Nothing is a London-based technology company founded in 2020 by Carl Pei, a Chinese-born Swedish entrepreneur who previously co-founded the tech company OnePlus. OnePlus is a consumer electronic company that mainly focuses on producing smartphones. Under Carl’s leadership, OnePlus’s first smartphone, the OnePlus 1 sold close to a million units despite their target being only 50000 units. After releasing the OnePlus 6, Carl decided to leave OnePlus and started the company Nothing.
With Carl’s previous success as OnePlus, Nothing successfully raised $7 million in 2020 from multiple high profile investors which include iPod inventor Tony Fadell, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, and YouTuber Casey Neistat.
According to Carl, the rationale behind starting Nothing is to create a tech ecosystem that is refreshing to the industry. It is aiming to go head to head and compete with current tech giants such as Apple and Samsung.
“We were promised a future of seamless connectivity. Of tech that made our lives better and easier, not harder and more complicated. But we’ve gone off track.The consumer tech industry doesn’t inspire us anymore. It’s become a sea of sameness with no clear vision of the future. Nothing is here to bring back the optimism we once felt about tech. So it can stand for progress and passion again.”
In 2021, it starts to assemble its team and partnered with Swedish manufacturer Teenage Engineering to help design its brand and manufacture its products. Later in the year, the company finally released its first product, the Nothing ear (1). The product is a wireless earphone with a partially transparent exterior (which is its selling point) that comes in black and white and is priced at $149 USD.
Other than the transparent part, the ear (1)’s shape looks almost identical to Apple’s widely popular AirPods, and its quality is proved to be mediocre at best. Also, while the ear (1)’s teaser photo shows that the exterior is fully transparent, the final product came out with only a part of it (the handle) being transparent. Nonetheless, thanks to rounds and rounds of marketing driving up hype and curiosity on the internet, the ear (1) did very well and had sold over 450k units to date.
In March this year, the company made a breaking announcement that it is going to launch the Nothing Phone (1) in the summer. The news came after the announcement of its huge partnership with semiconductor giant Qualcomm in September 2021. Carl said that Phone (1) is going to be a breath of fresh air for the industry.
“Nothing phone (1) is a wakeup call to the stale smartphone industry.”
In its highly anticipated March event, “THE TRUTH”, the company unveiled that its Phone (1) will be run by its own Nothing OS on android and will be powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform to deliver a fast and smooth experience. It also showed the user interface/home screen of the phone which looks utterly bland with no signs of anything that’s groundbreaking or innovative.
Besides its UI display and OS announcement, “nothing” is shown, not even how the phone looks or its capabilities. That’s it. After several rounds of marketing and creating hype just like its ear (1) launch, this event ended up being a big letdown. To call the Nothing phone (1) a “wakeup call to the stale smartphone industry” without giving any info is a huge stretch. The last time a launch event deserves this line probably goes back to Steve Jobs’s introduction of the iPhone in 2007. Not to mention that they are using this “news” to raise more money and now have an insane valuation of $500 million USD with only one minor product being launched.
At this moment, the company seems to be better at building hype rather than building products. Hype can get customers to buy your product once, but the quality is what makes them stay. Although Carl did succeed at OnePlus, his future success at Nothing shouldn’t be warranted. Right now Carl is claiming Nothing to be something it hasn’t proved itself to be, and until they do, all of this is just another round of marketing to create more hype.
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