It’s tempting to import the Nothing Phone 1. The combination of eye-catching design, well-rounded performance and reasonable price can make it more attractive than other mid-range smartphones and even some expensive flagships. But is it really worth bringing the Phone 1 to the US? Not necessarily. There are a number of challenges that you must overcome even when the device reaches your hands.
Importing can cost more than you think
The Phone 1 costs £399 in the UK and €469 in EU countries, or around US$478 as of this writing. However, you cannot just send one to an American delivery address. We haven’t found any major UK or EU retailer that will ship Nothing’s product to the US and it’s unlikely that you will as the Phone 1 hasn’t received the FCC certification required for legal sale within the country is.
Unless you know someone willing to act as an intermediary, you will need to enlist the help of a package forwarding service that will ship the Phone 1 to a US address. In the UK, your options include companies like Forward2Me, MyUS and Reship. Many of them handle individual shows, but you may need to sign up for a membership (usually $10 a month). And a single order can be expensive. Forward2Me, for example, currently estimates that you’ll pay between $29 and $47 to ship an ordinary smartphone box.
At the very least, you may not have to pay significant import fees. While U.S. Customs and Border Protection charges a goods handling fee (ranging from $2 to $10 for informal entries like this), you can import products for personal use duty and tax free if they’re worth less than $800. Parcel carriers take care of the paperwork and often quote the true shipping price. With that in mind, be sure to read the terms of these services and be prepared for any additional fees that may apply.
The phone may not work properly
The expenses might not be the real dealbreaker. If anything, you need to be more concerned about network compatibility. While the Nothing Phone 1 supports some US carriers’ 5G and LTE bands, it lacks long-haul bands for T-Mobile and Verizon. You don’t get coverage as robust, and performance can fall short. When testing PCMagSascha Segan noted that the Phone 1 could only manage 100Mbps downloads on 5G in areas where other phones reached 400Mbps.
This is assuming you can even get the handset to work at all. Without certification from the FCC or American carriers, there is no guarantee that you will get a connection. Nothing warns that the Phone 1 can’t make 5G or LTE calls with AT&T as an uncertified device, and Segan lost Verizon service after two hours of use. Don’t expect any improvement in functionality either. As explained by Nothing founder Carl Pei PCMag, US certification wasn’t worth the hassle without a local carrier contract; Any broken connection will likely remain broken.
After-sales support is also an issue. Nothing’s warranty only covers service within the original purchase region, so you cannot request official help. We wouldn’t expect independent repair shops to fix the Phone 1 either. In other words, you’ll probably have to buy a brand new phone if something breaks.
What are the alternatives?
Pei has hinted that community investors in the US could get the Phone 1 through a closed beta program. Nothing also has “big plans” to launch a US-friendly phone at some point. If you’re not part of this beta and aren’t willing to wait for a sequel, it’s probably better to buy an alternative device. Luckily, there are some viable models in the sub-$500 range.
Google’s Pixel 6a (launching July 28) might be the easiest choice. It won’t have the Phone 1’s slick 120Hz screen, wireless charging, or dual 50MP rear cameras, but you do get a fast processor and the latest Google software features for a modest $449. If you crave a high refresh rate screen, Motorola’s $400 144Hz-capable 2021 Edge is on sale as of this writing. And yes, the iPhone 11 is still surprisingly capable if you don’t mind the three-year-old specs.
We’d advise against Samsung’s 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’s ecosystem. You might also want to wait a while. Apple should have a better $500 device when it updates the iPhone lineup in September (possibly the iPhone 12), and the solid Galaxy S21 FE could see more price drops.
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