Nothing phone white in hand showing back

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Smartphones today are a securely developed product. Parts are equalized, therefore are customer assumptions of what makes a phone wonderful at different rate factors. The most effective foldables as well as cam phones include some enjoyment to the mix, yet to tremble the status would certainly take a remarkable change from the existing choices on the marketplace. Do we truly require one more gamer to do even more of the exact same?

Associated: Absolutely nothing Phone 1 evaluation — An intense launching

Nevertheless, Carl Pei, the founder as well as chief executive officer of London-based start-up Absolutely nothing, thinks that in the chase for specifications as well as efficiency, brand names have actually alloted imagination as well as technology as art.

Android Authority had the possibility to take a seat with the OnePlus as well as Absolutely nothing founder to review business of buzz, constructing with a design-first technique, as well as the obstacles of offering a phone in an ultra-competitive landscape where most various other start-ups have actually fallen short.

Structure a brand name

nothing phone 1 glyph on rear portrait

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

Since Absolutely nothing struck the net, it has actually taken the mantle of this generation’s scrappy startup. The business has actually established an impassioned base of followers as well as movie critics, yet there’s little uncertainty that the buzz structure has actually paid rewards in regards to exposure.

Nevertheless, modern technology runs in circles, as well as the start-up is much from the very first to split the sector with a fresh viewpoint. We’ve formerly seen Android founder, Andy Rubin, effort an in a similar way design-centric technique with Vital. Amazon.com’s Fire Phone, also, attempted to overthrow mobile phone use with a 3D user interface. And afterwards we had the similarity Nextbit that took a cloud-first technique to modern technology.

None of those phones struck the mark. Neither can titans like HTC as well as LG, that couldn’t efficiently browse a quickly advancing market. The truth of the issue is that the mobile phone market is mainly tailored towards maximizing worth as well as specifications. So just how precisely does Pei strategy to puncture the sound?

Making use of buzz to puncture the sound, Pei wants to offer his items the very best possibility at success.

According to Pei, it’s everything about taking your possibilities. Absolutely nothing’s brand name has actually come to be associated with advertising and marketing embellishment as well as complies with a formula that Pei is well versed in from his time with OnePlus. Leading up to the launch of the Absolutely nothing Phone 1, marketing intros established the phone up as the following large customer technology transformation. What we obtained rather was a distinctly mid-range mobile phone with possibly particular niche allure.

If you provide an excellent item, it’s a wager that’s worth it. If it was a poor item, you stopped working. Yeah, the various other choice resembles, allow’s not produce buzz — as well as if you produce an excellent item no one will certainly acquire it due to the fact that no one will certainly understand about it. If you obtain a poor item, you stop working. So the only possibility is to produce the buzz as well as a deliverable item.

Carl pei sitting in his office

Regardless Of that, Pei stays casual concerning feeding the buzz. Pei thinks that the viral advertising and marketing projects offered the business an opportunity to verify itself. It’s an instead simple disagreement to make, which would certainly apply if Absolutely nothing was a no-name participant right into the sector. Nevertheless, by all accounts, Carl Pei’s tradition with OnePlus alone has actually done even more to attract passion in the brand name than what the majority of more recent gamers delight in. He proceeds, “When we have an advertising and marketing budget plan to do even more out-of-home projects as well as things like that, probably we can soften the on-line things.”

Pei imagines Absolutely nothing as a different environment to Apple.

However is all of it advertising and marketing bluster, or exists some compound to be discovered below? We quizzed Pei on what he thinks Absolutely nothing is bent on attain. Pei has a conclusive response to that: a different environment to Apple.

The possibility we see is to produce a community alternate to Apple. So I believe considering Apple will certainly be an excellent action. […] Fifteen years earlier, if you remained in a coffee shop, you really felt unique, with the radiant Apple logo design. Oh, I’m various from everyone. Everyone is simply utilizing a COMPUTER. I’m an innovative, everyone is a fit. To ensure that resembled 15 years earlier, yet today Apple is so effective that they require to target everyone there is. Everyone makes use of Apple. They’ve become what they attempted to eliminate versus.

