We don't have many concrete details for the Nothing Phone (1) yet, besides a few things. Speaking to The Verge, Pei revealed that the Phone (1) will run an Android skin developed by Nothing, called Nothing OS, and will target iPhone users.
Nothing Phone (1) will arrive in "summer 2022", so fairly soon and likely before the iPhone 14 (which will arrive in September or October). It's fairly likely that its specs will be high end, including a big display.
Pei himself also hinted at sound being one of the focuses for the Phone (1). "Our sound design is really cool," he told The Verge, "so definitely check that out." Given the only device Nothing has released is a pair of earbuds, this does make sense.
But aside from that, we don't know a lot. Despite this, though, I find myself excited about the Nothing Phone (1) arguable even more so than the incoming iPhone 14 and Samsung Galaxy S23 smartphones, and here are the primary reasons why.
Competition is good
Different smartphone makers competing is good for users. That's a fact.
Samsung and Apple (and sometimes Google) have pushed each other for years to introduce the latest and more high-end features, a big win for anyone buying a smartphone.
Nothing entering the arena is a plus from this perspective, especially if the Phone (1) includes some novel features that aren't present (or at least aren't put front and centre) on the iPhone and Galaxy models.
If the focus is sound, as Pei says, then this could be an incentive for Apple and Samsung to push their devices' speakers even further.
Nothing OS seems interesting
We're very familiar with "vanilla" Android, found on the Pixel range, and Samsung's One UI, but Nothing OS – the forthcoming Android skin – seems like an interesting concept.
Granted, we really haven't seen much of it, and one thing that Android smartphones have consistently struggled with is delivering buttery smooth performance like iOS.
Nothing themselves say the OS will include "just the essentials, where every byte has a purpose," so hopefully it will lack any kind of bloatware.
Pei is working with former Dyson design executive Adam Bates to create Nothing OS and Phone (1) and complimented the hoover maker on its simple, elegant designs.
Nothing wants to build an ecosystem
One of the main focuses for Pei is building an ecosystem – not just a one-off device. The goal is similar to Apple's all-encompassing ecosystem around the iPhone.
Nothing plans to produce devices itself and add integrations from outside partners, similar to Apple, and has already laid some of the foundations with Ear (1).
We've seen plenty of brands of course attempt to build out ecosystems, and some like Xiaomi have done so while looking to appeal to the mass market in terms of price points, really aiming for the democratization of technology. But Nothing could be different.
Pei's last firm, OnePlus, made a name for itself with its flagship killing mobile phones and, while it did have some stabs at making other technology, these arguably never really cut through and became anywhere near as successful. The OnePlus Watch, for example, never got close to seriously challenging the Apple Watch. So if Pei can build a proper Nothing ecosystem of products that offer unique, innovative and connected experiences, and do so without breaking the customer's bank balance, that's going to be huge.
Of course, there is a long way to go: Apple's walled garden wasn't build in a day. But over the next few years, perhaps Nothing can establish itself.
The importance of Nothing – a second perspective
Here Deputy Editor of T3.com Robert Jones provides his opinion on the potential for the Nothing brand, and specifically its debut smartphone.
"I reviewed a lot of OnePlus phones during the company's rise from obscurity and from, say, the OnePlus 5 onwards it was a joy to see how this company took down the market's big boys with devices that cost less and, often, delivered more.
"Post sale to Oppo I think a bit of that old magic has gone, and I'm really unsure about how Oppo is going to market OnePlus phones going forward. If anything, though, I see OnePlus morphing into more of an elite, Apple for Android flagship brand that sits a-top the Oppo phone ranges pile.
"But into this market marches Nothing and, at least in my mind, I see Nothing as a sign of unfinished business for Pei. If Pei can do what he did with OnePlus in challenging the major players in multiple product areas, not just in the smartphone market, and do so while delivering on that dream of technology democratisation (cheaper products, basically), then Nothing has the potential to grow into a huge player."
Where is Nothing right now?
In Nothing's first-ever event, which took place on March 23rd, Pei announced a $10M round of community investment. Obviously Nothing is looking to drum up money to help enact its goals, and to do so Pei has opened up the brand to investors from the community.
Fostering a sense of community was key in OnePlus' ascension and by getting the community involved so early, and with an active financial stake in the firm, Nothing seems to be taking that model and turbo charging it. So far 22,000 people have pre-registered over $43 million and more are expected after Nothing's second community investment round goes live on 5 April.
Investors have been invited to "help wake up a sleepy smartphone market" with Nothing.
With very little actually revealed so far about Nothing Phone, or Nothing's wide plans in more concrete terms, it looks like right now investors are dropping money based on Pei's track record with OnePlus. Is the hype real? Here at T3 we hope so.
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