From www.wired.com

Nothing’s CMF Devices Prove Yet Again Cheap Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

Budget gadgets are usually stuck with drab designs and lackluster specs, a challenge Nothing’s sub-brand CMF has decided to take on. The relatively new offshoot from Nothing focuses on the extreme lower end of the market and has until now sold a smartwatch, wireless earbuds, and chargers. Today marks its first smartphone, the CMF Phone 1, becoming available in the US through a beta program. It’s accompanied by unique accessories, plus the new Buds Pro 2 and Watch Pro 2.

What’s most remarkable about these devices is the price. I have tested cheap and flagship smartphones for nearly a decade, and after setting up the CMF Phone 1, I was pretty surprised to hear it costs just $199—it looks, feels, and performs nearly twice the price. The Watch Pro 2, an equally well-built smartwatch, will set you back just $69, and the Buds Pro 2 are $59. Better yet, they’re not just cheap devices. There’s plenty of character in their designs that make you want to use them.

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.

The CMF Phone 1

CMF Phone by Nothing

The kickstand is above the CMF Phone 1, which has the lanyard attached to the accessory point. The black original cover is what you get by default. Above it is the screwdriver and SIM eject tool. On the far right is the wallet.

 PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

I had a bit of a childlike wonder when I unboxed the CMF Phone 1. It looks almost like a reference device, a prototype not yet complete, but I quite like the industrial design. I was unboxing with zero prior knowledge about the devices, so I was surprised to see a weird circular nub on the bottom right corner of the phone (more on this later), and even more confused to find a SIM eject tool with a flathead screwdriver on the other end.

See the four black screws on the back of the phone’s case? Well, use the screwdriver tip to remove them, and then you can essentially remove the back of the phone and switch it up with other back covers ($35 each); these come in a few colors like blue, orange, and light green. Removing the screws is a bit cumbersome, because the tool is so short, and I also nearly lost a screw in the process. Thankfully, CMF says it will be offering screws as spare parts for after-sales support.

CMF Phone by Nothing

Use the SIM eject tool’s other end to unscrew the back cover to swap it out.

 PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

While I was swapping the back, I was excited at the prospect of swappable batteries, like the early days of smartphones. Alas, here’s what a Nothing spokesperson said when I inquired about this: “We do not provide battery parts to users and do not encourage users to remove the battery. We have marked warnings on the PET film reminding users not to remove the battery.” It’s a shame, as companies are increasingly under scrutiny for lack of repairability in their devices; offering a replaceable battery would have won CMF some plaudits.

I suspect some part of this has to do with the water resistance, as that’s usually impacted when you make the internals of the device more easily accessible. The CMF Phone 1 has an IP52 rating, which is better than I expected, but that still doesn’t offer complete protection from rain. Be careful!

OK, so once you have your fun swapping the black back cover—I swapped mine to the delightfully bright orange—now it’s time to shift attention to that circular module at the bottom right. This is what CMF calls the Accessory Point. By default, this circle does nothing. Unscrew it off and it opens up a small world of accessories you can screw in with your fingers (no screwdriver needed).

CMF Phone by Nothing

The wallet sticks magnetically to a slim plastic sheet with a magnetic ring that’s affixed to the CMF Phone 1.

 PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

This includes a lanyard ($25), a kickstand ($25), and a wallet case ($35). Interestingly, the wallet case has two parts. The first layer is just a very slim plastic sheet that attaches to the case via the screw on the Accessory Point. In the middle is a magnetic ring, allowing you to magnetically stick the wallet to the back of the phone very much like Apple’s MagSafe system.

Remove the wallet, and the Phone 1 can attach to anything else that’s magnetic. (I tested it on a MagSafe charger and it magnetically stuck to it perfectly, but because there’s no wireless charging support, it’s not as functional.) CMF says it has no plans to announce other accessories at the moment, but I love that a $199 phone has these first-party options. They’re smartly designed and simple.