That laser concentrate on having a unique schtick that stays remarkable mirrors in the typical line of layout going through the business’s 2 items up until now. Both the Absolutely nothing Ear 1 as well as the Absolutely nothing Phone 1 have actually developed a clear appearance, leaving absolutely nothing to the creative imagination as the hidden motif for the business’s commercial layout.

We wish to produce an extra ageless layout language by relocating far from Apple as well as developing uniformity.

Taking slams at completing brand names, Pei states that if you were to put a lot of Android phones on a table, the majority of clients wouldn’t have the ability to compare them. While firms are usually going to change out layout languages every couple of years, Pei thinks that developing a layout language takes years. He includes, “You can’t simply do it for one item and afterwards disappear.”

Very Same, exact same, yet various

nothing phone 1 in hand with display on

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Speaking about the typical pattern of Apple establishing the rate for layout among Android smart devices, Pei proceeds, “If you replicate Apple, after that your layout will certainly additionally be really quickly determined to that duration in time, whereas if you do something various, it’s tough to secure you to a day. So we wish to produce an extra ageless layout language by relocating far from Apple as well as developing uniformity.”

It’s practically paradoxical then that the Absolutely nothing Phone 1 doesn’t stray too far from Apple’s shadow. Placed next to an iPhone, the inspirations are obvious. Be it the hard edges, the phone’s dimensions, or the hardware’s general ergonomics, the inspiration is unmistakable. The two phones are remarkably similar in look and feel to the point that it has to be deliberate.

For all its talk of uniqueness, the Nothing Phone 1 does not wander off also much from where the Apple falls.

But that’s before you flip the phone over. The transparent back looks cool, but the sci-fi LED strips kick it up a notch and directly appeal to a very fashionable millennial audience looking for a phone that works just as well as a tech wear accessory. It also gives more context to the edgy marketing employed by the company.

Nothing’s StockX collaboration and placement amongst design influencers were aimed directly at grabbing eyeballs amongst users who care more about the look of the phone than its spec sheet — ironically, the same audience that is more likely to carry an apple iphone than an Android device. But despite the design-centric approach, Pei doesn’t want to call the Nothing Phone 1 a fashion-forward phone. He continues, “I’m not sure we are fashion because fashion comes and goes, and you have to reinvent yourself every couple of months. Hopefully, we are a bit more long-term than that.”

I think for us it’s about defining who our users are and trying to you know, go after them versus becoming the biggest in terms of shipment volume.

So who exactly is Nothing’s audience? Following the Apple playbook, Nothing’s goal is to build aspirational devices. It wants to target high-value, design-conscious customers who would be willing to splurge on software upsells and add-ons. Pei adds, “I believe that if we target those users who use those very cheap products, we’re not going to be able to build a healthy company. In the future, if we have software that requires a subscription, they’re not going to pay for it.”

Pei’s target definition of Nothing’s audience seems to be at odds with the actual product offering.

A very interesting statement to make, considering that Nothing’s first two products have been decidedly affordable options targeting those same mid-range customers. In fact, it’s the same customer set that championed Pei at OnePlus as well for its clear focus on bringing great specs at a great price.

Related: Nothing’s first phone isn’t a flagship and that’s a good thing

Despite Pei’s claims that a product is more than its specs, features, and version numbers, a sentiment that I personally agree with, a high-value demographic certainly has its eyes on those flagship specs and perceived brand value. Clearly, going up against Xiaomi and the broader BBK portfolio would be foolhardy, but by and large, those are the brands that Nothing is competing with. While brand value takes years to build, it remains to be seen if Nothing’s out-there design language and mid-range hardware can eke out a share amongst Samsung and Apple fans. Is a unique but ultimately gimmicky glyph interface enough to build the iPhone of the Android world? I’m not so sure.

An ecosystem of Nothing

Nothing Ear 1 in hand

Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Part of Nothing’s long-term approach is a far-reaching ecosystem play. The natural course of action for most smartphone brands is to venture into adjacent product categories like audio and wearables. Nothing’s product trajectory has been the opposite of that by first building a set of earphones. Speaking about the challenges of building a smartphone brand, Carl mentions that sourcing components and finding suppliers willing to work with a startup was a significant hurdle.

