While Nothing was busy hyping up its Phone 1 launch for the last half year, Xiaomi released phone after phone, covering almost all price points you could imagine. The latest in line might just be the perfect contender to the Nothing Phone 1, save for the lack of an intriguing transparent back with lighting effects. The Xiaomi 12 Lite comes with a similar boxy design, a slightly lower price, and comparable specs — basically making you question what’s supposed to be so special about the Nothing Phone 1.
Xiaomi 12 Lite vs. Nothing Phone 1
The Xiaomi 12 Lite is a solid budget phone with a much more traditional look than the Phone 1. It’s available in matte finishes, with black, lite green, and lite pink color options, and comes in a boxy shape similar to the iPhone or, of course, the Phone 1. Its thickness of 7.2mm is about a millimeter thinner than the Phone 1 and weighs about 20g less, but it’s otherwise almost identical in form and shape.
Even the specs are perfectly in sync. Both phones have 6.5-inch OLED screens with a resolution of 2400×1080 and a refresh rate of up to 120Hz. The manufacturers both opted for the midrange Snapdragon 778G processor, though Nothing went a step further in choosing the plus variant of it, complete with support for wireless charging.
The Xiaomi 12 Lite’s slight size difference comes at the cost of a smaller battery, though. It only has a 4,300mAh battery compared to a 4,500mAh in the Phone 1. At least it makes up for that with faster charging, beating the Phone 1’s 33W charging with 67W. We also know that Xiaomi’s take on Android, MIUI, has some battery-saving technologies up its sleeve, so the difference in capacity might not even be noticeable in everyday usage.
The software is probably the single biggest differentiator here. If you prefer a clean approach to Android that doesn’t add too much bloatware or duplicated apps, the Nothing Phone 1 makes a good case for itself. Xiaomi’s MIUI, meanwhile, is filled with a lot more superfluous apps, but also some smarts you won’t get on the Phone 1 or other phones more in line with Google’s Pixel handsets. It allows you to use duplicate app pairs, has some handy multitouch shortcuts, and a much more robust take on floating windows.
The Xiaomi 12 Lite just launched in Germany, but it’s been available in other regions for a while already. It’s starting at €450 in its 8+128GB version, making it €20 cheaper than the Phone 1 in its identical entry-level configuration. In the UK, the Xiaomi 12 costs £350 in a 6+128GB version, making it £50 more affordable than the Phone 1’s 8+128GB variant.
But what’s the real difference between the two?
Despite the differences between the two phones, it’s clear that they’re primarily identical on a technical level. This highlights why Nothing was so busy relentlessly advertising and hyping its entry into the smartphone market over the last six months. The midrange smartphone segment is incredibly crowded and competitive, with many people making their purchase decisions based on either brands they already know or looking at what’s the best value.
Had Nothing just entered the market without drumming up excitement around its product, selling itself more as a lifestyle brand rather than a technology company, the Phone 1 would have quickly drowned in a stream of similarly priced and same-looking phones. To make sure this doesn’t happen, Nothing basically used its Ear 1 earbuds as a testing ground to see what’s working and what isn’t when it comes to marketing.
The Ear 1 proved that it isn’t enough to create a compelling product these days — the company also had to tell a compelling story around it, strategically teasing one detail after another, giving the media every opportunity to cover the product before it was even announced or in anyone’s hands (a game we didn’t participate in here at Android Police).
Nothing CEO Carl Pei proved much earlier that he could create something out of nothing. He was the marketing brain behind OnePlus, the company that jumpstarted its unmatched foray into the smartphone market with its “flagship killer” strategy back in 2013. It did so by telling a compelling story around a mid-range product that it positioned as good enough or better than much more expensive products on the market — the OnePlus One.
In essence, the Nothing Phone 1 is just a more refined approach to what the OnePlus One was, like a grown-up version of it. Instead of going all-in with specs and a focus on smartphone enthusiasts, Nothing follows a broader strategy. Its focus on the unique back and the storytelling around the new product make clear that the company sees itself on borders between technology, design, and fashion.
In fact, Nothing told me that the Ear 1 was routinely sold out and widely successful on retailers normally known for selling fashion brands, and it looks like Nothing has the same thing in mind for the Phone 1. After all, its launch event focused mostly on talking about the design and experience rather than cold hard specs.
Where does this leave us for the Xiaomi 12 Lite and the Nothing Phone 1?
Despite the objective spec-to-spec comparison between the 12 Lite and the Phone 1, the question remains which product seems more exciting on the surface. On the one hand is the Xiaomi 12 Lite, which might just be a great budget phone, but it’s just one among many other midrange devices from Xiaomi and other manufacturers. On the other hand is the Nothing Phone 1, which has been teased and advertised for months leading up to its launch, complete with a unique take on design.
While you may want to say that you couldn’t care less about brands and their marketing shenanigans and that you would pick the Xiaomi phone over the Nothing product if they are both available in your region, the question is which of these devices we will remember in a few years. I’ve got my money on the Nothing Phone 1, even in the event that Nothing crashes and burns.
After all, we still fondly remember other quirky products from brands that either died or made drastic course reversals over the years. The Nextbit Robin, the original Moto X, the first OnePlus One, and even the Essential Phone come to mind. As much as Xiaomi is widely successful, many will probably hardly remember a single product from the company, maybe save for the Poco F1 — the company’s own take on flagship killing, complete with its own origin story as a scrappy startup.