As for the smartphone itself, the specs are quite remarkable for the price, though I have to note that the US is starved for good budget Android phones, which are much more commonplace in the rest of the world. The CMF Phone 1 has a 6.67 AMOLED display (2,400-by-1,080-pixel resolution) with an adaptive 120-Hz screen refresh rate, beating out the $200 Samsung Galaxy A15 already. It’s powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 7300 processor with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. I haven’t been able to use the phone much, but it’s impressively snappy. There’s 5G support and dual-SIM capability, or you can add a microSD card to expand storage up to 2 terabytes.

Rounding things out is a 5,000-mAh battery cell with 33-watt fast-charging support and an under-display optical fingerprint sensor. There’s a 50-megapixel main camera on the back along with a sensor to capture depth for portrait mode, and over on the front is a 16-MP selfie shooter.

Oh, and CMF is employing Nothing OS for the software. It’s still Android 14 but with a jazzed-up interface from Nothing and other small tweaks. CMF is promising two Android OS updates to the device, with three years of security updates.

It’s all excellent stuff for a $199 handset in the US. However, keep in mind that while the CMF Phone 1 is available globally, it’s only available in the US through a beta program. You’ll have to sign up for it, and once approved, you’ll be able to purchase it. It’s the same approach parent company Nothing has with its budget device, the Nothing Phone 2A. As for US carrier support, 4G will work on AT&T, but there’s no 5G support. It’ll fare better on T-Mobile, though not all 5G bands are supported. Verizon support is lackluster and CMF does not recommend using it on that network.

CMF Watch Pro 2

CMF Watch by Nothing
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

Cheap smartwatches typically look ugly. CMF’s new Watch 2 Pro is elegantly simple, and the rounded shape is a change from the original CMF Watch Pro. You can even change out the bezel design—I swapped the default out for a more rounded design—and you can also replace the default silicone with CMF’s leather strap ($19) or whatever 22-mm strap you like. The aluminum case feels sturdy yet lightweight, and the 1.32-inch AMOLED screen is not too big and not too small. It’s IP68-rated, so it’ll be fine in the rain.

This does not run Google’s Wear OS platform, so you won’t be able to access a wealth of apps as on other smartwatches. CMF hasn’t provided details on the operating system, but it works similarly to Wear OS smartwatches and is very snappy. It supports iPhone and Android, so anyone can use it. You pair it with your phone via the CMF Watch app. Battery life is impressive—CMF claims 11 days with typical use, and that seems likely. After a day, I was left with 90 percent.

CMF Watch by Nothing

You can swap the bands and bezel of the CMF Watch Pro 2.

 PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

You can get notifications, and swipe through tiles to see details like the weather and step count. The watch can track sleep, heart rate, cycle tracking, blood oxygen saturation, and more than 100 workouts (with auto-workout detection), plus there’s built-in GPS. From my very limited time with the device, its results seem to be fairly accurate, though I’ll need to do more testing. All of this can sync with Google’s Health Connect, Apple Health, or Strava.

CMF Buds Pro 2

CMF Earbuds by Nothing
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU
CMF Case by Nothing
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN CHOKKATTU

Finally, there’s the CMF Buds Pro 2, a pair of AirPods-esque wireless earbuds with a fun case design. The round part on the exterior of the case is called the Smart Dial, which you can brilliantly rotate to adjust the volume without having to fiddle with the earbuds or pull out your phone. You can even push this button to control the noise cancellation, activate a voice assistant, or mute the microphone (all of this is customizable in the Nothing X app. There are still touch controls on the earbuds if you prefer to use them instead).

The earbuds have dual drivers and support active noise cancellation and transparency mode, and there are three mics to power all of this. CMF claims 6 hours of battery life and 25 hours if you juice them back up with the 460-mAh battery in the case. There’s no wireless charging for the case, but you can recharge it via USB-C.

All of these devices are available for purchase now.

[ For more curated tech news, check out the main news page here]

The post Nothing’s CMF Devices Prove Yet Again Cheap Doesn’t Have to Mean Boring first appeared on www.wired.com

New reasons to get excited everyday.



Get the latest tech news delivered right in your mailbox

You may also like

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

More in Tech News