According to Pei, it took the success of the Nothing Ear 1 and successive rounds of funding to secure components for the phone. However, building the smartphone now was the right choice. Pei adds, “For me, the smartphone is the engine. My bet is that audio-only brands are all going to die or be bought up by smartphone companies.”

Nothing’s product strategy isn’t dramatically different from most other brands, no matter the hype.

If this sounds like the same strategy we’ve seen from other brands, you’re not alone. OnePlus, Oppo, Realme, Xiaomi, and, of course, Apple have followed the same route to market with audio products being sold as an upsell alongside phones. It makes you wonder exactly how different Nothing’s approach is here.

Pei’s answer to that is that Nothing plans to take a more open approach to partner integrations. An early example of this is the built-in controls for Tesla owners. Pei also mentions that in the future, the phone could automatically switch the Ear 1 into low latency mode when playing a game. However, that’s still in the future, and what we have today is just the promise of a connected ecosystem designed to work across brands.

See more: Why do people say NFTs are bad? Let’s dive in.

Tapping into yet another hype-heavy ecosystem, Nothing has made a play in the crypto and Web 3.0 space. The company made waves by accepting cryptocurrency payments early on for the Nothing Ear 1. Part of the Nothing Phone 1’s launch was an NFT drop issued to community investors — an interesting choice for a company that has gone out of its way to brand itself as environmentally friendly. The notoriously energy-inefficient way to generate a digital art signature drew the instant ire of potential buyers. Meanwhile, an NFT gallery widget is included as part of the software package.

The focus on energy-guzzling crypto ventures puts in question Nothing’s eco-friendly stance and its delay in developing software that matters — Android 13.

The focus on energy-guzzling crypto ventures comes across as hypocrisy considering the company’s message of minimizing impact and neutralizing its carbon footprint. Nothing even mentions the carbon footprint of the phone on the box itself.  However, Pei seems unfazed.

Whether it’s carbon neutral, I think it’s not my main concern. My main concern is that 99% of the projects are scams, giving the space a very bad reputation. I believe in the tech stack, but I don’t believe in the applications of the tech we see today.

Talking to Pei about Nothing’s ambitions in the cryptocurrency space, he mentions that Nothing doesn’t have any plans to issue a coin, nor does it have any plans of launching a crypto-focused phone. Instead, the company has a small team of engineers experimenting with real-world applications of Web 3.0 technologies. What shape and form they might take remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the company’s update window for the Android 13 rollout stands at an extremely vague first half of 2023.

A 20-year plan focused on a niche

nothing phone 1 rear glyph off

Oliver Cragg / Android Authority

It’s tough to peg exactly what audience Nothing is aiming for. Sure, design might be a core tenet of the brand’s existence, but there’s more to a phone than glitzy lights and the promise of an extended ecosystem. The company’s tall ambitions are far away from fruition despite its proclamations of changing the smartphone industry. Moreover, its product offerings so far, while good, have strictly been mid-range fare with little beyond edgy marketing and a transparent look to set them apart.

How long can that schtick hold the attention of a notoriously fickle audience? Carl Pei believes that there’s enough room in the niche for the brand to operate comfortably, but a niche brand, by definition, can’t have the impact he envisions.

I think that’s like a 20-year problem and not a five-year problem for us. I think the market is so big, and there are so many brands catering to the masses because there are only a few big players who don’t happen to be targeting a niche. So even if we’re very differentiated, we probably have enough market to operate in for the next 20 years

Speaking to Carl Pei, Nothing comes across as a series of contradictions. What was marketed as an inflection factor in consumer technology isn’t much more than a standard phone with a series of cool-looking lights and a better take on notifications. The company has sold buyers on the promise of an open and more connected ecosystem, however, much of that is yet to come. Similarly, the brand’s stance on being environmentally friendly is diametrically opposed to its experiments with crypto.

Related: The best Absolutely nothing Phone 1 alternatives

Pei’s enthusiasm for building a seamlessly connected world where technology just works is infectious, yet Absolutely nothing risks losing out to the double-edged sword of hype as nothing yet hot air until much or any kind of of that turns out.

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