Google software features for a modest $449. If you’re craving a high refresh rate screen, the 144Hz Motorola 2021 Edge retails for $400 as we write this. And yes, the iPhone 11 is still surprisingly capable, if you ignore the three-year-old specs.
We’d recommend Samsung’s non-sluggish Galaxy A53 5G, but it’s an option if you’re determined to get a 120Hz display or simply prefer the security of a big brand ecosystem. You can also wait a bit. Apple should have a better $500 device when it refreshes its iPhone lineup in September (probably the iPhone 12), and the rugged Galaxy S21 FE could get further price cuts.
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