Nothing Ear (stick) could be the ultimate affordable alternative to Apple AirPods

Half in, half out - if you don’t like the feeling of in-ear headphones and you don't want to splash out on AirPods then these could be worth a look

Nothing Ear (stick)
(Image credit: Nothing)

Since it was established last year, Nothing has managed to get us all talking quite a lot. The London-based company was started by OnePlus founder Carl Pei, and it’s clear he knows a thing or two about building hype around new products. 

It all started with Nothing’s first pair of true wireless earbuds, the Nothing Ear (1), an affordable pair of in-ear headphones with noise cancellation, reliable sound and a decent set of features. But it was the design that caused a stir, they claimed to be transparent and while in the T3 review we liked the look of them, we did also note that actually, they could have taken that idea a bit further. 

Skip ahead to July 2022 and Nothing introduced another unique device to its lineup - the Nothing Phone 1. Like the buds, it has a transparent build that looks a little different to the rest of the smartphone crowd. 

Now comes Nothing’s third piece of kit, the Nothing Ear (stick) a pair of earbuds that you place in your ear as opposed to pushing them inside your ear canal with a moulded tip. Of course, they won’t be for everyone but if you’re hunting for a cheaper alternative to the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) then these could well be worth a look.

Nothing Ear (stick) vs Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): price 

You'll be able to buy the Nothing Ear (stick) for $99 in the US or £99 in the UK from the beginning of November 2022 - they're significantly cheaper than the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) which will set you back as much as $180 / £180. 

Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Apple)

Nothing Ear (stick) vs Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): design and battery

Like the Ear (1) the design of the Ear (stick) buds is partly transparent, showing you what makes them tick under the hood, and again, every element you can see does have a real purpose. While it may not be to everyone's tastes, the design is undoubtedly more interesting than the solid white plastic used for the AirPods. 

Both sets of earbuds are designed to be worn for long periods of time without discomfort. Nothing's are super light at 4.4g per bud which is about the same as the Apple AirPod's 4.38g so we'd expect them to feel about the same in your ear.

Housed in a cylindrical charging case, you twist the top of the Nothing Ear (stick) to remove the headphones. It looks satisfying, and I like that it’s a little different to the usual box-style case like the Apple AirPods come in, but it doesn’t look as comfortable or compact for keeping in a tight pocket. 

The case, like the earbuds, has a semi-seethrough design which again makes it look a tad more intriguing than most other options.

Like the AirPods, the Nothing Ear (stick) buds sport a dangling stem which houses the controls although here you get press controls instead of gestures. There will surely be pros and cons to that, but we won’t really know about those until we get proper hands-on experience with them.

The battery is pretty similar across both pairs of earbuds, the Nothing Ear (stick) will give you 7 hours of music at a time, with a total of 29 hours provided by the case, while the Apple AirPods will last about 6 hours at a time with 30 hours packed into the case. 

Nothing Ear (stick)

(Image credit: Nothing)

Nothing Ear (stick) vs Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): performance and features

When it comes to sound, we can’t really compare the two without having tried them out but from the specs, Nothing’s cheaper option looks pretty promising. 

The Nothing Ear (stick) uses a 12.6mm driver, you’ll be able to customise the sound manually and use the equaliser presets available in the adjoining smartphone app. For comparison, the AirPods use a smaller 11mm driver. You do get more in the way of custom settings with options to manually adjust it, select a preset or use the Adaptive EQ which adjusts the sound depending on the shape of your ears. 

Admittedly, the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) will win when it comes to features, offering extras like wireless charging and spatial audio, which the Nothing Ear (stick) won’t. But then again, that is somewhat expected because you would pay quite a lot more for them.

Nothing Ear (stick) vs Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): verdict

Without having tried them out, it's hard to compare the performance of the Nothing ear (stick) and the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen), but it's likely to be the price that sways you one way or the other anyway. 

At less than $100 you do feel as though you're getting a lot more for your money with the Nothing Ear (stick) and while they lack some more advanced features, they aren't actually that far off what Apple has to offer. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Nothing Ear (stick) review coming soon to T3. 

Yasmine Crossland
Freelance Tech Expert

Yasmine is the former Reviews Writer for T3, so she's been knee-deep in the latest tech products for reviewing and curating into the best buying guides since she started in 2019. She keeps a finger on the pulse when it comes to the most exciting and innovative tech and is happy to tell you exactly what she thinks about it too. In her free time, you'll catch her travelling the globe – the perks of being a freelance tech expert – tending to her plants when at home and, but of course, planning her next big trip.