OnePlus Nord 4 first look — an all-metal masterpiece

OnePlus Nord 4 design
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You wouldn't expect a cheap phone like the OnePlus Nord 4 attempt to make itself a design icon. But as we can see in these photos of a newly-arrived sample of the phone, it's making quite a statement with its all-metal build.

Rather than using glass with metal sides like a typical flagship phone, or one of the cheaper plastic materials that budget phones also like to use, OnePlus decided to take a different approach with the Nord 4 — building what it describes as "the only metal unibody 5G smartphone on the market" out of aluminum.

Metal's an unusual choice for phones these days since the required antennas for 5G connectivity need minimal interference to work. But OnePlus promises the Nord 4 still supports 5G properly thanks to its ingenious redesigning of the antennas.

OnePlus Nord 4 design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Holding the phone is a little weird at first, since it feels like you've picked up a shrunken MacBook rather than an Android phone. The unibody design means that there's a seamless curve from the side rail into the back, and it's cold to the touch rather than the more neutral feel of glass or plastic. It's quite unlike any other phone I've handled in all my years of testing smartphones.

Fortunately there are some similarities with more familiar phones that you'll be happy to see. OnePlus' trademark alert slider can be found on the left edge, and power/volume buttons on the right, using matching metal surfaces to keep the unified look. The front houses a large, flat-edged display, which certainly looks spacious. But we'll only know for sure after more testing.

OnePlus Nord 4 design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Right now, there are two announced color options for the Nord 4: Obsidian Midnight (the version we have here) and Mercurial Silver. Both have different textures, with the silver having a ridged pattern and the black a brushed finish, but both share the same mirrored glass top area that holds the two rear cameras. This division helps give the back of the phone some character while keeping to its all-metal vision — although the glossy section is bad for picking up fingerprints.

OnePlus Nord 4 design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As pretty as the OnePlus Nord 4 is, I do worry about how this will look a year or two down the line. I know how glass/metal phones age, and normally they look perfectly fine even without a case to protect them (unless you drop them, of course). While the back of the Nord 4 is hardly the same as the scuff-loving polished metal back of the original iPhone or my well-loved iPod Touch, I'll still be keeping track of how it handles the scratches and dents of everyday use.

I'm also curious as to what the unibody means for repairability. Most phones require you to peel off the back panel to access the internals, but with the back and sides of the Nord 4 all fused together, this might be a tricky phone to get fixed unless you send it in to OnePlus itself.

OnePlus Nord 4 design

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As for the rest of the OnePlus Nord 4's features and characteristics, we're going to have to wait until the OnePlus Summer Launch Event on July 16th, livestreaming from Milan, to learn about them. This is where the OnePlus Pad 2, Nord Buds 3 Pro and OnePlus Watch 2R, which have been teased as well, will be shown off for the first time.

Previous OnePlus Nord models have proved to be capable cheap phones, and we can't wait to see if the newest metal-clad installment can take on phones like the Google Pixel 8a or the OnePlus 12R. We expect the Nord 4 to launch in Europe, but everyone cross your fingers that it makes it over the Atlantic this time so U.S. phone buyers can give this one a try.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.