Nothing’s CMF Phone 1 is proof that gadgets can still be fun

I’ve never had so much fun taking a phone apart.

That’s a misleading statement; I haven’t really taken any phones apart lately, but when CMF’s Phone 1 arrived, that’s the first thing I did. Because this one, my friends, is built different. It won’t be widely available in the US, but if you’re game, you can get one through Nothing’s beta program — and for $199, that’s seriously tempting.

CMF, Nothing’s budget-conscious but still extremely style-driven subbrand, is shipping its first phone, the aptly named Phone 1. While it shares a name and an operating system with Nothing’s first own-brand phone, it comes to the table with a new modular approach to phone customizations. Why put a different case on your phone when you can put a whole new phone on your phone?

The concept is simple: it’s a phone, but the back panel comes off so you can swap it with a different one. Each replacement comes with everything you need for the job, including its own little screwdriver, screws, and a color-matched SIM tray.

There’s also a round accessory port cover in the bottom corner of the phone. Although it resembles the control dial on CMF’s neckband earbuds, it doesn’t offer any functional use aside from protecting the accessory port. At launch, CMF will offer three accessories: a lanyard, a wallet, and a kickstand, each $25 and an eye-catching orange color.

Those are all sold separately, as are the colorful replacement back panels, which are $35 each. In the box, you get a thoroughly respectable budget Android phone with a 6.7-inch OLED, 50-megapixel rear camera, a MediaTek Dimensity 7300 chipset, and a generous 5,000mAh battery. It comes with a black panel installed; other options include orange, light green, and blue.

Taking the back panel off is straightforward, though it takes a bit of force — enough to break a fingernail that was too long, as I learned. Probably for the best, though, since that panel is the thing standing between the guts of your phone and the rest of the world. Speaking of guts, it’s so weird seeing a modern phone all naked and exposed like that.

Just living in the moment, not a back panel in sight.

Once the phone is safely encased again, you can add accessories. The wallet is actually two pieces — a plastic panel with a MagSafe-like magnet embedded and the actual wallet. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I was able to attach the phone with this magnetic mount to a MagSafe charging stand (though the Phone 1 doesn’t offer wireless charging). You can also attach either the kickstand or the lanyard with the wallet in use.

The lanyard is made of a thick, woven fabric. Someone much cooler and younger than me could probably pull off wearing their phone with it. And the kickstand seems sturdy enough, though I wish the arm sat flush against the phone when not in use. They’re all a vibrant orange color — the gadget color of the year, I guess.

1/3

Photo: Allison Johnson / The Verge

Being a budget phone and all, there are obviously some tradeoffs to consider. There’s no NFC, and the Phone 1 is only splash-resistant. That’s understandable, considering the price point, and you know, the way the whole back of the phone comes off. Carrier support in the US is also quite limited. Like the Phone 2A, it will work on T-Mobile’s 4G and 5G networks, but only supports Verizon and AT&T’s 4G bands. But for $199? It might just be worth it — if nothing else, it’s one heck of an accessory.

Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge

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